Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ceramic Clay

For the next month and a half, all of the students will be exploring the possibilities of hand-building techniques with ceramic clay. The students will learn how to use molds with tiles, create pinch pots and coil pots, free-form sculptures, wedge clay to prepare it for use, scoring and slip for adding layers, and learn about where clay comes from and as a form of rock. The first day of this unit, we will be discussing ceramics/pottery from cultures around the world, namely: Japan, China, Africa, Pre-Columbian South America, and Native North America.

"Clay began being used thousands of years ago. Ceramics reached high achievement in both ancient China and Egypt. Pots were first made by pinching or coil building, before the potter's wheel was invented in Mesopotamia about 6,000 years ago. Potters were then able to produce circular and cylindrical forms with both speed and uniformity by "throwing" or shaping the clay as it spins on a wheel.

Clay has been used as both an expressive art form and for functional purposes in almost all cultures on earth. Often functional (also called applied art) clay pieces such as watering or storage pots were also carefully decorated. Many cultures also used clay for sculptures. Ancient sculptures often document both nonreligious and religious images." (ESHS Ceramic01)

The Japanese potters were greatly influenced by Korean and Chinese techniques. Individual potters names became more prominent from the 1600s onward. This was in part due to a Japanese respect for the craftsman as an artist in his own right. Many of these pieces are signed by the artist. porcelain was first found in Japan by a Korean artist. (ESHS Art History 8)

Jomon (cord pattern) Phase: It was names for the...hand-built earthenware vessels made by rolling a cord over the soft clay... the beginning periods began manipulating the mouth of the vessels for a decorative or flame-like effect. (ESHS Art History 8)

Later Japanese Bronze Age: "Haniwa, literally meaning "circle of clay," were sometimes simply clay cylinders placed around a grave mound or tumulus to strengthen the sides of the mound and prevent earth washouts." The Haniwa comes in many forms, such as this Warrior in Armor. another form is the Haniwa Horse. Both were decorative and acted as types of tomb guardians. The simplicity of the horse is meant to emphasize the clay itself, not just the artist's touch. (ESHS Art History 8)

Painted Pottery culture - "They produced many pots painted with “black-on-red designs of geometric figures, human masks, fish, and occasionally animals.” Many of these pots are burial urns. The designs on these urns commonly feature “vigorous geometricized" decoration." (ESHS Art History 7)

Black Pottery culture - "They are named after the distinctive black pottery which they produced. “Black pottery shapes, particularly the beaker vessel (gu), are distinctive, and indicate a technique totally different from that used to make Yangshao pottery. Yangshao culture's were coil built, then beaten with a paddle to shape and smooth them. For Longshan black wares, the dark clay was shaped on a slow turn table…allowed to dry leather hard, then burnished and fired to an almost shiny black.” Embellishments were limited and never contained painting." (ESHS Art History 7)

Ding, Ru, Longquan, Guan, Koryo are also important and specific types of Chinese pottery.

Most Nok heads (Central Sudan) are hollow and were once attached to a full or partial figure. The features of the face tend to be simple geometric forms. The facial features were carved out of the clay after being dryed out to a leather-hard stage.

Sao heads (Central Sudan) were found in mounds of earth. It is unclear as to who the Sao people were, although a mythical race of giants is included in the theories.Circular lumps of clay between the eyes and ears may represent raised scarification patterns.The attachment on the chin may represent a beard or may depict a lip ornament. Today only Kotoko children form figures of people and animals, asking sympathetic potters to fire their clay toys as they fire their pots.

Seven Lydenburg Heads (South Africa): These heads were created around 400 AD. "The [two] largest of these hollow terracotta sculptures could have covered a human head and neck. The white pigment which appears to have covered it once has now disappeared, while a small animal-like form on the top of the head is damaged and difficult to identify.
"The reconstructed heads pictured here are not identical to the originals but do share a number of characteristics. Modeled strips of clay form the thinly opened oval eyes, slightly projecting mouths, noses, and ears, and raised bands decorating the faces, while the backs of the heads are adorned with incised linear patterns. The columnar necks are defined by large furrowed rings. Necks ringed with fat have been and continue to be viewed as a sign of prosperity by many African peoples. However, it is currently impossible to know whether the rings on the Lydenburg heads were intended to be read in this way due to the scant information available on the ancient culture that produced them.

For a variety of reasons it has been speculated that the heads were used in initiation rites, perhaps even worn. Specularite, a variety of hematite whose crystals glisten when rotated, was placed strategically on the masks in incisions and raised areas such as the eyebrows. This has been cited as a possible indication that the heads were used in public ceremonies, as they would have shimmered impressively when moved in the light. The holes in the five smaller heads and the helmet size of the two larger ones could also indicate that these earthenware heads were masks worn for various ceremonies." (ESHS Art History 11)

"The Cuzco bottle is one of the finest examples of Inca ceramics. (Cuzco was the capital of the Inca Empire.) This beautiful and functional form was used to carry, store, and dispense water. Its pointed base had a function. It was placed on the ground or on a table, tilted on the base, and when someone wanted a drink, the vessel was simply tipped forward. The two handles located near the center of the piece were used in concert with the small appendage at the neck so that a strap could be slid through one handle, then up and over the small protrusion, then down through the opposite handle, and then the strap tied around the waist and shoulders and the pot could easily be carried without spilling any water. The two small lugs at the rim were for tying a skin or cloth over the top to keep out insects and debris. Inca vessels were coil built. It is similar to a Greek vase called an aryballos. The slip design is finely painted and may represent basketry patterns." (ESHS Art History 9)

Native North America:
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has the longest continuous pottery tradition on their original land of any tribe in the United States. Nearly 2000 years ago, Cherokee potters began using carved wooden paddles and sharp objects to stamp thin walled, hand-built pottery with intricate cross-hatch, spiral, and other designs. (ESHS Art History 10)

Seed pots were used to store seeds.

Cherokee Friendship pots represent how friends are tightly interwoven like the weaves of a basket.

Cherokee Wedding Vase represents two uniting. Once used in early wedding ceremonies and was broken to seal the wedding vows.

Modern North America:
"Lucy M. Lewis' year of birth is not known. She spent nearly all her life atop the high mesa of Acoma Pueblo, making pottery since the age of 7. She is largely responsible for the revival of Mimbres black-on-white pottery designs (right) which are more than 1,000 years old. She was famous, as well, for her exquisite polychrome designs and her fine-line and lightning designs.
Lucy Lewis was one of the most widely respected potters from her pueblo. She was the last of the Acoma matriarchs. She followed pueblo tradition in every step of pottery production—offering prayers of thanks to Mother Earth for the clay, taking only as much clay as she needed, working the clay with only her hands, forming the vessel from coils of clay, scraping the walls with tools fashioned from gourds, painting the vessel with slips and paints made from clay and vegetable sources and, finally, firing the finished pieces in an outdoor handmade kiln." (ESHS Art History 12)

Whitney Smith Pottery: Whitney once spent $1000 in order to correct a problem with her cupcake stands. Even professionals sometimes make mistakes. Even professionals continue to learn. Even professionals are not perfect.

Jennifer McCurdy has been working on her pottery techniques for twenty-five years. She states, "living on Martha’s Vineyard, island time, especially in the winter, seems to conform to nature’s cycles. As a potter, I strive to make my work reflect the balance of life around me. It is important that the patterns I see around me are integrated into my forms."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


For the month of October, and possibly a week or so of November, we will be concentrating on painting! Grades first through second will be concentrating on Autumn (Fall) landscapes. Third through sixth grade will be using grids to draw and then paint the Halloween/fall still-life, which is currently decorating our art room. We will be looking at a variety of still-lifes; however, we will concentrate on still-lifes from Northern Europe, especially the Netherlands and Finland. The still-lifes from these areas tend to be referred to as vanitas still-lifes.

Still-life with Candle by Picasso

The sixth grade will be learning about linear/one-point perspective. This will be accomplished by studying the architecture of China (as seen in the famous handscroll: The Spring Festival Along the River, by Zhang Zeduan of the North Song Dynasty), pre-Colombian Mexico and South America, and Modern North America. The sixth grade students will then complete the still-life project which is currently decorating the art room.*

Grades 1 - 6 will study the Elements of Art (see individual postings under September): line, shape, space, color, and value (light and dark -i.e. shadows).

Kindergarten will enjoy a range of Halloween/fall painting activities and will continue to study the Elements of Art: line, shape, space, and color. We will be concentrating on color this month and how mixing yellow and red can make many different shades of orange and almost yellow/red. HERE is a fun chart where you can use your mouse to see how the colors change when mixed.

*The still-life created will be using monochromatic coloring (or close) and will look something like this:
Still-life: Boxes and Art Room Supplies by Miss Siglin, 1992

Friday, October 1, 2010


1Our first unit this year is drawing.

On the first Art day, all of the students made an art portfolio in which to keep their artwork. Towards the end of the year, the students will decide which artwork shows their best work. We will then show these artworks in the Suncrest Art Fair!

Our drawing unit is based on portraits, in particular, self-portraits. Some of the students will be drawing their friends instead, due to not having mirrors to look in.

The artists we featured are as follows:

1. Giuseppe Arcimboldo used all sorts of organic "ingredients" in his self-portraits.

2. Sofonisba of Cremona was one of the first women artists to be widely recognized during her lifetime in the 1550s.

3. Rembrandt created more self-portraits than any other artist!

4. van Gogh - his self-portrait looks a little like his photograph, but not exactly.

5. Grandma Moses was 76 years old when she became an artist!

6. Chuck Close has dyslexia and had difficulties in school, but loved art. He had a blood clot that left him a quadriplegic at the height of his career, but it didn't stop him from living his dream!