As a “gig” worker, my summers were jam packed with lots of different classes and workshops where I’ve taught art and clay to students of all ages. Covid changed that for me and so many other instructors. Last summer I chose to teach virtually. It worked well. I learned to adapt. Thinking about summer 2021, I decided to return to in-person teaching. I took one full time job for 8 weeks teaching summer clay to campers grades 1-9. I didn’t make as much money as I could have teaching multiple shorter workshops, but it felt safer for me and safer for my young students, the majority of whom were too young to be vaccinated.
Interacting with new people, making friends, hearing the laughter of children and watching them create was joyful. I became part of a bigger community whose job was to provide a wonderful enriching summer for children in a time when that need could not have been greater. I think we succeeded as I look back on the amazing pottery the kids created…
In the summertime, I’m finishing up some orders and experimenting with glazes for my fall collection. So many lovely pieces came out of my last kiln run, that I’m happy to share them with you. All have been listed on my flickr account with pricing and options to purchase. Enjoy!
Last week marked the start of virtual hand building classes on Zoom. Oh how I have missed interacting with students and teaching clay to adults! In week one of a two part workshop, we worked on a coil pot; part two will feature hand built fruit to sit in the bowl. In this class, students can use real clay and have been given the opportunity to have it fired. All this is happening at Mother Brook Arts in Dedham. A new group of classes will be ready for sign ups soon. Click here for more information on Mother Brook Arts ceramics program. I will be offering one, two and three day workshops.
If you live in my neighborhood, you might have seen me working away out in my garage. It’s where my kiln is and a great place to be when the weather is warm and the clay is low fire brown. I’ve just managed to fill my kiln to run a bisque fire for the first time this season. The pandemic really affected my creativity and I’ve just started to emerge from quarantine with ideas for some new work. Stay tuned for class updates, pottery to purchase and a lot more blog posts!
Teaching teens pottery is a different experience from teaching elementary aged students even though there may be only a small age difference. Teens in middle and high school have had many more life experiences. They have acquired more creative tools. Their work has time to develop with a daily interaction with clay. Here is a look at what they created in our week long class this summer.
Teens explored building castles using coils and slabs. From left to right: clay is used to create buildings; castles are glazed in bright colors; artwork is finished with a glaze firing in the pottery kiln. Below are a few more finished pieces.
Once the students were familiar with architecture, they started their second project: architectural tiles.
The results were very unique and exciting to see. Starting with a clay slab, the students used their imagination to take the next steps. They then moved on to glazing and the tiles were fired.
For the final project, the students created a functional piece. They began with a flat two-dimensional slab of clay and turned it into a three dimensional mug. The theme was animals but some decided to move away from topic and create an original piece.
It’s always a great experience to teach clay for Newton Community Education! Check out my poston what the elementary aged students created during their weeks of summer pottery class.
I had a great summer teaching pottery to kids in grades 2-5. They were fun and creative and seemed to really enjoy the experience of working with clay. Here’s a look at some of the projects we worked on in Week 1.
Coral Reefs: before with wet clay and after with colorful glazes.
Here is a look at the projects we worked on in Week 2:
Pinch pot animals, sea creatures or fish (and the cookie monster!)
Covered jars in the form of a favorite dessert.
It’s always a great experience to teach clay for Newton Community Education! Check out my next post on what the teens created during their week of summer pottery class.
During the time the theme was announced, I was beginning my second of two drawing classes in Newton; a class is a perk of being an instructor for Newton Community Education where I currently teach clay to all ages. I was humbled and frustrated by the place I found myself when I arrived at my drawing class this fall, but by spring these two teachers had lead me past mental roadblocks and set me on the path of rediscovering my voice with skills that I could take to the clay surface.
I began working with a drawing of my hand holding the stem of a peony as a self portrait. The peony is the flower that blooms every year around the time of my wedding anniversary; it signifies the memory of the transition into a new role of wife and subsequently motherhood in a year that my children have left home. The negative space around the image in white is the silhouette of a woman’s shape. The pink of the peony, the gentle grasp of the stem, the soft form all suggest femininity to me. I worked on these two pieces at the same time, starting first with the bowl and moving to the plate.
When I look at the two pieces side by side, I see a bowl with an image on the left and a ceramic statement on the right. The bowl is a piece you might hang on a wall and contemplate in an intellectual manner. The plate is a form and image interacting as one. An only a utilitarian form can do, it invites you to interact by touch when the surface image draws you in. The two pieces together are a metaphor and entrance to my storytelling in this self portrait. Other pieces will follow to create a larger collection.
My process for creating these two pieces began with wheel thrown well made forms with a handmade swirl in the center to emphasis the human component of pottery. Once trimmed and in a “suede” state, I use a pencil to transfer my drawing. The lines are carved and then inlaid with green underglaze. Masters of this technique are Kristen Keiffer, Michael Klein and Julia Galloway, contemporary ceramicists who use Mishima in their work. Space is defined by layers of white and blue underglaze before the forms are dried and fired to bisque. Glazing has three layers and uses the characteristics of a clear glaze in conjunction with other glazes to enhance the surface decoration.
Below are pictures of my pottery next to the source of inspiration.
If you are interested in purchasing pottery from me and are unable to visit me at the Potters Place show and sale over the weekend of May 3rd – 5th, please email me to discuss additional options for purchase.
Making clay baskets can be complex forms to create. They are born on the potter’s wheel, the place where I do my best thinking, as small shapes that begin as bowls and then transform into objects of whimsey. The rim of the pot becomes a place to alter: roll it, split it, cut it, pinch it … each action creates a different result.
Once the wheel thrown pieces are trimmed or finished, hand pulled handles are added to each piece. The shape of the basket determines where the handle is placed in order to create a functional form.
When the clay is still malleable, I take the opportunity to add decoration to the surface. Handmade, found and manufactured stamps are added to make each piece unique.
Once bone dry, underglaze colors are added to “pop” the pieces. These one of a kind baskets are now ready to head into the kiln where they will be fired to cone 06 and then be ready to hold glaze.
I decided on a satiny white liner and an opal glaze to emphasize the underglaze colors. One characteristic of the opal glaze is its movement; it can drag or pull the color down the pot that is vertical. I use this knowledge to create the effect I am looking for. The baskets head back into a kiln and are fired to cone 6.
The baskets are now completed pieces of pottery. They are ready to make their way out into the world as useful and beautiful handmade objects.
My spring session of Kids Clay included mostly repeat students. This allowed me to introduce more difficult projects and let the kids make more creative choices. We focused on three main projects that were multifaceted. We reviewed basic techniques, such as pinching, coiling, texture, slab and attaching to build the final work. Students enjoyed the “play” factor: moving the pieces around to create their own stories. It was a joy to see their creative solutions.
Project One: Turtles in their environment
Project Two: It’s my Birthday
Project Three: Pretend you are a scientist and you discovered a new species of animal. Create that new animal.