Sunday, December 1, 2013

CYOA: Embellishing Pottery

Each year the art teachers in my school district choose a different part of the world or culture as a K-12 focus. We try to get other departments involved as well for interdisciplinary connections. The efforts culminate during Cultural Heritage Week- a week of speakers, performances, and a K-12 art exhibit. This year our focus has been Native American cultures. Since I had already decided to experiment with choice based art instruction at my intermediate school, I used the "Choose Your Own Adventure" method that I tried out with 5th grade when studying fibers last spring. I came up with several open-ended ceramics projects and each student choose a direction. 
The first direction I wrote about was Effigy Pots. The next direction, and the most popular, was embellishing pottery. We talked about how Native artists did/do embellish their ceramic artwork. We categorized the different techniques as Painting Designs, Etching Designs, and Adding Texture.
The idea for texture came from a webpage detailing clay tools used by Native Americans of New England. Many of the tools were things found in their part of the country, so I used some of those ideas and found a few things outside that could also be used for texture. Students pressed the tools into the wet clay, some just experimenting, others consciously making designs. It was a big hit!
To etch designs, students put a layer of paint (we used tempera cakes) on their dry clay and used a paper clip to scratch designs. We found that etching while the paint was damp but not too wet made smoother lines than etching into totally dry paint.
Example of etched design:
The last technique was painting designs. We talked about how the idea was more to get inspiration from the Native American artists and art forms than to make something that "looks Indian". That is an important concept that we kept reviewing!
I created a Pinterest board to keep track of all my research and images to show students. You can check it out here:

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