Thursday, November 26, 2015

Highlights from 2014 - 2015: Wheel Throwing

This past year I barely posted on the blog.  I started teaching two classes that were new to me, which made for an extremely busy year learning the ropes and coming up with curriculum.  
I want to post some highlights from these classes from last school year before moving on to this school year.
Here are some photos from the Wheel Throwing class at Lane Tech.  Wheel Throwing is a ceramics class that focuses on functional pieces that students make on the potters' wheel.  Students take this class as an elective and it mostly serves juniors and seniors.


Any successes I have teaching Wheel Throwing I owe to Amy Moore who taught ceramics for over 15 years at Lane and has since started teaching in Evanston. She provided me with lots of resources and tips last year as part of the transition.  Over those 15 years teaching at Lane she worked hard to build up the sculpture program and wrote grants that provided the school with 31 wheels for our students to use.  We owe our sculpture program all to her.

In the year-long Wheel Throwing curriculum, students begin by learning to center clay on the wheel and then learn how to throw the primary forms of cups, bowls, bottles, vases, lidded containers and platters.  As students gain skill they continue personalizing their pottery and making artistic choices. 

Cups by Isabel Blair


Students learned about surface decoration techniques with both glaze and underglaze over the course of the year.  Below are examples of techniques using underglaze such as stenciling, painting, masking and sgraffito. 

Bowls with detailed sgraffito designs by Rebecca Symonds
surface design with textiles and masking by Mayra Leon

One of the types of homework that students work on in Wheel Throwing is envisioning ideas for sculpture and pottery based on themes.  Students sketch 4 ideas of their own and find 4 by other artists that fit themes such as "power", "urban" and "surprise".

Another type of homework that students engage in is taking notes on Youtube videos by other ceramicists so that their skills can improve and they can see how others throw on the wheel.


Students engaged in a vase project where they found a vase by another artist that they thought was beautiful and made it their own by trying to re-create aspects of the vase while adding their own twists.  


lidded container by Gerald Pineda

teapot by Jackie Cruz
wall hanging by Mireya 

Another major project was students creating a large platter with  intricate surface design or imagery. This project gave those students who like to paint and draw a wonderful "canvas" with which to express themselves.

Platter by Gerald Pineda

As a final project, students created a set of objects that were unified and that reflected their personal style.  Through this project, students were able to re-visit the forms they enjoyed making the most, noticing how their skills had improved, and creating objects with a detailed plan in mind. 

Tea set by Rebecca Symonds
Place setting by Katherine, inspired by paintings by Kandisnky and Mondrian

Cups by Yaneth Rojas

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

An Original Painted Mural for the School- From Start to Finish

To begin the process, students in Honors Painting visit the sight where the future mural will exist. 

They discuss some aspects of the space that might evoke imagery, and then get to work sketching anything and everything that comes to mind. 


Next students refined their ideas and drew them to scale for one of the horizontal or vertical panels.  They also wrote a statement about their idea/drawing so that their peers could understand their intent.

Next, myself and the students worked together to lump the individual designs into overall categories in order to discover common trains of thought.  


After looking at all the drawings and reading the statements. Students then divided into teams, based on their interest in one particular theme.  Some teams were large and others were only pairs of students.  They worked with the drawings that had already been created, to try and compose 2 vertical and 2 large horizontal panels.



The students then presented the drawings for all 4 panels and we discussed their strengths and weaknesses both in imagery and in idea.

Finally, through a voting process and a discussion, we were able to narrow down to 4 main drawings/plans.  We audio recorded each pair of student-finalists explaining their idea and why they felt it should be chosen. After listening to the presentations, the principal and assistant principal met with Ms. Wain and I to select what might be the best idea. Here are some of the final sketches that were presented, still in a rather rough state in ways.


 Students work together to sand the large wood panels and paint them with an undercoat of gesso.


After the final sketches are traced onto transparencies, students use overhead projectors (technology that is not obsolete!) to enlarge the drawings and trace them onto the large panels using watery paint.  We decided against charcoal since it smudges so much.

Students then begin filling in large sections of color, referencing a pattern book of traditional clothing from around the world.  


I should explain that each large shape in the mural is the silhouette of a different Chicago sculpture.  The colored lines represent the train lines that all converge downtown (near the lake).  Each sculpture is filled with a pattern that represents traditional clothing from a different ethnic group that resides in Chicago and attends school at Lane Tech! The green shapes behind the train lines and sculptures represent the geographical shapes of different Chicago neighborhoods.  This is some deep context and imagery!

Can you see the reversed silhouette of the Alexander Calder sculpture above in the mural panel below?


 The students rotated in groups, alternating between painting on the mural panels and working on their own independent project of their choosing.  This helped keep chaos at bay and kept the students interested for longer. 

The colors we used were predetermined and students had to spend a lot of time referencing original patterns in order to figure out what colors to employ.  The mural became much like a giant, detailed coloring book with oh so many details. 

The faces on opposite panels are of Dinah Washington and Muddy Waters, who represent the Chicago music scene and the rich history of the arts we have in Chicago.

This is the hallway where the panels lived when my painting class was not in session.  I do not miss carrying these heavy boards in and out of the classroom every day for 4 months!

Ready to hang pretty much... I may have done lots more meticulous edging after the last school-day ended!


Below are the colorful finished mural panels, all hung up and looking great.  This is the only stairwell in Lane that has a mural, and these murals are the only permanent student art up in the hallways so far.  I am proud!



The original designers of this concept, Josef and Paula stand in front of a final product that does indeed resemble their first sketches. 

This was really a fantastic experience.  I learned a ton and am really proud of the fact that this huge mural was born completely of students' original ideas and cultivated through a democratic process.