Pandaji's Blog

Art, research, education


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Student A.E.


I have made a glaze from raw chemicals using scales I have done ceramics before coming to foundation I learnt how to read a glaze test tile during my ceramics foundation course I chose ceramics as my main subject I am going on to a ceramic BA course I have made a glaze test tileAnd /or glaze test and/or any other test or experiment
yes √(only once!)
no
I learnt a technique from a fellow student I taught a fellow student a technique I shared my thoughts about another students work with them I discussed my glaze test results with other students if they asked me to I found help from other students essential on days with no staff in the studio I found the chart for skill sharing really helpful
Yes
NO

Thank you for helping me out with my action research project.

Did you find doing glaze tests and experiments helpful or not?

Why?

Student A.E.

Without the glaze tests/experiments I don’t think I would ever had the grasp I have on it as I do now, and even now, I still have a lot to learn. Having visual and tactile access to experiments in glazing has been a welcome avenue for inspiration; and making them myself planted more familiarity with the relationship between glaze and clay.

In my final major project in particular, I’ve had to be very specific with the thickness of glaze on different parts of the clay body, almost drawing/painting with it rather than merely coating the whole piece. I couldn’t have done this without the tests of different thicknesses first and comparing them to each other. The indentations on a tile can also be personalised to suit the project, which I found useful and gave me a sense of ownership towards them. The idea of test tiles is also useful for a student because they can be kept and collected like a library. I know I will be bringing the ones I’ve made on foundation to my degree course.

With not much time on each project though, sometimes there was no time to wait for test tiles before glazing a piece/pieces. In this case it was a learning curve. In my final major project, glaze tests went in with already glazed pieces. But as a result of the test pieces, I made more work to glaze although it wasn’t part of the plan nor was it agreeable to the time. But you can’t help art can you? We made time and the glaze tiles definitely inspired it.

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Student A.Y.


I have made a glaze from raw chemicals using scales I have done ceramics before coming to foundation I learnt how to read a glaze test tile during my ceramics foundation course I chose ceramics as my main subject I am going on to a ceramic BA course I have made a glaze test tileAnd /or glaze test and/or any other test or experiment
yes
no
I learnt a technique from a fellow student I taught a fellow student a technique I shared my thoughts about another students work with them I discussed my glaze test results with other students if they asked me to I found help from other students essential on days with no staff in the studio I found the chart for skill sharing really helpful
Yes
No

Thank you for helping me out with my action research project.

Did you find doing glaze tests and experiments helpful or not?

Why?

Student A.Y.

Yes I did test pieces since it helped me see how the glaze reacted and it shed light on how different layers of glaze had different look for my future references.

However, I did not have time to do my own test pieces during final major project, so I had to rely on Annie’s and Manda’s experience and knowledge of glazes and types of clay. As a result I have had to do some after the project for my recipe book.



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Student T.O.


I have made a glaze from raw chemicals using scales I have done ceramics before coming to foundation I learnt how to read a glaze test tile during my ceramics foundation c ourse I chose ceramics as my main subject I am going on to a ceramic BA course I have made a glaze test tileAnd /or glaze test and/or any other test or experiment
Yes
No
I learnt a technique from a fellow student I taught a fellow student a technique I shared my thoughts about another students work with them I discussed my glaze test results with other students if they asked me to I found help from other students essential on days with no staff in the studio I found the chart for skill sharing really helpful
Yes
No

Thank you for helping me out with my action research project.

Did you find doing glaze tests and experiments helpful or not?

Why?

Student T.O.

I found glaze tests and experiments extremely helpful and made sure to try to do one each time I did any glazing. However, there wasn’t always enough time or firings on a project to make glaze tests so then I would refer to the ones already made but I would still test the thickness of my glaze before using it.


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Student L.Y.


Up until final major project ceramics was my main subject. I chose Interior Design.

No images available.

I have made a glaze from raw chemicals using scales I have done ceramics before coming to foundation I learnt how to read a glaze test tile during my ceramics foundation course I chose ceramics as my main subject I am going on to a ceramic BA course I have made a glaze test tileAnd /or glaze test and/or any other test or experiment
yes
no
I learnt a technique from a fellow student I taught a fellow student a technique I shared my thoughts about another students work with them I discussed my glaze test results with other students if they asked me to I found help from other students essential on days with no staff in the studio I found the chart for skill sharing really helpful
Yes
NO

Thank you for helping me out with my action research project.
Did you find doing glaze tests and experiments helpful or not?

Why?

Student L.Y.

Yes. It allows you to see the effects of glaze so you don’t ruin your pieces!! Also allows you to explore a wider range of glazes on a small scale.


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Action research project: discovering that glazing is amazing, introduction


Glazing is amazing, but the process can be time-consuming and hard to grasp for the beginner. I wanted to make it easier and faster for students to discover the potential decorative intricacies of glazes, and to help them have a sense of satisfaction with their finished work.

This action research arose from the following:

  • The nature of the three day taught week and increased demand for autodidactic style learning has given me empathy with the students, for the part time structure that the Foundation course has become.
  • The comments of a student in Foundation at Wimbledon who told me that at one of the BA courses she had applied to, the first term was spent doing only tests and experiments. She felt that this must be a good practice as she thought it would help her better understand the very complex nature of the ceramic process and glaze decoration. The student was wondering why we didn’t do more of this at Foundation.
  • To prevent wasted resources and the usual accumulation of unglazed work from the taster sessions in the first term referred to in my profile for unit 1.
  • My own difficulty with understanding the glaze tiles resource when I first arrived at Wimbledon, and the way I was taught—melting raw ingredients and then trying to figure out why a glaze worked in a particular way, which is analogous to learning how to bake a cake by cooking all the ingredients separately.

The action research question I came up with is as follows:

“If I encourage the use of tests and experiments, will this enhance the learning experience of my students, and if so, how?”

I made a presentation to my tutor group about my idea and I received positive feedback from my peers. In response to the question: “How clearly has the author stated the focus and scope of the project?” one of my colleagues said: “it was specific to lack of tutor contact hours and students’ comments about lack of formal teaching.” When asked about the significant impact on the students’ behaviour, the same colleague said it would “mean that they would take more responsibility for their own learning.”

I would have preferred the intervention to happen in the first term taster sessions, or right at the start of the second term when the students would be starting their main area subject, not in the final term, when the pressures of deadlines were increased.

After analysing the results, I concluded that encouraging tests did help enhance student learning, and during feedback discussions, it had the unintended outcome of also encouraging peer learning. The amount of unglazed work left over at the end of this year was minimal compared to previous years. My understanding of the action research results has boosted my own self-esteem.


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Action research project: intervention


  • To help understand how the thickness of a glaze alters its appearance, I provided a template (see appendix 1) and a workshop discussion about how to read the glaze test tiles.
  • To encourage testing, I provided tiles of various clay types ready for glaze testing and I made laminated guidance notes on glazing (see appendix 2). I notified students of kiln firing schedules in advance by putting a chart of scheduled firings on the kiln room door.
  • I informed the student group and staff about the innovations and explained that I was doing this as part of my own studies.

After the workshop discussion about glaze tests and the information one can gain when one knows how to read them, the students gave feedback that I then acted on. As a result, I felt that the emphasis of the research project changed. Not only were the students doing glaze tests, they were also helping each other with these and other ceramic techniques.

The peer learning part of the project occurred for the same reasons as the glaze testing. During a group discussion on glaze test results, I suggested the chart of techniques under which people could sign up if they felt they were confident enough to be able to answer questions or show someone how to do a particular thing. For example, make a mold or perform a glaze test. (See appendix 3)

Evaluating the project, I used recordings of discussions, a short questionnaire, and my personal observations and reflections. By inviting discussions of glaze test results with the student peer group, (see appendix 4) I hoped to show:

  • An increased understanding of the way the thickness of application can totally change the appearance of the same glaze;
  • Realisation of the decorative potential and further testing of glazes; and
  • The possibility of students’ standardised tests becoming part of the glaze tile resource.

As part of my approach towards all resources, and because it is useful to perform tests on work with a vertical aspect to see the movement of glaze (“drips”), I encouraged the use of unglazed pieces left behind by previous students. I observed that those students who had experienced transformative learning during the course used vocabulary and language akin to an expert in the field. The questions being asked by students were indicative of an understanding of the glazing process compared to previous comments, which revealed total confusion about this process. The ability to understand this difference is a threshold concept in ceramics. Understanding the difference makes the learner realise the complexities and opens up the subject for further exploration.

By encouraging the sharing of their test results with the group and generating discussions in an informal way, many students were able to increase their confidence and knowledge of glaze techniques, learn from each other, and feel comfortable asking questions or making suggestions.


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Action research project: background


I am the Ceramic and General Technician at Wimbledon College of Art, on the Foundation Diploma in Art and Design course. I am solely responsible for the ceramic studio, and my general responsibilities are shared across all subject areas with the technical team. I have been working two days a week since 2006.

I am concerned about cuts in education throughout the country. Ceramics courses are closing down across the UK. Over the last 10-15 years, three ceramic degrees in England have closed. Since the article about ceramic course closures, four more ceramic degrees courses in London Camberwell, Chelsea and Harrow (http://ceramicreview.blogspot.com/2008/12/save-harrow-ceramics.html)

and Glasgow, have closed. (http://www.craftscouncil.org.uk/about-us/press-room/view/2009/briefing-notes-number-one)

I am equally concerned that students at Foundation level have two days a week of self study, which provides the study environment, but does not actually offer any teaching.

This past year at Wimbledon there has been a cut in ceramic tutor hours from two days a week in 2008-2009 to one day a week in 2009-2010. My working hours have actually increased, as I am doing an extra day as a general technician while my colleague is on sabbatical. This has meant an increase in the number of kiln firings per week, and more contact time with both students and colleagues. Although I work in the general workshop on my extra day, it is physically opposite the ceramics studio, so if a ceramic student needs my help they can access me easily.

Because the study day for the PG Cert course is on a Friday, I have changed my working day to Thursday for the duration of the course. This has given me a whole new perspective, because the majority of students attend on Thursdays, whereas on Fridays attendance is not very high because of the concept of self study, and because some students work to support themselves.

My main concern, (apart from helping students realise their creative potential), was that more than the usual two students would choose ceramics as a final subject area at Foundation and at degree level.

The time required to produce a finished piece of ceramic work is longer than the two-week taster project length, so students have often moved to their next subject taster and do not complete the glazing of their work. As student 4 pointed out: “by the time we think about glazes it’s too late.”

I wanted to help students to start thinking about the final finish and glaze before “it’s too late.” In order to complete their work, they have to find time out from their next project to return to the ceramic studio and do the glazing. This is too difficult for most students, hence the accumulation of unglazed work at the end of the first term.

The anticipation of the final appearance of the glaze on a piece of work in Grayson Perry’s view, is “ always a disappointment.” (Perry, G. 2010) Occasionally, the kiln does something unexpected and “gifts” a glaze result that one could not have imagined even after years of tests. I have referred to these as “kiln gifts” in my previous profiles. Grayson Perry concludes: “It is only when other people admire the work that one feels better about it.” (Perry. G. 2010)

All the students at Foundation are encouraged to use a wide variety of materials and techniques, which form a part of their self- and summative assessment. (Appendix 5) I agree with Grayson Perry when he says “creativity is in the process.” (Perry. G. 2010)

Plate 1

Charts of stains and slip ceramic colours on slip-cast custard cream biscuits

Plate 1a: slip chart

Plate 1b: stains chart

Glazes are just part of the decorative potential of ceramics. I made charts of simpler-to-use colours (See Plate 1 stain and slips above) that look much the same before the kiln firing as after. They are similar in behaviour to using watercolour paint, and therefore more likely to be used by students who are less prepared to take risks, or who want a particular outcome and who may not make, experiment, or understand how to use glazes. The tutor Annie Turner usually demonstrates decorative techniques using these colours during the first term taster sessions.

Plate 2

Examples of final works by students using slips and stains, decorative colours

Plate 2a: student 2, final piece

Plate 2b: student 5, final piece

Plate 2c: ceramic student, final piece

I had considerable difficulty learning about glazes and glazing. It has always been a challenge. Providing learning resources such as standardised examples of glazed tiles makes this process easier for the students to learn about the application of glazes, to realise the glazing possibilities, and for myself to teach.

The glaze tile resource at Foundation was disorganised when I started my job at Wimbledon four years ago. The tiles were not labelled and they were haphazardly arranged, rendering them dysfunctional as a learning resource. On my arrival, I was encouraged by the tutor to familiarise myself with the glazes. I remember feeling overwhelmed by the prospect, so I agree with the student who responded: “it’s quite daunting” when I asked if the standardised test tiles were inspiring during a group discussion.

The more practice one acquires at glazing, the better at it one becomes. It is productive to break the process down into small chunks of information that can be easily understood. The glazes are handmade in the studio from raw materials that resemble varying shades of white powders. They have to be accurately weighed and sieved. By spending time on the glaze process, students can begin to discover the infinite decorative possibilities outlined in my presentation of my Action Research Proposal. (see 1001 cups)