Pandaji's Blog

Art, research, education

Leave a comment

Student Work: Greenwich Community College

Some examples of student work from the evening class at Greenwich Community College, using a “5 second” plate technique:

  1. Roll out the clay to an even thickness using guides.
  2. Imprint textured fabric by rolling onto clay and then removing it.
  3. Place the mold on the clay and cut around the perimeter.
  4. Place the cut out clay on a sponge, face up.
  5. Press the mold onto the clay on the sponge.
  6. Place the plate on a board, let it harden, and sponge the edges.


Example using cobalt carbonate wash and clear glaze, fired to 1260 degrees.


Student work using the same technique and finish, fired to 1260 degrees.


Student work using the same technique for making with different glazes, fired to 1260 degrees.


Student work using the same technique for making with different glazes, fired to 1260 degrees.


Student work using the same technique for making, ‘greenwich green’ glaze, fired to 1260 degrees.


Thrown plates, decorated using oxides and underglaze colour, clear glazed, fired to 1260 degrees.


Leave a comment

Beginners First Thrown Pots

Examples of first ever thrown work from the ceramics evening classes I’m currently teaching  at Greenwich Community College, using the “no centering method” taught to me by Takeshi Yasuda.

Bone dry                                                             Leatherhard

Raw stoneware clay thrown one week, then turned the next, when the work has become “leatherhard”,  meaning stiff enough to turn upside down, recentre and using turning tools, make a foot ring.

Well done everyone, how different they will look when glazed and ready to take home to enjoy.

Here are links for how to join next terms classes type ceramic courses into this link

Leave a comment

12 Types of Clay

chart showing 6 different sorts of clay at different stages raw,1,000,1080, and 1260

chart showing 6 different sorts of clay at different stages raw,1,000,1080, and 1260

I made this chart of the 12 types of clay available in the ceramics workshop at Camberwell College of Art UAL.
The workshop facility is used by students from all disciplines who do not necessarily have any ceramics knowledge.

The chart is similar to the one I made for the ceramics workshop at Wimbledon College of Art showing each clay in its varying states, from raw, 1000 bisque to earthenware and stoneware glaze temperatures.

terracotta half face glazed with stoneware glaze and fired to 1260

terracotta half face glazed with stoneware glaze and fired to 1260


terracotta half face glazed with earthenware clear glaze and fired to 1080

terracotta half face glazed with earthenware clear glaze and fired to 1080


terracotta bisque 1000

terracotta bisque 1000


raw terracotta

raw terracotta


parian half face glazed with clear stoneware glaze and fired to 1260

parian half face glazed with clear stoneware glaze and fired to 1260


this is the technicians favourite parian at raw stage

this is the technicians favourite parian at raw stage


camberwell buff  half of face  glazed with clear stoneware glaze and fired to 1260 to show colour change and shrinkage

camberwell buff
half of face glazed with clear stoneware glaze and fired to 1260 to show colour change and shrinkage



camberwell buff raw


Leave a comment

Tea Cup and Saucer: Synchronicity

The first two-week project at Wimbledon for the 3D design students who choose ceramics is always the tea cup and saucer. The students are required to visit the Richard Slee exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, From Utility to Futility.

Usually there are 12 -15 students, but this year with the loss of fashion as a subject and yet the same number of students overall, 30 students chose to try ceramics as their option for 3D design. This has meant that some students have to work in a room adjacent to the ceramic studio which cannot physically accommodate more than 15 students .

I asked my head of area if I could sit  in on the crit at the end of the first group to get a better understanding of what this entails. He agreed that I could observe only. Unlike the other subject areas, in the project timescale nothing gets fired or finished unless it is made with paper porcelain and/or raw glazed. Students have to present their work raw, and talk about how they might finish it if they had had more time. I was pleasantly surprised by one student who had made small tea bowls with leaf sprigs in terracotta clay, and said his influence was the Indian studio potter, Adil Writer.

In 2002 I attended a workshop run by Betty Woodman in India at Golden Bridge Pottery in Pondicherry, and had met Adil at this course. I had left the 1001 cups brochure in the studio which the student had picked up and from there googled Indian ceramic artists. The student spoke about the connection with India as where tea is grown, and also mentioned the unglazed quality of the chai cup.

I was thrilled to be able to have had this kind of feedback on inspiring the student, and would not have gathered this information had I not attended the crit. This turned out to be a very rewarding experience.

Grayson Perry discusses his impressions of Richard Slee from Victoria and Albert Museum on Vimeo.

Leave a comment

Action research project: method

I had intended that the results of my action research would be in the form of recorded discussions with participating students so that qualitative data could be gathered and I could use their quotes as evidence. This method was utilised by Alison Shreeve (2004). However, due to malfunctioning recording equipment, I had to transcribe what I could remember from the discussions. (see Appendix 4 ). I designed a twelve-question yes or no profile questionnaire and included one open question:-

“Please write about whether you found doing glaze tests and experiments helpful (or not), and if so, why?” (Appendix 6)

I have kept a reflective journal and visual diary of all the student ceramic projects and photographs of student tests and final pieces.

For the action research I wanted to make it easier and less time-consuming for the students’ decisions about glazing, and I wanted to know if students performing their own glaze tests in a standardised way would enhance their learning.

Plate 5

Standard test tiles

Plate 5a: standard test tile 1

Plate 5b: standard test tile 2

Plate 5c: standard test tile 3

Plate 5d: standard test tile 4

Plate 5e: standard test tile 5

I made and hung some standardised glaze test tiles (see Plate 5) on the wall, so that they were highly visible. I then made a laminated template of the information on the test tile (appendix 1) and asked the students to do their tests in the same standardised way. I explained how these would be useful to future students. I gave individuals and small groups demonstrations of this standard glaze test. This included how to weigh and mix the glaze recipe and keep meticulous records of their own glaze recipes and tile labelling.

Occasionally, even after years of experience, if one is not familiar with a certain glaze one can still apply glaze too thickly or thinly. The application of glaze can be done in various ways, which include dipping, pouring, painting, and spraying. In my experience, this type of tacit knowledge is best conveyed individually or in small groups of 3-5 students. It allows time for students to ask questions and clarify their thinking.

Student 6 said:

“I prefer not to use glaze tests because it is time consuming.” I agree that the process can take time, but hopefully the rewards are worth it. If a glaze has not been used for a while, it may become thicker in the container as a result of evaporation or even become solid. Knowing how to mix glaze to the correct thickness before applying can affect the final look of a piece. Learning to judge the correct thickness (tacit knowledge) can only be acquired through the experience of mixing and applying glazes.

I encouraged tests by making blank ready-to-glaze tiles. Students were offered these for their own standardised glaze tests. I also made a laminated “how to glaze” guide (Appendix 2). I put several copies in the glaze cupboard so that students (in my absence) could access the steps for mixing and testing the thickness of a glaze before applying it to a piece of work or test tile. I encouraged students to use them, even if they thought they could remember the instructions.

If blank tiles were not available, I made it clear that certain pieces left by previous students could be used for testing by keeping these on a clearly labelled shelf. Student 5 used one of these as his test piece because it was made from the same type of clay that he was using in his final work.

Plate 6

Student 5 test pieces

Plate 6: student 5, test piece

When test results came out of the kiln, I spoke about the results with the student(s) concerned and any other interested students. This prompt feedback helps students realise the information gained from doing the tests and often promotes a decision about how to glaze work or further testing, if there is time.

For the recordings I used an ancient cassette recorder that had worked when I had tested it, but did not record a group discussion in a noisy studio. Worse still, I had not realised that it was malfunctioning and rerecorded a second discussion, which did not record. On the third attempt to record a group discussion using a computer, the original group who had more experience were not available.

The recorded discussion (Appendix 4) took place with a group of students who had not done any test tiles, but nevertheless through discussion produced another small change, in that I put up a skill-sharing chart (Appendix 3) to help students locate another student with the requisite skills if the tutor or myself were not available. I also encouraged the students I felt were competent at a particular technique—but who had not signed the chart—to sign up.  I often asked one student to explain something to another student and I followed up with the people involved to ensure they were comfortable with their roles.

During the discussions I responded to student feedback about the accessibility of the recipe book and labelled the test tiles with the recipe book page number. I intend to arrange the tiles in the boxes in numerical order so that they clearly correspond to the page in the recipe book. The tiles are only an indication of the visual appearance of the glaze after firing. The effect can change for many reasons, for example, if applied by someone else in a different manner, or placed higher or lower during the kiln firing. The benefit of testing a glaze for oneself is to ensure it will work in the intended way.

Leave a comment

Action research project: conclusion

The results so far have been encouraging, and have led to the following conclusions:

At my annual appraisal, it was agreed that working on Thursdays instead of Fridays has meant more contact with both colleagues and students, and it has had a beneficial effect. I have also had more contact with non-ceramic students and thus increased the cross-curricular use of clay. As a result, next year I will continue to work on a Thursday. This is a direct unintended outcome of attending the PG Cert course. The change of schedule may encourage more students to choose ceramics as a main subject or use clay in their projects.

In my reflective journal I describe a critical incident, during which I asked a foreign student to explain to someone else how he had achieved a particular glaze effect. After explaining, using the template and test tile, the student felt a sense of achievement that he expressed by giving me a high five. The student knew the person had understood because he commented that he had learnt the English word for “drip”. The student also mentioned “I have never done any ceramics before”.

Plate 9

Student test tile and final “drip” piece

Plate 9a: foreign student first glazed work using test tile

Plate 9b: foreign student's drip piece

I believe that my actions are student-focused and encourage a “deep approach” to their studies. Prosser and Trigwell (1999) showed that there is “some evidence that teachers who take a student approached focus to teaching and learning will encourage students towards a deep approach to study.” I felt that the Action Research experience helped me enormously with understanding why my teaching methods are working and which aspects need improvement.

If I could plan the glaze test demonstration for the fortnightly taster sessions in the first term as part of the induction into the studio, it would hasten the understanding of the glaze possibilities and encourage students to make use of the existing glaze tests and experiments. It might also prevent unglazed work from accumulating at the end of the taster projects. The next batch of sample tiles will demonstrate the application of two different glazes, (double dipping), so that the students can continue to contribute to the glaze test tile resource. As my results show, any additions to the resource help students discover that glazing is amazing.

Leave a comment

Profile 2. Teaching and supporting student learning, May 2010

“I never teach my students; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.”

“It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.”

“Imagination is more important than knowledge…”

—Albert Einstein

US (German-born) physicist (1879-1955)

I wouldn’t go as far as to say I never teach my students, but creating the conditions for learning is also a major part of my job. (See 4. below.) I try to encourage peer assisted learning (PAL) amongst the students. In accordance with Phil Races’ presentation called Ripple (2004) “consolidating what they have learned by putting them into a position of helping others“ gives students increased self-esteem and confidence in themselves as well as in their ceramic skills.

As Brookfield (1995) points out, “A teacher who encourages peer learning shows how important it is to trust other students.” My action research proposal starts to investigate the potential for formalising peer-assisted learning by using a chart designed to help students identify who have particular ceramic skills amongst them.

These students need to have the confidence to sign up under a particular skill, thus agreeing to help others who will then seek them out for help with a specific skill or technique. I try to make sure that I then follow up with both students concerned to ensure both parties are satisfied they can trust each other.