Work from this years raku group at Greenwich Community College:
Work from this years raku group at Greenwich Community College:
Examples of work using coloured slips and sgraffito before bisque firing, and clear raku glaze.
I volunteered to run the first Crafty Saturday of 2012 at Stepney City Farm. The workshops are open to everyone regardless of age, and certainly a variety of people participated. Currently there is crossrail tunnelling equipment and works on the farm, and the animals are waiting for their new homes to be constructed. The planned rural arts centre building will be where future crafty Saturdays will happen, keep track of events by checking the farm website.
During the workshop, participants created creatures using clay and found items such as feathers, twigs, wool, and scrapstore treasures. Old electrical capacitors made great insect legs!
Many thanks to May MacNair who came and helped out all day, and made some fantastic insects, and to all the participants who worked hard to create the Clayground of curious creatures.
Paper porcelain clay before color
I had the pleasure of being invited to give a day-long workshop for 7-9 year old boys at the school. This time we planned to make holiday decorations and gifts. The boys were asked to bring pastry cutters. I had ordered paper porcelain for this workshop as it fires light because of the paper content and can also be fired solid. The students were given a demonstration of how to roll the clay very thinly between cloth, then how to inlay a pattern by rolling crocheted fabric or netting directly into the thin clay. After removing the fabric, they smoothed a piece of cling film across the surface and then created shapes using pastry cutters. The clay does not stick to the cutters, and even small letters were easy for them to cut out. I encouraged them to think carefully about how they were to hang, and if they were going to string more than one piece together, because this meant considering where to place the hole for the string or wire, and how many holes. As they will string them at home and I did not propose any drawn plans for this, I will not get to see the ‘finished’ work. A half an hour before the lunch break, I suggested they gather all the pieces of leftover clay and make pebble candle holders as gifts, as they had concentrated hard on the decorations till then. The work was left to speed dry under a fan during lunch.
The boys spent the afternoon carefully painting the pieces. Some needed hair drying on one side before they could paint the other side. The patterns they had impressed into the clay using fabric were given a light wash of colour for enhancement. Other pieces were given a thicker more solid coat of colour.
The white angel with the yellow halo caused concern as the student had deliberately left it white, but the adults kept asking me if it was finished!! I explained it would take gold or any other colour paint once fired.
I really appreciate the parents and teacher that assist for the whole day, as they were invaluable helping with the drying process, cleaning up, and generally supporting the boys and I, so that the workshop went smoothly.
Sharing one’s own passion and enthusiasm for the subject so that students become engaged and enthused is the most rewarding part of my job. I love doing ceramics and I am a great advertisement for the subject. Getting to know the students on a personal level and vice versa has meant that the mutual trust that has been built up amongst the students and myself has helped a great deal in their ability to approach me for feedback at this final stage in their course. (Brookfield 1995)
By directing the way they experiment and perform tests and try out techniques, the students gain self-esteem and trust in my knowledge when they have instant feedback and encouragement. I have been trying this as a whole group and individually. My strengths in designing learning activities that enhance transformative learning (Mc Gonigal 2005) are that I can help student understanding of how they learn by introducing or suggesting different ways of approaching the subject.
In accordance with Dall ‘Alba 2005, I can now assess myself at the end of a workshop, and evaluate whether the planned learning outcomes have been achieved. By keeping a reflective journal, I can evaluate how to use this information to improve and enhance my own practice.
A recent example of this was observing the different approach that the tutor and I take when the students have very little time to produce the final show piece and I am still encouraging the tests, as I still understand that the assessment will be constructively aligned and therefore a proportion of the marks will be given for process. (Biggs 1996)
The following resulted from what I have learnt about asking for feedback from students and keeping a reflective diary on my teaching practice. Making a flow chart of the ceramic process has increased the students’ understanding of what is quite a complex process. One of the students I interviewed said she thought that being a student of ceramics helped one learn patience, as the process was so lengthy and involves waiting for pieces to dry and for firings to happen. This is an unintended learning outcome that interestingly, will not be included in the assessment, yet it is a great life learning skill.
Making sure that the materials and equipment are clearly labelled, (including examples of glazes attached to buckets), has to be accompanied with explanations to students of the relevance of these details, as well as the careful handling, sustainability, cleaning, and health and safety aspects when using ceramic materials.
Recently we had our real towel taken away and replaced with paper towels, but with no accompanying method of recycling the paper. I immediately set up a labelled bucket next to the sink, which I empty regularly when I am there. Generally as a team, we also instigated an appointment system for using the plaster room, which seems to be working well, meaning that students know we know who was in there, so they clean up better!!
On this course we are encouraged to pursue our own learning programme. In the same way, I have always encouraged ceramic students to design and plan their own work. Their approach can be based on a theme or a series of diverse ideas. Technique can then be taught individually, when a student’s design requires it. This method depends on having an ongoing yearly or multi-year group structure such as an evening class in a community centre. For single all-day workshops, taster sessions, or 6-10 two-hour sessions, it is necessary to plan and design a different type of programme in order for a group of students to achieve particular learning outcomes in the given time. Although I have taught ongoing programmes for many years, I have minimal theoretical and practical experience of designing and teaching these shorter programmes.
An example of a shorter workshop that I have designed and taught is casting body parts in Mod Roc. I had to think through what could be achieved by a group of ten students working alone and /or in pairs, what supplies they would need, and what resources I would need. I generally make loads of lists! I thought about the minimum learning outcome required for the slowest student and how this could be extended for students who might work faster.
My plan is quite general and is helped by a simple table:
|Date||Learning outcomes||Teaching method||ResourcesRequired||Assessment|
This I learnt on a brief teaching course that I took several years ago. I find that it can be helpful to have a timed practice session as this can help with planning what might be possible. The other benefit of this is that it provides a ready-made example. I also think about designing the session with a balance of teaching and demonstrating, and students’ hands on application.
On this course I hope to improve my computer skills and learn how to design and organize templates for text materials such as planning documents and handouts. This will enhance the calibre of my written teaching materials and resources.