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DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.



After teaching Ceramics for many years I became tired of the Pinch Method. I was tired of the little bowls and the "precious" little vases, as well as the dumpy cup shape. I've done whistles and shakers and candle holders but how could I come up with something meaningful and totally experimental as well as sculptural? A piece that utilizes almost all of the building and glazing techniques (joining ,glazingscoring,slipping,scrafitto,underglazing etc) but in service to an idea?


 I came up with the idea of building Cairns.


Cairns are basically piles of stones found along trails and mountaintops,that people have built to mark pathways, and sometimes memorialize people or sacred places. Found in natural settings, they convey a sculptural, almost living, presence.


The rocks were created by making two pinch pots together(scoring and slipping)then formed into a rock shape.

NEXT QUESTION: HOW DO YOU MAKE A CLAY SPHERE LOOK LIKE A ROCK AND NOT A MEATBALL?  We looked at some real rocks! Even a small bag of polished stones from a craft store were helpful. We asked the question: How would rocks look like if they were formed by WATER, WIND, OR VOLCANIC ACTIVITY? Then we formed them (paddle). Next, how would they be stacked?


Because I wanted the stone cairns to have a deeper meaning than just a pile of rocks I asked the students to think about what could they represent. I told an  Inuit story about when the men of the village went off to hunt . While they were gone the women of the village were trapped on a melting ice flow and carried out to sea. only one survived. She swam to shore and told the the men what happened when they returned. In their grief they constructed stone memorials to their wives and daughters on shore so their souls would have a place to return and not be lost at sea. The stone cairns are still there and are visited by people to this day. THE STONE MONUMENTS OF THE ARCTIC PEOPLE ARE CALLED INIKSUIT(to act in the capacity of a human).


The students came up withe the idea of the cairns representing families which raised further questions like : HOW MANY IN YOUR FAMILY? WHAT CONSTITUTES A FAMILY? ARE YOUR FRIENDS,COUSINS, PETS, DIVORCED PARENTS, IN YOUR FAMILY? How is your family organized?


They then constructed their Cairns (scoring and slipping,welding)

If their Cairns stayed together after bisquing they recived higher marks.



Glazing was accomplished by layering low-fire stoneware glazes. Here experimentation and testing could take place that would not if they were glazing"precious little pinch pots. Other finshing techniques were explored as well. Scrafitto( scratching through a color to reveal white clay), Mishma(filling scratches with color) and Marbling( mixing white and red clay bodies).


As you can see WE DID IT All! in the creation of our INIKSUIT.



After the glaze fire  they wrote a paper telling the "story" of their Cairn . Some of which you can find below.


To see more pictures and a powerpoint on the process click Strategies and Origins from the column on the left.




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Elissa, Kendra, and Ashley’s Cairn


The inspiration for the Cairn was friendship. We were all supposed to do individual Cairns, but Elissa and Ashley came up with the idea to unite our projects. Our mother’s friendship inspired the idea. We decided to make two large rocks representing our mothers, and the smaller rocks which represented our families, making a bridge to bring together the two in unison. Our cairn is in a bridge shape because the bottom starts off with our mother’s friendship. It continues upward with our families, and then uniting  Elissa, Kendra, and Ashley with the top rocks, making them friends.

  Continuing the theme of friendship, Kendra added in her rocks to the bridge representing her family as well bringing all three together as one Cairn.

We decided to use multiple colors of glaze together which made unique colors blended in the rocks. This went with the theme, because as our families blended, so did the colors.

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when we look at the face we use dramatic lighting  to create shapes from the shadows. when the students concentrate on drawing the shapes the face appears.

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These self portraits are by my Studio 1 class.This year Itook my focus away from jumping into painting and spent the semester doing more drawing. we worked in a sequence from simple drawings of cups and eggs and worked up to the face. All observational drawings were based on micro-labs that were dramatically lit to produce strong shadows to create shapes. No value charts! No facial diagrams.

read more in Strategies.

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In the following lesson students went searching for colorshapes that could be found in the white shirts hung in the classroom. I had a yellow bug light shining fom the top and a white natural light shining from below to highten the effect of natural vs incandescent lighting. They went to it in oil pastels. I used to do this idea with oils but I had just taken these kids through a semester of drawing with charcoal and I wanted to introduce color to them with media they control. Instead of returning to cups and eggs like in the lesson above we dove into the more complex idea of the shirts. next piece will be the "Zinger"  painting by commitee(collaborative painting).

We drew on gray paper to allow the gray to be a color and students found that leaving some parts unfinished creates emphasis on the finished parts (although some want to cut off or mat out the unfinihed parts. We will have a peer critique to discuss this.

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.
DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.