Upon return to school in August, some may have noticed a new addition to the building. Just to the left of the front door is a kiln shed. With a new year, Watershed has birthed a new leg of the art program. The ceramics program is being led by none other than world class potter: Jeff.
This semester, middle school students have the opportunity to take part in Ceramics 1. They began the year by learning about the nature and properties of clay. This understanding alloted students an understanding of how to manipulate clay and glaze to achieve desired results. Some of the ceramics terms they learned about are as follows:
Greenware: Pottery that has not been fired.
Bisqueware: Pottery that has been fired once at a low temperature. Matte in texture, porous, and much stronger than greenware.
Plastic clay: Clay with a lot of moisture. Straight from a bag or freshly wedged. Malleable.
Leather hard: Clay with some moisture. Prime for trimming and carving.
Bonedry: Only molecular moisture left. Light in color and fragile. Produces dust when agitated.
Celadon glaze: High gloss glazes. Likened to liquified glass. Painted onto bisqueware and fired again at a higher temperature.
Underglaze: A matte glaze that does not turn glossy even when fired. Painted onto greenware or bisqueware. Result in bright colors. Layered under clear glaze.
Sgraffito: Carving through a top layer of color (often an underglaze or colored slip) to reveal a contrasting color underneath. Requires attention to moisture of both layers.
Wedging: ‘Kneading’ used, plastic clay in order to remove air bubbles and create uniform moisture.
They followed up this newfound knowledge with a deep dive into the world of stamps. Students experimented with carving stamps out of plastic and leatherhard clay to get a feel for how moisture levels affect the workability of clay. Students then created and eventually glazed beads. After this, students experimented with tilework. They were able to use botanicals, sgraffito, stamps, glaze, and found objects to personalize tiles.
This week, middle school ceramics students begin to move into a culmination of tiles and beads to create hanging wall art. Not only does this project require attention to the moisture level of each portion of the piece, but an understanding of the manipulation and decoration of clay.
With an entirely new program come some challenges and setbacks that Jeff and students are learning to work through. The most evident is clay waste. Although clay that remains plastic throughout a work day can be kept damp and wedged when needed, leatherhard and bone dry scraps require more work to reincorporate water. Watershed does not have a pog mill to accomplish this, so, for the time being, the ‘recycle’ of clay must be handled at home by the pottery guru himself, Jeff.
The new ceramics program at Watershed is evidence of a developing and increasingly well rounded art program. The addition of the ceramics program will allow students experience with more mediums and thus more opportunities for expression and execution of ideas. Although any course in its first year will face numerous challenges, the ceramics program has the potential to grow into an essential part of Watershed’s art culture.