Saturday, January 2, 2021

New Year's Covid Balls


this COVID ball is not an ornament

In December I made a bunch of these COVID balls as gifts. Though they look like ornaments, that's not exactly what they are. They aren't meant to be decorative, or at least not primarily decorative.
COVID Balls with directions attached


Each COVID ball comes with instructions: 

Directions: If your 2020 has sucked, use this COVID Ball to capture and expel all the suck at the end of this year. 

  1. Find the hole in the COVID Ball. Whisper all the awful things from this year into this hole. Don’t worry, whispers are small, so the ball can hold a lot. If you need to scream, the COVID ball has an automatic scream-compressor installed to be sure you can fit all your rage at 2020 inside. 

  2. Once you have filled up the COVID Ball with all the yuck of 2020, find a safe space (maybe a cardboard box outside--if you are under 13, please discuss with your parents).

  3. Throw the ball as hard as you can at the ground (or the interior of the cardboard box). You may choose to smash it with a hammer or other implement if you prefer. The force of the COVID ball breaking will create an interdimensional wormhole into which all the range and yuck of 2020 will be sucked, leaving only good feelings for the year 2021.

The hole


One of my friends, when she received the COVID ball, said her first reaction was to smash it, so the idea is sound. I came up with the idea this summer, in part because of the frustration that everyone feels with the pandemic and the stay at home order, and in part because I observed (and remembered) the fun of the violence and physical release that comes with smashing ceramics.

smashed ceramics this summer

In college, the clay studio had a protected kiln yard that was outside but fenced in. Next to the raku firing area was a huge pile of shards against the building wall. I can't remember if there was a literal target painted on the wall, but I do remember that the reason for the shard pile against the wall was clear: If your pot or sculpture didn't work, you threw it against the wall. And it helped.
we used a box so that we weren't cleaning up bits of sharp ceramics from the sidewalk for days


This summer, when I was clearing out stuff from my new studio, I had some work that was broken or jsut not great. I was going to throw it away, but my daughter was playing outside (with masks) with the neighbor girls, so I decided to let them have some fun. I put the pieces in a box and gave the girls a hammer and let them go to town.

bisque fired COVID balls awaiting glaze

I hadn't exactly forgotten about making these during the summer and fall, but something happened to a friend in December that reinforced my motivation as I pictured her pouring her frustrations into the ball and then smashing.

Glaze fired COVID balls awaiting directions

I really enjoyed making the COVID balls, even though I didn't start until the second week of the quarter (when I got my pug mill and my reclaim clay was super soft and nice). The forms are pretty familiar to me, as I made many similar forms in graduate school and for my MFA show. I suppose I haven't made exactly this in quite a while, but making them felt like home.

Work from my MFA show in 2006


I honestly made these with the idea that folks would smash them. As I made them, I had several people in mind, including my nieces and nephew who've experienced this pandemic from a different perspective than have adults and might be more willing to smash things. But I also knew that people might really want to smash these with a hammer (even if it might feel good), so I added alternate directions that might make people feel ok with their urge to keep the COVID ball.

Alternate Directions: If your 2020 has been excellent, I suppose you can hang this up as a memento of the year. If you choose to combine the alternate directions with step 1 of the regular directions, the scream-compressor also works as a rage and yuck magnet to hold the negativity inside, preventing it from escaping into next year.

The balls on the bottom have some chunky old bits of underglaze on them

It's interesting, though, to make something with the intention that it be destroyed. I chose my colors to be loud and garish, and maybe a bit gross, too. I used some chartreuse underglaze, but mixed in some other scrap greens. In fact, on a few of the pieces the underglaze was chunky and instead of fixing it, I painted on the chunks. After I took the pieces out of the kiln, I realized that those chunks of underglaze made a gross kind of rough surface that really seemed appropriate for the diseased forms themselves.

COVID Balls with directions awaiting packing

I also thought seriously about trying to make a batch of these to sell for Christmas/New Year's gifts. As it was, I made about 26 of these as gifts for close friends and family and that was plenty. However, I enjoyed making them, so maybe I'll take orders or plan to make some for later in the year or next winter. I'd love to think that by December of next year we'll all be past the pandemic and not in need of cathardic destruction, but as far as I can understand, we'll only be getting to an end-point in late fall if all goes well. And as much as we'd like to feel otherwise at the start of the year, 2021 is going to feel a lot like 2020 for some time.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Pugmill: Labor Saving Equipment for my Labor labor

 

My family's first order of business: put googly eyes on the pug mill

This week I added a piece of equipment to my studio that I never thought I'd own. I bought a pugmill! A pugmill is basically a tool for mixing, reclaiming, recyling, and preparing clay. In my first clay job, teaching clay and other art classes for the city of Cedar Rapids, we used a pugmill for recycling all waste clay. We'd lay out the slurry into indentations in plaster slabs, mix in some dry powder, let it dry for a while, then put it all in the pugmill to mixing. I remember really loathing that beast, maybe just because the process was physical and slow. We also have a pug mill in the Yakima Valley College clay studio. In the old building, when we didn't have a mixer, it was the only way to recycle clay, but I rarely did the work because my work studies were in charge of it. Maybe my lingering dislike of the Cedar Rapids pugmill explains why I was surprised to find myself interested in buying a pugmill for my home studio.


The pug mill before its first use.

The way it works, from the users perspective, is pretty simple: You put some clay in the hopper, close the lid, push the mix button, and the auger mixes the clay up better and much faster than if a person were recyling and mixing clay by hand (or foot). You can then set the mixer to pug and it will push the clay out the front. This particular model, a VMP9 "power wedger" by Peter Pugger, can mix wet and dry clay, and they say, even bone dry clay, though I haven't tried it yet. This machine is also a de-airing pugmill, meaning it has a vacuum that can pull the air out of the mixing clay. This is like what happens when hand-wedging before throwing.

my pugmill in action

In the old building at YVC we used our larger PeterPugger for all of our clay recycling, which meant that my work study students were using it daily. In the new building we have a mixer and a pug mill, which enables us to use regularly recycle two types of clay (without cleaning out the pugmill and without mixing up the clay bodies).  The mixer also allows us to make bigger batches at a time and we can more easily get beginning students involved in the process.

Some of the worst of the poorly recycled clay from this summer--pretty, maybe, but not nice to work with.

I've always simply hand mixed (or foot mixed) my clay reclaim in my home studio using stack wedging or turning it into a whole event involving kids' feet in the back yard, but lately I've noticed that the recycled clay just didnt' feel great. Also, and partly contributing to the poor quality of the clay, it feels like I have so little time in the studio that I resent the recyling process and end up screwing it up. I don't time the recyling process particularly well, leaving clay out to dry longer than I should or rushing the process. The result is clay that is too dry, or wet and dry clay mixed together. 

hand-recycled clay on the left, pugged clay on the right

The first batch of clay I recycled in the new pugmill was a batch I had recycled and stack wedged this summer. As you can see, the clay had striations of different clays within it. The different clays also had different consistencies, with some harder and some softer. After just minutes in the pugmill, the clay was soft, smooth, and even in both color and consistency. 

reycling bone dry clay from this summer

Since then I've slaked some dry clay leftover from the summer and put it in the pugmill with similarly fast and good results. The pugmill has a 25lb capacity, which I've filled and emptied about three times this week and the results are all consistent. Since I'm not throwing with this clay, the de-airing feature isn't really important, but I tried it anyway.

The view inside the hopper partway through loading

The pugmill is so easy and fast, its almost hard to believe I waited this long to buy one. On the other hand, I believe the pugmill is the single most expensive object I've ever purchased that goes inside a house (assuming a college education doesn't fit inside a single building). My husband says the pugmill is worth more than my car. It wasn't a Christmas gift, I very specifically bought it with some of the money that I'll be making from my union leadership position. Since I don't get time off, I'm doing the union job on top of my full time teaching, so I wanted to buy something that I could see for that work. As it turned out, I bought a labor saving piece of equipment in exhange for my Labor union labor. It feels right.

The pugmill after my husband brought it home

I ordered it in early December figuring that it would take a long time to arrive during the pandemic. It was going to take 6-8 weeks to arrive, but Clay Art Center in Tacoma had a slightly larger model than I intended to buy, in stock. My husband drove over on Monday to pick it up, and as an extra bonus, it was already assembled so we skipped a little bit of that work. At it turns out the larger version fits perfectly in the space reserved for it (when my husband remodeled the studio last year) and mixes a nice sized batch of clay--about double what the smaller version would have. Double bonus, Clay Art Center's service is always excellent, and the pugmills are made in the USA.

The pugmill in situ next to the wedging table and potters wheel

Classes ended last Friday, finals were over this week, and grades submitted Thursday. I'm not quite done with my union committments, but already this past week, I've been able to spend time in the studio on three separate days this week! I'm looking foward to more this weekend and next week. With COVID eliminating the posssibilty of holiday travel, I'm hoping to trade some of my usual airport layover time for quality studio time. 

What I started with the newly mixed clay

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Mugs and Plates at Oak Hollow Gallery


some of these mugs are at the gallery, some have already been claimed

If you live in the Yakima area and are interested in having your 2020 mood mug, I now have some scream mugs at Oak Hollow Gallery. This past weekend I brought some mugs and plates to the gallery. There aren't a lot, but I'm hoping to make more. Oak Hollow is in the Chalet Place Shopping Center breezeway (between Wray's and Inklings) at 5631 Summitview Avenue. 

most of these plates are at the gallery

I believe there are about 6 or 7 mugs left (as of this writing) and a 8-10 plates. The plates are salad or desert sized and in fairly bright colors, though a few were done with a darker clay, so the colors are more muted. I took photos kind of at random, so I don't have pictures of everything and a few of these have sold, but I think the photos communicate the general style and size of the plates.

twelve inch ruler for scale

Next week is finals week, so I am hoping to get some wheel time after that so I can make more pieces (though I sometimes devote this time of the year to holiday gifts). I am planning to make some more sceam mugs and maybe some COVID mugs. If I have time, I might also make some of the smooth patterened mugs, too, though the glazing process is fairly time consuming. 

I've got only two of these, but I may make more

Though things have been quite busy over the past month, I wanted to get my pieces to the gallery before the holiday. A small part of me "worries" that the world might settle down in late January (after the inauguration and once the vaccines become available), in which case the scream mugs might be out-dated. 


Trump


But then the rest of me laughs at the idea; it seems pretty unlikely that anything could make the world settle down and people become calm and peaceful. With any luck the Trump and COVID mugs will eventually be out-dated and maybe the whole mood of 2021 won't be quite so dire and depressing, but people are probably going to continue to want to scream at one another, politics, work or life in general.


First COVID mug not for sale, but maybe the next ones will be


Sunday, November 8, 2020

Scream and Covid-19 Mugs


Scream mugs with layered cone 6 red. The orange was on for the first firing on the left; the red was on for the first firing on the right.

Tuesday was advising day at YVC, as well as being Election Day. Like election day, advising "day" this quarter lasted a week. Back when I started at YVC, and for a number of years thereafter, advising day was viewed by most students as a day off, and students seeking advice about classes visited their advisor before or after that day--at least that's what my advisees usually did. This meant that faculty were required to be on campus, in their offices that day, but, in reality, spent most of the day grading or prepping (or bored).

The Covid-19 mug is ridiculous to use or wash, but I love it!

Back then, our advising loads were assigned by declared major or by last name. As the junior member of the art program, I was not assigned art majors, instead I was assigned all students who hadn't clearly identified a major and who had a last name starting with G. So, y'know, Garcia, Garza, George, Granger, Green, Grey, Gonzalez, etc (there are lots of G names). What that meant for me is that for a full week or two, I would constantly have student coming in to ask what classes to take for Nursing, Education, English, IT, or whatever other major I might or might not be able to tell them about. And then I would also spend advising day alone in my office.

My favorite face mugs from both firings.

Being the innovative teaching institution were are, YVC faculty and administration joined forces a number of years ago to get rid of this silly system and replace it with a much better advising system that integrates mandatory advising and college and career pathways with a one-day group advising process. When this change happened, I traded my ~75 G-advisees for a small group of about 10-12 art advisees (my art colleague had retired). As suggested by the "mandatory" label, we also started requiring student to attend advising day, which made that day a lot more interesting for faculty and removed much of the advising load from the teaching/grading/prep days. We also put everyone in a pathway into the same room, at the same time, so that advisors could help each other and help new advisors learn how to best advise in a particular area. Also, it's nice to be with colleagues during a lull in advisees.

My favorite face mug from the first firing

That approach was going great until the pandemic (as we so often say these days). In spring, the mandatory element of advising was temporarily suspended as we rushed to figure out how to operate entirely online, but this quarter we returned to mandatory advising. We couldn't require students to come to campus or be in the same room, of course. Instead, this year advisors were asked to contact students from October 28-Nov 3 and then also spend several hours in a Zoom meeting waiting to advise drop-ins on Nov 3. This approach gives students flexibility, which is great news, but also gives faculty both the responsibility for contacting all advisees during the week (while also teaching classes) and the requirement to be available for drop-in advising for a several hours. 

Less scream, more grump. I'm happy with the face, but less happy with the handle.

The COVID-modified Zoom /online mandatory pathway advising model (what a mouthful) is still better than the pre-mandatory, pre-pathway 75 students for some, 3 students for others pathway model, so I'm only slightly complaining. And instead of spending the whole day in a room, we each had to spend a few hours in a Zoom room. I didn't get to hang out with my colleagues, but I was able to grade when no-one was in. And seeing students we don't always get to see in person is a pretty great pay-off. Doing drop-in mandatory advising on Election Day evening also allowed me to ignore the news for a few hours that night. 

The Covid-19 mug was a beast to glaze, since I wanted even coverage, but was using only brushes.

In between morning advising, and drop-in Zoom hours for my students, and evening Zoom advising, I unloaded a kiln I had fired earlier. This kiln load included a few glaze tests for class (we have new glazes because students in online clay can't come in to use our class glazes, so each student was provided with commercial cone 6 glazes) but also some functional glaze of my own, including mugs and plates. These were mostly the screaming mugs, but also one Covid-19 Mug. I am absolutely delighted with the Covid-19 mug, though my friend said she thought it was disgusting when I showed her during our Zoom meeting.

Covid-19 mug in progress. The design isn't great for function, but it gives me the weight and size I was looking for.

I was hoping that drinking out of it during a Zoom meeting would surprise and entertain the other people in the meeting, but my experiment during a meeting this weekend didn't get such a reaction. I might have to switch to one of the screaming mugs to get the mug noticed.

The mug is totally functional, and I've been using it for days, but I've also kept it on my desk so no one in the family will try to wash it.

Obviously the whole world has been on the emotional roller coaster of the election. Teachers are also on the regular mid-end of the quarter roller coaster + pandemic teaching online roller coaster. I got to add one more bit of fun to that in getting my new computer. I thought that realizing the old one wasn't working right, ordering a new one, and waiting for it would be the extent of my worry, then I could just use the speedy new machine. I guessed that I'd just migrate over my info from the old machine and everything would be peachy.

probably one of my favorite scream mugs. The red contrast nicely with just about everything

I was super duper wrong about that. I spent time with Apple Support on Wednesday afternoon when I got the machine and wasn't able to migrate the old info, then I had two chats and two or three calls with them on Thursday afternoon when the subsequent OS update (why doesn't the computer come with the most up to date OS?) and 14 hour migration resulted in the same problems I was having with the old machine. Thursday and Friday I got to talk to 4 or 5 Apple Support people, and got to delete everything, repair the hard drive, and reinstall the OS. Then I took Saturday off (from Apple Support--I attended a 3 hour meeting and graded instead). Today my phone call with Apple Support lasted 2 hours and 23 minutes and I was able to talk to three different levels of support technicians (the politeness level of the support technician decreases as their expertise level increases).

This one was from the earlier batch. The glaze application is uneven and theres not much contrast between the ochre that was meant to highlight the features and the grey for the rest 

The bad news is that I can't migrate all my stuff over from the old machine--I have to manually move everything over bit by bit. The good news is that, as of today, I have a speedy machine (fingers crossed) and also access to both my photos AND my photo albums. As of this afternoon, the metadata on my photos isn't scrambled so that 2020 photos include ones form 2007 and 2009, and I might even know how to find my videos. I can't, however, back-up my computer at this point, something I just discovered in the past hour. But maybe all that time with Apple Support is paying off, because I think I have an idea how I can fix it. If not, I look forward to my 7th call to Apple Support next week.

I believe I was getting tired of eyes (and the mouths were ended up too small) so I did some mouths only for a few. I think the one on the left looks like Slimer.

I was feeling in such good shape photo/computer-wise, that I took pictures this morning and upload them into my new computer (twice!) where I am now able to use them. Last time I wrote a blog post, I had to upload the photos directly from my phone, which was...different. Of course the pandemic, and work from home is teaching us all to be adaptable, patient and creative with tech solutions. We're all gaining computer skills and flexibility at an accelerated rate. And patience, too. I'm still working on my work-from-home/school-from-home ability to block out the incessant questions from the kid who can't go to school.


These two had decent color coverage, but not enough contrast. I believe both were fired only once.

I'm pretty happy with the results of the firing I unloaded last week. Near the end of the summer I fired some of the earlier iteration of these screaming mugs, but wasn't happy with my colors. I'm using cone 6 electric kiln glazes, mostly Amaco Celadons and I somehow thought I'd like the subtle colors of the first batch. For this batch, I ordered some brighter Celadons (I was running out of the bright colors I used on some of the lemon squeezers) and layered them like I do with my sculpture. It shouldn't have been a surprise that I liked the brighter colors and the layers of contrasting colors.

These were from the earlier firing, but the color combos are closer to what I did this time.

It helps that the faces themselves have also improved since the earliest versions. I'm much happier with these results, especially for the ones where the layered color is a contrast to the main color. In fact, as I review them here, I realize that I'm happy with any that had red in the face and reasonably happy with the purple/blues that aren't screaming. 

The orange was on for the first firing and I left the mouth dry. I wiped away more red than I intended inside the mouth, but I kind of like it anyway.

I tried layering the colors two ways, both with two firings (again, like my sculpture). I feel pretty silly that it took me this long to get to the double firing method with these glazes, since that would be the most obvious approach if I was thinking of these mugs as sculpture. Not only is this the method I use with underglazes, but I did something similar with underglazes and cone 6 glazes in 2019. 

I was sad because my handle is so tall...


I'm feeling reenergized about both the faces and the colors and I'd like to get some studio time in which to work on some more. Moving two studio classes online this quarter continues to be a lot of work, but I might be able to squeeze in some throwing/building time over winter break. My daughter believes I will spend the entire break making cookies with her, but maybe I can throw before she wakes up ;-) 

...now I am sad because my glaze crawled.

In this firing, I only had one disappointment. Fittingly, it was the mug with a tear in its eye. I'm happy with the tear and fairly happy with the color, but the glaze peeled in the back. I guess now the mug is crying because of the glaze fault.
 

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Online Studio Courses

When YVC moved online in March, I moved my three clay finals online, but was still able to get on campus that week to load and unload kilns and try to get the studio in decent shape for not being used until fall. Of course I didn't realize, in March, that students wouldn't be using the YVC clay studio for a full year (at least). Since then, getting to campus has gotten harder. We have to get permission for each trip and at various times faculty have had to fill out forms, check-in, get our temperature taken, and check out online.

Shiverball wants to know "why are you still home?"

In the spring quarter, my teaching load consisted of classes that I'd already taught online. I happened to have just two classes that quarter (because my studio classes have more class meeting hours, I meet my annual load earlier in the year), and neither one was a studio or clay class, so I didn't have to solve the issue of moving a studio online. I was also leading contract negotiations for the union in the spring and early summer, so I was able to fill up any extra time time pretty quickly.

YVC Clay studio in early October, with Winter 2020 student work ready to be packed for curbside pickup.

This quarter I am teaching a totally different schedule, including converting two studios to online, which has had me running full speed for months. In September, as we were looking at course enrollments, my department realized that we could add an extra drawing class, but that meant shuffling instructors. I haven't taught a drawing class to adults in more than 15 years, and I've never taught drawing at the college level, so instead of having me take the drawing class, we ended up swapping classes around and I took a Design course from our adjunct who added a section of drawing. With a couple of weeks to go before the quarter, I was suddenly planning to teach 2D Design, Art History, and Art Appreciation all entirely online.


Ripped paper collage demo from back in the day, one of the few things I was able to use for my 2D Design online.

I've taught all three classes, but its been years since I taught Art Appreciation or 2D Design. I had never taught 2D Design online, and the last time I taught Art Appreciation online my now middle-school daughter was a newborn (literally less than a month old when I started) and the learning management system was entirely different. 

Some sketches I did to prep and plan one of our Design projects this quarter.

As I was prepping Art Appreciation and Design, I started to feel a sense of dread for the start of the quarter. I had stopped teaching Art Appreciation because I was getting bored teaching the same thing over and over, but when I did teach it, it was a very hands-on class. We had guest artist demos and we visited Larson Gallery and all the public art on campus. Students were constantly drawing on the board or working in groups or standing up to present to the class. Moving such an active class online seemed daunting and a bit depressing. I was also trying to use an OER textbook/textbook alternative. 

I guess I might be biased because I like books. After spending all day on the computer, I'd rather not read on the computer, too.

Open Educational Resources are a good idea, at least in theory. They are meant to be free alternatives to expensive textbooks, but the quality for Art Appreciation, in my opinion, is a little uneven. I started working with a couple of OER resources shared on the Canvas Commons, but a lot of editing was needed. In fact, I ended up using bits of one of these OER for the Design class, though I'm not sure how much it's worth, as I did a lot of editing and I supplemented quite a bit with stuff I developed. There were typos and misspellings, but worse were the missing images. At one point, I read a section over and over trying to understand what they were describing before realizing that an image must have been eliminated or changed without any changes made to the text. The text was describing an image that wasn't named or visible, but was similar to what was included, which threw me off for a while.

Some work of my own I might finish some day, maybe in December

I was also worried about teaching Design. I was originally hired at YVC to teach Design, Art Appreciation, and Functional Pottery. I was pretty comfortable, at age 26, teaching pottery and Art Appreciation, but the design class was a bit of an unknown territory for me. At the end of my graduate program, I applied for 60-some college teaching jobs all over the country. Most of the positions were clay positions, but there was a healthy mix of design, general art, sculpture, and drawing responsibilities, too. Design wasn't that much of a stretch, given that design principles are discussed in all entry-level art classes, and I'd taught plenty of community art classes of all sorts to kids and adults, but when I took the YVC job, the Design class was the most intimidating. I'd never taken the class myself. My undergraduate program didn't required Design (called 2D Fundamentals) for art majors and my graduate TA was in clay, so I never even sat in on more than half an hour of a Design class. (The floor plan for my undergraduate art building was open, so it was possible to be "in" the 2D Fundamentals class when walking through the building or finding materials or tools for another class.)


Some of my design projects ended up featuring things from my house. I recorded a demo video for design in my clay studio, then ended up using Bludoph as my example drawing.

A little over a week before the quarter started, with my stress and anxiety about Design and Art Appreciation mounting, I was in a meeting that incidentally included mention of someone's daughter taking a clay class at a university. After a great first week, the university classes were forced to "pivot" to online because of COVID. The daughter was disappointed in her clay class now because it was all writing and research. 

Basic plan: get them clay, have them make stuff

I called my mom to complain, nearly crying with frustration because I knew I could teach an online clay clay class that was more engaging than this one sounded. I'd even presented a plan for what we'd do for studio kits and alternatives to firing and glazing. I'd presented this earlier in the summer and was told that I couldn't teach it. Since it had been a few months since initially made the proposal, I contacted my boss and laid out my plan. She immediately gave me permission to teach Hand-building online and I had about a week to get studio kits ready, get students signed up, and design a class!


Studio kits ready to be distributed (PVC pipe rolling pin, canvas, brushes, tools, and glaze jars)

For some reason, getting permission to teach the clay class energized me for teaching the Design class, too. I was writing class plans in the hair salon while my daughter got her haircut and waking up in the middle of the night to write down ideas. The hand-building class I had taught many times before, but never online. For the past few years I've been making a ton of videos to use in my "flipped" clay classes. These are great resources and I have thanked past-Rachel many times for doing the work which would have been absolutely overwhelming to try to do all at once this fall (especially from my home studio). I'm also grateful that I had help making these videos back in the day. 

Students have to submit their work online, too, which means first they need to learn to take quality photographs

But putting video demos online and putting a whole class online is a whole different thing. Besides the fact that ALL directions have to be online (and some students aren't going to read them anyway or watch the video explanation), but so do all reminders, all submissions, all tips and tricks, and hints, and help! There is so much that happens in a face-to-face studio class that its difficult to even quantify. At least, it was difficult to identify before we all lost it to the pandemic, now I'm sure I am not alone in realizing what's missing when teaching the "same" class online.

I did not have a pre-existing video demo of how to wrap up your greenware so that it could be driven to campus for firing.

I had to make adjustments to videos and video playlists that relied heavily on studio tools the students wouldn't have at home. My Hand-building class usually uses the slab-roller, extruder, and armatures, not to mention kilns and glaze equipment, none of which the students would have access to at home. They don't have access to nearly as many small tools, either. Of the four projects I usually use, I could only keep one, coil-building, nearly intact. The slab & texture project and videos had to be significantly revised, given that students cannot access a slab roller or our studio forms, texture rollers, and textured fabric collection, not to mention slips, slip trailers, and underglaze. I had to completely scrap the extruder, 3D printer, solid building, and mold projects that I've used over the years.

A screenshot of part of the kiln loading interactive lesson.

Additionally, I can't force students to bring work back to campus, so I can't require them to fire or glaze their work, though I am offering that as an option. Of course students who do drop off their work for firing can't come in to load kilns with me. Instead, I've created an interactive kiln-loading lesson for them to do at home. My vision of it was super awesome: I imagined students being able to click on pictures of work and drag them onto shelves. Alas, the technology (that I'm aware of) doesn't seem to be there yet, so the interactive lesson has more video demos and click on the right part of the kiln, than interactive multi-layer "loading." 

One of the images in the interactive kiln loading lesson: which kiln post should be used?

The most challenging thing to build-in to the online class is all the stuff that never made it into any formal plan or paperwork. Of course I give students assignment parameters, but I spend an enormous amount of time during class making adjustments, talking to students, pointing out issues before they become problems, etc. In an online class, I cannot be looking over their shoulders and I can't spot problems. And then can see me make a slight adjustment to a neighbor, ether. I do require the online students to check in with me and show progress, but around the end of week 2 I discovered that the clay folks in particular had an extra hurdle. In order for me to be able to given them feedback, I need to see the work, and not only that, I need to see images of the work that communicate useful information about the form of the work. It turned out that students desperately needed more help taking photographs that show the actual form and texture of their work. It's tough to judge thickness from a photo. It's even tougher to judge distance from a slightly out of focus photograph taken from directly above with the camera shadow falling over half the piece. 

Pictures like this make it really difficult to assess the quality of the work

Ironically, the Design class (which I was more worried about) has gone more smoothly, in some respects. I suspect that is because I had nothing built. I reused a couple of bits and pieces from the last time I taught it (before ~2013), but most of this quarter's class I made from scratch. Making it from scratch meant I didn't really have any expectations and from the start I built-in more manual checks (where students had to submit plans, sketches, or photos of progress before they could proceed). Overall I think the Design class benefited from the fact that I was more worried about it and that I wasn't imagining what it would be like in the studio.

I gave the designers lots of images, to begin with, about how to submit and how to do projects, and eventually lots of video demos, too.

As I am revising this, I've just finished planning week 7 (of 10ish) and I've just about finished grading week 6. Three weeks of prep looks more or less manageable from this vantage point, and I even have plans in my head for each of those weeks. I have a really exciting plan, I think, for the last clay project, but I've never done it before, so...fingers crossed.