|Jayleigh Butler, Winter 2021. Jayleigh's carved pieces include bowls with different surfaces, a liddled form and a segmented form.|
The third project in my Spring class was carving from a solid block of clay. I added this project in Winter. This wasn't a technique I'd ever used before in my on-campus classes, but I thought it might be a good fit for online students working on their own at home. It also fit well with the tools we had in our studio kits.
|Ryann-Elizabeth Fridley, Spring 2021. These deceptively simple forms are hollow underneath, like a bowl placed on its rim.|
The carving from solid technique wasn't one I'd done before, exactly, though the concept is much like what students do for their solid portraits in the on-campus version of this class. The on-campus solid building has more steps and the process is longer and more complicated, as they are building on an armature. Students are able to build larger and more complicated forms on campus and they have more in-person guidance from me, which is really vital.
|Ryann-Elizabeth Fridley, Spring 2021. In the on-campus portraits, we hollow out the sculptural forms so they will survive the firing (and be lighter in weight).|
I got the idea for this project from two articles I found in old Ceramics Monthly magazines, both of which are available online through Ceramic Arts Network. The first is an article about New Zealand artist, Elena Renker. The second features work by Zak Spates.
|Kristin Benjamin, Winter 2021. This set of 3 boxes is very similar to the liddled forms in the Zak Spates article.|
The concept is pretty simple, really. Students start with a block of clay and carve out the inside to create a bowl. They can modify the shape of the block of clay before they carve out the insides, or they can segment it and carve out multiple interior parts.
|Sophia McDougal, Winter 2021. Sophia's segemented form started as one oblong lump of clay.|
The on-campus solid portrait project requires them to do more shaping before they carve out the insides, using an armature to support complex or top-heavy forms, but once the exterior shape is formed, the carving is similar for more and less complicated forms.
|Ashley Lawson (Instagram link), Spring 2021. Ashley's bowls exhibit a range fluted textures that vary with the length and orientation of the cut. |
For the online class, I had students start with bowls. Each student was required to carve 3 bowls from solid blocks of clay. They could shape these starter blocks by wedging, slamming, paddling, or carving them. The interiors could be started by pressing in as demonstrated in the Elena Renker article, but the rest of the carving would be done with loop tools that come in students' studio kits.
|Student Example, Spring 2021. The cups on the sides show faceting marks, while the center form is fluted.|
I didn't have size or shape requirements for the bowls, just a requirement that the thickness of the walls be consistent all the way around and through the bowl. Students could choose to make their bowls wider, taller, more round or more square. I also encouraged students to vary the surfaces of their carved bowls with faceting or fluting techniques.
|Lizbeth Cardenas, Spring 2021. Another segmented carved form with deep cuts in the surface. These sorts of deep carvings could be highlighted with glaze after firing.|
From the virtual distance of the instructor (not sharing a physical studio classroom together), it appeared that most students generally enjoyed or felt comfortable with the bowl carving. I did have one student who was really afraid to get started.
The fear of the first cut is something I've experienced a lot in the carving part of the on-campus solid building portrait project. Students have spent so much time getting the shape right, it is scary to cut into the project. I have found that my presence is really important for this step. I used to have the students watch my demo in class, then cut on their own.
Since 2018, I've flipped my on-campus classes, having students watch video demos outside of class, then they come to class ready to cut; they don't have to cut until I'm there. I love this day, because I get to simply tell most students that they are on the right track, their plan is right, yes, they should cut. Then I stand there as they start, giving encouragement and watching them be successful.
|Jackeline Corona, Spring 2021. I encouraged students to measure the thickness of their walls as they carved. The student has clearly cut away clay at the corners of this segmented form so that those corners aren't thicker than the rest of the walls.|
For obvious reasons (classes were entirely online), I was unable to provide this in-person support to students in the online class. Most were, apparently, fine with cutting, since they hadn't spent much time shaping before they began to carve out the shape, but at least one really struggled with getting started on her own. I zoomed chatted with her as she got out her materials and got started, but it was frustrating for both of us, I think, to try to replicate this in-person assurance via video instead of being together in a shared space.
|Sophia McDougall, Winter 2021. The uneven facets down the walls of this lidded form create a kind of key to line up the lid correctly.|
I do think that teaching our studio classes online has allowed us to reach students who didn't have access to studios before. Confident students, students with acceptable work spaces, students without full-time jobs and loads of family responsiblites, and students who feel comfortable working almost entirely independently can be very successful in online classes.
On the other hand, many students benefit from a teacher helping them build their confidence. Many students need a dedicated work space and a dedicated work time, both for their own organization and working, but also as a buffer against jobs and family responsibilities that otherwise encroach on the space and the time at home. Online is great and it meets a need, but it's hard to watch students be less that fully successful when I know that being on campus at least a bit would help.
|Harrah Hanson, Spring 2021. The figural sculpture (sculpture of a head) requires more planning than a bowl, as the narrow neck has to be a little drier to support the wider, heavier head.|
This carving project, like all the online projects, was spread over 2 weeks. In the first week I asked students to carve bowls, in the second, I asked them to carve something more complicated, including segmented forms, closed forms with lids, and closed sculptural forms. Students were allowed to choose which of these they wanted to pursue.
|Student Example, Winter 2021. This set of lidded forms have similar shapes, especially in their lids and handles, but varied surface treatments.|
In winter, I hadn't initially given them the choice of a closed sculptural form, as that is more complicated to building and to cut and carve. However, in meeting with one student, he expressed interest in building a small portrait sculpture so I talked to him about the risks (big heavy head on a narrow neck) and let him give it a try.
|Student Example, Spring 2021. I get a kick out of this photo. The student has addressed the problem of how to show the best angles of everything, by propping stuff up on the slip container and a sponge.|
Students were required to create a total of 6 carved objects, including the bowls and the more complicated forms. They were also encoruaged to create a variety of textures on the surfaces using mostly carving, faceting, and fluting techniques done with the same loop and carving tools they used for the shaping.
|Lizbeth Cardenas, Spring 2021. This set includes two complications: lids and segmented forms, as well as different shapes for the "bowls" and a variety of surface decoration techniques. |
The project came in the middle of the quarter in Spring. I thought of it as a bit of an easier project in between slab-building and coil-building. This project allowed students to do less planning, in most cases, than the slab project, and was a faster technique than coils. It also gave them a chance to try some reductive surface decoration techniques, since most of them preferred impressions, rolled textures, or additive techniques in their slab project.