Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Fresh Air Art Celebration

some of my scupture, waiting for dusting and packing

Join me this weekend for the Fresh Air Art Celebration at Sarge Hubbard Park and the Greenway. The event runs 10am - 3pm. You can check out a list of particpating artists (and a map of the space) here. Beware that North is at the bottom of this map.

functional work (mostly) waiting to be packed

I've spent the week planning and packing up for the show. I plan to have both functional and scuptural work at the show and I'm planning to lower prices on some of my older pieces.

COVID planters and odds and ends ready for packing

So far I've pulled out boxes of functional work, some large and small sculpture, more recent stuff from the last two years in my studio, and later today I plan to excavate some lawn sticks from the depths of my storage area.

lawn sticks installation


I will also have tickets and information available for my next upcoming event, the Yakima Artists' Studio Tour on Labor Day weekend. Come check out my booth this weekend; I'll be at spot #35, on the East side of the event near the railcar, near Ashley Cardenas and Janice Baker.

poster for the Labor Day weekend event

Additionall, my daughter and her friends have been making jewelry over the last few months. They will have some of their work for sale at my booth. They've been working mostly with polymer clay, but I think they will also have some felted and beaded pieces.


Sculpey earrings by the kiddos

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Fresh Air Art Celebration & Trouble in the Kiln

 

these little business card holder critters were created with the good clay, so they survived the firing just fine.

This coming Saturday, July 24, is the Fresh Air Art Celebration at Sarge Hubbard Park from 10-3. This is an outdoor art fair featuring 40 some local artists. I agreed to do this inagural outdoor art fair when I was invited in June, though being outside during the day in late July isn't always my favorite activity.

planters from the original firing (charcoal glaze)

The event should have work for sale by lots of artists in different media and activities for the kids (besides the playground, I'm guessing). So if you're looking for some handmade gifts or fun ceramics for your own house, come visit me next weekend!

citrus squeezers from earlier firings

I'm frankly starting to get worried now, since Larson Gallery and the Greenway don't appear to be promoting this event (everything I can find online seems to be aimed at artists, not visitors to the event). The event was presented to me first as a kid's art activity, then, later, as an opportunity for artists to sell their work.

COVID balls from earlier this year

Based on the kids, I thought this could be a decent opportunity to sell some of my smaller work, including fucntional items like planters and citrus squeezers and some COVID themed items. I even made some functional work earlier this summer and glazed it a few weeks ago before we left on a family road trip.

glazed bowls waiting for this ill-fated firing

I loaded the kiln before I left so I could fire immediately when I got home. But the results weren't what I was hoping for. Apparently I confused one of the glaze colors. I thought I had used a light grey (fog) glaze on my COVID planters and cups, when I had apparently used charcoal the first time I made these. The results are a little disappointing.

bubbled in the clay and light grey fog glaze
 

More tragically, I must have had some low fire clay mixed in with the mid fire porcelain reclaim that I used for basically everything in this firing. The low fire clay melted at mid range temperatures, meaning that parts of some of the bowls and cups melted in the kiln. Where they've melted, they've bubbled. Sometimes you can trace the swirls of the pottery wheel in the swirl of the bubbles, which might be interesting if it didn't ruin the pieces.


large bubble marring the interior of this bowl


This bubbled work really isn't safe for eating and drinking, especially if it might end up in a microwave, which is depressing, especially since some of my glazes worked well, especially in my bowls.  Some of the pieces appear to be fine, so that's a relief, but I am disappointed about the others--and about the rest of that reclaimed clay!

interior decoration after firing


I am also finding that my motivation has been sapped by the mistake. I don't really know what I should be working on, as I can't throw new pieces with this clay. I've ordered more, but I probably need to just get this reclaimed clay out of my studio so I can't make this mistake again. 

kiln partly loaded

I should be packing up for the show this weekend, but I'm feeling a little funny about the show given that the gallery isn't advertising it. Sitting outside in the hot in July and talking to people about my work can be fun. Sitting outside in the hot in July with no one there...

miniature pots from this last firing


Let me know if you're coming to the event this Saturday! Have you heard about it? Tell your friends!

Friday, July 16, 2021

Glazing Spree

Glazed bowls loaded into the kiln before firing


I recently finished a marathon of glazing, lots and lots of cone 6 glazing. This is all functional work from this summer. This kiln load contains a batch of bowls, some for my friend, a few COVID mugs and planters, and some other mugs and odds and ends for sales this summer (Fresh Air Art Celebration at the Greenway, July 24 and Yakima County Artists' Studio Tour, September 4-6th)).

COVID mugs and planter in progress


The COVID mugs and planters are the most time consuming to glaze as I need to work the background glaze in and around the covid bumps and then I wipe the surfaces off before applying the red glaze.


COVID planter before I've wiped off the glaze from the top edges that will be red


I got into a nice flow with the bowls. I really prefer dipping glazes, but I'm not sure I can justify large buckets of glaze for the amount of functional work I produce at home.


partially glazed mug on a banding wheel


For this batch of bowls, I got out some large brushes that hold a lot of glaze and set up the bowls on banding wheels. It just feels good when the glazes go on smoothly while the wheel is spinning. And this works a lot better with large bowls than with mugs or other mostly narrow or vertical pieces.


applying glaze by brush to a bowl on the banding wheel


It also should help with how the glaze looks, since any brush strokes that show up should be even and all arranged with the same direction. I've had a few inconsistent results where I've applied the glaze too thinly and the brushstrokes show, so I tried to make sure every piece got a solid 3-4 coats of glaze. It's sometimes harder to judge when some of the glazes are thicker or thinner (because they've been sitting for longer). This time around I used mostly new bottles of glaze which makes for more even application and consistency.


bowls after the interiors were glazed, the colors are blue and light green


I glazed all the interiors, then all the exteriors, then cleaned up all the rims and feet, then added a rim coat of another glaze or glazes to most of the bowls. I only remembered after I loaded the kiln that I might not have enough coats on some of the rims (and I might have layered the two glazes out of order), so maybe I'll unload the kiln and add some glaze right after I post this.


glazed bowls ready to fire

I decided to dribble glazes inside most of the pieces because I like the effects. I usually do this when I am glazing at YVC. I like how the marks and color combinations aren't carefully planned but add some variety and something to look at inside the pieces. I used mostly celadons on the interior and exterior walls, but the dribbled glazes include some Potter's Choice glazes. I've tested them before on my plates and like the results.

glazed bowls waiting to be loaded in the kiln


I did leave one piece un-dribbled. This interior is a new white I just purchased, so I'd like to see how it looks on its own. Hopefully it won't look too strange being different from all the rest. I guess if it is, I can just make more. The bowls especially are just pleasant to throw, trim, and glaze. For some reason, maybe it's the simplicity or maybe it's my familiarity with these forms, but I find these to be soothing to create.


the one bowl without dribbles



 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Online Design Students: Notan Cut Paper Designs

Patrick Byers, Winter 2021. Patrick's example is fairly simple in structure, in that every black element on the left corresponds with a white element or negative space (a gap) on the right.
 

The second project in my Design classes all year was a cut paper "notan" project. The technique for this project is conceptually pretty simple, but students can complicate it quite a bit if they choose to.

Carmen Nelson, Winter 2021. Carmen has cut and translated (flipped) pieces from the left and right side of the original black square. She has also translated some of the stars across the top and bottom edges of the original. 

The technique is fairly simple once you see it. Start with a square of black paper. Cut a shape from one edge. Now flip that cut-out so that it faces away from where it started, but the edge stays lined up with the edge of the original square.

Chloe McDougal, Spring 2021. Chloe's design appears so complex because of the variety of her cut lines, as well as because she started with a rounded rather than square shape.  

Students in my classes had some practice where they worked through the basic technique and learned from what worked well. The second week, which was otherwise focused on shape and negative space, was set up to give them some fairly simple practice with the notan cut paper technique.

Lillian Davis, Winter 2021. Lillian's translation of boxes to the bottom is a un and interesting play on space and negative spaces. The apparent gap on the bottom left is from translating the tirangles to the left while the squares moved "down."

After the simple practice, students participated in a "mini-critique" where they had an opportunity to show their practice notans, see those of their classmates, and discuss what sorts of things worked well in their own and others' designs.

Elias Reyes, Winter 2021. Elias's city scene is made more interesting by the curved edges of the roads that imply hills in the foreground.

The project, then, was meant to be a revision or improvement based on what the students first created and what they saw in their classmates designs. 

Erica Guadian-Riso, Fall 2020. Erica's design is super complex, with lots of similarly sized animals and plants, as well as some repeating features in the birds and the shell textures.

And I would say that it was pretty successful in this. The revisions tended to be a lot more interesting and complex. Students in Winter and Spring quarters also benefitted from being able to see finished projects from classmates in previous quarters.

Heaven Calvert, Winter 2021. It's hard to tell sometimes, whether the student cut paper and then adjusted the colors in the photo. This one appears to be computer generated, but I think it was cut and then washed out in the camera.

At the end of Winter and Spring quarters, I offered students an opportunity to earn extra credit by sharing tips and techniques for various projects with classmates. A video or two shared from winter was helpful for spring students and a spring student shared a video she made herself with recommendations for cutting cleaner lines using her exacto knife.

Israel McDonald, Fall 2020. Israel challenged himself to create a snake that flowed across and between the edges of the original. This was complex enough on it's own and caused some areas that aren't quite "right" but he further complicated it with teh round inside shape. 

I was delighted to see this video, because the techniques this student highlighted were ones I hadn't thought to include. She discussed knife angle and cutting direction for small or pointy cut-outs.

Madeline Crowder, Spring 2021. Madeline's zig zag lines and repeating triangles and diamonds lend a shocking energy to the outer space inspired design.

In the Fall, a misunderstanding about budget meant that studio kits didn't include exacto knifes, which I did include for Winter and Spring students. The cuts improved because of the tools, but I actually find some of the rough edges from Fall endearing.

Jordy Marquez, Fall 2020. This one is deceptively simple. The tiger's face was quite a challenge, but I love how the large stripes emphasize the subject while contrasting in size and shape.

The students mostly chose to use black paper on white backgrounds, but a few tried a variety of colors.

Sabino Rivera, Winter 2021. The color contrast here is wild, but so is the way that the original square almost starts to disappear.

There was a pretty good mix of abstract and representational designs. The practice designs had assigned prompts to give students both direction and inspiration, but also to give them some practice using class concepts. 

Marvin Medoza-Rosas, Fall 2020. Here I really enjoy the wiggly edges and how they repeat in a variety of sizes and locations.

The prompts varied a bit, but included symmetry and asymmetry, rhythm, flow, and representational imagery. 

Allison Parke, Fall 2020. The radial symmetry here means that all four edges are just the same. The top one appears smaller because of the angle of the photo.

The resulting projects tended to build on one or more of those terms, so that we saw lots of symmetry, which tends to present itself when students approach the notan cuts from both sides.
Raymond Ramirez, Spring 2021. This one is a great example of symmetry, but I especially like how the figures are not identical on either side. The contrast between good and evil here is subtle and forces the viewer to look longer.


But many students chose to vary the scale of cuts and create asymmetry.


Student Example, Fall 2020. Very different from the curvy cityscale shown earlier, the one is all about repetition of long lines and stacks of windows.

Once they saw classmates cut out windows or add in textures inside of bodies or clothing, students tended to build on those ideas.

Student Example, Spring 2021. The spacing of the undersea creatures here allows us to distinguish each one separately. I suspect this person may have learned from some examples in earlier quarters. This one also does a neat trick of translating the bottom, then cutting and translating stars from that new location.


I enjoyed seeing the designs that most clearly developed from specific elements of the earlier designs.

Student Example, Winter 2021. A mesmerizing example of pure abstraction.


Some students chose to revise their notan design later in the quarter and it was interesting then to see students work through issues that didn't quite work early in the quarter.

Student Example, Winter 2021. I love the shaggy bits at the bottom of each tree and the melty shaggy overlaps of the meteor.

At the end of the quarter I asked students to tell me about which projects they liked most (and least). Many students enjoyed the notan project because of it's immediacy, and that it didn't require planning to get started. 

Student Example, Fall 2020. This student has filled every available space at the top, leaving the bottom as a bit of a rest. Full disclosure, this was submitted on its side, so I'm not sure which direction is/was intended to be top.
 

But when I asked about favorites and least favorites, I found that they exactly matched. Someone's favorite project was usually someone else's least favorite.

Student Example, Spring 2021. Music, a nice example of sticking to a theme throughout.


Students who didnt' like the notan generally didn't like the free-wheeling structure of the project.  They didn't know where to start on a project where they didn't need to plan ahead of time.

Student Example, Winter 2021. I love the sense of movement through the birds, and somehow I also get a sense that it must have been breezy, too.

In the class generally, I like to offer students some opportunities for more and less structure. Some students prefer one over the other, so giving both gives all students some time to be comfortable and successful and also offeres the opportunity to stretch and challenge all students.

Vero Adame, Spring 2021. This one is entirely abstrack, but has moements of real interest. I believe students used pieces from this example as elements in revision projects later in the quarter.

This project was also a nice break for students who were hesitant or lacked confidence in their drawing skills. Since YVC offers a drawing class, I like to use different media and give student the opportunity to try different techniques.

Kyle Win, Fall 2020.  It's hard to tell, as the photo may have been washed out, but I think this one was created online. The curved edges have been handled well.

 
Note: All the the work above is shared with permission from the artist. When the work is listed with "Student Example" or just a first name, that anonymity is at the student's request. Not all students who took these classes or made quality work chose to give me permission to show their work. 

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Online Clay Students: Slab Projects

Sophia McDougall, Winter 2021. This drawer with removable trees was inspried by a Kate Schroeder matchbox on Instagram


The second project in my spring online hand-building class asked student to build with slabs. This project came second in spring, because I had rearranged the order of projects from earlier quarters based on student feedback. All of the images in this post are from students in the Winter and Spring 2021 online Clay 1: Hand-building course. I didn't request permission from students in the fall online clay class to show their work, though they had the same project in their quarter, as well.

Sophia McDougall, Winter 2021. The way the trees are put together and the outline that keeps them in place are interesting and unusual for slab work.


In the YVC clay studio, we can roll or create slabs in a number of different ways, but the most popular method is using the slab roller, a large set of rollers built into a table. The thickness of the slabs can be increased or decreased by adjusting the space between the rollers. The slab roller is a great was to quickly and easily produce slabs of consistent thickness. The main disadvantage of the slab roller in our studio is that there is only one, so students must take turns.

Ryann-Elizabeth Fridley, Spring 2021. This set of three stacking forms work together nicely and have an interesting added rock texture on the front that further brings them together.


Students can also roll slabs with a rolling pin, use the "pizza" method of slapping the slab on the table, or they can use a wire (with or without a guide) to cut a small slab from a block of clay. For the online class, where students would be rolling slabs at home, I cut lengths of PVC pipe and sheets of canvas they could use for rolling their slabs.


PVC pipe rolling pins cut for class and awaiting deburring.

Each students in the online class picked up a studio kit at the start of the quarter. Each studio kit included a bag of clay, some carving and decorating tools, a lidded cup for slip, plastic dry cleaner bags (for covering their work in progress), a length of PVC pipe, and one long or two smaller pieces of canvas. In the winter and spring, I included some homemade stamps, sprigs, and texture rollers and students also were able to choose either a glaze kit (with glazes and brush) or an additional set of decorating and carving tools. 

I associate deburring with cold fingers, probably because I did most of it in the garage in December and early March.

All three quarters students were able to choose whether they wanted to glaze their work or not. Students were able to come back to campus for firing if they chose, and students who used up the first bag of clay were able to pick up a second. In Spring I gave students the opportunity to pick up two bags of clay at the start so they could limit their trips to campus.

Partially filled studio kits in the YVC clay studio.

The kits took a fairly good bit of preparation. Luckilly our Program Assistant was able to order and set up with kits with the help of some student workers. She also was able to distribute the kits in the first week of the quarter so that I could focus on teaching. I made a number of the items for the kit, including the stamps, sprigs, and texture rollers. One can buy each of these, but it's really not a great deal of work to make 16 copies of the same sprigs or texture rollers. 


Lizbeth Cardenas, Spring 2021. I believe the texture on this little box was created with a texture roller, though the scale is hard to tell from a photo. 


I also cut the canvas and the PVC pipes. Deburring the PVC pipes was kind of annoying, but the worst task was cutting the canvas. I used a pinking shears to make an edge that was less likely to unravel, and the first time it hurt my hand. In December and March, I took breaks in cutting so that I didn't hurt myself.

Washed canvas drying in my home studio. In Fall we cut up some of canvas from the classroom for students. In Winter and Spring we bought new.

The PVC was only used for slab rolling and the Canvas was primarily useful for slab rolling, so students were anxious to roll slabs. In the fall and winter quarters, when I had the slab project later in the quarter, students indicated they were anxious to jump ahead, so I moved the project for spring. 

Jayleigh Butler, Winter 2021. This heart shaped box is an interesting form, but I especially like the addition of the removable swing to the tree. 


In an on-campus class, I usually have the students split into groups so that some students start with slabs while others start with coils, the extruder, the 3D printer or other projects. This eases the backups and waiting to use equipment like the slab roller, extruder, and printer. Online the split would have been confusing and wouldn't have helped anyone.

Jayleigh Butler, Winter 2021. There were two challenges here. One is keeeping the drawer straight inside the heart shaped box. And, unfortunately, the base of this tree is solid, meaning it couldn't be fired (too thick = wet = explosion in the kiln).


Usually some students like slab building and others like it less. I figure it's a bit like working with wood vs clay. With slabs, as with wood, it is important to measure correctly, whereas with coils and pinch methods, it is easier to just add a bit of clay if you didn't get the size right from the start. For that reason I'm less of a fan of slab building myself. I like to be able to revise on the fly and I don't really enjoy measuring and planning precisely.


Ashley Lawson, Spring 2021. Follow the link to Ashley's Instagram! This box is more complicated than it might initially appear because of the curved walls. When Ashley original showed me her model, I was able to point out that she had created multiple box shapes. Though they joined together, the forms themselves needed to be other than boxes or cylinders.

I encourage or require students to create paper models of their projects before they roll and cut the slabs. The paper models can be made and altered fairly quickly and students can then use the paper as templates for cutting slabs of the correct sized and shape. Complex forms, especially those that don't have straight walls can really benefit from being explored in paper before being attempted in clay.

Ashley Lawson, Spring 2021. The curved walls here were a challenge to create, and made for a much more interesting form than straight ones. They also addded a bit of challenge in getting the drawer, dividers, and lid to fit correctly.


Something I didn't anticipate was how much of a challenge students would find in simply rolling the slabs. Several students talked about how physically challenging it was to use the PVC to roll slabs. Rolling slabs, as you might imagine, is a bit like rolling out cookie dough, but the clay is usually stiffer than dough. I recommend students use the PVC like a paddle to flatten the slab down before rolling it. They can also slam it on the floor, using gravity to help flatten it a bit before rolling.  Slamming and hitting the clay are noisy activities that work well in a large studio with sturdy tables and lots of space, but might be problematic at home in makeshift studios with families and roomates nearby (or even trying to sleep).


Student Example, Winter 2021. This set of stacking cylinders with nesting organic forms looks best from above. The side view is also interesting, but it worries me that it might tip over.


The slab project stayed pretty similar during all three quarters and is also pretty similar to projects done in the classroom. In winter and spring, students first made a box and a cylinder, simple shapes to practice working with slabs. They then made a paper model of their project which was to have a lid, drawer, or other stacking or hanging mechanism. Thy were asked to include three pieces, each built from slabs, and each piece was to be more than a simple cylinder or box (which we had already done). I also encouraged students to add varied textures to the surfaces of their pieces.


Student Example, Winter 2021. The top view of this same piece, taken when the pieces were a bit wetter, shows how well the student has considered the visual and physical relationships between the four different parts.


One of the things that isn't yet working quite how I'd like it to in the online classes is the timing of different steps in the process and the incorporation of feedback. In on-campus Handbuilding and Intro to Clay classes, students have a introductory assignment on the second day of class that involves groups working together to prepare slabs, extrusions, and collect tools and materials. The come to class having watched one of two sets of intro videos. Once class starts, each group has some specific tasks (like rolling slabs). By the halfway point in the class, each student has the materials they need to build a mug with a slab base, extruded walls, and an extruded handle. 

Harrah Hanson, Spring 2021. This wedding cake set is a fascinating concept and really thoughtful. The front and back of different tiers tell an uexpectedly unhappy story about wedded bliss. 


The group mug making is a quick one-day activity that results in at least 1/4 of the class having hands-on practice with the slab roller, while others have hands-on practice with other studio tools or skills.  For the rest of the quarter, students are divided differently into four groups so that one student in each group has experience with the slab roller, one in each group has experience with the large extruder, another has wedged the clay and found tools in the studio, and the fourth has collecting slip and extruded handles.

Harrah Hanson, Spring 2021. My favorite part of this piece is the window with bars in the back of the bottom tier. But unfortuantely, the form is a series of simple cylinders. The surface and story is more complex than the form itself.


This second day project on campus means that students in each group can help each other throughout the quarter. Essentially I train the students to be experts in one thing from the beginning so that they can help the rest of their group find stuff, use tools, and prepare clay when it is their turn to do each of these things. The divided projects also mean that students can help each other across the groups. This especially happens with complicated tools or techniques like the 3D printer for clay. 


Kristin Benjamin, Winter 2021. This slab butterfly is a good example of forms that visually work together but are physically separate.


Online, unfortunately, I haven't figured out how to empower students to help each other in a comparable way. I also haven't figured out how to get students to do the practice and preparation early and then immediately follow up by starting the project. Some students certainly do this, but others linger over or delay the preparation assignment, leaving themselves less time to do the project (which should be what occupies them for the bulk of the two week project). The projects aren't designed to be done in just a day, but it is difficult and confusing to require starting times when the work is asychronous.


Jazlyn, Winter 2021. Follow the link to Jazlyn's Instagram! To understand this piece, you need to know that what we're looking at is two different pieces stacked together. 


Feedback and students' use of the feedback is also still a work in progress for the online class. On campus, I'm looking over their shoulders almost constantly during class and sometimes outside of class time, too, as they do the bulk of their "homework" in the studio. This means I can catch them before something collapses and help them with repairs. I can point out a simple simple tip (like using a chamois to smooth rough edges) before the clay dries too much or before slabs are attached together. It also means that I can push them to challenge themselves a bit more and point out ways in which they might not yet have met the assignment parameters. 


Jazlyn, Winter 2021. Here are the two pieces taken apart. It is now clear that we have two containers, not one sculpture. If I saw this piece in progress, I might have suggested bend some of the petals, like we see on the right, using a chamois on the edges, or adding some texture to some of the petals.


One of the real challenges to communicate in this online project was how to make a form more complex or simply different from a box or cylinder. I realized in May that the word "form" might be tripping them up, so I plan to spend more time on the word next time I teach this class. When I say "form", I mean the three-dimensional physical nature of the whole. You might say shape, but shape means flat or two dimensional. A form is a cube, sphere or cone, whereas a shape is a square, circle, or triangle. 


Mia Bautista, Spring 2021. This is a great example of a simple form that is not a box or cylinder. Mia didn't overthink the form, but still challenged herself to do something we hadn't already made. She was also able to incorporate some varied textures.


When I say that I want the form to be more than a box or a clylinder, I am looking for a cone or pyramid, a 3D triangle, or an organic shape made in three dimensions. There are two many options to name and we can see several of those options explored by students in this post.  What I don't want is a simple square or rectangle as the top, bottom, and sides of the object. Either this is easier to communicate in person, or I am able to have a conversation with students earlier in their progress and shift them into a more challenging form. Online, I saw a lot of boxes or cylinders submitted as part or all of this project. Some were made more complex or had more complex elements added, but a number of these students did not appear to understand what I was after.


Mia Bautista, Spring 2021. The parts of this lidded cake come apart to create a box, but the middle slab might appear to be an afterthought. This triangular slab doesn't show up in the first picture and is much wetter than the rest, indicating it was probably made later.


Another challenge in this project was the definition of building with slabs as opposed to stacking slabs. This is always a challenge for a few students even when we are together on-campus. I want students to join slabs to create three-dimensonal forms, but some students insist on stacking slabs one on top of the other to create essentially flat objects. I tend to think of this as evidencing a general comfort with 2-dimensional rather than 3-dimensional media and forms. Other students drape slabs to create shallow bowls or plates, then set them on top of one another to create a stacking set. Both ways of working with slabs are fine on their own, but don't really qualify as building with slabs for this project. They don't demonstrate that students know how to create strong seams and stable forms.

Student Example, Spring 2021. This is a lovely example of both texture and visual relationships between forms, unfortuantely we don't see any building here.

A similar issue comes up with lids. A lid that is simply a slab set on top of the box or structure is more fragile, less stable, more likely to fall or slide off. A slab alone does not show either an understanding of slab building techniques or a well-planned and constructed fit between parts, which are both important goals of the project. Though students sometimes have these issues with slab projects on campus, if they are attending class regularly, they usually are redirected by me or by classmates before the end of the project work time.

Student Example, back, Spring 2021. The back of the picture frames above shows that the student has considered how the pictures will be inserted.

There is so much that happens in the classroom, from seeing each other working, seeing each other's pieces at the beginning, middle, and end, talking with both the teacher and classmates about techniques and ideas and also simply overhearing what others are discussing. If I tell one student at a table that their lid needs to have a flange, I can assume that information has also been heard by the 3 other students at that table, and possibly by students at the next table. It's also possible that any of the students who participated in or heard that conversation might explain it to someone who was missing, sitting elsewhere, or not paying attention that day. 

Student Example, Spring 2021. These funky pitchers are deceptively simple. The notches mean they stack.


In an online class, to receive the same information requires each student to read or watch the same explanation (and encounter it at a time when they understand the project well enough to apply it to their own work). I also meet with students regularly via Zoom, but those meetings can be challenging to schedule and often only involves one student at a time. If we discuss a challenge or a technique or an idea in a one-on-one meeting, that information isn't overheard and that student is less likely to relay the information to classmates who aren't in the same physical space. I haven't found a way to create that space online. As far as I can tell, discussion forums so far haven't fostered the same sense of community and sharing--at least not to the same extent.

Student Example, Spring 2021. The cut-out notches visible in the earlier picture are slots for the handles when the pitchers stack


I suppose all this means that the projects that students have made this year are especially impressive. Most of them have been made while the students were isolated from other people who know anything about clay.  Students have worked entirely on their own, in makeshift workspaces with limited tools and limited interactions during both the practice and planning stages and during the building stages.  They've learned the techniques via video mainly, without being able to feel or handle examples. Their makeshift spaces may be small, temporary (they need to clean up between classes or meals), and unstable. They may be sharing workspace and working time with people or animals who don't respect their space or the fragility of clay and who don't care that they need to spend time on the project. Through all those challenges, what the students above (and the students not pictured) have made is pretty impressive!


Note: All the the work above is shared with permission from the artist. When the work is listed with "Student Example" or just a first name, that anonymity is at the student's request. Not all students in Winter and Spring chose to give me permission to show their work. I neglected to ask permission of Fall students. 

If you are interested in taking this online class, as of this writing I still have space for the Fall 2021 online Clay 1: Handbuilding through Yakima Valley College.