Sunday, November 27, 2022

My Incredible Handbuilders (part 3)


Slab box by Amanda Goodrich

In the last two posts, I shared photos of works in progress from my Clay1: Hand-building students. I've got more today.

3D Printed Tardis by Julia Snow

There really was quite a lot of diversity in the forms students chose to create, including lots of things that I simply hadn't seen before. Teaching the class over and over for years and years means that some forms tend to recurr. 

Chia "pet" stonehenge section by Julia Snow

In fact, the coil building assignment prompt tries to fight against this by requiring students to create an asymmetrical form. We are so used to seeing round coil build vases and pots, so asking students to not create something round immediately forces them to break away, at least a little bit, from that familiar form.

Coil shark eating a squid by Amanda Goodrich

During their critique, students can talk about how or why something was made and they can talk about their inspiration. Last week we saw works inspired by stonehenge, archaeology, poisoner's teapots, ceramic artists we saw in class, and Lego. 

Amanda's approach to the asymmetry prompt was fun to watch. She built the squid separately, so there was a sudden transformation when it was put in place.

Though they didn't necessarily discuss it during critique, I think we also saw influences from Gothic architecture, comic books, sugar skulls, scientific imagery, and Picasso.

Though a bit difficult to see on a screen, the contrasting texture of the squid tentacles and the shark coils is a nice touch.

One of the things that might seem like a given, but is actually pretty impressive, is that all 25 of my clay student atteneded their most recent critique and had their projects completed or nearly completed. 

The Jomon pottery inspired coil texture of the shark feels like a fresh approach to the subject, but also reminds me of Northwest Coast Native American designs or bronze age Chinese metalwork decorations.

The fact that everyone was done with their building and throwing assignments meant that we had lots to talk about. The fact that the projects were done or nearly done, meant that nearly all of critique time was spent talking about design decisions and techniques, rather than time management challenges and what they would have done if they'd had time.

Amanda's carved decorations reminded me strongly of window tracery in a Gothic cathedral

This coming week is the last week of classes. Monday we will load up the (hopefully) last bisque firing(s) and get everything fired so that students can glaze. We've got a lot of work not yet loaded, so I'm getting slightly concerned about how everything will get finished in time, but this is fairly normal for this class, especially when students are doing large and complicated work and when they are making lots of pieces.

Coil built duck by Carlos Garcia Alcantar

Last night I had my first anxiety dream about loading and firing kilns. In the dream, I was just trying to get students to bring their work to the kiln. That's it, the whole dream.

This duck started out with very different legs, but Carlos made majors changes and improvements to the stability of the structure as he built

I went into the studio last week to check on a couple of things and have thus far resisted the overwhelming temptation to go into the studio this weekend to unload and load, just to get things moving faster.

Thai See's crying coil form

I had still been doing occupational therapy (OT) for lymphedema until mid-November when my occupational therapist had to have surgery. I won't see her again until late December. I had been gradually increasing my exercise, weights, and lifting, while also trying to keep up with my lymphatic massage and stretching on my own. 

Thai @Thaiidraws started with the face, then built the rest of the support later

I can tell that my body is swelling a little bit on the side where they removed the lymph nodes, but it's hard to know how serious it is. I can feel it, but it's difficult to see. I was trying to reduce how much I was lifting, but it's hard to know what is causing or contributing to the swelling and what is appropriate work-related activities.

Carlos Garcia Alcantar's box is a delightful blend of the wild and wacky we see in his duck and teapot

Over the break, I decided to extrude some pieces myself at home and discovered that operating the extruder handle is pretty similar to some of the stretches and exercises that I'd been doing for PT.

The sugar skull inspired carving has some lovely variety and is juxtaposed against a stairway

Concern about my arm and swelling is probably a good portion of the reason I haven't gone in this weekend to unload and load a bisque myself. When I go in on Monday, students will help load and I know I won't overdo it on my arm.

And there's the arm and nose on the other side

I know that Monday is going to be hectic in class. We are planning to raku fire during class. We are going to unload and load bisque kilns first thing when folks get in (before class). Students are going to be expected to glaze all their bisqueware and we are also going to start loading the high temp gas kiln with glazeware during class. All of that and class is less than 2 hours long.

Yarelli Sanchez's slab built mushroom house 

By the end of the week, a number of students should be able to leave class early, since we'll be done glazing, waiting on kilns to fire or cool, and students will only be responsible for clean up jobs, painting or epoxy as needed, and an online test.

this base and lid is a challenging shape to get to fit right

The hand-building critique is the next Monday (the first day of finals week) at 10 am and we will likely be unloading the glaze kilns before class that day. If we have too much stuff to get through kilns, we might be loading or firing Monday, which means that work might not be done in time for final critique.

Coil built spaghetti by Yarelli Sanchez

I always tell my clay students that they can't cram for the final in the way they could in a math or history class. The clay and the kilns won't let them. I started talking to them about how close we were to the final critique about 4 weeks ago. They were asked to get their work from projects 1 and 2 glazed before finals week, and told why it mattered for getting work finished in time.

the bowl was coil built first, then the coiled spaghetti and hollow meatballs were added later

Unfortunately, most project 2 work was not glazed, some was only bisqued last week. And some project 1 work is also not fired or even ready for firing. 

The cracks add some nice variety to the back side of the work

The good news is that hand-builders in my class are allowed to high fire, low fire, raku or pit fire, and they are allowed to paint one item using acrylic or other "cold finish" techniques that don't require a kiln or firing after the bisque. For that reason, some work on the shelves may not need to find a spot in a kiln this coming week.

And as I told her during critique, I'm only a bit scared about how thick the bottom /back might be

Thursday, November 24, 2022

My Outstanding Hand-builders (part 2)


Extruded hand by Carlos Garcia-Alcantar

Last time I posted about half of the coil, print, slab, and extruded projects from my hand-builder's first project. As I said at that time, I have lots more to show from that class. The pieces on this page are mostly the other half of that first project, with a few pieces missing and a few added from the last project. I plan on at least two more posts of this work to share them all.

Coil avocado by Valeria Alvarez

The first and third project in class have groups of students assigned to the slab roller, extruder, and 3D clay printer, as well as building with coils. Students will do two techniques in the first three weeks and two different techniques in the last two weeks of building.

Coil form inspired by a termite mound, by Derek Arneecher

Starting in the middle of the quarter, students learn to glaze. They start glazing around week 5 and are allowed to glaze any work throughout the last half of the quarter. The last week or two of the quarter are focused mainly on getting their work dried, fired in the bisque firings, glazed, and then glaze fired, and we raku fire, too.

To create his hand, Carlos extruded some large hollow tubes and lots of small hollow tubes for the fingers

Students have four critiques in the hand-building class, for building projects 1, 2, and 3 and for the glazing project during finals week. The second project in the class is the solid portrait project

Carlos altered the shape of the middle hollow form to create the concave shape of the hand, but left the fingers open, showing some of the construction

The first and third projects really combine 2 building techniques and 2 separate builds into the three week project, so by the end of the quarter, students have built at least 5 objects (as well as a mug they created during week 1). This quarter, several students had projects that consisted of multiple separate pieces displayed together. A few students even made extra pieces in between or along side their main projects.

Carlos Garcia Alcantar was one of the first students this quarter to print 

In class or online, I share lots of pictures of the solid portrait projects done by previous students, so current students can get inspired and also see what sorts of things are possible from peers (as well as from professionals). 

He used the 3D printer to print a series of hollow forms that remind me of Tetris shapes. The forms stack or nest together in a variety of combinations

I have lots of examples of slab and coil projects in the studio, as well as photos of this work online and on their assignment pages. These two techniques (slabs and coils) continued to be used during the pandemic when my handbuilding classes were entirely online.

Brooke Mason took a very different approach to coil building, creating a coil built body later, after using the individual coils to create tentacles for her Kraken (unfinished view above)

But I've had fewer examples of the printed and extruded projects, in part because we couldn't do them during the pandemic and in part because I started using these tools as the basis for beginner projects later in my career. 

Slab built lighthouse with lid by Brooke Mason

I'm pretty excited to have great examples and lots of variety in these projects for next quarter's students. I've got the photos from project 1 (mostly) here and in the previous post. There's some exciting stuff that was just finished before Thanksgiving, and that I hope to be able to share later.

Extruded vases with extruded antlers and horns by a student

I was also hoping to put together a list of troubleshooting tips and suggestions for these techniques. I created troubleshooting and tips pages for slabs and coils when we were online, at the request of my students, but haven't had time to make these pages yet for the on-campus class.

3D printed turtles by a student

I was thinking of asking my current students to provide suggestions for some of the tips, because they know what was particularly useful or helpful for them this quarter, but when I asked, during critique, if they'd found the existing lists of troubleshooting tips helpful, I was greeted with silence. Apparently they hadn't ever looked at the troubleshooting tips pages.

3D printed vase by Amy Matson

I was honestly a bit stunned. I thought putting together so many online resources would be something all students would appreciate, not just online students. This quarter's class is hybrid, meaning that they're responsible for an hour of online class time, plus some online homework, but the question and (lack of) response the other day has me rethinking how they approach the online parts.

Nesting form, slab-built by Amy Matson

I am teaching the same clay classes in winter quarter this year, which means I get an instant redo on some of the format of the class. This fall I was making some substantial changes to the classes, especially the hand-building class, because last fall I had taught both clay classes with more online class time and less on-campus class time, as well as less studio access than usual. Last fall we were also trying to socially distance.

The many pieces of Amy Matson's nesting form, unstacked

Not insignificantly for me, last fall I was going through the distracting process of getting diagnosed with breast cancer and getting ready for treatment. Then I was on medical leave for winter and spring quarters (and summer) while I did 18 weeks of chemo, multiple surgeries, and 7 weeks of radiation. So returning this quarter felt like I was coming back after a long time.

Extruded trick teapot (based on the poisoner's teapot) by Amy Matson

For winter quarter, I actually have an additional clay class besides the two repeats (beginning hand-building and beginning wheel throwing). This fall I had 1 intermediate wheel student whose class was "stacked" on the begining throwing class, meaning their classes met at the time time. For winter quarter, 6 students are continuing into intermediate hand-building. I teach intermediate handbuilding stacked with begining hand-building, so that means nearly half that class will be intermediate group!

The teapot body and spout were both created out of two extrusions. They can hold two different liquids and the person pouring can control which one comes out. 

I am excited to have so many intermediate students, but it will take some thinking about how to organize the class, since I won't be able to have 4 groups of 3-4 beginners working with every tool. On the other hand, I will have 6 ringers in the studio, most of whom know how to use all the tools and techniques, and all of whom know how to work with clay.

3D printed (cat faces), extruded (coyote bodies), and slab built (cat face shapes) wall-hanging with cats and coyotes by Amy Matson

The absolutely fun and exciting thing about having intermediate students in a class is that they usually are students who work fairly hard, and their skills are, of course, more advanced.  All of this means that beginners working alongside these students see hard work modeled, and get inspired by the work the intermediates are making. I'm looking forward to seeing how that turns out in winter.

coil built form by Amy Matson

Sunday, November 20, 2022

My Amazing Hand-builders (part 1)

Extruded Project by Yarelli Sanchez (the chains in the middle are loose and the two bases can be positioned closer or farther from each other).

I've got a pretty incredible group of potters and hand-builders this quarter. All three of my classes are producing really interesting work, especially at the end of the quarter. 

Thai See's extruded Robot 

I like to challenge my students and we start right away building and throwing on the first days of class and I expect them to be making stuff to keep by the end of the first week. 

Follow Thai on Instagram at @Thaiidraws

Both the wheel throwing and hand-building classes are designed to use class time and non-class time in the most effient way. In both classes this means demonstrations are mostly available online so that students can use class time to practice. My school won't allow me to give students weekend or late evening access to the studio, so I try to make use of class time to build and move lectures and demos online.

Thai extruded hollow square pieces for the legs and body and hollow tubes for the arms. She did a lot of altering the extrusions to achieve the size change in the legs

In the hand-building class, I also have made adjustments to best manage student access to tools and equipment. I like to introduce students to the slab roller, extruder, and 3D clay printer in class, but I can't have 12-16 students using the slab roller, extruder, or 3D printer all at once, so I divide them into groups that work with these technique simultaneously. 

Amanda Goodrich's extruded surfer

Three to four students start the quarter with the printer, while others use the extruder. Halfway through the build time for the first project, these students swap tools, but are still allowed to continue building on the first project. Meanwhile the other half of the class is working with coils and slabs (and swapping halfway through).

The wave consists of several extruded pieces attached together and curved

This structure makes for a super exciting class for me and lots going on for the students. It also means that by mid-way through the first project, students can help each other with the new tool. Those on the printer first have learned that tool enough to help student who start on it second. Those coil building second can see what the first coil-builders did before they begin their projects.

Amanda Goodrich's printed castle, made of 3-5 separate printed parts, altered and attached together

At the first critique, the class has four distinct projects and techniques to discuss. Each person has tried two and has two to look forward to later in the class. They can also give each other advice before they start these other techniques. 

Thai See's printed and altered hand

By the time we switch techniques, students have seen and heard a lot. This quarter, especially, I noticed that the students seemed energized and ambitious when they started their last projects. I noticed this energy and excitement in the wheel throwing classes, too, so maybe there was something in the air this time around.
Thai designed the hand in blender, printed it solid, then hollowed it and added the texture and wrinkles. 

Ok, honestly, I do think that there was something in the air. I believe in a kind of magic that can happen in a studio when enough students are excited about what they are doing. This quarter has that magic happening and it is just so exciting to come along with the students as they make so much exciting and interesting and challenging work.

Julia Snow's coil built form. Julia experienced a tragedy after she had built this form, the day of the critique it had gotten too wet and crashed down, but she was able to rebuild it in a slightly revised form.

The projects I am sharing in this post come from the first project of the quarter, though they don't represent everything from that first project. I simply had too many pieces to share in one post (and I know how long it takes me to write a post and I just wanted to get something published fairly soon), so I selected, at random, half the projects I had ready to share and put half of them here and half in another post (coming soon).

Julia Snow's slab box. The form here is deceptive in its complication. She made this with 7 sides of different sizes.

The really exciting thing is that these aren't even half the items made in the first project (I didn't get pictures of everything) and there's still another half of the projects that will be critiqued (with pictures submitted) tomorrow! The stuff getting ready for critique tomorrow is generally larger and more ambitious than the stuff they did the first time around--and that's no shade on the first project!

Derek Arneecher's slab piece, the central part is a kind of lid that comes off the base

Very sadly, we lost one project that a student had worked on for weeks. It was fumbled on its way into the kiln and absolutely shattered. The student did nothing wrong, and the person loading the kiln felt terrible, but that's one of the risks of working with clay, unfortunately. I had a conversation with the student after it happened about how I'd grade based on what she'd created, not what survived, but sadly she hadn't gotten a photo yet.

Thunder Morales' coil form, inspired by an octopus

The work represented in this post includes pieces for the slab-built project, the extruder project, the coil project, and the 3D printer project. The slab pieces had to have a lid or a stacking mechanism and couldn't be a simple cylinder or box. The 

a slightly diffrerent arrangement of Yarelli Sanchez's extruded form from the start

The extruder project needed to use at least 10 extruded pieces and at least 5 hollow extrusions, but students could make any other decisions about form or decoration.

Yarelli Sanchez's printed chicken pitcher

The 3D printer project had some options. Students could design a complicated form in TinkerCAD or Blender or a similar program and print that, or they could print a bunch of simple forms and attach them together to make a new form.

Yarelli used 9 separate printed parts to craft this huge pitcher

The coil project needed to be asymmetrical and could have smooth or visible coils. It also needed to be at least 10" high. All of the projects needed to be well crafted with visually interesting forms and surfaces.

This was a tricky form to plan and print because of it's size and small base