Since last year, my 8th grade advanced art class has gotten a special privilege that none of the other exploratory classes get, they get to sculpt with CLAY! The kids LOVE working with clay (they literally do happy dances when they come in and realize we are starting a new clay project), and with a little guidance on structural integrity- their creativity runs wild. There are several reasons that I only allow my advanced class to work with clay.
-It creates a special privilege that they have to work for, gaining entrance into the advanced class in order to be able to participate
-Clay is MESSY! The set up and clean up is really labor intensive, and I can only trust the best of the best with these tasks
-There are lots of rules to follow in order for their pieces to survive in the kiln and through the hand-building process, the advanced class takes this guidelines very seriously
The biggest reason, however, is that Rolling Hills doesn’t currently have a kiln. (Hopefully soon, I’m working on it!) It is truly a labor of love because of how much work it involves for me to fire their pieces. I have to pack everything up (painstakingly carefully- there is nothing worse than damaging a student’s masterpiece in-transit) into boxes, load everything box by box into my car, drive it to Oak Meadow, pick up the key from the secretaries in the office, drive around to the kiln shed, unload everything box by box to the kiln shed, then slowly load the kiln by building the kiln shelves around the pieces and return the key to the office. THEN I have to do the reverse of that to get all of the pieces back to Rolling Hills once they have been fired the first time, THEN the students have to glaze the bisque-fired pieces and I have to repack everything and start the process all over again for the glaze firing. Each piece has to be fired twice, once as greenware and once with glaze. It takes about a month total from distributing the wet clay to when I can send their finished pieces home with them, and about 4 hours combined for me OUTSIDE of my regular work day transporting, loading and unloading pieces. And this is with only 32 kids in one class- imagine if I was doing it with 5 classes and 150 kids?!?
The kids love it so much though that it is worth every ounce of energy to see how excited they get and how proud they are of their finished products. The last projects that they completed before I left on maternity leave were some of the best I have seen yet.
Here I am loading the greenware into the kiln for the first firing. Artsy footage and editing courtesy of Sol:
And here are their amazing finished products after the second firing, fully glazed:
And this is my personal favorite: