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After the proverbial pinch pot.

There is life after the pinch pot! Last year, after my primary students conquered the basic pinch pot form, we decided to dress them up a bit in honor of some famous people in history. Throughout history, baskets were made for gathering precious objects, enabling people to share the bounty they collected. For this project, the students created a container, filled it with treasures and gave it to someone special.

First, I asked my students to help me list different kinds of baskets and how they could be used. We talked about the fact that if the baskets were well made, without holes and broken handles, and if they could be used for a purpose, they were functional baskets.

Next, we looked at a contemporary basket form. I asked the students if they had ever made something just because they wanted to. Everyone's hand went up. The children discovered that such a creation could be called a decorative piece of art. They began to realize that it's natural for people to make works of art, whether solely functional or decorative and aesthetic.

My primary SLD Unit (Specific Learning Disability) eagerly set to work. We looked at photo-graphs containing the heart motif as seen throughout history. I also showed the children some examples of Jim Dine's heart watercolors.

The students rounded their pieces of low-fire gray clay into a ball, inserting their thumbs and carefully pinching the clay wall evenly with their fingers as they slowly rotated their clay. They rolled out a coil and attached it at the top of their pinch pot for a handle. The clay was quite moist so there was no need to use slip. A wet paper towel was used to moisten any clay surface areas that were cracking or in need of being smoothed. Some students cut clay hearts with a rounded toothpick or T-pin and secured them by scoring with a toothpick, moistening with a paper towel and pressing them on the surface. Some students created texture with tools from our texture box.

After firing and glazing with various colors of pink, the students chose various sizes of colorful beads. At a separate table I set up the hot glue gun. Each student directed me to glue their beads on the handle or around the rim of the basket. Meanwhile, the rest of the students were cutting felt hearts and selecting pink and red sparkles and sequins to place in their baskets.

Another variation on the pinch pot involved a class of combined second and third graders. They used this basic basket form creatively after being introduced to William Shakespeare's Song of the Witches from Macbeth. The students created magic caldrons complete with bats, a roaring log fire and all things appropriate to that baleful brew. After making a small pinch pot with a handle, the young artists used slip to attach bats and fenny snakes according to Shakespeare's descriptions. After firing, the children glazed the caldrons with black glaze and glued flame-colored tissue paper around the caldrons. They added sparkled pipe cleaners, sequins and metallic ribbon.

The children loved using their favorite media to create these simple basket forms and they developed important skills for their age group. I have found that by introducing important artists such as Jim Dine and authors such as Shakespeare to my primary-aged youngsters, their art experience has been greatly enhanced. The children developed fine motor and decision-making skills when creating their pots. Because pinching pots into pancakes sometimes hap pens, I always keep a couple of extra pieces of clay on hand. By following directions and making a basket form in a step-by-step process, the children expand their ability to follow a sequence, a skill so necessary in learning to read and write.

Other artistic skills acquired through variations on the pinch pot include recognizing and creating form, shape and texture and applying concepts of design and balance when embellishing the clay baskets. Skills in art criticism were evident during the making of the heart baskets inspired by Jim Dine. The children were intrigued with his use of collage in some of his work.

Each project was easily completed within three fifty-five minute periods. Future lessons could include the elaboration of more complex clay techniques using the coil and slab methods. An example of a sixth grader's "basket without a handle" emerged from the study of an Egyptian clay-footed bowl pictured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art catalog. Apparently there is an Egyptian hieroglyph showing a bowl with feet which translates as "to bring." The textural effects of the basket were created with velvet underglazes--an exciting new direction in surface decoration I've been exploring with my students. Another creative possibility would be to explore the basket form as it is extended into other art media such as handmade paper or coiled Indian baskets.

It thrills me to think of the many possibilities that can be created from the pinch pot. These mini-sculptural forms have indeed given us much pleasure as we experience the creation of functional and decorative clay pieces of art.

Jane A. Archambeau is a K-6 art specialist in the Toledo, Ohio public schools.
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Title Annotation:decorative pottery instruction
Author:Archambeau, Jane A.
Publication:School Arts
Date:Oct 1, 1991
Previous Article:Masks of clay.
Next Article:The mola: layers of color.

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