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Clayheads in Arizona.

Arizona is rich in heritage and culture about Native American pottery. The history of Navajo, Zuni, Hopi and even Apache claywork is well documented. American Indians used ceramics to carry their food and water and to "mold" the deities used in their religious ceremonies. But what are the present day Western natives doing with this stuff of the earth?

At the Mesa, Arizona Junior High School, students study ceramic history as they attempt to make some of their own. The procedure is almost too elementary. Simply bend, pull, beat, shape or form your clay, using any means at your disposal, from modern throwing wheels to the ancient slab, coil or pinch techniques, and make your own personal ceramic head. After constructing facial features, bisque fire it, add glaze, fire it again, and you have created your very own Arizona "clayhead."

The subject matter and amount of detail are all left up to the students. They are the judge and jury of the clayhead and the verdict is the end product itself. There are no right or wrong ways. The instructor guides them, makes helpful hints and suggestions and comes up with some alternative ideas to stimulate motivation. This unstructured method allows the student freedom of individual expression. It becomes a matter of choice; in fact, a number of choices. By the time the object is finally finished it has become a very personal piece of clay and the student has enjoyed doing it. Every little achievement, every small mistake has been a very large learning experience for every one of the students.

It is easy to see how Arizona's rich ceramic culture is still alive and doing well.

Thorne Ervin Schubert is an art teacher at Mesa, Arizona Junior High School.
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Author:Schubert, Thorne Erwin
Publication:School Arts
Date:Mar 1, 1990
Words:291
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