Printer Friendly

Learning from della Robbia.

Most children love to work with clay, and I've taught my students how to make pinch or coil pots for years. We have also combined coil and slab methods to sculpt figures, animals, buildings, masks and relief tiles. While the results of all these efforts have been quite good, I constantly look for new ideas on how to teach ceramics. I was amazed by what happened when I started my clay lessons by showing the students a masterwork by a great sculptor. We have looked at and discussed work by such artists as Barlach, Michelangelo, Remington and Rodin.

I had been using great artwork in relation to painting and drawing all along. I always tell the children that the master artist is actually their teacher. in two-dimensional work, this can create a problem because the children tend merely to copy elements of the masterwork. The danger of such copying is much diminished with clay. The masterworks are often too complex; far beyond the students' ability to copy. Viewing and discussing three-dimensional masterworks, however, can serve as a springboard that stimulates students to produce artwork that is very much their own creation.

Perhaps the most successful lesson I have taught in clay was one in which we started by looking at The Singing Gallery by Luca della Robbia.

At the beginning of class, students were given several minutes to explore the medium of clay. They found out how thin one can roll out a coil, and how to shape a perfectly round ball or a cube, etc. The lesson began by looking at a variety of details of della Robbia's The Singing Gallery. The discussion was tied to the previous session of our unit on moods in art. We explored the similarities and differences in the faces and body movements of the various singers: concentrated, absent-minded; joyful, serious; listening, participating; moving, static, etc. The students were asked which of the musicians they felt was most like themselves, and were encouraged to assume his or her exact position. We also talked about the historical context of The Singing Gallery and the concept of relief in contrast to a sculpture in the round.

The actual work time began and was occasionally interrupted by a variety of demonstrations related to technical problems in using clay: how to roll out and cut a tile, how to shape a face, how to create texture with simple tools. The students were encouraged to work from the face downward. They went back on their own to look at The Singing Gallery to help with their work.

The students' interest in this lesson was evident all the way through. During the discussion, they came up with amazing statements, drawing upon concepts of the previous session. The attention span of the nine- and ten-year-olds seemed much longer than usual. Even at the end, the children did not seem to get tired but would have liked to work longer. The end results were very individualistic statements. Some children made the connection to contemporary singers; others added their favorite instruments. The combination of what was learned from della Robbia and what came from the students' own experience was in balance. Many children had little previous experience with clay, yet the tiles were so good that I wished they could have been uniform in size so that a mural could have been assembled.

Lesson Outline


Artistic: To create a mood through facial expression and position of head and body.

Technical: Creation of a clay relief using coil and slab techniques, as well as modeling and sculpting.

Master Artwork Luca della Robbia, The Singing Gallery (Cantoria)".

Theme A Child Musician.

Materials White low-fire clay, simple clay tools, newspaper, brushes, water, cardboard trays.

Work Time Two hours.

Vocabulary Luca della Robbia, bas-relief, coil, slab, body language.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Davis Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:teaching ceramics
Author:Aukerman, Ruth
Publication:School Arts
Date:Oct 1, 1993
Previous Article:Creativity: it's always with you.
Next Article:Reflections on Raku.

Related Articles
A looking and making collaboration.
Cooperative learning: a new strategy for the artroom.
Paradoxes and problem solving.: an introductory ceramics program.
An introductory course in ceramic education.
A model ceramics program.
Children's art from fine art: an exemplar approach to teaching elementary children.
Ceramics - Italian style.
Crafted form.
The visual arts at Germantown Academy.
Art in the Lives of Students with Disabilities.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters