Could this work? Kids' project

sweebyOctober 19, 2005

I'll be helping my son's class with their school auction project this year, and I found a planter box very similar to the following ones to use as a base:

What I'm envisioning is having the kids make ceramic tiles and installing a tile mosaic into the recessed panel sections. I figure that's pretty do-able, right?

But where it gets interesting is how I envisioned making the tiles. (The school has a kiln we can use.) I imagined the teacher rolling out a sheet of clay the approximate size of the recessed area. Then having the kids use cookie cutters in the shapes of leaves and flowers to cut leaf-shaped 'tiles' out of the clay sheet. Then one of the adults would go back over the sheet to make sure the cuts went all the way through, and to cut the 'background' into small pieces so that the whole thing, after glazing and firing could be reassembled like a jig-saw puzzle and grouted in. We'd allow the whole sheet to dry more or less intact, then separate the pieces, have the kids paint them, fire the pieces separated so they wouldn't stick together, then reassemble them.

So do you think this could work? Possible obstacles I see would be the shapes of the background pieces perhaps not fitting anymore after firing? (An exact fit wouldn't be necessary certainly.) Do pieces shrink, grow, or neither when firing? Any other obstacles I should be aware of?

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I was a teacher of art for 23 years and am now working with clay full time.
You can assume you will get about 10% shrinkage. It will vary with the type of clay body you will be using. Since all should shrink at the same rate the problem of fitting shouldn't be a problem. The grout will fill in the space.

The sheet of clay is called a slab. When drying clay tends to curl up so to avoid this I usually work on a board and then place the same size board on top ot the drying clay to keep it from curling up. This slows up the drying which is actually good. The slow drying helps to avoid cracking.

Something to consider is if you want to engage the students more you could divide the space up, give the kids a piece of paper equal to the area that they will be allowed and then have them draw there own design to add to the planter. Make sure to have them fill the area up or you will get small drawings right in the middle. After they have their pattern they can cut it out to use on the clay. This is more work for you, but more engaging for the students. It is a good idea to have one of the adults check it over for approporate material and size. Also ease of cutting. You can easily control this as you can keep them away from the clay until their pattern has been approved.

You may not want to keep the background pieces, that will make the assembly more difficult and you will need to cut the background into smaller pieces to fire and assemble. Think about rolling cookies you fill as much as possible with shapes and then take away the background. If you keep the background someone is going to need to go through cut and number the back of each piece with a sharp tool before the clay drys to make sure you know where each piece goes. You may still want to do that to the shapes, but that is a lot less to do.

Another idea is to give each child a square tile to draw on with a clay tool, bisque these and then have them glaze them. That way you can divide the space up with squares say 4 x 4" or 3 x 4' or whatever works with the size of the planter and the number of students.

Unless the students have a lot of experience with clay make sure there are several adults on hand to help out and have the adults work with clay before hand to know what it is like. You don't have to fire their pieces, just wedge (kneed) the clay back together to use with the students.

Any questions write to me via my address under zenpotter rather than in this forum since I don't check it very often.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2005 at 10:13AM
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