Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Organizing Clay

A couple of years teaching elementary art can really change a man! I have probably learned more than I have taught over the last eight years and I know I have tons more to learn. One area that I have grown tremendously in is organizing clay days.

My first year of teaching I lost tons of clay projects. I relied on the students to write their own names on the bottom of the clay pieces. The names were often illegible and when students could not remember what their project looked like after the drying and firing process they were near impossible to return. My current system takes away much of the stress and heartbreak that I felt my first year. I am fortunate to have a great clay storage rack with wooden shelves. I put rows of masking tape on the wooden shelves so students can write their name under the clay, on the tape!

When the students finish their clay projects they carefully carry them to the wooden shelf on the counter. They use a pencil to write their name on the tape and just put their clay on top of their name. The art room para professional, a parent volunteer, or I write the students names and a class code on the bottom of the clay later in the day. I know it's a little more time, but it offers peace of mind and allows the clay to be returned to the students much more easily! Also, because the name is on the clay and on the tape I can match them up as they are loaded and unloaded from the kiln, so I am sure none of the pieces are lost!

Here are some first grade big mouth fish all lined up on their tape strips, ready to be stored for drying.

First and second grade clay projects are lined up on the drying rack before their bisque firing. (I'll have to have a separate post about loading the kiln, that too has become a fine art of it's own.) You might have noticed the colorful rectangle on the closest right corner of each shelf. Those are labels that tell the grade level and the day that the class attends art. My school has been experiencing some recent growth spurts and I am very thankful for the example clay projects that I make with each class. I give those to new students who have just entered the school and were not there on the day that the class made the projects. 

Sadly I don't have pictures of the glazing process. It's always a fun time. My tables are color coded, and I put glazes on each table based on the color. Students that want a blue-ish color go to the blue table, red-ish glaze is that the red table, etc. After the students have completed painting the glaze on their clay pots, they simply have to return them to their names on the wooden shelves. Then I can load them into kiln for the final firing.

After the glaze firing, I help the students wrap their projects in newsprint. This year I received a donation of printer sized sticker paper. I used a large paper punch to make circular seals for the paper. Students write their name, maybe a gift message, and decorate their packages with markers. 

I even found the time to break out the curling ribbon for a couple of classes. 

The favorite part of the whole process is seeing the smiles of the students as they take those carefully packaged items out of the art room. 

Do you have any special tips to share about organizing the room for clay? What are some of your favorite clay projects?

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  1. I love the big mouthed fish. There's nothing like working with youth, to recharge your creativity.

  2. Thank you Jo. I love doing stuff like this, too. One of my favorite examples of a recharge has been with fabric monsters. I shared my designs with the kids, they made their own and then I made more influenced by their unique choices. So fun!

  3. This is an amazing way to organize the clay! Love it and the packaging at the end. I really would love to do this, but I need a drying rack...maybe I can talk my principle into it next year. haha!