Saturday, April 15, 2017

Clay Dessert Containers

If you haven't eaten in a while, go get a little snack and come back to this later. You will not want to read this post while hungry.

I warned you.
Most humans love food. So it is pretty easy to get a group of children worked into a frenzy over the idea that they will be creating homages to deliciousness.

The real agenda of the project was getting students to consider how to create hollow-form vessels of three dimensional objects. Students used a planning sheet to draw both what their work would look like from the outside, and also what shapes would be needed to create the object out of clay, as a container.
A Chesster ice cream cookie sandwich
Consider this cookie sandwich, above. To create this object as a hollow-form container, the student drew a plan that showed he would need two circles of the same diameter, and a long, rectangular strip of a length slightly shorter than the circle circumference. Clay plan in hand, he created this accurate work out of clay slabs which he rolled and stretched on his own.

The plans were created by each artist prior to beginning in clay. The student who made the cake above drew a plan to include two same-size triangles, two rectangles that shared their long side with the triangles, and a square for the back panel.

The goal of this approach was to overcome the guess-and-check approach that can lead to frustration and endless restarting. Using relative measurement (the length of the rectangle needed for this cupcake wrapper is the same as the circumference of the circle for the bottom) lets students make a plan without to much pressure- no rulers needed.

Hot cocoa, whipped cream, and mini-marshmallows!
Math and geometry-minded students excelled at this approach, and plenty of creative space was left for students to create an idea truly their own. I have often seem this project done with a lens I think is too narrow (everyone is expected to make a cake, or everyone makes a pancake stack) to allow for the kind of individual expression and differentiation I look for in a lesson.

The simplicity of the approach- create a three-dimensional, hollow container using your knowledge about geometric forms and faces- lets students explore a wide range of responses at their own level.

Our inspiration artist was Wayne Thiebaud, who is a painter. He is an American contemporary artist, currently 96 years old, and is well-known for his artwork depicting enticing, colorful objects, particularly food.
The approach also let students run into creative problems, and to have to search for solutions. The artist who made the cannoli above rebuilt this project twice, after finding problems engineering the half-column forms proved more challenging than he expected. But I emphasize as an art teacher that children finding creative solutions to the problems they encounter is, by far, more important than whether the end-product is what the artist initially envisioned.

 It's pretty certain that by now you want dessert, even if you did take the snack advice at the beginning. Life is short, go have a treat!

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