Welcome To Beginning Ceramics!

Welcome.  The first few days we will be working to get everyone familiar with the ceramics studio and the ways that this course will operate including grading, expectations for conduct, etc.

Homework!  Wow, homework on the first day?  Yes.  In fact this is one of the only homework assignments you will get all semester.  I am asking that each of you click on the link for the CODE OF CONDUCT page.  Please re-read the code of conduct (we will discuss it in class) and provide your name & email and then click the button that says you have read and understood the terms of the code.  That’s it, easy.

Below I have some short videos that talk about the wide range of possibilities in ceramics and capture a bit of the spirit typical of a ceramics studio.  Enjoy!


Stealing From My Favorite Theives

Stealing From My Favorite Thieves

Artists seek inspiration from many sources, but first and foremost they look to other artists to inform their work.  For this investigation we gather inspiration in the form of visual research and then turn that research into a unique, original artwork.



Looking through the magazines and books I have provided you will choose three ceramic pieces that you respond to intuitively (I like it because I like it), formally (I like it because of how it is made) or contextually (I like it because it makes me think of this particular topic).  In your sketchbook you will write down as much information about the artwork and artist as you can find.  You will also provide a written description of the piece, in your own words, and a descriptive drawing.  You should be paying close attention to both the work’s form and surface. THE DRAWING SHOULD TAKE UP A FULL SKETCHBOOK PAGE.


We will be sharing our findings with the class, describing the work as well as why you responded to it.  From here you will begin planning for the original artwork you will be creating in response to your research.  You will design and draw a ceramic work that features selected attributes of each of the three pieces you researched.  How you combine those attributes is entirely up to you, but the end result should be both original and referential.  At least one of your sources must inform your treatment of the surface.


You will be completing your design and drawing in the sketchbook.  If your design is worked out at approved by me, you can begin working it out in clay.  VISUAL RESEARCH JOURNALS WILL BE COLLECTED AT THE END OF CLASS.

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Work on creating the original ceramic pieces.

Original Chess Set

For our next investigation we will be designing and creating original chess sets.  We will have two options for our designs:


For a thematic chess set you will choose a theme and design your chess pieces for both sides of the board based on this theme.  Think of a book, TV show, movie, activity or interest you find appealing and the begin to think of how the different chess pieces could represent that theme.



This type of chess set is what we are most familiar with.  The game pieces do not directly represent (image) a particular person or thing as in a thematic set, but rather are abstract forms that simply identify the particular game piece. You will be redesigning these traditional forms in a formal and abstract manner with a focus on unity of design. If you choose to go in this direction remember that your design and craftsmanship is of the highest importance.

Each chess set will be made up of the following pieces:






PAWN- 16

The pieces on one side of the board MUST be a completely different form than those on the other side (i.e. you will have two different looking kings, queens, etc.)

The forms must be created in the round (no flat cutouts).

*****Each piece will range in size from 1″ – 3″ in height.

*****Each piece will sit on a base that is roughly 1.5″x 1.5″ (square, circle or otherwise)

*****Stability and durability need to be  essential aspects of your design. Work that is unstable or excessively fragile will not be fired.

Dynamic Coil Construction

In general, dynamic means energetic, capable of action and/or change, or forceful, while static means stationary or fixed. While the ceramic pieces we create may not be capable of motion or action, the design of their form can imply motion or action. For our next investigation we will be using coil construction to create a dynamic structure that makes use of light and shadow as a design element. Before you start thinking about the form of your structure lets look at some non-ceramic examples…

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You will begin the process of designing your structure by creating a drawing or series of drawings that gives you a starting point for your construction. Your structure will have the following attributes:

  1. It will be made using the coil construction method
  2. It will be at least 6 inches tall
  3. It will use light and shadow as a design element (when lit from the inside or the outside)
  4. The overall form must be dynamic (implying motion or action)

Light Vessels

For our next investigation we will be creating “light vessels”.  These are vessels that are intended to contain a light source of some kind and create a play of contrast and shadows when lit.  These vessels will be created using the coil technique. Openings in the structure you create will either be left during the coiling process or cut into the form afterwards.  These forms should be inspired by natural or organic forms.

Begin your process by sketching out some ideas.  The vessels will need to be open either at the top or at the bottom to allow for the light source.

Some examples to inspire you:

Tea Service as Self Portrait

133 4x5 original notkin1

For our next investigation you will be reinterpreting a traditional artistic form: the self portrait.  The self portrait portrays some essential aspect or aspects of who you are as a person.  You will be embracing this basic idea and attempting to apply it to another traditional artistic form: the tea service.

What you need to do:

You will be designing a tea service (teapot, cups, sugar, creamer, tray) whose form and surface both relate to some essential aspect or aspects of who you are.  You will first be sketching out you plan in detail in your sketchbooks. Think about the different techniques you can use to create your objects. You should begin this process by doing research (books in the room, magazines, online search).  To start you can look at the links I have provided below:

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Museum of Art and Design

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Richard Notkin

Welcome to Ceramics

Welcome to Ceramics at Wissahickon.  This semester we will be experimenting with clay as a community.  Every aspect of this studio relies on our ability to work together in unity.  Success in this class is measured by the amount each student grows within the following five areas:

Persistence: The quality that allows someone to continue doing something or trying to do something even though it is difficult or challenged by other influences

Flexibility:The quality characterized by a ready capability to adapt to new, different, or changing circumstances or conditions

Independence: The quality of being free from dependence on some thing or someone else for action or effectiveness; the capacity to think or act for oneself

Voice: The agency by which a particular point of view is expressed or represented with distinctive style or perspective

Literacy: Competence or knowledge in a specified area as evidenced by effective use of appropriate terms and techniques

With hard work, dedication and the willingness to take chances every student will excel.

Our first experiment with clay will be the creation of head using a pinch pot technique.  This is an opportunity to play and explore.  You can take any approach to creating a head: realistic, expressive, cartoonish… it is entirely up to you.  The head can be human, alien, animal, or anything else you can imagine.

The only requirements are that the head must be composed of two halves made using the pinch pot method joined together using the slip and score method.  The rest is up to you.


This video shows various interesting takes on working figuratively in clay