Here are some great ceramic art education ideas that you can modify or use as-is to spark enthusiasm and creativity in your students. Animal pots can be created from real life or from students’ imaginations. Have students draw animals by observation, or bring a picture of your pet to draw. The drawings should be made as realistic as possible, with an emphasis on the details and musculature of the animals. Then ask them to place pieces of tracing paper over their drawings and cut it crosswise in the same way it will be built, with an eye to body parts to be molded from pots, slabs, coils, etc.
Putting four balls of clay together into a cross and then smoothing them out on one side will form an anchor-shaped mouth and nose for animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, and other animals that have a line below the nose that curves toward the mouth. . You can teach students how to build eyelids from coils. Pinches can be shaped by hand to push up the areas where the shoulders and thighs are and the coils can be smoothed out into pinches to develop muscle areas or details. Don’t forget to show students how to add air vents to their sculptures so they don’t explode in the oven (paper towel balls can be used as padding and removed through the air vents before baking). Legs can be fashioned from clay wrapped around wires. Texture can be achieved with combs and hair brushes.
Modeling food items is another fun and educational pottery project for middle and high school students. Models do not have to be realistic; in fact, it may be more fun to do them in a pop art or cartoon style. You can show students pop art paintings by Claes Oldenburg or Wayne Thiebaud to give them an idea. Photos from Gourmet magazine can be used as models and students must make sketches to develop an overall plan. Food items can be fashioned from pressure cookers for round objects, or constructed from rolled clay slabs for flat or square objects. Make sure students know that the models must be hollow to prevent them from exploding in the oven. For example, ice cream scoops can be hollowed out from the bottom, or they can be formed from pressure vessels with a straw hole where they merge with the plate or bowl.
The glaze is first done and fired, then bright glazes are painted over the fired glaze. Students should be instructed not to paint gloss glazes over unfired glazes and not to apply glazes over gloss glazes. They should be reminded that underglazes must be fired in ceramic kilns separately and before applying gloss or matt glazes. Some surfaces, such as cake batters and brownies, can simply be fired with a matt glaze. Other items, like a brown chocolate sauce or a cherry red fluff, require an underglaze first, and then a special icing to make whipped cream. It is also possible to apply a glossy glaze over an unfired glaze and then only fire it once, which produces interesting effects and reduces the number of firings required.