• Course Title: Ceramics
    Course Description:
    This course is a semester long inquiry into the medium of ceramics. Students of all levels will begin and continue to explore clay. New students will be introduced to hand building techniques while advanced students will attempt to master wheel throwing and beyond.

    Enduring Understandings:

    Artists communicate sensibility and meaning through visual & performing arts.

    Artists manipulate their medium(s) to construct meaning.

    An artist's ability to listen and interpret affects his or her ability to understand the art form.

    A level of proficiency is necessary to communicate an artist's intent.

    An artist's use of skills and techniques is a continual, repetitive learning process.

    Artists present finished products or performance.

    The critique process can lead to heightened awareness of aesthetics.

    Critiques promote the use of art vocabulary.

    The critique process is a valuable analysis of what takes place intuitively.

    Essential Questions:

    Essential Questions & Accompanying Assessment Prompts

    How do form, content and context express and influence meaning?
     Assessment Prompt: Support with evidence how form, content and context express and influence meaning.


    How do elements (nouns) and principles (adjectives) facilitate the creative process?
     Assessment prompt: Evaluate the use of elements and principles in facilitating the creative process.


    How do skill and technique enable the creative process?
    Assessment prompt: Evaluate the role of skill and technique in enabling the creative process.


    How do we use critique to inform our art?
     Assessment prompt: Analyze the role of critique in informing art making.


    Course Academic Vocabulary:


    BAT- A slab or platform on which clay is handled; a circular device attached to the wheel-head.

    BISQUE- Unglazed clay, fired once at a low temperature.

    BISQUE FIRING- The process of firing unglazed clay to a low temperature to harden the clay and drive the physical water from it. The approximate temperature of this firing is 1815 F.

    BONE DRY- Refers to clay which is ready to be fired. All the moisture is gone from the clay. Clay is VERY FRAGILE at this stage.

    CENTERING- The act of aligning the clay on the potter's wheel in order to proceed with forming and shaping.

    CERAMICS-The art of making things of clay.  Clay is an ancient tradition.

    CLAY– A decomposed granite-type rock. To be classified as clay the decomposed rock must have fine particles so that it will be plastic (see definition below). Clays contain impurities which affect color and firing temperatures.

    COILS- Rope like pieces of clay.

    COIL CONSTRUCTION– Rope like pieces of clay that are stacked to form a wall and build the object.  This technique is one of the most commonly used hand-building methods.

    FIRE-  To bake in a kiln.  Firing is a term used for “cooking” the clay.

    FORM-  Three-dimensional shape and structure of an object.

    GLAZE- A glassy coating that has been melted onto a ceramic surface.  It is used to decorate the piece and to seal the clay surfaces.

    GLAZE FIRE-  Much hotter than a bisque fire. Firing to temperature at which glaze melts to form a glasslike surface.

    GLAZE FIRING- Typically the second firing of a piece pottery which has been coated with glass forming materials. The approximate temperature of this firing 2300.

    GLOSS-  A shiny surface.

    GREENWARE- Unfired pottery that is bone-dry, a state in which clay forms are the most fragile.

    HANDBUILDING-  One of the oldest craft techniques in which objects are constructed entirely by hand.

    INCISING-  Indenting a line into a flat surface.

    KILN- Enclosed containers of various sizes- built of refractor brick and heated by electricity, gas, oil, or wood to temperatures from 1500 F. to 2340 F. in which ceramic ware is fired.  Also called the “oven” for firing the clay.

    LEATHER HARD-  Refers to clay that is dry enough  but still damp enough to be joined to other pieces or carved without distortion. Clay at this state resembles leather.  Hard to bend and soft enough to be carved.

    MATTE-  Not shiny.

    PLASTICITY-  Quality of clay that allows it to be manipulated and still maintain its shape without cracking or sagging.

    POTS-Have a function (use) like a pot or a bowl.

    POTTERYPottery was one of the first art forms explored by mankind. There are many extinct cultures throughout the world who did not leave behind any written record of their existence. For some of these civilizations the only evidence of their daily lives comes in the form of pottery. Some pots were for daily use and some were for ceremonial purposes. Some cultures buried their pots with their dead, and some had huge garbage dumps where broken pots ended up. Pottery and other forms of ceramics have left behind an important archeological record

    PRESS MOLD- A  form which clay is compressed into, resulting in a repeatable shape or texture.  These are usually made of plaster. We used plastic bowls lined with cheesecloth as press molds.

    PYROMETRIC CONES -Pyrometric Cones are designed to melt or bend after reaching a specific temperature (depending on the rate of rise).  The original large sized pyrometric cones are used in a cone holder on the kiln shelf for visual firing, testing or monitoring of the temperature in the kiln.  Small Cones are used where space is at a premium.

    GREENWARE– Unfired clay.

    SCORING– Roughing up of the surface of clay for joining.

    SLAB- Clay which has been made flat by rolling.

    SLAB CONSTRUCTION-  Handbuilding technique in which flat pieces of clay are joined (clay is flattened and thinned with rolling pin or slab roller)

    SLIP– A liquid form of clay used as a glue or as decoration.

    SLUMP MOLD- A form which is used to support wet clay in the early stages of construction.  They are typically made of plaster.  We used canvas covered styrofoam shapes as slump molds.

    STONEWARE– A type of clay which is usually gray in color.  It is good for handbuilding and throwing because of its high plasticity.

    THROWING– Forming clay on a potters wheel.

    UNDERGLAZE- Colored decoration applied to bisqued clay, then coated with a clear glaze. Typically made of clay slip and raw pigment.

    WEDGING- Method of kneading clay to make it homogenous; ridding the clay of all air pockets.

    Course Units / Topics of Study:

    Wedging, Glazing, Wheel Throwing, Coiling, Slab Technique, Sculpture, Trimming, Molds, Lusters, Slump Molds, Pinching, Decoration, Decals, Musical Instruments, Lids, Handles, Sprigs, Resist Techniques, Underglaze, Stain.


    Student should also be familiar with the following –

    Ceramic Hazards and The Ten Golden Rules of Ceramics (handouts)

    Six different (responsible for listing five) construction methods -coil, slab, pinch, slump casting, slip casting and wheel throwing.

    Tool identification -fettling knife, rib (metal and wood), large and small ribbon, needle, wire, wooden knife.

    List the fundamental stages of proper preparation and use of the potters wheel. Be sure to include - wedging clay, using a bat, obtaining the proper tools, getting water, attaching the clay to the wheel-head, achieving a workable speed, body posture, hand position and technique, centering, using the proper amount of water, creating a pressure point and moving it up the side of the piece slowly, shaping, refining, removing the water from inside the piece, using a wooden knife at the base, using a wire tool to free the piece from the bat, labeling the piece properly, clean up.