Ceramic Artist Research Paper

 #1 Due Oct 31st

Find a unique piece of pottery and sketch what you see; fill the page; write briefly about why you like the piece…internet, book, magazine; how is the look and design of the piece related to the function?

(10 points for drawing, 10 points for signed syllabus) 

 #2 Due Nov 7th

Design/draw a piece of pottery and cover it with a unique line design. Vary the line width, texture, detail, and direction. Fill the whole page with your drawing of the pottery piece and fill your whole piece with your design. (20 points)

 #3 Due Nov 14th

For your third project after the Jomon Coil Pot, you will create a leather-hard slab box. The project will be any flat-sided structure. You will have the option of making a house, building, monument, etc. Sketch 5 geometric architecture structures to start the brainstorming for this design. Concentrate on shapes and architecture details on the sides of your structures. If you are not familiar with what architecture is, please research online.

 #4 Due Nov 21st

Draw a sandwich that is partially eaten. Pay attention to the texture and detail. Think about how you could make this out of clay and how you would layer the meat and bread, and how you would carve into the surface to make the little holes (texture) in the bread.

 #5 Due November 27th

Ceramic Artist Research: Choose a ceramic artist and find out something about her or him and her/his work. Write down basic biographical info: where and when they worked, the type of work they are known for, and who/what influenced them (if they provide that information). Get three pictures of their work, and do three sketches of your own ideas influenced by their style. E-mail the artist info and photos of their artwork to Ms. Corby and you ALSO need to turn in a paper with the three sketches. 

If you don't know where to start your research on the internet, use this link to look through a list of artists from the United States:


 #6 Due December 5th

Inspiration From Life: Sketch five things from life that are not dishware or sculpture: for example, buildings, trees, plants, people, animals, furniture, machinery, science phenomena or apparatus, etc. Use each sketch to inspire the form of a piece of functional pottery, as drawn in a second sketch – a teapot, pitcher, bowl, platter, cup, etc. DO NOT use as inspiration cell phones, music players, or whole cars. (You're choosing 5 objects for inspiration, but you will have 10 small sketches in total)

Week 1 - Intro to Ceramics and Pottery/Pinch Pot

What are pottery and ceramics? Is there a difference? 
Is everything that is made out of clay pottery? Are all ceramics made out of clay?

Pottery and ceramics have been an important part of human culture for thousands of years. From prehistoric storage jars to tiles on the space shuttles, pottery and ceramics have played a key role in innumerable human endeavors. But how do we define them?

What Are Ceramics?

Technically, ceramics are those things made from materials which are permanently changed when heated. For example, clay has chemically-bonded water in it which will cause it to slake down (disintegrate) when a dried clay object is put in water. Once heated (fired) to between 660⁰ and 1470⁰F (350⁰ and 800⁰C), the clay is converted to ceramic and will never dissolve again.

All clay is a ceramic material, but there are other ceramic materials, as well.Glazes are also ceramic materials, because they permanently change duringfiring. Industrial ceramics include a range of materials such as silica carbide and zirconium oxide.

From prehistoric times to the present, clay has not only been used to create utilitarian items like bowls and storage jars, but also rich works ofthree-dimensional art. Clay artists such asPeter Hollandmay work as designers for commercial potteries, they may do sculptural work as part of their studio pottery, or they may work exclusively as sculptors in clayWhat Is Pottery?

Pottery is generally considered to be containers made from clay. "Pot" is a term used for any number of        container forms. Both words derive from the Old Englishpotian, "to push". When we consider how the potter pushes as theythrow the clayon the wheel, it is easy to see how the process got its name. The term "pottery" may also be used as an adjective with some objects, such as small figurines.

In industrialized countries, modern pottery can be classified two ways. There is commercial pottery or ceramics which are produced in factories, and there is studio pottery which is produced by individual craftsmen. You may also hear of "art pottery," which may be either produced commercially or by an individual craftsman.

Studio Pottery

Studio pottery (studio ceramics) can be quite diverse. Production potters are most active in making large quantities of ceramic wares such as plates, platters, dishes, bowls, and so on. Production potters can sit down with a hundred pounds of clay and throw the same form all day. The technique ofthrowing off the mound is often employed by production potters because it reduces time spent centering the clay and moving bats on and off the wheel head.

Other studio potters are more concerned with creating forms for their uniqueness and beauty. These "art" pieces might still retain full functionality, or they may move toward being more sculptural. Many of these are "one-off" pieces, meaning they are one-of-a-kind.

Potter, Ceramic Artist, or What?

There is not a singular term for those who work with clay. Rather the opposite is true. Some of the most common terms are

  • potter: a general term for an individual craftsman working in clay
  • production potter: these folk make large numbers of functional pots as their main employment
  • studio potters: often those who create one-off pieces but may also do production pottery
  • ceramic artists: those who create clay artwork
  • clay artist: same as a ceramic artist, but may not fire their pieces (i.e. they are working as a designer for a commercial pottery)
  • ceramist: anyone who works with ceramic materials either industrially or as an individual, and
  • ceramic engineer: those who work (often in industry) with the chemistry and physics of ceramic materials

Week 2 - Jomon Coil Pots

Project 2 = Jomon Coil Vase/Pot

Objective: To create a coil vase/pot using the demonstrated coil hand-building technique. After learning about the Jomon period, you will use the art elements of line and texture to create a cohesive piece.

Remember: Since this is the second project this quarter, you will be graded on taking an imaginative (creative) approach to communicate a message. (Art communicates a mood or a message, and it can be something as simple as, “this zig-zag line causes excitement and leads the viewer’s eye all around the piece.”)


1. Some of your coils must be showing to display repeated LINE (line that makes texture and pattern on your piece). What direction will the lines/coils go on your piece?

2. You need to incorporate organic FORMS somewhere on your piece.

3. You need to have one area of EMPHASIS on your piece. Preferably NOT right in the middle...consider that your viewer will see your piece from all sides. 

You will also be graded on a strong use of the art elements and principles that you are asked to focus on for this particular assignment (and the ones to follow).

-Step 1: Sketch at least 2 ideas for the basic structure of your coil pot and have them approved by the teacher

-Step 2: Construct your coil pot from the bottom up after you make a strong, round base. Your base will be a ‘slab’ and it should not be thinner than a sharpie marker. This is the support of your entire piece! If your structure is too thin on the bottom and the sides, it will buckle and fall apart.

-Step 3: Start to build coils upon coils. The basic structure can be any shape you like, as long as you add some line and texture design to the outside surface. Experiment with more tools than just your fettling knife and the needle tool. You may pierce, incise, and imprint into the side of your coil pot.

PLEASE build your piece taller than your first one :D

Jomon History:

Thousand of years ago in Japan, there were people who were nomads in the early Jomon Period. They used to follow the seasonal migrations of animals to hunt for food. Therefore, people dried, smoked, or broiled the deer, elephant, or seal meat. However, the discovery of making pottery had a dramatic effect on the nomadic peoples' lives. Now, having pottery containers for cooking, people began boiling meat because it was much easier to chew. Furthermore, the people began to store foods such as nuts in the pottery. It was not easy for the Jomon people to transport the pottery vessels from place to place which resulted in a gradual transition from the nomadic strategy to a more semi-nomadic way of life. ‘Jomon’ means ‘cord patterned’ or ‘cord impressed’. Jomon potters decorated their clay vessels by marking/pressing into clay with sticks wrapped with cords. The Jomon were hunter/gatherers but semi-sedentary.

Student Coil Pot Examples

Week 3-4 Leather Hard Slab Structures

Mesoamerican Pre-Columbian Slab Pottery, A Brief History.

-Evidence of slab building techniques in ancient art (pottery)

- Despite the great range and variety of artwork, certain characteristics were repeated throughout the region, namely a preference for angular, linear patterns, and three-dimensional ceramics. Pottery was rarely without surface decoration or painting.

-Cultures: Maya, Inca

-Regions: Mexico to Central America (Mesoamerica), and South America

-Uses of art: religious ceremonies, idols and figurines, depictions of Gods

-Slab Vessels: urns, bowls, vases (functional pieces in their cultures)

-Mayan: As the Mayans did not have a potter´s wheel, all the pottery was hand   modeled: The finished vessels were then placed in the sun to dry and to harden, or put into a large hole in the ground on a fire made with wood, covering the top with a large stone. As time went by, and social classes were established, Maya ceramics became more elaborate in form, design, color, painting techniques and purpose. The colors were mainly red, black and brown obtained from natural elements like plants and earth.

Photo Examples of Mesoamerican Pottery >>>

Photo Examples of Slab Boxes (your project) >>>
 is this real cake or ceramic cake?

Your slab project may involve creating a leather-hard slab building. In this case, here are some of your options - you need to sketch (on your design sheet) what you find in your research on your chosen architecture. Your design needs to include elements that are characteristic of the culture's architecture. 
(windows, doors, arches, building material, stairways, vaulted ceilings, ornamental details, etc.)
-mythical or fantasy structure
This link will help with your research:
1. Wash pottery with damp sponge
2. Select your glaze color
3. Mix glaze with spoon or mixer
4. Pour glaze inside the pottery
5. Tip and turn the pottery to evenly coat the inside walls with glaze
6. Pour excess glaze back into its bucket
7. Dab glaze with a soft brush on the outside for 2 coats
8. Place your glazed pottery on the shelf by the kiln for firing

-How thick should the layer of glaze on your pottery be?  Describe how you can check this.

-What is one problem that can occur with glaze when it is fired?  What causes this?

-Why shouldn’t you handle your pottery with bare hands before applying glaze?

-Why does the color of the glaze in the bucket look different when your glazed piece comes out of the kiln? (Why does it change colors?)

Week 5 - Slab Molds and Surface Decoration

Now that you're halfway through Ceramics class, you will be graded more heavily on creativity and your execution of the art elements. For the slab molds (second slab project) we're concentrating on shape and texture. There an infinite number of designs  that you can make on the surface of your clay or carve out of your slabs using different shapes...

Looking for a unique technique for surface detail? Please try something new! Browse the website below and ask Ms. Corby if you want some help trying one of these techniques. 


Remember: you can concentrate on the shape of your piece and not just the surface design/detail. What is the function of your piece? How does the function relate to the design? Using at least 3 different surface decoration techniques, you will be creating new textures you may not have tried before. How will these textures relate the shape/form and function of your piece?

The Soft Slab Powerpoint is shared with you in Google Docs (Ceramics I folder). Please browse through the mold techniques if you need help deciding what to do with your project.

    ***Surface Decoration Notes (for Quiz):

1) When can you put texture on your pottery?

     Anytime before your piece is fired

2)Why have artists historically decorated the surface of their pottery?

     Decisions made about surface decoration relate to a work’s shape and form

 (the elements of art we talked about for our soft slab project)


    Decorating technique where design is formed by cutting or carving shallow lines in clay surface. 


   Decorative technique that involves adding molded clay to slipped and scored, leather hard clay surfaces.


   This is the careful cutting of designs clear through the wall of a finished leather hard piece to create openings. Smooth the cut edges of the opening with a wire modeling tool or a damp sponge.


   Decorating technique where textured or patterned material or object is pressed into clay surface. 


   Method of achieving a shine by rubbing clay or slip with smooth hard object (usually a spoon).


   Process of applying any decoration to the bare, (usually bisque-fired) clay surface directly before glazing. (We have small containers of underglaze in the room that are specifically used for detailed designs. A clear glaze may be applied on top of the underglaze design before it is fired a second time).

9)Visual Pattern:

   A visual pattern occurs when shapes, colors, and other elements are repeated at regular intervals. Patterns in nature are found in ocean waves, flower petals, etc., but you can translate a pattern motif on the surface of your clay by carving or incising on the surface. Artists plan patterns to organize, unify, and add interest to their piece of art.

Week 6 - Advanced Coil

Week 6 Project – Advanced Coil (or your favorite hand-building techniques,



3 Art Principles you will learn and showcase in your piece:

Asymmetrical balance, Emphasis, and Contrast

You will learn about another way pottery may be produced and connect to more expressive modes of pottery.

Step 1: Complete a search on the internet of asymmetrical balance, emphasis, and contrast in pottery form. (You may use the books and magazines in the room if you do not want to use the internet).

Step 2: Create a word document with photo examples of pieces that display each art element and a sentence explaining why you think that piece showcases the particular art element. (1 photo for asymmetrical balance, 1 for emphasis, and 1 for contrast). Draw the examples if you are using books or magazines and not the internet.

Step 3: You are essentially researching modern ceramic artists, so find another example (also to paste into your word document) of a piece that you might like to create using asymmetrical balance and emphasis (or contrast) as inspiration.

Step 4: E-mail your word document to Ms. Corby by the due date. (It should have a total of 4 photo examples and explanations about their relation to the art elements). You are doing this assignment instead of a worksheet this week.

Step 5: Complete a Design Sheet of your idea for your project. Don’t be afraid to take inspiration from the internet or from resources in the room; I encourage this! Also, take advantage of inspiration you might gain from researching the modern artists in your Weekly Sketchbook Assignment #5. Make sure you include how the design ties to the function and what surface decoration techniques you will utilize!

Step 6: Turn in your design sheet and get to work on your project. Don't forget about what you learned about surface decoration! You will use this on every project!

Balance: distribution of visual weight in an artwork (this does not refer to balancing the actual weight of a piece)

Emphasis: center of interest, usually one part or area is given more detail, contrasting color, or contrasting shape

Contrast: use of opposites or very different visual concepts

Here is another link to modern (contemporary) ceramic artists you might find helpful: www.sherriegallerie.com/artists.php

 Asymmetrical Balance example
 Contrast and emphasis example
 Jomon asymmetrical balance example
 asymmetrical 'handle'

QUIZ on Art Elements for the Advanced Coil Project:
Keep your elbows down!
Keep the clay lubricated with water, use less water when shaping.
Keep your hands touching, using them together as one for better control.
Use your entire body to work the clay, focus on the center.
Always move your hands into/out of contact slowly while the wheel is
going round. Jerky motions will result in an uneven pot.
Only touch the pot when the wheel is moving!
The higher and wider you go, the slower you must go.
Centering the clay is the hardest and most important part of throwing.

1. Wedge clay well, form into a round ball.

2. Throw the clay onto center of a bat on the wheel. Seal base, pat into cone.

3. Center clay: Brace arms on legs, have wheel speed medium-fast.
Place hands around base of clay, slowly squeeze clay to center and cone up.

4. Push clay down: With the heel of your left hand, push the left side of clay and with side of your right hand press down on the top of it.

5. Repeat steps 3 & 4 until clay is centered.

6. Open up clay: Slow wheel, place thumbs together, push down into middle

of clay. Leave 1⁄2” clay at bottom - measure with needle tool.

7. Create floor: Start in center, pull fingers of right hand outward. For cylinder, keep floor flat. For bowl, let fingers curve up wall to establish curve.

8. Pull walls: Slow wheel. Left hand inside, right hand outside (3 o’clock). Right hand pushes at base to move clay up & rises just above left. Gently squeeze and let hands travel up with clay. Keep clay in a cone shape.

9. Shape: To shape in: outside fingers above inside, press slowly in and up. To shape out: inside fingers above outside, press slowly out and up.
Use a rib to refine and smooth curves, also to remove water from surface.

Use a rib to refine and smooth curves, also to remove water from surface.

10. Finish: Trim rim to level. Trim excess clay at base. For bowls leave clay at base to support walls. Pull string under base.

If it’s not centered your pot will be wobbly and uneven. 

Check the websites below for more step-by-step instructions and photo examples:



Week 8 - Relief Tile or Sculpture

During the end of week 7 and for the entirety of week 8 you will be rotating with fellow students to work on the wheel. When you are not on the wheel, you will be making your final project before your final:

A ceramic relief tile (can be abstract or representational) OR an anamorphic or human sculpture based on a fairy tale

Relief Tile:

Relief: clay that is added to the surface (appliqué) or clay that is subtracted (carved or incised)

Ancient cultures and relief sculpture:

For Egyptians the decoration of tomb walls with reliefs or painted scenes provided some certainty of the perpetuation of life; in a temple, similarly, it was believed that mural decoration magically ensured the performance of important ceremonies and reinforced the memory of royal deeds.

The earliest appearance of mural decoration is to be found in tomb 100 at Hierakonpolis, presumably the grave of a powerful local chieftain; it is dated to the early Gerzean (Naqādah II) period. 

If you choose to create a tile, you will roll a 1/2" thick slab that is at least 7"x7". IF you want it to be a circle instead of a square, the circumference needs to be at least 19". Use what you've learned about creating textures and surface decoration and do your thing! See photo examples and helpful links below:


Fairytales, Fables, Nursery Rhymes & Folklore: Hand Built Clay Lesson 

A fun clay lesson where high school students will use hand-building techniques in order to create a character based on a story of their choice.
  • Lesson Procedures

    For this project, students will reflect back to their younger days and the stories that they read, or were read to them. Many artists base their work on literature and/or writing. 

    For this project, students are going to choose a storybook character and create him/her/it, out of clay.


    • Choose a character from a fairy tale, fable, nursery rhyme, or other favorite story you have read or heard as a child.
    • Before working with clay, develop sketches.
    • Create the sculpture out of clay.

    The character must be from a story, can be posed in any way, and be a person or animal. The character should have something to make it identifiable, for example Red Riding Hood has a red cape and basket. Students should also be made aware that they are creating THEIR OWN character and not copying the work of another artist. For example, Disney turned The Little Mermaid into a cartoon classic. If students were to choose the story The Little Mermaid, their sculpture should not resemble Ariel from the popular Disney cartoon.

1. Explain what ‘asymmetrical’ means.

2. What is ‘balance’ in art?

3. Describe one way you could create contrast and emphasis with your pottery (2 points).

4. What kind of artists were you researching on the internet for this project?

5. Describe one way that surface decoration and the shape/form of your piece connects to the function of the piece.

Week 7 - Wheel Throwing

>>> Basic Steps for Throwing on the Wheel >>>

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