SchoolArts Magazine

DEC 2008

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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Left to right: Alexandria, grade six; Alan, grade six; Garret, grade six. parts of a surface layer (as of plaster or clay) exposes a different colored ground. Popular in Europe since the thirteenth century, it was used as an alternative to painting and for adding decorations to building fa├žades. Today, this traditional technique is used by contemporary Native American potters and other ceramic artists such as Marianne Baer in distinctive and personal ways. To prepare for this process, students painted their saucers with two to three coats of black underglaze and left them to dry more. The aim is to have the pots become very leather hard, although some did dry to the greenware stage. The rest of class was devoted to sketching ideas for the sgraffito design. Requirements included an abstract style containing a variety of contrasting shapes and lines, the inclusion of three patterns, full use of the surface, and strong contrast between black and white areas. In some cases, students incorporated their initials into the design. When ready to apply the sgraffito technique, everyone prepared his or her workspace with newspaper, a bowl of water, a small paintbrush, and a wooden stylus. Carefully holding the saucer, students used the stylus to scrape the design into the dark surface, revealing the clay underneath. Repeated strokes created solid white areas. Safety Measures It is important to prevent any clay dust from circulating in the air. For this reason, everyone was shown how to delicately brush the scrapings into the bowl of water as they created their design. A strong request was made to avoid blowing the remnants from the surface and all students followed this directive. To further prevent any breathing problems, I walked around with a squirt bottle and sprayed water into the air to bring down any dust circulating in the air. An occasional spritz to the saucer itself proved helpful for those that had completely dried prior to adding sgraffito. Getting Ready to Fire To save time, a transparent glaze was applied prior to bisque firing. Students took special care to gently dab the glaze on rather than swipe the brush back and forth. Doing that would smear the underglaze and ruin the design. Explaining this technique carefully prevented any problems. The saucers continued to dry fully and were fired once to a Cone 05 setting. Though simple in shape and process, the bold visual impact of the finished saucers elicited questions: "Were they complicated? " No, quite easy! "Did it take a long time?" No, it was a short project, just under four 86-minute blocks. "Can I take mine home NOW? No, later . . . I want to display them. Just a few more antonyms to consider! Mary Coy teaches at Spry Middle School in Webster, New York, and is a contributing editor for SchoolArts. mary_coy@ websterschools.org NatioNal StaNdard Students make connections between visual arts and other disciplines. Web liNk www.mariannebaer.com schoolartsonline.com 41

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