SchoolArts Magazine

NOV 2014

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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18 November 2014 SchoolArts turning a simple ceramic whistle into a basic skull shape, which could be fired and decorated to emu- late this popular holiday item. My sixth-grade art students have been creating them every year since then, and I'm always amazed at the variety of solutions to this art chal- lenge. Making Clay Whistles Students begin by learning about the Days of the Dead and looking at examples of traditional sugar-skull designs. Next, they form whistles from earthenware clay. I developed a suc- cessful method using craft sticks to create the openings that make the whistle sound (detailed in sidebar). Most stu- dents achieve success through this method, but I encourage the first successful students to be my "whistle experts" and assist others who may be struggling. I must admit it gets a bit noisy in the artroom while everyone is testing their whistles, but it's worth the look of accomplishment on students' faces when they achieve success. Once the basic whistles are completed, we lightly cover them to set overnight. The next day, students carve details into the clay with craft sticks. At this time, students can also add other details with more clay. The whistles are always unique and reflect each student's personality. When they are complete and dry, the whistles are fired. Embellishment Although traditional sugar skulls are normally white, students can select any base color of acrylic paint they like. Some enjoy mixing in a little silver or gold to give a metallic finish. I encourage students to completely cover all areas of the sculptures, including the bottom. When the base coat has dried, students use tubes of fabric paint to add lines, flowers, swirls, and other designs. They can also use the fabric paint to attach sequins, gemstones, and other craft embellishments. It is with great pride that we display these beautiful pieces of artwork. These are also a fun attraction at the district art show when I play a note or two for the surrounding crowd. Christine Grafe is an art teacher at Cypress Grove Intermediate School in College Station, Texas. cgrafe @ N A T I O N A L S T A N D A R D Connecting: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external content. W E B L I N K sugar-skulls.html Dru, grade six.

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