score the joints very well, and add a
small clay coil to the inside seams to
prevent cracking during firing. It is
also a good idea to put a supporting
slab inside the cake to hold up the top.
Make sure students put a ½" hole
in the supporting slab, base, and connecting tiers, to make sure that air
can vent out during both the drying
and firing processes.
frosting, letters and shape cutters, and
When students needed a specific
item, we made plaster molds from an
plastic toys. This
to have repeating
shapes for decorating the surface.
The frosting for
the cakes ranged
from smooth clay to using thick clay
slip spread on the scored slabs for a
After the cakes dried, they were
placed on stilts in the kiln when firing to make sure the air was able to
escape from the bottom vent holes.
After the cakes
were bisque fired,
to add color. Then
the cakes were
Each time I
teach this assignment, I am impressed
and delighted by the variety of sub-
jects that students choose to cele-
brate—from sleep to Bastille Day. The
cakes have given students the expe-
rience of constructing a large-scale
handbuilt form to which they have a
very personal attachment.
The surface of the cake pro-
vides a wide range of possibilities
for the orchestration of textures,
sculptural forms, and lettering,
as well as expressive use of color.
Each finished ceramic cake is a last-
ing tribute to what each student felt
was most important to commemo-
rate at this point in their lives.
Each finished ceramic cake
is a lasting tribute to what
each student felt was most
important to commemorate
at this point in their lives.
I provided a selection of tools for
decorating the cakes including icing
smoothers to give texture to the clay
Ellen Mahoney is art department chair
at the Buckley School in Sherman Oaks,
Students create multiple solutions
to specific visual arts problems
that demonstrate competence
in producing effective
and artistic func-