Monday, December 3, 2012

Ceramic Poinsettia Bowls-4th Grade

For our next unit in 4th grade, we are going to do a series of artwork using poinsettias.  (I do have one student in 4th grade who does not celebrate Christmas, so this student will be doing a flower of choice, like a daisy.)  Since I am trying to push the idea of drawing from real life, this unit will fit in perfectly!
My finished poinsettia "bowl".

I bought 6 small poinsettia plants to have on the tables (once we get past the big clay stage of having to roll out the slabs) for observation.

Today I started this project with my first class of 4th graders.  I will be giving them 2 days to work with the clay on their bowls.  While I fire the kiln, we will then do an observational drawing of a poinsettia flower using oil pastels, continuing our use of value and blending colors.  Once those are finished, they should be able to glaze their flowers. I will probably let it be up to them if they want to underglaze and then glaze with a clear glaze, or if they want to use the colored glazes that I have.   We'll cross that bridge as we get closer to it!

Anyways, here is how I had them create their clay bowls.  I have completed mine (for the most part...just needs some fine tuning!).

1. Step 1: Roll out slabs of clay.  Create a petal pattern to use for uniform petal shapes.
I don't have a slab roller but I purchased this slab cutter last year and so far, I love it!  The copper bar moves up and down the tool so that you can adjust the width of the slab you cut.  Since the clay is already pretty well wedged, I just have the kids roll it out more and stretch the clay more.

Step 2: Have students put their initials on a styrofoam bowl.  Begin placing the petals around the inside of the bowl, conforming them to the sides.  Wherever they touch, smooth the clay together.
Some students spaced their petals out more because they made smaller petals.  In the end, this will all work out fine!

Step 3:  Do a second layer of petals.  Technically, the first round of petals are the leaves, and the second row are the poinsettia flower petals.  Normally I would have the students score and slip clay together, but this clay is brand new and relatively moist.  So, I have them score their first layer of clay before pressing the second row of petals on them.  I'm not making them use slip right now, and they don't have to score the backs of their petals as they attach them because the texture from the burlap is enough.
This is about how far most of the kids got today.  Everyone got their first layer made, and about half almost completed the second layer.

Step 4: Do a third layer of petals, coming from the middle.  Make them slightly smaller than the last layer of petals.

Step 5: Score the middle of the flower.  Roll small balls of clay, score and slip them to the center to create the buds of the poinsettia.  (The balls will actually need slip as they can't be smoothed down onto the flower.)

Step 6: Smooth the flower with an elephant ear sponge (which I haven't done yet, just for the sake of showing the students what their flower should look like when finished) and use a clay knife/needle tool to add the flower veins.

More posts to come as the students finish up their flowers!


  1. Your photos are really helpful! Thanks for sharing the steps for making this neat project.

    1. I'm glad you find them helpful! Hopefully I'll have better quality photos soon too! Right now I use my iPhone, but I just ordered my first DSLR camera for my Christmas present this year! So excited!

  2. Oh my gosh these are SOOOOOOOOOOO pretty!

  3. I have that slab cutter, too and love it! I have had mine for about 4 years and its held up great. I did purchased a slab roller for home on Craigslist. It is a wonderful Northstar. I take clay home for some projects and run it through. That is a future want for school. Thanks for sharing your bowls. How do you manage your clay units? I run clay in the month of January for all my students and each grade does a different project. It seems like other people might be doing projects at different times for different grades. Is that what you do?

    1. I definitely don't have enough room to store clay projects to have all of my classes do clay at once. Generally, whenever I do clay projects, I usually have two different ones going on with two different grade levels (a total of 4 classes), that way when projects are complete, I have enough to fire a full kiln.

      I hate seeing the clay sit there unused all year so I always try to be doing a clay unit throughout the year with a class at all times...just because I would miss working with it!

      I recently just bought a table top slab cutter through a grant program for my classroom...I've never used one before so it shall be interesting!