Topic outline

  • Syllabus

    Ceramics II – Intermediate Handbuilding


    Fall 2013                                                                               

    Instructor: Megan Mitchell


    Mon. and Thurs. from 1pm – 3:20 pm

    Office hours: Wed 9am – 12pm, or by appointment, lower Appletree                                                        

    Course description and objectives:

    This intermediate level ceramics course will focus on creating functional and sculptural ceramic objects using a variety of handbuilding techniques. There will be an emphasis on idea development through research and drawing, and on the successful execution of these ideas. This course will prepare students for a more independent exploration of ceramics. As well, students will be introduced to skills needed to operate a studio, including clay and glaze preparation, and firing techniques.


    Lab Fee: $95. This fee covers all clay, glaze materials and firing costs.



    Mandatory: Sketchbook, plastic bucket, large and small sponges, basic clay tools (please purchase a tool kit from the book store if you don’t have one already), exacto knife, ruler and tape measure, plastic bags, scissors, surform rasp.

    Additional materials may be required for some projects.



    You will complete five projects this semester; most of the projects will require multiple pieces. We will be working on large scale work. It is important to work consistently. Do not procrastinate! With the exception of Project 1, each project will be introduced with a slide lecture and a handout with detailed information on requirements and deadlines.


    Project 1 – Carved coil pots

    Project 2 -- Vessels, three ways

    Project 3 – The Symbolic Object

    Project 4 – The Narrative Figure

    Project 5 – Independent final project and presentation




    Your sketchbook should be used to document all of your research for the semester. It can be complemented by a virtual sketchbook (ie flash drive, flickr site). You may use your sketchbook in a variety of ways and should consider how it can be most useful to you. There is no right way to keep a sketchbook as long as you are keeping one! But some things to do with it include: take notes from class, write down artists or work you are looking at, sketches and plans for assignments, glue in photographs or photocopies.



    This course consists of 100 points, which will be divided as follows:

    Attendance and class participation – 25 points

    Project 1: 10 points

    Project 2: 15 points

    Project 3: 15 points

    Project 4: 15 points

    Project 5: 20 points


    Within each project, the grade will be determined by

    -fulfillment of assignment requirements

    -work in sketchbook and other research

    -conceptualization and design of project

    -quality of construction and attention to detail


    Students will find it necessary to spend at least five hours a week each week outside of class to complete all assignments. This class will also require participation in firings outside of the scheduled class time. Attendance is extremely important for this class; more than two unexcused absences will negatively affect your grade. If you will miss class because of religious, family or medical reasons, please let me know with as much advance notice as possible.


    Participation in this class requires cleanliness and good studio etiquette. Please be considerate of others who use the studio, and treat the studio as a work space. Cell phone use is not permitted during class time and computer use is restricted to research for class projects. Each student will be assigned studio cleaning tasks on a rotating basis throughout the semester.


    • Project 2

      Ceramics II

      Project 2: Vessels, three ways


      Vessel (n) - A hollow utensil, such as a cup, vase, or pitcher, used as a container, especially for liquids.


      Project Description:

      For this project, you will choose an historical vessel (made before 1850) and interpret the form through three different construction techniques – coil building, hard slab, and soft slab. Your vessels should be closely related to each other, but not identical. Begin by researching vessels, and documenting this research. Then, do a series of drawings inspired by these forms. Develop one form which will be the basis for each of the three vessels.



      -          Overview of historic vessels

      -          Reinforcement handbuilding skills

      -          Translating drawings into three dimensional form

      -          Incorporate ideas about surface into forming process

      -          Understanding of how different forming processes lead to different outcomes


      Project components:

      1. Choose at least five vessels from five different cultures and sketch them, along with photocopying/ printing/ bookmarking them.
      2. Pick one of those forms to interpret for this project. Think ‘inspired by’ rather than ‘copied’. Do a series of drawings of your interpretations, and choose one as your base designs.
      3. Construct at least three completed vessel forms
        1. One coil built vessel, at least 12” in on dimension
        2. One hard slab vessel, at least 12” in one dimension
        3. One soft slab vessel, at least 12” in one dimension



      The fabrication of the slab vessels will require planning and templates. I will demonstrate some template methods in class. Think carefully about your handling of the clay during the assembly process; the success of slab pieces is often dependent on the details of that construction. Also consider the finished surface of the pieces. These pieces will be fired in the reduction gas kiln.  



      Thursday, Sept 12: Presentation of project, and hard slab techniques.

      Monday, Sept 16: Drawings due; coil demo

      Monday, Oct. 7: All three pieces due, bone dry

      Thursday, Oct 17: Pieces ready for glaze firing


      The library has a good collection of books on ceramics, mostly located under call number 738 on the second floor. As well, here are some online resources:


      Smithsonian Museum – especially Freer Sackler Gallery

      Metropolitan Museum of Art – check out the Timeline of Art History

      Asian Art Museum

      Victoria and Albert Museum

      Gardiner Museum



      • Project 3

        Ceramics II - Project 3: The Symbolic Object


        Part A: Mold making

        We will study various types of molds and learn how to pour plaster. You will each make a one or two part mold of an object of your design. I recommend using clay to make the object. It should be leather hard by class time on Thursday, Oct 10, when we will pour the plaster. You will then create at least three pieces using your mold.


        Part B: The symbolic object

        Find an inanimate object (anything other than human or animal) that holds some symbolic resonance to you, OR interests you visually. You will make two pieces related to this object. The first will be a scaled representation, with the goal of accurately duplicating the object. For the second, you will alter the object in a way that implies its symbolic meaning or the element of visual interest. You could choose to abstract the object, enlarge or shrink parts of it, or use surface techniques to imply meaning.



        1. Research and drawing. Choose at least five objects and draw thumbnails of the object, as well as the way you would alter it for the second part of the project.  Choose the one that is the most visually successful, and create a series of scaled drawings for both parts of this project, including a cross section, front and side view.
        2. Two objects which are each at least ten inches in one dimension. At least one of these objects must include a mold formed component. This could be from a found mold, or a mold that you make.



        Some ideas to start with: Contemporary or antique tools, vehicles or parts of vehicles, food items, clothing, architectural features, furniture, appliances, objects found in nature. Pottery is not acceptable as your object.



                    M Oct. 7: Presentation of project, mold making demo

                    Th Oct. 10: Plaster pouring (come to class with object ready to cast)

                    M Oct. 14: Drawings due

                    Th Oct. 17: Work day

                    M Oct 21: No class – Hendricks Days

                    Th Oct 24: Work day, in-progress review of objects (one should be complete)

                    M Oct 28: Field trip

                    Th Oct 31: Presentation on project 4

        M Nov 4: Project 3 due - symbolic object (two pieces) as well as at least three pieces from plaster mold.


        • Topic 4

          • Topic 5

            • Topic 6

              • Topic 7

                • Topic 8

                  • Topic 9

                    • Topic 10

                      • Topic 11

                        • Topic 12

                          • Topic 13

                            • Topic 14

                              • Topic 15

                                • Topic 16