2. Disappointments are learning opportunities. Feel with them and
they will feel with you. We learn from it and do it again - but
3. To get more practice, more skill, reduced risk, and better work,
try asking each student to make two items instead of one. Ask them
to try to make the second one better than the first one, but keep
them both until dry. Tell them in advance that they will get to pick
the best of the two to be fired. They learn how artists often make
quality judgements and choices. These can be great discussions.
Save the other unfired piece and only fire it in case the first
choice breaks. Then soak and reuse the clay of the unfired pieces.
4. Avoid breakage by firing slower at the early stages of heating
(hold it two hours at 180 to 200 F) to remove all moisture even if
pots are dry. Adding fine silica sand or grog (up to 10 percent)
helps avoid firing breakage. It also allows faster drying without
5. One way to teach them to be careful is to have them make some
quick, but very thin small bowl shapes as practice pieces. The next
session, when they are dry, have them each break their own piece and
put the pieces in water to soak. They will then understand to make
it a little thicker and handle it very carefully until it is fired.
6. For coil building, I teach them to make stronger pieces by
pinching the coils together sideways rather than stacking them up.
Before beginning, I have each person stack and join two coils. Then
they pinch two coils together and form a ring the same size, height,
and thickness as the two stacked coils. Then they are asked to pull
apart their trial pieces to see which method makes a stronger result.
If this seems hard to do, the teacher can watch the video that shows
Maria Martinez making her famous black pottery by the coil method.
She does not stack the coils. She adds them to side and forms the
clay. I show the video to the students after they have made their
own pieces lest they should think that their work is supposed to look
like hers. I want my students to have their own design struggle and
objectives - regardless of age.
7. Keep thickness between a quarter and half inch or so. If
thicker, fire slower at the early stages. If sculptures are thicker,
poke it full of holes from the bottom with a piece of coat hanger
wire, or make hollow sculptures with a vent hole. It is easy to make
hollow work over a wad of newspaper. Paper can be left in.