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Re:[teacherartexchange] Wheel Dilemma


From: Marvin Bartel (marvinpb_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sat Sep 20 2008 - 10:46:59 PDT

MT Suz,
. . . We have a great art room but only have one wheel. . . . Does anyone have any suggestions on how to use the wheel at all! . . .

Dear MT
I am a potter and long time art teacher, now nearly retired. Is the throwing something that you would really like to teach? If not, set the wheel in the middle of the room. Rig a big board on the wheel head and use it set up still life. If is has a creeping slow speed, (block or tape the speed control so it can not go fast) have them keep drawing as it rotates and see what they produce. Tell them to draw what they see. As it turns start the drawing again on the same paper until the whole sheet is filled with drawing. Have them look at the drawing and add some tone to even out the boring places and produce good eye movement around the design (composition). Turn them upside down to see if they need anything anywhere. After they finish, show them some cubism and explain the Picasso and Braque had been attending the first movies at the time that movies were first invented. After seeing these movies Picasso and Braque, being jealous of these new amazing visual effects, went i
 nto their painting studios and invented cubistic painting.

If you decide to teach throwing, I recommend that the students study this site to help solve their practice problems:

Given the limited class time, I imagine you would have to have time that they could come in to practice at other times. When first starting people on the wheel, I do not recommend firing first efforts. I also do not allow them to discard any viable pieces. They must trim every piece and keep them all in the dry state until they have a group of pieces. Then they must sort and rank them while discussing their merits with fellow students. They must fire at least one of them, but they must soak at least half of them. I want them to learn to learn from each other, learn to make choices, and learn that this is a process that gets better with practice.

To start them off, I give a demo of the early steps of making a bowl. The steps are carefully verbalized, and the common mistakes and crafting mistake results are shown. As soon as the students have had a practice session, the same demo is repeated with special emphasis on student requests, and I make a point to review the points where I have noticed problems.

In the demo, the final shape is done in response to student requests. I want students to learn that they are the designers and the artists -- not me. I know the craft, and I am an artist in my own studio, but as a teacher, I do not want to influence them to think that they are to make my designs or my forms. Instead I ask them lots of open questions to answer about form and design so that they know what an artist thinks about, but they are not given answers, pictures, or examples before they work at answering these artist questions with their own work. I also give them the talk about how accidents and unexpected results are actually discoveries for the creative minds that are properly prepared to see new possibilities.


>I have another question pop up.
>I am working in a smallish k-8 school. We have a great art room but only have one wheel. I have told students will will be working with clay on their spring rotation in class. I see them for an hour twice a week for 6 weeks and then the second group comes in. Then I see them twice a week for 6 weeks again in spring.
>So I guess I really have two problems being able to teach wheel throwing with one wheel to 25 kids would be hard enough if I had them every day for the entire year but I only have them twice a week for 6 weeks at a time.
>Does anyone have any suggestions on how to use the wheel at all! I have thought and thought about it. It takes more then an hour twice a week for 6 weeks for one student to become proficient at throwing on the wheel much less trying to teach 25 students in the same time.
>So far I have just decided to stick to hand building this year. And I may be able to get the school to purchase more wheels for next year. Or I may be able to find one or two used in the course of the year to come.
>It was interesting at the Open House the school put on last week. Most of the parents were unaware that art was not offered every day all year for the 6-8 students and that the lower elementary students only had art 3 times a year, once a week for 4 weeks.
>MT Suz

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