Thank you again for agreeing to read my thesis proposal. Attached you will find Chapter I which includes my introduction and my methodology and Chapter II which

НазваниеThank you again for agreeing to read my thesis proposal. Attached you will find Chapter I which includes my introduction and my methodology and Chapter II which
Дата конвертации21.04.2013
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Dear Ellen,

Thank you again for agreeing to read my thesis proposal. Attached you will find Chapter I which includes my introduction and my methodology and Chapter II which covers my literature review.

My hope is that you, as an outside reader, will provide further instight on some of the topics I’ve covered, enlighten me about theories or ideas I haven’t discussed, and provide feedback I can use towards the completion of thesis.

Feel free to add notations and express any concerns or comments on the attached document. I welcome any and all feedback! My main focus of research is on creativity through ceramics so if you feel I need to add or take out anything, please let me know. Your rich ceramic knowledge and practice can really help me.

You have inspired me to dig deeper into the ceramic field, to ask questions and to challenge myself, and the students I teach. Without your mentoring and friendship, I’m not sure this thesis would have been possible. For that, I am grateful.

Thanks Again,




When I first came to be familiar with clay, I was about 7 years old sitting in a small art room. I’ll never forget slabs of clay set before me with endless possibilities. I remember digging my fingers into it, pulling and pushing this new material through my hands, imagining what it could be. I found comfort in the fact I could work and work with it and still come back to it. I enjoyed the process of adding and subtracting, of drying and firing and glazing until that special moment arrived when it was finally finished. I carried that project home like a secret treasure, buried underneath my books and papers in my schoolbag.

High school art for me was a time that I could really express myself as a person and as a serious artist. This was the time in my life where I spent my days, months and sometimes even an entire year on a project. I created realistic, functional and even some visually striking pieces, touching upon politics, sexuality and religion. I became familiar with the chemistry of the clay, to know exactly how much water it needed to stay manageable, how long it would take to dry and what glazes would look best with what project.

Clay became a part of my life, not just part of some art electives in my schedule. The opportunities seemed endless every time I took the wire tool and sliced off a slab of clay. The weight of it in my hands could tell any story it wanted to, the secrets it could hold were contained within my hands.

The relationship I had with clay helped me cope with the stress of school, work and family. It was therapeutic, as if all problems melted in the clay’s surface. Whenever I approached my work, I was able to change and transform my problems; I was in control. Ceramics also helped me develop problem solving skills as well as visual thinking skills. I was never the person who could imagine something said verbally, rather I needed to draw it or have an explanation drawn out for me.

All this learned information I took with me to college, in the form of realistic Buddhas, vessels, human characters and sculptures, all boxed up and ready to serve as inspirations in my next life, as a college student. The time I used in high school in the art room would serve me well as I prepared to devote even more of my time to clay and ceramic knowledge. My new studio was large, cold and packed with potter’s wheels, beautiful imagery of masters’ work and empty shelves waiting to be filled with new work.

I dedicated myself to the wheel most times until one or two in the morning. I wanted this new tool to work with me, not against me. I won’t lie; I wasn’t very good at first. I was determined however not to let a piece of machinery stand in my way of obtaining new skills and furthering my education. My teacher wasn’t very forgiving either; he was demanding, up front, and had some of the most intense demonstrations I’ve ever attended. He was knowledgeable though, a master himself, dedicated to his work, somewhat of a magician, with the ability to look us in the eye and bring up the walls of his demo piece all at once.

In five months I made over one hundred vessels. Most were trashed for recycling but some were the most beautiful things I’ve ever made. I still have one I’ve claimed for myself, a wide bowl with a small neck, paired with two glazes, which transformed the piece entirely. I realized throughout those early morning hours I had control over the material, over the clay, it was mine to master now. As I progressed throughout my college years I began to move away from the wheel, away from hand built sculptures, to other realms of clay and ceramic education, to slip casting, life study, and clay and glaze chemistry. But, if it weren’t for that early exposure to ceramic education I wouldn’t have pursued it.

Even now, as I progress from artist-student to artist-teacher I find ceramics playing a huge role in my teaching. The time I spent student teaching at a private school in Brooklyn, New York has influenced me once again to pursue ceramic education, modeling the way I learned as well as discovering teachers who came from different backgrounds as artists and professionals, whether it was self-taught artists who became teachers, or artists hired through Studio in a School to take on educational roles.

Through my research I want to figure out what it is that makes ceramics so appealing to young children. In researching this idea I arrived at the following main research question; How can ceramic instruction promote creativity and self-expression in children? To answer my main question I will need to understand something about the history of the field; how has ceramic instruction changed since its introduction into art education since the early 1950s? I will also need to know something about the current state of the field of ceramics; What are some contemporary ideas, techniques and artists that embrace ceramics? I will also need to understand more about children’s self-expression and creativity; How does working with clay stimulate children’s self-expression and creativity?

This led me to explore how ceramics can be used to engage students by promoting self-expression and creativity in the classroom. To help engage students, I would have to uncover and utilize popular culture and other things that were interesting and appealing to them as artists. Self-expression and identity were two things that drew me into creating art. In art class I knew I was able to be myself, free of any pressures to solve complicated problems, complete extensive readings or take any tests.

I realized I would need to understand more about how students can become more engaged by the curriculum in order to promote creative and critical thinking. Therefore, I need to compare and contrast methods used by contemporary artists and teachers in ceramic instruction. My analysis of new techniques and methods used by contemporary artists will help inform my research. If students are bored and disconnected from their work, the quality of work will suffer. Finding new instructional ideas is a part of professional development as a teacher and an artist. I believe that contemporary approaches to traditional art making to any age group can take art to another level. As for ceramics, I believe there is a need to move from traditional approaches to more modern and contemporary ones, to engage the students and promote their creativity.

I think it would also be beneficial to explore ceramic education’s history since its apparent boom in art education in the 1960s. I want to learn how ceramics became so popular and why this popularity changed over time. I also want to look at early methods and compare them to modern methods of teaching. I wonder if in ceramics education, unlike other art practices, teachers tend to rely on the traditional approaches to technique and functionality. If this is the case, then is it the individual teacher who decides what is right for their students? I anticipate that an exploration of the history of ceramics education will help me answer these questions.


My research will be conducted in three parts: interviews with art teachers in a K-12 private school; an examination of lessons and artwork from both historical and traditional artists, as well as modern artists; and finally, action research conducted in an after-school ceramics class in the private school.

I will study my teaching in the after school program through action research. I started teaching in the program at the beginning of September. I teach two one-hour ceramic classes to (kindergarten through first grade, and third and fourth grade, approximately 9-10 students in each class.

My plan is to observe the third to fourth grade students in my second class mainly because they seem to be the most engaged when working with clay. For example, after giving them a jumping off point at the start of the first class “Think of and create an object that will hold something”, it seemed that by working with clay students came up with a variety of ideas and seemed to experience a certain degree of freedom from working with the material. This group is also familiar with the environment, and half of the class has taken an after school ceramics course before. I plan on using this group to test different lessons and teaching techniques over a 15-20 week period. We will meet once weekly for an hour, and over the weeks I hope to develop 4-5 projects that include brainstorming, drawing, creating, firing and glazing. I also plan on gathering information about the history of the school’s ceramics curriculum and school’s mission, to provide context for my study of the after school program.

Action research, as defined by Eileen Ferrance is used by teachers to focus on their teaching and to explore solutions to improve it by collecting data or observing students for research information. According to Ferrance, action research is a realistic research activity for teachers because it allows the researcher (in this case, the teacher) to study groups of students and an environment in which they are still familiar with Ferrance suggests to focus on at least three sources of data to “identify trends and themes” throughout the research process (Ferrance, 2000, pg. 11).

I plan to conduct interviews with the ceramics teacher, in order to gain knowledge of how the ceramics curriculum has or hasn’t changed in eighteen years, how she would change it and why she chooses to maintain a steady curriculum for all grade levels. I will also interview the Head of School to understand the importance of ceramics in the school and how it has affected the students.

            I plan to collect accurate and rich data of my teaching through several sources. I plan to keep a personal journal, which will document each class and describe the project inspiration, motivation, materials and time breakdown. I will also briefly note students’ responses and what I think I might have done differently. Most of my documentation will be in writing however I do plan on taking photographs of the students working, project examples, and student’s projects. The purpose of taking photographs will help me later on in my research as a reflective device and will also allow me to take stock of the methods and techniques I taught over time.

I will audio tape at least one lesson where I use a traditional technique found in my research and literature review as well as one technique adapted from a contemporary artist. Audio taping will serve as a way for me to teach without having to write, as well as a way for me to analyze students’ dialogue.

It is my hope that through exploring different teaching techniques, and assessing student engagement I will be able to apply this knowledge to my own teaching in the future. The purpose of this thesis will be to research different techniques, discuss the research and findings of others through literature, and to apply my own techniques and knowledge to collect and analyze data.



This chapter explores and analyzes literature in three research categories; clay in the classroom, creative growth, and contemporary ceramic artists and techniques. The first section explores the history and current approaches to ceramics in the K-12 classroom. The second section explores creative growth through ceramic education. The last section is dedicated to exploring contemporary ceramics artists and their artwork.

Ceramics in the Classroom

The majority of literature about ceramics in the K-12classroom appears to have been written in the 1960s (Barford, G., 1963; Ball F. C. & Lovoos, J., 1965) with at least one exception (Weisman Topal, C., 1983). However, over the last decade there has been a revived interest in the field (Kong, E., 1999, Storms, P., 2010). This section explores the differences between these two waves of literature about ceramics in the classroom.

Traditional Art Making in the Sixties

George Barford, at the time a professor within the Art Department at Illinois State University, created a guidebook for elementary art educators in the 1960s (Barford, 1960). His book about using clay in the elementary classroom was meant for all levels of teachers, from novices to veterans, who used clay as a medium. As cited in Barford’s preface, Dorothy Perkins, from Rhode Island’s School of Design, introduces the literature as an informative book on the materials, equipment, procedures and methods for incorporating clay into the art room. Perkins, in her introductory note, argues “clay is one of the finest materials for education in art expression” (1963, pg 4). Perkins asserts that clay is easily molded, but also has the ability to maintain its shape through drying and firing processes. Clay, Perkins (1963) argues, needs no tools and direct manipulation encourages exploration through touch.

Barford explores the multiple ways a teacher can guide students through an elementary ceramics curriculum. The contents of chapters include traditional techniques of creating ceramic artwork, which includes hand-forming (pinching, coiling, slabs, pressing) throwing on the wheel, plaster molds, and functional and sculptural art. Barford discusses the techniques utilized by artists and teachers in the 1950s and early 60s.

Barford explores the various hand building techniques: pinching is defined as a method of shaping clay, as used as an introduction to ceramics in the K-12 because of its simplicity. Barford states this method is the most direct experience a child can have with clay, giving them immediate satisfaction, making it suitable for all elementary school grades? (1963). Pounding is a technique where a form is created from clay paddled over a surface. Barford references Mexican and Native American pottery, believing that these two cultures use this method the most frequently (1963). Coil building, as Barford describes it is an “enjoyable manipulative experience for children”, assuming that children find this method of ceramic hand building enjoyable because they have an ability to control how large the coil is, how it will be used and how it can create a three-dimensional form (1963, pg 26). Barford focuses on instructional methodology but does not offer guidance for what to create nor does he offer inspirational ideas to promote children’s individual growth and creativity.

Student Centered Learning

By the 1980s, Cathy Wiseman Topal, an art educator, incorporated some of these ideas into ceramics instruction in the elementary school classroom. Topal supports student centered learning, paired with proper guidance from parents and educators (1983, pg. 7). Topal discusses the styles, methods, art principles and techniques that support a child’s learning and how they can use clay to express themselves and their creativity. Although the book is to be used as a guidebook, much like those of the sixties and seventies, Topal’s language and references sustain a different dialogue for learning (Topal, 1983).

Topal focuses on ways in which to incorporate clay into an elementary art curriculum. Topal corrects the common misconception that “many teachers associate clay with a big mess” (1983, pg. 8). She lists ways in which to create a working environment that supports creativity and learning but also allows the teacher to guide children away from creating potential hazards and trouble. From preparing clay to wedging and storing, Topal provides information about how to create a clay-friendly classroom (1983,). Topal incorporates ideas and themes such as explorations, leading critiques and displaying finished pieces. Exploration, as Topal defines as simple manipulation made by hands and fingers rather than tools. Topal argues that:

Hands are the only tools essential for clay exploration. Hands can change the form and texture of the clay in a matter of seconds. They can poke, pinch, pound, roll, squash, squeeze, stretch clay and much more. Working with clay fosters a special kind of communication among hands, clay and imagination (1983).

This idea of using hands to create is a central part of Topal’s work. Topal argues that using hands as tools allows children of all ages and skill level to work within their limitations. Topal encourages teacher-student dialogue, no matter the age group in the elementary school. This, she argues, creates a more meaningful process, as well as a way to highlight different ways in which children explore clay (1983, pg 14-15). Topal would agree with Viktor Lowenfeld, who wrote about the important of creative growth and ceramic education, adding that process is more important in ceramic education, whereas the finished product is secondary (Lowenfeld, 1987

Ellen Kong, a contemporary art educator, offers practical straightforward guidelines for educators and artists to teach elementary children the basics of ceramic education as well as supplying educators with valuable information such as lesson ideas in the art room. Not only does she provide background information on ceramics education such as technical health and safety tips, but also a glossary of terms so students and teachers can learn the language of ceramics (Kong, 1999).

Compared to the early literature on ceramics education from the sixties, Kong focuses on student centered learning. She introduces the reader to art education as a process; a linear, sequential process in which, she argues, teachers should introduce techniques one at a time to build to a bigger project or lesson. This technique differs from Frederick Carlton Ball and Janice Lovoos, also contemporary art educators, who believe in using clay to help children explore different possibilities in their work rather than forcing children to follow strict guidelines. Kong on the other hand, seems to be more technical with ceramic education and would agree with Barford. Kong asserts that children should learn the basic construction skills of working with clay before they are introduced to abstract concepts. Kong also emphasizes the importance of the elements and principles of art over creativity and discovery (Kong, 1999). In contrast, Ball and Lovoos focus on experimentation and exploring through clay.

Patty Storms, ceramic artist and educator at Lakeside Pottery School in Stamford, Connecticut, agrees with Ball & Lovoos’ emphasis on the importance of experimentation and exploration in ceramic education. Storms would argue that once you demonstrate to children how to do a certain technique they can grasp it and are confident to do it themselves. She believes in experimentation rather than teacher-guided lessons that can be limiting to children’s creative freedom (Storms, 2010).

Storms argues that the ceramic arts are not only important to education, but to the development of certain skills such as sensory development and motor skills, as well as other skills. Storms says, “There is no better moment for me than witnessing a child’s joy as they sit at the potter’s wheel for the first time and place their wet hands on slowly spinning clay” (2010). For the last six years she has had first hand experience, watching children flourish in front of her. According to Storms, clay is “invaluable” to children’s development, physically, mentally and emotionally (2010). Storms argues the most important factor of ceramic education is the stress on process and discovery rather than product. She stresses that ceramic education is the joy of making and creating rather than mastering the wheel or other techniques (2010).

Creative Growth

Lowenfeld started his research in 1947, and since his death in 1960 his findings in
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