Musings about the importance and impact of art and art education in the 21st century.

Clay Slab Leaf Bowls with Crystal Magic Glaze

♠ Posted by ArtMuse in , at 11:58 AM
 This project took a total of 3 40 minute sessions.  To start the lesson I had students come in and choose a paper leaf template they liked to cut out.  The leaf templates fit onto a 8 1/2 x 11" piece of printer paper.

After cutting out their leaf I demonstrated how to roll out a 1/4" thick slab of clay using a rolling pin.  I didn't have students use sticks as a track so I really tried to emphasize that they roll as evenly as possible without having the clay be overly thick or thin in any area.  Students used their template as a guide for how large the slab should be.  Once everyone had a slab rolled I went over the directions for writing their initials in the clay with a wooden stylus and for how to wrap their clay in damp paper towel and seal in a plastic bag.  Just a helpful tip, for certain clay projects I put the whole classes work on plastic cafeteria trays and wrap it myself, but for other projects I'll have the students use ziploc freezer 'slider' bags.  I prefer the slider style because it ensures that the bag will be sealed, the regular 'press' ones (where the yellow and blue become green when you press it) can believe it or not be troublesome for certain students.

 On day two I handed out the slabs and then demonstrated how to 'cut' out the leaf shape by tracing the template with a stylus.  It's important when creating a slab anything in clay to cut a clean edge otherwise after the clay is bisque-fired the edges may come out sharp or jagged.  After the students cut out the shape of their leaf and smoothed the perimeter I had them gently press it into a bowl.  The clay doesn't have to be pressed all the way to the bottom of the plastic bowl it just has to be centered and pressed in slightly for the bowl shape to be created.  Some of my students wanted to press so hard that the clay began to crack or tear.  An option you also have is to drape the leaf over an upside down bowl, but since the bottoms of my plastic bowls were flat I was worried the leaf wouldn't produce as rounded a shape as if they were sunk into the bowl. Students had the option of adding veins to their leaf or leaving it blank.

 On the final day of the project, after the leaves thoroughly dried out and were bisque-fired, the students glazed them. I tried Sax True Flow Crystal Magic glazes.  They have these tiny chunks of different colors in them so when fired, are supposed to create a tie-dyed effect.  My personal opinion was that the glazes were O.K. and not great.  I love the idea of getting a speckled effect but here were a few problems I had with them:

1.  Most of the 'speckles' settle to the bottom of the glaze bottle so no matter how much you SHAKE or STIR the bottle by the time you finish it there was always A LOT of the particles leftover. 
2. Each color only contained 1 alternate color speckle inside it.  So for instance, the yellow which was called 'buttercup blue' had only blue speckles.  So in order to achieve a variety of different color blends you really had to overlap many different colors of glaze. 
3.I ordered the 12-color set so I received all of the colors seen above, but  they are not as nice as they appear...The original glaze colors (not the speckles) are quite a muted assortment of off-white, white, grey, soft blue, soft pink, soft purple.etc.  I would have liked these colors to pack more punch, I think the glazes would have been even nicer if they came in brights like orange, green, pink etc. 
4. When fired, you have to be very careful because  in order to really see the speckles you have to apply AT LEAST 3 coats of glaze and then when you glaze fire, even with the clay prongs under the slabs,  the little speckles tend to melt and drip onto the kiln shelf.  I didn't have any projects fuse to the shelf, but I had a few prongs I had to break and quite a few really jagged and sharp chips I had to file before I handed these back to the kids. At one point I had 3 band aids on my fingers from clay 'paper' cuts from some of those jagged edges.
5. Because of the thickness of the glaze application you may loose the carved initials on the back of the projects so I had to make sure that the students carved them on the back really large and really clearly.

The pro's of the glaze is that it does come out very shiny when fired, it is a low fire glaze so you can fire it at cone 06 on a fast fire and that even though the effects weren't necessarily what I was hoping for, the kids thought it was the coolest stuff ever :)

 * Some of the colors seen above are 'Buttercup Blue', Oriental Carmel', 'Tahiti Grape',  and 'Herb Garden.'


I think the glazes look really interesting, much more so that a single color glaze. The kids probably think they're magic. They are going treasure these for years.

Thanks so much!
All in all these did come out really well and my students loved it, which is the most important thing :)