How It All Began
Teaching my first Ceramics class was a sudden thing. Last January, on a whim, I bought a kiln. I taught a Drawing class, and then a Painting class at the high school homeschool co-op during the 2022-2023 school year. Teaching Ceramics seemed like a good idea for the 2023-2024 school year, after all, I loved Ceramics when I took it in high school in 1985 and 1986. I figured cones and glazes and all that stuff would come back to me easily, it would be just like riding a bike.
Preparing to Teach Ceramics Class
There were so many things to buy! I bought my own aprons, glaze, underglaze, shavers, canvas tablecloths, and dowel rods. My daughters helped me shop for rolling pins from thrift stores (some of these things are pictured above). I wanted to purchase the basics myself, in case I needed to use them in the future for a class at another venue. The parents were required to purchese 10 pounds of terra cotta and clay tools to get things started.
Signing Up for a Master Potter’s Clay Class
It wasn’t long before the euphoria of the kiln purchase subsided and I realized that I was in over my head with the Ceramics class. I didn’t know what glaze or underglaze to use, at which cone to fire, and I didn’t remember as much as I thought I would regarding handbuilding with clay. So, I did what all teachers do- I ordered a handbuilding book and signed up for an eight week clay class with Daniel McSweeney, a local master potter.
My co-op classes began after only two classes with my master potter. Was I really ready to teach Ceramics? Luckily, the Lord was with me. I relearned the basics regarding earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain, and the firing temperature and glazes needed for each type. I also became familiar again with the three building blocks of handbuilding- coils, slabs, and pinch pots. My teacher was very patient as I peppered him with questions each week.
The First Projects
We began with a pottery project that required a slab bottom with coiled sides. Slip and score was the first thing my students learned. The first pots fired were not perfectly formed, but everyone followed the instructions and nothing blew up in the kiln.
It took some time to figure out the drying time of the terra cotta clay and how to operate the kiln. It also took a bit of organiazation to manage projects to be fired, projects that are drying, and projects we want to keep wet until next time. After one month of classes, the students know where everything goes, and they shake out the tablecloths and put away the supplies before leaving.
The Second Firing
The second round of projects were better than the first. Pots were straighter, glaze was applied a lot thicker, and the students’ creativity began to shine through. Some projects cracked and had pieces that fell off, but mistakes are part of learning to work with clay, paint, or any other medium.
The Third Time was a Charm
The students did a wonderful job this time. There were a few cracks and smudges, but hopefully, the sculptures will only improve from now until the class ends in December. Every time I fire the kiln I can’t wait to open it and see everything. It’s like Christmas, only it happens once a week.
In the midst of teaching, I am reconnecting with clay myself. When I was in high school, hours in the clay studio seemed like minutes. I’m hoping to recapture that feeling of getting lost in the clay. My first project was a mug, and the second one (it hasn’t been fired yet) is a figure of a woman, praying for her husband. I guess it’s never too late to go back to something you once loved.
I hope you enjoyed Teaching My First Ceramics Class!
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