Tuesday, January 22, 2019


clay, glazes, oxides, ceramic pencil, & sawdust firing

I remember doing my first nude in my Ceramics I class when I was 16 years old.
Like my students,
my teacher,
Sally Foster Wilde,
gave us a choice between a male or female.
I choose a male and was completely in over my head.
She had us work in a  Reductive technique meaning we had to carve the figure from a block of clay.
That was my first time to do that as well.
The entire assignment was extremely difficult;
I remember my proportions were out of control,
and my craftsmanship was lacking.
And the only nudes I had seen were in art history books,
so those were my references.
But it was good for me to go thru this process.
I learned a lot about myself and my skill level,
as well as having to hang in there and push myself into something out of my comfort zone.
And even though it didn't look as good as some of the others in the class,
I was pretty proud of myself for having finished.

So as you view some of these works,
you may question why I put my students thru the same assignment.
You may also question if this is appropriate for a high school student.
(Most of my students who need nudes in their art portfolios for college 
have to go to outside art academies and pay for live models to work from).
Some of these might make you uncomfortable.
But I want to push these kids as I was pushed
 into a place they probably would never go on their own;
a risk that is too great.
It expands their minds and fine motor skills as well.
It's good for them and it's a part of life
as well as an art form to be studied and enjoyed.
And I save this assignment for my second level kids,
the ones who are going on in the arts and need this for their portfolios for college acceptance.
So are you  ready?
Here we go.

We start with junior Chloe Chang.
She picked the female form.
I asked the kids to work to at least 12 inches high,
most went over that.
I believe Chlo just made it to 12 " high but it ended up probably at least 20" wide.
There were several things I liked that Chloe did to her piece.
I love how she ended it with an organic lip,
and how she finished it off by applying Red Iron Oxide to her hand
 and stamping the form in various places.
You've got a nicely shaped behind as well Chlo.  :)
And do you see a bit of blue from the sawdust firing.
So cool.
That's very unusual.
My assistant and Alumni from 2012,
Alyssa Olea,
has been experimenting with different substances she is putting into these firings.
She is getting  interesting effects from salt, banana peels, cow dung, oxides, 
pine needles, newspaper and hay.

This next one was done by junior Eugene Ho. 
I believe that Eugene was able to get his to at least 18 inches high,
quite a feat.
He chose to do an older, slightly overweight male.
Love how he captured the sagging pectorals and the slight pouch of a belly.
And I felt the markings from the sawdust were gorgeous and striking.
Bravo Eugene. 

And then there was junior Julia Ruiz' piece.
A glorious male upper torso.
We all really loved how she glazed and decorated it. 
I'm pretty sure Julia was surprised at how well it turned out.
We were all so proud of her.

Next up was senior Sarah Oh.
Sara's piece was the smallest but looks larger here than it really was.
I'm guessing it was about 10" wide by 18" high.
All the other students started with much wider bases,
but Sarah started much smaller.
There is so much to love about Sara's female form.
The relaxed pose,
the ceramic pencil surface designs drawn onto either side,
the very realistic breast forms,
and how much of the body she built,
plus the asymmetrical ending at the top.
Just lovely Sara!
And check out the backside.
So fabulous, fluid and real.
You rocked this assignment Sarah.

We end with senior Ylia Madayag and her healthy looking male form.
It was quite an attention grabber at both Open House and Senior Awards Banquet nite,
as you might imagine,
but no one complained or protested.
I personally was holding my breath,
not sure what to expect of our parent community.
I was really proud of their openness, respect and acceptance of their children's work.
What I really liked about Ylia's piece was how it opened up at the top,
how she flared out the lip for such a pleasing ending.
I also thought the sawdust markings were quite lovely as well.
You are a brave young woman Ylia, 
and I'm so proud of you for giving this piece your all,
and not caving to all the teasing you got as you worked it out.


  1. Coil seems a much friendlier construction technique than carving, but wow ... 12 inch minimum? That's a lot of coils!! I do remember a ceramic class assignment that began with applying clay to a bottle to get the beginning form, then building it into something lifelike. Mine ended up as a duck, but a classmate created an amazingly realistic male torso complete with paunch, sleeveless t-shirt and beer bottle. Memorable 40 years later ...

    As usual, your students do not disappoint with their own memorable creations. You have said much here, so I will just add what first grabbed my eye on each ...

    Chloe's red hand within

    Alyssa's cow dung (not that I can see it, but I'm impressed that she tried it)

    Eugene's open shoulders

    Julia's glazing, highlighting her fine detail-work

    Sarah's careful rendering, even fired into hardened form, the clay is believable as soft folds of flesh

    And Ylia's brave reality ... I imagine the teasing may well have covered up envy (as in, "I wish I had the guts to do that") others felt seeing her render the male form so successfully

    1. Funny how over the years, I lessen certain requirements as I learn we don't have enough time in class or the year to do them, or that I'm just expecting way too much from the kids. I used to require an 18 inch minimum height, but that was so very difficult to achieve, so now we are down to 12". But most of these young ones still ended up with at least 18". I think they actually enjoyed working to such a large scale.

  2. P.S. As I sometimes do, I followed the assignment link to see past examples ... it's interesting to consider how your students jump off from other examples to make something uniquely their own

    1. Interesting that you should mention that. For every class, every assignment I teach, I make it a homework assignment to go onto the blog and pick a favorite piece from year's past and xerox it and turn in to prove they looked. Hopefully they are inspired and see what's possible within the time frame. Also for those struggling with ideas, it inspires thought. But they aren't allowed to copy. I also buy pieces at open house to teach with so they have past pieces hanging in room to touch and look at. I also buy pieces from artists I find in magazines, pinterest and other blogs like Jude, so they can see incredible examples and see that some artists are making a living with their work.