Fish Sticks!

lindacrawleyIn Linda's words:

The idea began when I saw some wonderful ceramic sculptures at the Dunedin Fine Arts Center. Their children's museum had a circus theme, so outside the facility they had these whimsical clay totem type of sculptures with clown faces, popcorn, etc. I knew my students could create their own garden sculptures with a different theme.

Forming the clay pieces took one week. After allowing the pieces to dry and be fired, the glazing process took about three months. It took this long because a small select group of fifth graders did all of the glazing before and after school (20 minutes or so each day).

(Our school does) an integrated arts lesson each winter. We team-teach two classes at a time. The music teacher presents songs and movement activities, and then we do a school-wide art project.

fish_stick13The theme for the Fish totems was "Under the Sea". All grades levels, Kindergarten through 5th grade participated. Our school has 840 students Kindergarten through 5th grade. All students, including our ASD (autism) students participated. Each child does a tiny bit of the project, and 840 students later it is done!

Some students created the slabs, some cut out the shapes, others scored and slipped pieces, some bonded and smoothed, others added textures. We made cylinders, spheres, circular discs and the fish. My younger students created the simple forms and the 4th - 5th students did the fish. I love working with the little ones: their enthusiasm and passion is incredible!

Younger students did the easy pieces. They patted slabs, cut edges, smoothed, attached into 3-D forms and pressed in textures. The older kids traced the fish from pre-made patterns, smoothed edges, added coils, slabs and textures. I had two matching fish going at one time (left and right sides). When they dried to a leather-hard state I slip attached the two sides together, using newspaper stuffing in between to create a cavity and using a PVC pipe to hold the central "hole" open". We made six pieces that were closed off at the top to rest on the top of the sculpture.

For the glazing, I was so excited to use my new Mayco Stroke and Coat. The colors are so bright and vibrant. We painted the cylinder with black only and left the white clay for the white. We did this to contrast the colors of all the other parts. The students picked out the color combinations for everything else. The actual sculpting of the pieces is really well done for elementary students, but I truly believe it is the Stroke and Coat that puts it over the edge. It packs a lot of punch!

fish_stick9Installing the sculpture was the fun part for me. I dug six holes about 8" x12", mixed cement, filled the hole with the cement and a long garden stake - making sure the stake was level and straight. I cut the stake to different heights for added interest. All this was done in late May in the Florida heat! Should have gotten that part done earlier in the school year!

My older students helped me to decide how to arrange the parts. It was as simple as stringing beads on a thread. Each clay piece slid down on the garden stake. It was topped off with the pieces that only had the hole in the bottom and were sealed off at the top. The parts are removable. A good thing - because we had a hurricane threat at the start of the school year and I was able to bring everything inside for safety. I have since numbered all the pieces to make it quicker to set it all back in place.

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