Media, materials and processes: ceramics

Ceramic materials offer good opportunities to engage with spatial and tactile ways of thinking and working. Because working directly in three dimensions does not require an abstraction into two dimensions, it can be experienced as more immediate than drawing or painting.

Learning Intentions

  • We are learning about the different qualities of clay.
  • We are learning how to create forms in clay.
  • We are learning that moulds can be used to create forms.
  • We are learning that we can enhance the clay surface by decorating it.
  • We are learning how clay is changed by the firing process.
  • We are learning how to apply colour to ceramic ware to produce different effects.

To help set this work in context, you may wish to refer to the other Key Elements for Key Stage 3 Art and Design on this microsite:

Learning Activities

Allow the pupils to work with clay in its various stages:

  • modelling, pinching and coiling soft and malleable clay;
  • engraving, incising, carving and slab-building leather-hard clay; and
  • constructing or decorating with a clay slip.

Have the pupils use hand building techniques to create forms that are modelled, pinched, coiled and slab-built.

Encourage them to combine two or more techniques to create 3D forms, for example a cylindrical pot made from a slab rolled into a cylinder with a modelled handle.

Familiarise the pupils with different moulding techniques. For example, they could:

  • use a press mould to make a simple form, such as a dish; or
  • cast a slip in a pour-in mould.

Discuss and have the pupils create decorative effects in clay work, for example:

  • impressing objects into clay;
  • working with plaster to create sprigs (pre-formed shapes added as decoration) and stamps (engraved surfaces used to impress patterns);
  • texturing slabs of clay with an engraved plaster roller, a plaster slab or a stamp;
  • applying one layer of clay to another to create an image/decoration in relief;
  • extruding clay to apply as a decoration;
  • engraving and incising clay;
  • carving into leather-hard clay; and/or
  • using slip trail (bulb and nozzle used to squeeze an even line of liquid clay decoration), paint, stencil or sgraffito (scratched decoration drawn into clay surface).

Highlight that when clay is fired it becomes biscuit ware, and this is an irreversible process.

Focus on the firing process, for example how the kiln is packed, the required temperature, the timing, the cooling process, and related safety issues.

Give the pupils opportunities to:

  • apply pastels, paint etc. and a coat of varnish (non-firing techniques);
  • use underglaze colours and apply glazes and oxides in different ways, for example dabbling, dripping, pouring and sponging;
  • use wax-resist methods; and/or
  • apply colour in various consistencies to produce different effects.