Okay, Last One

IMG_8033First Graders

Okay, now I won’t make you look at any more kid art for awhile.



2 Days to Go!

Auction is in 2 days and I am (almost) officially done.  I need to deliver the pieces now, but they are all in my living room, so I should be able to find them.

I keep doing double-takes, wondering if I forgot something.  I don’t think I did.

Here are the last few that I had not shown yet: another Klee Cats variation (3rd), a collage piece commemorating the 50 year anniversary of MLK’s March on Washington, and a Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (1st) out of tissue paper.  Oh yes, and the ACTUAL ART POLE (6th) from previous pictures!



Yes, I snuck my work in here….. they needed another fall tile and the numbers were off. That is my excuse and I am sticking to it!





Student Art Interpretations

As I said in a previous post, it is sort of fascinating to send your concepts out there in the world and see what people make of them.  Human conceptual variation is huge.  My idea of a bunch of kids in a building looking out a window is totally different than anyone else’s idea.  I love that.  It’s obvious of course, but those are the things that are exciting to me.  And I think it is so obvious that we need to keep it in mind all the time—- I have no idea of what you imagine a piece of art to be, even if I think that we both know the literal definitions of the words “building”, “kids” and “windows”.  Wrap culture into the mix and even with the same words, we are talking a different visual language.

Same project, totally different interpretations.  I love this.

City Kids in the Window, Kennedy’s Class:


City Kids in the Window, Molina’s Class:



More Student Art… Auction Crunch Week

Wheww!  It is almost done!  The school auction is the 22nd, so things are wrapping up quickly now.

I worked what felt like a 20 hour work week…. it was exhausting!  I am sort of joking; sort of not.  I am out of practice teaching and the 4-ish hours daily that I have been in the classroom have been crazy tiring to me.  I can’t believe that I used to do this 8 hours a day.  How did I do that?  Now I come home needing a beer and to put my feet up, totally helpless to come up with a dinner plan or take care of kids.  Kids?  What kids?

On the other hand, auction art items are really rolling in.  The plans that I so tentatively launched in September are coming to fruition.  It feels pretty damn good.  For many of the pieces that I have shared thus far, I was the lead artist, but now the projects that I created but passed off to others are coming in.  It’s really cool to see how people interpreted my ideas.  Most of them are much better!  I had a fantastic team of volunteers who really made each project their own.  Wow, I am grateful!

Here is what my friend Pam did with the other 5th grade class owls project:


And what a couple neighbors did with the 4th grade “What We Believe In” project:


That is self-portraits mounted over an actual photograph of the playground.  How clever is that?  And she ran out of acrylic varnish and went to buy some (totally expensive stuff) but hers is way better than mine!  Her colors pop a lot more.  I’m sort of jealous of her acrylic!

Here is Zephyr’s class (2nd Grade) “Kids looking out the window”.  I don’t love the school house look, (I envisioned a Sesame Street style brownstone apartment building with kids looking out windows towards each other), but it is sort of cool as it was laser cut out of wood.  You can’t tell in the picture, but it is pretty awesome.  And the volunteer who did this was very responsible and put a ton of time into it.  And her execution and craftsmanship are impeccable.IMG_7934

Here was a pleasant surprise!  1st Graders doing Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.  It is tissue paper on plywood.  Pretty awesome, right?  Something about 1st grade really captures the look of Van Gogh.  I did have to talk the woman doing the program down from re-naming the pieces something more clever.  She called it “Some Flowers”.  Get it?  Get it?  Nope.  I didn’t either.  Some flowers?  Sun Flowers?  Yeah, I don’t think it works.photo

Here is the ceramic quilt blocks all mounted in their lovely wooden frame.  Go kinder!  Because each piece was so small, the kids didn’t really remember doing the project.  It was sort of meaningless to them at the time, but the total result is pretty great.  You don’t realize it, but you just made beautiful art!


Most rewarding has been the 6th grade Art Pole project.  I don’t have photos of the project yet, because we are still building it, but it should look something like one of these:



I was in classrooms the last few weeks desperately trying to put this project together in the 11th hour.  After snow day chaos, a late firing and trying to deliver tiles to kids to glaze that were still 200 degrees (“Just don’t TOUCH anything yet!”) everything came together.  I dropped all the fired tiles off at the builder on Friday.  I’ll get a photo up as soon as I can.  Here are some of the kids glazing away with their lovely teacher, Ms Caldwell.IMG_7948

And Ms Ponz’s class:IMG_7938

IMG_79426th grade was super interesting as it is where Francis will be next year.  I’m hopeful.  Those kids were pretty nice to each other and loved doing the project.  It is rewarding working with kids AND making something beautiful.  More photos soon!

Paul Klee Style Cats


CAT AND BIRD by Paul Klee
Date: 1928; Medium: Oil and ink on gessoed canvas, mounted on wood

I want to give credit to a little blog that I follow, A Faithful Attempt.  She is an elementary art teacher with a passion for clever ideas and a clear writing style.  This was her idea put into practice by 3rd graders at Beach School.  I assembled the various cats on their black paper and then brushed the whole thing with clear acrylic and finished it with copper foil tape.  Lord, I love that copper foil tape.  Endlessly useful!

The kids really did a nice job.  As you can see from the teacher’s sample in the middle, she knows her way around a pastel box!


Here are some close-ups-



This cat is thinking about freckles. That is what the kid said.


Thinking of fish. I like the arrow.


This cat isn’t thinking of anything, but has the most pleasant face of the bunch! This kid is an African immigrant who I know, and is about the sweetest guy. He was totally proud of his stripes.


This cat is thinking about scratching things, (or as I like to think about it, “ruining things”), which would gets the “most realistic” prize.


And this cat is thinking about sleeping. This is the “Ingrid Cat”.



Owl Wall Hanging (5th grade art project)

I just finished the owl wall hanging for the 5th grade.  They sewed the individual owls; I just attached them to the fabric.  And made the tree.  And cursed as I poked myself with pins from the unattached owls while attaching other owls.  It took days of cursing before I went and got the iron-on tape and tacked them in place with that while I sewed.  This may be a metaphor for my life.
owl wall hangingThis was a fun project to do with the class.  They were so excited about talking about their sewing experiences and eager to make their owls the best they could be…. even though they knew they weren’t keeping any of them.  These kids were downright inspiring really.

Most helpful with this project was that the classroom volunteer did much of the footwork and set up.  It is pretty great when someone is willing to run to the fabric store for you.  My friend Pam took this on and was really nice to work with.  I like doing cooperative art.  I think I like sitting around talking design with people.

I really hope and pray that someone bids on this at the auction, but I also know that I can’t get discouraged if no one does.  This particular class has a lot of students whose parents don’t even come to the auction.  They are sort of priced out of that type of activity, which is a shame for many reasons…. too many for commentary here.

It’s weird working on these auction projects.  I want them to go for a lot because I am putting so much time and care into them.  At the same time, I realize that I need to let go of the outcome.  This may be a metaphor for my life too.


Brazen Artsiness

I volunteered again.  I keep telling myself to let someone else do it, but I have these moments where I wonder if there IS anyone else out there, and then I volunteer myself.  It is a dumb problem.  It probably means I should get a job.

Right now I am in the throes of completing 18 class projects for grades K through 6th that will be auctioned off in February.  It has been a source of stress and joy.  I have found that I love coming up with project ideas, but maybe don’t like coordinating volunteers so much.  Or rather, I sort of like coordinating volunteers, but I want all the volunteers to be JUST LIKE ME.  I just want them to run with their jobs and make all their own decisions, but really many volunteers need a little more guidance than that.  Although I do know how to do some things, a lot of things I just make up as I go.  Suddenly people expect me to actually know how to do the things that I am handing off to them as volunteers.  I don’t want to alarm anyone, but I sometimes feel like saying, “Don’t you realize that I just made this thing up?  Why don’t you just take a piece of paper home, try it out and see what happens?”.  But it is clear to me that being an artist requires a lot of bravery.  Sometimes you just launch in and see what happens.  I don’t always have that bravery, but I have a huge dose of stupidity and brazenness that carries me pretty far.

Here is the first completed project.  These are garden art poles created by a 3rd grade class.  I got a ton of help from a very competent artist in town which made the whole thing fun.  I’m pretty happy with them.

garden art poles

And here is the ENTIRE kindergarten (4 classes) project all in one.  It isn’t completed yet.  The pieces need to be mounted on a beautiful piece of wood.  I am also pleased with how this came out, but eager to wrap it up in its entirety.  Ceramic quilt, anyone?


Hopefully my efforts will net a big chunk of cash for Beach School, unlike the stupid chicken coop that I helped the 4th grade build 2 years ago!

How We All Love Pinch Pots

If you are one of my ceramics teachers just arriving here, pop on over (or down) to the last post.  That is where I want you to start.

Pinch pots are pretty awesome, right?  They really are, and they are quite useful, especially when you make them into things more interesting than just an actual pot.  Kids like to make them and could make a million of them.  It is an important skill, but maybe one to consider NOT firing.  As I said before, we don’t want to keep every little thing, and sometimes the charm of making the pinch pot is greater than the desire to actually HAVE a pinch pot forever.  After all, we don’t need that many little pots to hold our safety pins in.

But kids are going to want to make at least one little pot that remains but a pot.  A couple tips: teach kids to roll a SMALL ball.  Those pots grow bigger than you expect!  Then, have them jam their thumb into the pot.  Keeping the thumb in, have them hold the ball in one hand and pinch with the other.  Kids seem to do better with keeping the thumb in.  I think it has something to do with the control of the pincher grasp.  And, have them keep the pot in their hand to avoid the deadly flat bottom.  This one has a flat bottom, and I suppose it isn’t that deadly.  If the pot is going to become something else though, (like a bird or figure), then you don’t want the bottom to look all flat.

This is more interesting with the star stamped on it.  A kindergartner did this work.

Once you pinch it, you can make all sorts of fun shapes.  An parent in class did this one.

If you are teaching a K-1 Ceramics class, definitely do a little bird project.  These are easy and charming, and you can accessorize the bird with a nest, making nest texture with tools or even a garlic press.  The bird is a tiny pinch pot with added wings and beak and pressed in eyes.  I think these are pretty dang precious.

Never forget:  SCRATCH AND ATTACH!  Some classes might like monsters even better.  My 1st grade son did this one last week:

I think it will look super great glazed.  I tried to encourage him not to just draw the mouth in, but he was determined.  It just is not as strong a look, nor are the designs deep enough to catch the glaze and really show up well.  He did a good job keeping the antennae nice and thick so that they aren’t as likely to break off.  Now imagine how fun this would be with big fangs attached?  Huge lips?

Here is how it looks from the bottom:

While we are talking about the bottom, this is a good time to mention how we will identify student work.  Believe it or not, they totally forget their own stuff.  I have run all over the school holding cute little pieces asking, “Is this yours?  Yours?!”.  You MUST remember to put their names on their work.  They won’t remember, you won’t remember, and Pam certainly won’t be able to help you get stuff back to students if there is no name on it.  As a team, we should make some sort of code to identify our classes.  I think that parents like to see the year the piece was made, but if you forget that, it isn’t a catastrophe.  You do get extra points for remembering the year.

More advanced classes can launch into animals built upon a basic form of pinch pots.  I did this turtle project with PK, which was something of a disaster.  They were too young, and even though the end product was good, I needed far too much parent help.  I think this would work well half way through the session or with a class that seemed to have mastered some basic skills.

The kids made a large and oblong pinch pot, then turned it over and attached three large coils to the underside.  The coils became the head & tail and the four flippers.

It is always super charming to see what the littlest kids come up with.  This is an anemone made by my 4 year old daughter.  Yup, it is just a pinch pot, turned upside down and with tentacles attached.  I can’t wait until she glazes this one.  She has all sorts of little mermaid dolls waiting to play on this.

As I am sure you can see, the possibilities are endless for animals starting with pinch pots.  You can go simple or complex.  From the simplest ghost and monster, to the more complex peacock sleeping, you can probably tell that you can spend a good three or four class sessions just on pinch pot animals, and you should!

The iguana and the dog in this photo are actually “spud” projects, but those are just two pinch pots joined together to make a hollowed out cylindrical form.  This is not really recommended for kids until they are closer to the 3rd grade range.  It just requires too much dexterity.  I can show you in class how to do this if you are interested, or you can check out this really great YouTube video on making ceramic birds.Oh yeah— one thing that might come up is that a kid will wonder :WHY must I make this animal out of a pinch pot rather than just lump a bunch of clay together in a solid form?  The reason why we make these sculptures out of a pinch pot is that it allows all parts of the sculpture to dry evenly.  We need the air to reach every bit of that animal so that when the piece goes through the kiln, no moisture is remaining that is trapped.  Trapped moisture finds a way out—by cracking or blowing up your sculpture, so we don’t want any stuck in there.  We put a hole in the bottoms of the spud-style sculptures to allow air to escape.

Please ask any questions that come up in the comments section!

Ceramics Photos (Skill building Activities and Slabs)

Hey everybody– I interrupt the usual purpose of this blog (to brag, to complain, to pontificate obtusely), in order to post some photos for some really good folks who are willingly giving their time to share the joy of CERAMICS with kids.  Now isn’t that super awesome?  These are really lovely people whom I am quite grateful to.  I’m going to put some pictures up here to help them come up with clay projects for their classes.  Cheerio!


You will get a paper hand-out at your class with me on Tuesday night.  This will be the bulk of info necessary to negotiate the treacherous waters of Elementary Ceramics classes.  I got sort of stuck on hand illustrating the techniques, so here are some photos of what I am talking about.  Forgive the truly wretched organization.  Along with drawing little hands holding chunks of clay, I don’t have much of the afore-mentioned particular skill either.

The hand-out starts off by listing some skill-building activities.  Skill-building is invaluable, especially for the first class where kids might just want to play around with clay, and for the last class when you don’t want to make any new projects.  It’s always good to have some tricks up your sleeve to pull out when you need an activity, so come up with some variations of your own!  Some “props” I like to have in my bag: matchbox cars, little wooden people, little plastic animals, animal flashcards, plastic snakes.  All of us have too many of these things kicking around our houses, and they are good for story-telling.  Lord knows they aren’t good for much else.

Here is how I would use these props-

“This little guy in the red car really wants to go on vacation somewhere.  He is interested in mountains and trees, but sort of afraid of water.”

“This snake is looking for a warm place to spend the winter.”

“I am going to draw a animal card and you need to make a home for it in 10 minutes.”

Make sure to tell kids ahead of time that you are just playing around today and will not be keeping anything.  Developmentally, it is hard for the little kids to destroy their work, so they need adequate preparation.  You can even come up with games for smashing things, which is quite satisfying!

Here are some photos of these particular activities:


Essentially, a slab is just anything that starts off flat.  You can roll a slab with a rolling pin, or you can “throw” a slab, which is just tossing your clay against the table until it is flat.  Kids get carried away with the rolling and the throwing of the clay, so make sure that their work does not get too thin.  Too thin stuff is just a potential disappointment as it is likely to break or crack in the kiln.  Okay, truthfully, I am likely to break it in my efforts to get it into the kiln, and the kids are likely to break it when they carry it home after firing.  Unless you like crying kids, don’t let things get too thin!

Some cute little faces. These could be done larger as “masks”, but their intent here is to hang on the wall, so they are smallish and with a hanging hole on top.

A slab project can be focused on adding details on top of the slab (“additive”) or stamping, pressing, or carving into the slab.  As I noted in the paper hand-out, try to get kids to add images to the slab rather than just scratching words into the slab with a pin tool.  Scratched stuff tends to be rushed and not all that interesting in the long run.  We want the kids to plan out their work and execute designs with thought.  (And just between you and me, I don’t want to fire a bunch of ugly stuff.  Not that we will share this with any precious darlings.  Or their parents…. everything they do is entirely brilliant, yes?!).  But we want their best work.

The fish are stamped with small blocks and tools.  One is only stamped and the other has an eye and lips added to the design.  (PK & K)

Here are some just-created funny faces are waiting to go into the kiln.  I leave them on the work cloths while drying which keeps the work from sticking to the table or work board while it dries.  Clay shrinks as it dries, so sticking can make work crack.

The “Zephyr” room sign was an activity I did with K-1 Ceramics last month.  He made enough lengths of coil to spell his name, then scored where his name would go and his coil.  He cut coils to length as he attached them.  Note the position of the holes— 1/2″ in.  Don’t forget to put holes in.  I have made that mistake pretty often.

This wall planter is also technically a slab project, although it does not turn out flat in the end.  We stuffed newspaper in between two slabs to make a pocket, then attached the sides and bottom.  It is sort of hard to tell, but it hangs on the wall and could have a small potted plant in it or a bouquet of flowers.

Here is a little sample of some of my work, which is mostly stamped, additive, and some carving.  I like those slabs a bunch!

Okay, slabs are great fun and we all love them.  Please throw questions or comments my way in the comment section.

Tune in next time for pinch pots!


Willamette Valley Folk Festival (1993!)

Things always happen serendipitously around here.  I was just telling running partners about my glory days in college performing in a “band” (well, it was kind of a band…).  My band mates were a sweet hippy drummer boy and a very talented and still-working artist Dawn Dineen.  We entered the Willamette Valley Folk Festival in 1992.  I think we got second prize in a song writing contest.  The following year, I was asked to sing back up for another woman who was sort of in Dawn’s social group.  She entered her song, and she (or we I guess) took first!  I really enjoyed working with her—she was very focused and our voices sounded really tight together.  It’s not often that I find people who I blend with as well as my own flesh and blood, but her voice is definitely of that ilk.  She contacted me this week, not even a whole week after I was relating this tale in the wee small hours of the morning (while huffing up a massive hill).  Joelle sent along this audio, which I will post for your listening pleasure here.  Prepare to take yourself back to the 90s—

Johnny Will You Wait is Joelle’s song (and she is playing guitar on it as well).  Mystic Suitcase is something that Dawn and I played around with but never performed.  This recording is Joelle and my interpretation of that song:

[audio:http://parmeter.net/ingrid/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Johnny-Will-You-Wait_-Analog.mp3|titles=Johnny Will You Wait] [audio:http://parmeter.net/ingrid/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Mystic-Suitcase.mp3|titles=Mystic Suitcase]