Magical Story Vessels

By Russo, Diana | School Arts, December 1999 | Go to article overview

Magical Story Vessels


Russo, Diana, School Arts


The inspiration for this fifth grade lesson came from watching my daughter in a high school advanced studio class. Her detailed slab vessels were covered with fantasy creatures and objects, and each told a magical story.

I wanted to do a clay slab lesson with my fifth grade art classes. I decided that magical story vessels would be a wonderful way to stimulate imagination and use problem solving skills, while introducing texture and design with clay.

As the fifth graders came to art class, I had two of my daughter's pots displayed on the work tables. After the students had an opportunity to examine each of the pots, I told the stories pertaining to each. I then explained that they would be making a "Magical Story Vessel." We discussed what each of these words meant: magic, story, and vessel, and how each of these three words could be incorporated to create a slab pot.

Clay Techniques

I introduced the technique of making slabs. I used a slab roller, (although a rolling pin and two flat sticks of equal thickness could be used as well.) I demonstrated how to create textures using various clay tools, and how clay could be pushed and pulled to create animals, people, and objects.

Starting with Stories

The students were very eager to create their vessels. They first designed their vessels on a piece of 8 x 10" (20 x 25 cm) paper with pencil, adding detail, texture and color. On the back of the same paper they wrote a simple magical story of about five sentences that explained their vessel.

Although the stories were only a few sentences, they were exciting and creative, and the students were impatient to begin the actual clay work. After rolling out their slabs of various sizes, they cut them using a fetaline knife and a ruler. The dimensions were to be no larger than 8 x 10" (20 x 25 cm) and the bottoms of the vessels cut appropriate to the size of the pot. After scoring the cut edges and the bottom, they attached the pot using slip. The slab vessels could be left as is with straight sides, or gently pinched and pulled to create various forms. This beginning clay work was done during one forty-five-minute class.

Creating the Details

During the following sessions the students added the details and texture to the vessels. Animals, flowers, people, insects, and various magical creatures took form. …

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