The spring semester has ended in the Kansas City Art Institute Foundations program, so I wanted to use this blog post to present images and ideas from my previous workshop titled Collaborative Ceramics. This workshop focused on architecture and used clay and wood as its primary media because these materials are often used to construct buildings. Students learned to observe and understand the parallels between their subject and materials while discovering new approaches for abstract thinking.
We began the workshop by spending two days making drawings of the architecture in surrounding neighborhoods including the Country Club Plaza and Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. This provided the students with observed accounts of specific architectural features that influenced their subsequent works. For the final exhibition, students fabricated foam-core shelves that presented their sketchbooks of architectural drawings and thumbnails for each project. A nice touch to show the workshop’s process and progress.
As it is mentioned in the workshop title, collaboration played a significant role in the curriculum structure, and in this project, two students worked together on each piece. This project happened in two stages (clay and wood), so each student began by creating a ceramic form (minimum 2′ tall) that had to incorporate an interlocking wooden element made by their partner. This addition extended the height and responded to the initial features of the base. Formal movement, repetitive shapes, and spatial interactions were evaluated when determining how to unify the two collaborative parts. When discussing architectural characteristics, students were asked to consider the roles of building facades and visual transitions in their work. The history of ceramics influenced discussions about the relationships between the foot and lip, surface, tiles, and craftsmanship.
Students worked together on all stages of fabrication including the the woodshop (ripping wood) and documentation. Many students in the class were completely inexperienced with clay building, so my demonstrations focused on basic hand-building methods (coil and slab building). Each solution had to be adapted to figure out how leather-hard forms would be structural and strong enough to support the wooden elements. The incorporation of these two materials required that they consider new building methods for wood, so students incorporated woven, zip-tied, bundled, and tension-fit wooden connections.
Knowing that clay and wood have a drastic learning curve, the outcomes for this project were successful. Students learned to work within specific parameters, experiment and adapt with new materials quickly, and create works that challenged their notions of scale. The final works were diverse and each student brought their own interpretations of their surroundings.