Clay Art Project Organization with a Cart & Totes
Here are some tips and tricks to help you with clay art project organization in the elementary art room.
I use my “clay cart” for almost everything! It holds clay, tools, and projects at various times during each clay project. You’ll see that I also use the yellow totes from NASCO (not an affiliate) for almost everything.
The totes are stackable, and although they are not airtight, they keep clay moist when combined with damp pieces of fabric. You could use any plastic box with a lid that is a similar size. I ordered 25, which was enough to accommodate most grade levels plus storing clay scrapes.
On the bottom shelf, you’ll find mats (which are cotton placemats), rolling pins, and wood slats. Students will use the slats to keep the rolling pin at an even height above the mat and, therefore, roll their clay slabs evenly.
I reuse the small empty glaze containers for slip. If the slip runs low, I just add bits of clay and water and shake it up after a few hours. I have a container of old brushes that students can use to apply the slip.
Keep Clay Hydrated
Here is a little tip for keeping clay hydrated. I score the block of leftover clay in the plastic bag with a clay knife; then, I spray it with water before folding it over the plastic bag. The water soaks in over time and keeps the clay nice and wet without getting too gooey.
Keeping Projects Smooth and Crack-Free
Another trick is to give students little dishes with damp sponges (pictured below on the right). I cut the sponges up and have just a tiny bit of extra water in the dish. I demonstrate how to squeeze the excess water out BEFORE using the sponge. Students can smooth out cracks when the clay gets too dry. Students can use a little water with the sponges before joining two clay pieces and smoothing out the clay after joining. It works as well as slip when both pieces of clay are still wet. (Slip is best for joining leather hard clay.)
Fun Clay Tools
The little orange things (pictured on the left) are finger-stamping tools. The students love them! They work for stamping in clay and as well as for printmaking (stamping with paint on paper).
Storing and Labeling Clay Projects
Navigating the storage of clay projects in an elementary art room, especially for multi-day projects involving a large number of students, can be tricky. With an average of 100 students per grade for most elementary art teachers, devising an efficient system is essential.
The process begins with getting student’s work labeled. I give each student a piece of masking tape and a Sharpie; they write their name and class code before sticking it to a square of cardboard. This dual-purpose cardboard not only serves as a nametag but also regulates project size to ensure a proper fit within the storage containers. This preliminary step is undertaken before the clay is introduced, eliminating the risk of students forgetting and taking advantage of their clean hands.
As students dive into their projects, I start prepping for cleanup and storing projects. Storage containers, strategically positioned, potentially one per table, are lined with a damp piece of cotton material at the base. At the conclusion of each class, students position their clay projects on the designated cardboard and place them inside the nearest storage container. Before sealing the lid, I sometimes add an additional damp cloth placed over the projects, preserving the clay’s moisture.
On the final day of the project, students carve their names into the clay. The completed works, still on the cardboard with the taped nametags, are assembled on an open table. At the end of the day, I can double-check that each clay project has a student’s name on it before throwing away the cardboard (which is probably falling apart by then).
This system not only instills a sense of responsibility in students for storing and labeling their work but also allows them the luxury of dedicating multiple days to their clay projects, enabling them to incorporate more details. For more insights and tips on working with clay, you can explore further in my blog post.
Glazing with Stroke & Coat
I started using Mayco Stroke & Coat instead of an underglaze because the colors don’t change when fired, and they are shinier than most underglazes, so it’s ONE and DONE! I also use some clear glaze for the white areas and to give it an extra strong finish. To help students see what the finished glaze color will look like, I made little pinch pot owls. I discovered that they were the perfect size to sit on top of the glaze bottles and
Did The Clay Get Dried Out? ????
Maybe you inherited some old boxes of clay or forgot about that box of clay on the bottom shelf.
Do you need to rehydrate clay? You can see some ideas here.
Those Yellow Bins! ????
More about the yellow bins. I got them from Nasco. They were a “splurge” but really made a difference in how I could manage the clay. They are sturdy enough to stack. If they got a little heavy, I turned every other one 90 degrees to make them sturdier. Here’s a link to the Yellow Plastic Tray Totes from Nasco.
Social & Emotional Learning in Art
Remind yourself and others of the social and emotional benefits of art. This is a great graphic to include in parent newsletters or display in your room.
You can read more about Social Emotional Learning in Art in this blog post.
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