Keep it simple. It is so easy to say and so hard to do. The only path I've found to find simplicity is experience. As art teachers, we teach about the human experience and yes, we make it look simple. Our projects do not come out of a copy machine or workbook, they come from our hearts. They embrace paint, glue and clay and on our best days we make it look simple.
The art work of Maria Martinez appeals to me for this reason. Her experience has created the most perfect, simplified forms.
Mention the name Maria Martinez and most elementary art teachers will nod their head like you've mentioned an old friend. They might even go into their cabinet and pull out this well loved movie for you to borrow.
Click here to order a copy for your library.
This movie shows from start to finish how the clay is harvested, how pottery is formed, fired and decorated. It is a slower movie then most kids are used to watching, with long cuts and moments with little sound other then the hush hush of a sanding stone. It shows students how much experience and work it takes to make these simplified forms.
Maria is fortunate to represents a Native American tradition black pottery. She and her husband Julian Martinez invented a way to create matte and shiny jet black finishes on a single piece of pottery. I think this pottery raged in popularity with collectors because there is something very modern about the finish, geometric designs, and simplicity. It is interesting that such an ancient art form appeals to a "modern" aesthetic. Just goes to show there are no "new" ideas. Just opportunities to distill and simplify.
Here are some of our black coil pottery inspired by Maria Martinez's. I have done this project many ways but this is the simplest and by far my favorite!
The coil pots are painted with black acrylic (much easier than glaze when working with large groups), designed with white oil pastel and sealed with shiny Modge Podge.
If you have a simple way to teach coil pottery or another way to simplify the pottery experience, please post your ideas or links in the comment box. I will be starting pottery soon before my belly makes it impossible to reach in the kiln!