Summer at Usdan
Usdan Center for the Creative and Performing Arts
During the summer of 2015, I worked as a Teacher's Assistant in ceramics at Usdan Center for the Creative and Performing Arts. I worked alongside ceramic artist and teacher Laura Forrest. Working with Ms. Forrest helped me learn more about clay, what kinds of projects were developmentally appropriate for different age groups, and how to alter projects so they work more smoothly the next time they are taught. She also taught me the importance of being enthusiastic and excited about the lessons I am teaching, because if I cannot be excited about a lesson, I cannot expect my students to be excited about it. Throughout the eight-week program, I was able to assist in developing and facilitating ceramics lessons, practice my own skills, and give demonstrations in both hand-building and wheel-throwing techniques.
My day at Usdan consisted of two classes. We met with the oldest Senior students (aged 13-16) for two hours in the morning, and met with the youngest Junior students (aged 7-10) for two hours in the afternoon.
Most of the demonstrations I gave where on the wheel. Ms. Forrest stressed the importance of daily demonstrations during the throwing unit, since it is highly skill-based.
The throwing demonstration embedded on the left was given to the Senior class, a day or two into the unit. Ms. Forrest gave the original demonstration, and my subsequent daily demonstrations were focused on reviewing the techniques involved in making a basic pot.
With our Junior class, Ms. Forrest and I focused on building basic ceramics skills with fun, utilitarian projects. Focusing on good jointing, surface texture and design, the students created vases, pinch-pot birds, guardian masks, turtle boxes, bunny bowls, "wish houses", sgraffito tiles, and family totem poles, in addition to creating basic pots on the wheel.
With the Senior class, we focused on building the basic ceramics skills at a more accelerated pace and at a generally larger scale. The students created story pots, which focused on texture and design to reveal a common theme. They also created textured bowls, wind chimes, lanterns, and went more in-depth on the pottery wheel.