Behind The Mask: Hand Building With Clay

Behind The Mask: Hand Building With Clay

I had the opportunity to teach “Hand Building With Clay” to students in grades K – 4 for the City of Santa Monica’s  CREST Enrichment program.

After learning the pinch pot, coil and slab techniques, students had the opportunity to use slabs (pancakes of gently flattened out clay) in a different way, by laying the slab of clay over a sort of armature of loosely balled up up newspaper, so that it would harden in a shallow bowl form, and create a mask.

As the forms dried, and the clay hardened, the newspaper was removed, and the clay became ready to paint, embellish and add to.

Some students chose to use the convex surface of their half spheres or hemispheres as a place to create symbolic forms and shapes such as stars and hearts, rather than a face or character.

Students played with using the paint pens by working on paper first.

The paint pens allowed them freedom from choosing and washing  brushes, adding water, and controlling “loose” acrylic paints. They could use the paint pens to create intricate patterns like a drawing tool.

Students learned to pounce or “stipple” with the paint pens, using their tips to apply paint to creases and crevices in the clay.

Students could then add feathers, beads, pipe cleaners and other embellishments to their masks, to further develop their characters, designs, forms and images.

Some chose to focus on color through painting, adding a carefully chosen addition to enhance their character.

This young artists has incised, or drawn into the clay to create they eyes, and added clay to build out the nose. The mouth uses both techniques.

Students used foam plates to mix new colors on, as well as for palettes.

Mixing all the colors together was a popular choice, and helped the students to understand some of the principles of color mixing.

Detail and focus ruled, even with the younger children.

This young artist has mixed the secondary colors of green and orange, from his palette of primary colors, red blue and yellow.

We used both grey and red air dry clay.

Here a young artist mixes green…after painting the outside of the pot blue, and the inside yellow.

These two kindergarteners had a wonderful time painting and creating together!

There is something about painting that seems to clear out irritability, and at least temporarily suspend human anxiety.

It is wonderful to see creative”flow” in action!

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Mask Magic 2

Mask Magic 2

At a building owned by the Community Corporation of Santa Monica (CCSM), I conducted a two-part mask making workshop! Families who rented units in the building attended, with children, spouses, and neighbors.

webcThe work created is breathtaking, and was shown last Friday November 4th at an exhibition entitled,
The Artists Among Us“.

Here is this chapter of their story.

webiDuring the first workshop, participants learned to pound out slabs of air-dry clay, create an “armature” with newspaper to give their masks depth, and form their clay slabs over the armature.

weblThe following week, participants used acrylic paints to add color, visual texture, design and pattern to their masks and other clay items, and also enjoyed painting on thick watercolor paper. As acrylic paints dry quickly, and are no longer water-soluble once dry, the artists were able to continue to add paint, details and layers.

web1Reveling in color and brush work, this young artist filled her surface with exploration.

webaI did not see this couple enter the room, and suddenly there they were, painting with complete concentration.

webbParticipant interaction makes the whole experience the more rich.

webdEach got their own palette of colors on a Styrofoam plate, with empty plates available for mixing and discovering colors.

webeGreen grass with delicate characters above.  She must love purple. Maybe she will add it later to her painting!

webfFocused artist and craftswoman.

webgAdding detail.  Every brush I brought seemed to have been used!

webhShe seems to know exactly what she wants to paint, as if the vision was already inside her head.

webnEnergetic color, imagery, brush strokes and composition create movement in this piece.

webvA lion happened on this plate!  Painting? Mask? Both?!

webzHe said it was his first time painting…he must be a natural. What talent!

Many thanks to the marvelous and devoted  Rene Melara, programmer extraordinaire, for the opportunity to work with these wonderful participants, and see their artwork blossom.

Bravo!

Mask Magic

Mask Magic

At a building owned by the Community Corporation of Santa Monica (CCSM), I conducted a two-part mask making workshop! Families who rented units in the building attended, with children, spouses, and neighbors.

The work created is breathtaking, and will be shown Friday November 4th at an exhibition entitled,
The Artists Among Us“.

Here is this chapter of their story.web1web2The mask is formed of clay….then painted…

web3then shown.

web2Women share as they create.

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web7A seasonal offering sculpted…webiand painted.

https://artissima.wordpress.com/2016/11/08/mask-magic-2/web6A Dia De los Muertos sugar scull is created…webkand comes to life with color and pattern.

webtClay characters drying.

webyColor helps to define the mask personalities.

webwPainted plates are another way to create masks and characters. The round shape suggests a lion, and the paint defines it!

webuColor, texture, shapes, and the artists’ choices bring the forms to life.

webs“Once in a blue moon…” (!)

webrEmotions are elicited through facial expression, color choices, and the way the paint is applied to the textured, sculpted clay surfaces.


webqWhat a line-up!

weblStrong sense of design and pattern.

webmwebgwebcFocused artists

webfMeticulous painting creates detail.

web4Bringing out the eyes…

webo   Proud participating artist with her creations.

webj

webpThe fruits of love’s labor.

Faces of Earth: Children Work With Clay

Faces of Earth: Children Work With Clay

web4In an after-school enrichment class, children aged 6-11 were making projects inspired by the work of great artists. Through these projects, students learned about the artist and their style/s, art movements, how to work with various materials, and hopefully, how to use the work of a known artist as a jump-off point for their own.

web6In a Spanish language immersion school, we learned about Spanish-speaking artists, including Pablo Picasso  who was influenced by African art, and helped to create and launch the experimental movement of Cubism.

web2Students were taught to “pound out” or flatten their clay “chunks” into slabs, after forming them into loose balls.

web9They then developed their slabs into faces by shaping and texturing them, cutting pieces out, and adding to them using a “scoring” technique, so that the pieces added wouldn’t fall off when the clay began to dry. Well, a modified scoring technique, which included adding texture to the two pieces that were to be attached, and pressing them together to increase their bond.  This proved challenging for the children, as it was hard for them to understand why this was necessary.

web5Another challenge was how thin many of the pieces turned out to be. They are drying now, and I am extremely careful in moving them around, and turning them over, so all surfaces can dry. The students produced  highly fanciful, expressive and emotive works, qualities only intensified by the delicacy of some of them.

web7This young artist made the little figure on the face as a separate piece at first, but it was so thin and fragile I knew it would not survive. Luckily, she was happy to add it to her piece and play with surrealism and scale!

web3Día de Muertos, the Mexican holiday of “Day of the Dead” influenced the students’ work, as in this 6 year old’s tiny skeleton gracing the back of her mask. Again, this tiny figure was to fragile to stand on its own, so now it has become a part of Mia’s signature! 

web1     Skeletons, whether smoking a cigar or not, inspired the students, as did….

web8pumpkins!  This is one ferocious pumpkin face, and at least twice the size of most of the other pieces. The young artist got caught up in his work towards the end of the hour, and insisted on finishing all of the teeth, and details of they eyes. Now…what will he add to this piece this week, to finish it off?

What will each of the students do with paint, to complete their works?  Let’s hope all of the pieces dry, so we can find out!


Maria and Julian Martinez: Like Black on Black

Maria and Julian Martinez: Like Black on Black

Maria Montoya Martinez: 1887- July 20, 1980, San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico

Julian Martinez, 1879- 1943, San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico

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Maria Montoya Martinez and Julian Martinez were two of the most highly acclaimed potters in the Southwest. They became known throughout the world for their highly polished, black on black and multicolored functional ceramics, also called pottery: works made of clay.  Of all their achievements together, Maria and Julian are best known for their invention of  “black-on-black” pottery.

WEB5At one time, Maria signed her work as “Marie”.

Maria and Julian were from a community called the San Ildefonso Pueblo, 20 miles away from Santa Fe, in the valley of the Rio Grande, in the Black Mesa country of New Mexico. They married in 1904, when Maria was age 17 and Julian age 25.

WEB2Maria and Julian and their Blackware and Polychrome pottery

New Mexico is also where the Artist Georgia O’Keeffe worked during the second half of her life. O’Keeffe was inspired by the landscape and nature of New Mexico.

Maria learned how to make pottery at an early age from her aunt. She only went as far as the third grade in school, and did not speak much English.

WEB3Maria Montoya Martinez at work

Traditional pottery making techniques were being lost, but Martinez and her family experimented with different techniques and helped preserve it.

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In 1908 black-on-black pottery that had been crafted by the Pueblo people from the 1600s was found. Maria Martinez, known as a skilled pueblo potter, was asked to re-create this ancient pottery style. She experimented, finding that she could create pieces with a deep glossy black background and dull black decoration: black-on-black pottery, or “Blackware”.

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Embarrassed that she could not create high quality black pots in the style of the ancient Pueblo Peoples, Maria  hid her pots away from the world. She worked tirelessly to perfect the art of Blackware pottery. Her skill grew with each pot, and her art began to be recognized by collectors and developed into a business, focused on the then-unique Blackware style.

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Maria made her own clay. She gathered and combined red clay, and blue sand, and mixed it by hand. She only gathered what she needed. She built her pottery completely by hand, forming the base of the vessel and building up the size with “rope” coils.

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Julian Martinez, Maria’s husband, began decorating the pots she made. Men often painted pottery for the women of the Pueblo. Their work together is famous and improved the life of their entire Pueblo. Julian did master the decoration process by trying and experimenting. He painted the designs with a clay paint called “slip” on the surface of the clay piece. Julian worked as a farmer, general laborer, and janitor, in addition to being an artist. He was elected governor of San Ildefonso

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In 1918, Julian finished the first decorated Blackware (sometimes described as “black on black”). pot with a dull background and a polished, shinier Avanyu design. Avanyu, a horned or plumed water serpent is the “guardian of water”. Its curves suggest flowing water or the zig-zag of lightning. The snake’s body movements seem alive, showing the appreciation the Pueblo peoples have for nature and life.

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“The first rush of water coming down an arroyo after a thunderstorm, a symbol of thanksgiving and for water and rain” was the interpretation by Julian of an Avanyu.

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Avanyu may be related to the feathered serpent Quetzalcoatl and is used as a decoration on Native American pottery of the Southwestern United States. The designs on each pot give the pot a personality and unique individualized look.

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Many of Julian’s decorations were patterns adopted from old, old pottery of the Pueblos. Some of the stylized designs showed birds, road runner tracks, rain, feathers, clouds, mountains, and zigzags.

Julian had the skill to execute his vision with a precise, even hand that set a new standard for his generation of Pueblo painters.

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