Art 290V      Intermediate Ceramics:  Hand building and Wheel Throwing


Instructor:  Jennifer Owen                Office:  Ceramics Studio


Phone:  984-3202 (ext. 202) Ceramics studio  Email:


Web page:        


Office hours:  Mon. & Wed.:  12:30-1:30 in the Ceramics Studio       


A.  Course Description:

Art 290V develops vessel and sculptural concepts using hand-building and/or wheel throwing techniques.  The course introduces the elements of art through the making of ceramic form.  The class progresses beyond basic hand building and wheel throwing techniques to advanced skills:  various forming and embellishing techniques, work with colored slip, glaze work, and the firing of kilns.  Students work towards development of individual creative expression. 


B.  Course Credits and Contact Hours per Week:

            Three credits, and six lecture/lab contact hours.


C.  Prerequisites:

            Art 105, or consent.


D.  Learner Outcomes:

            Students completing this course will be able to:

1. Demonstrate a proficiency in hand building and/or wheel throwing techniques and an effort to develop a personal style.

2. Demonstrate knowledge of different clay bodies and the relationship of geology to the origin and characteristics of clay.           

3. Demonstrate knowledge of the varieties of materials and techniques of the glazing and firing processes, including the basic chemical compositions of glazes, oxidation and reduction firing, low temperature and high temperature firing, and proper kiln care and safety.

4. Demonstrate an understanding of color and surface as it relates to three-dimensional form in the use of glazes and oxides.                                               

5. Demonstrate an ability to fire a kiln, and an understanding of the chemical changes that transform clay and glaze at each stage of the firing process.

6. Demonstrate knowledge of historic and contemporary examples of hand built and wheel thrown ceramics.


E. Course Requirements:

1. Completion of 10-15 projects in clay, some being very specific assignments, and others being chosen by the student, following assignment guidelines.

2. Three quizzes, which will test the students' understanding of vocabulary, concepts and techniques of ceramics.

3. Active participation in loading of at least one bisque firing and one glaze firing.

4. Mixing of at least one glaze from a recipe, and the making of at least one colored slip.

5. Keeping a notebook that records every clay project, with glaze notes for each piece, as well as lecture notes and notes on glaze tests.


F. Evaluation and Grading:

Letter grades will be given based on 90-100% = A, 80-89% = B, 70-79%=C, 55-69%=D.


            The course requirements will be weighted as follows:

Projects and assignments in clay:           50%(graded for technical ability[based on each student’s progress], originality, form, surface, glaze, and expression)

¨            Note:  Project grades are based on each student’s progress during the class.  Projects are graded on craftsmanship, creativity, vitality, form, surface, glaze, expression, and effort.

Participation in class:                             15%

                        Three quizzes:                                      15%

                        Mixing glaze and slip:                            5%

                        Notebook                                            5%

                        Loading/firing kilns                               10%

Note:  This is a studio course and therefore more emphasis is given to projects than written exams.


G. Course Content:


Week 1&2:

Introduction to clay

Wedging and recycling clay

Advanced pinching techniques


Refresher on throwing on the potter’s wheel:  cylinders and vases

Surface treatment

Working in a series

Lecture:  science of clay:  plasticity, particle size, grog, cracking, drying, shrinking


Week 3&4:

Quiz on clay

Advanced coil techniques and working large with coils

Shape development and aesthetics of proportions

Throwing bowls and plates

Historical and contemporary slides and discussion of coiling and throwing and altering


Week 5&6:

Advanced slab techniques & working large

Planning:  drawing and pattern making


Throwing lids and spouts and assembling teapots

Mixing colored slip

Sgraffito, mishima, wax mishima, layered slip, trailed slip, wet on wet, graduated slip, stencils, dotting, and painting slip

Slides and discussion


Week 7&8:

Bisque firing, kiln loading and firing, and kiln care and safety (lecture and demonstration).  Lecture topics:  atmospheric water, chemical water, quartz inversion, red heat, vitrification, low fire vs. high fire, gas kilns vs. electric kilns, oxidation vs. reduction

Begin throwing large by coil and throw or sectional throwing

Quiz on kiln loading and firing


Week 9 &10:

Glazing:  paint, dip, pour, spray, waxing, etc. (lecture and demonstration)

Lecture on the science of glaze (chemical composition, effects of temperature and atmosphere of firing on coloring oxides)

Health and safety in relation to glazes

Overlapping glazes and special effects

Techniques for very large forms:  functional and sculptural applications

Staining techniques

Quiz on glaze science and application


Week 11&12:

Plaster work:  simple one piece plaster mold making

Using mold for press-molding

Hump molds with added foot

Continue throwing large


Week 13&14:

More glazing

Continued firing instruction



Week 15&16:

Final firings

End of class critique

Check notebooks

Clean up of studio


H. Attendance

            Attendance and punctuality is extremely important if you wish to do well in this class.   If you have a legitimate emergency (health, work or family crisis) you must call ext. 202 (984-3202) to report the reason for your absence before the class meets.  If you are not excused from a class, your absence will be marked against you.  Tardiness will also be marked against you.  If you are tardy four times, that is the equivalent of being absent once.


I. Supplies

§         By September 4, you will be expected to have:

¨      notebook (You must record glaze notes for every piece you glaze.  You will also be expected to take notes during lectures.  Handouts should be filed in notebook.)

¨      a tool kit or the equivalent (available at the MCC Bookstore), and a tool box to store tools (wire, sponge, scoring tool, clay knife, rubber rib, serrated metal rib)

¨      clay (a 25 pound bag, available at the MCC Bookstore)

¨      dry cleaner plastic or several kitchen size plastic garbage bags

¨      small and medium paint brush (kind that comes to a point)

¨      rubber gloves (surgical or kitchen type)                  

¨      green scrubby pad for sanding unfired clay

¨      sheet of 80 or 120 grit sand paper for sanding fired clay

¨      optional:

¨      water spray bottle (spritzer)

¨      plastic triangle square

¨      spoon or polished stone

¨      ruler

¨      apron or smock to keep your clothes clean

¨      small towel for cleaning up or drying hands


J. Safety:


Throughout the course, safety will be stressed, with particular attention given to safety in kiln firing procedures, glaze mixing and handling, and the prevention and hazards of dust throughout the entire studio and in every stage of working with clay and glaze.  Each student will be expected to leave the course with a clear understanding of the health hazards associated with ceramics, and well-developed habits in the safe handling of ceramic materials.  Any deviance from safety procedures will not be tolerated and will be corrected immediately.


“Assumption of Risk and Release Forms” are required from all students.  Before using the equipment for a class project, your instructor will review safety procedures.  It is also your responsibility to review those procedures before using the equipment. 


Activities that create dust from clay or other silica-bearing materials require the use of an OSHA-approved particle mask.  These activities include:  1) scraping kiln shelves (protective Eyewear is also required); 2) mixing dry glazes; 3) using the dry glaze room; 4) grinding or sanding clay; and 5) sanding glaze.  Please ask for a dust mask or respirator when needed, and perform these activities outside the classroom, away from other students.  Manipulating clay involves some repetitive motion, which can put students at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome and other disorders.  Students are to inform the instructor immediately if they experience any pain or discomfort in or after class.


K. Service Learning Option

Instead of the research assignment(written report, oral report, and ceramic piece inspired by research) and one other assignment of your choosing, or instead of taking the three quizzes, a student may elect to volunteer for a non-profit arts organization for 20 hours during the semester. Possible organizations include the Maui Arts and Cultural Center Exhibit Program (helping with the installation of shows in the gallery), the Hui No`eau Visual Arts Center (assisting the teacher in a children’s ceramics class), and Hale Makua (helping with craft activities or creating decorations for the facility).

Service Learning is a learning method that connects meaningful community service experiences with academic learning, personal growth, and civic responsibility.  It enhances what is taught by extending students’ learning beyond the classroom and providing opportunities to acquire skills and knowledge in real-life situations in the community. 

Your instructor has already arranged for certain non-profit agencies to participate with MCC and our class in Service Learning.  Students make their own contacts with the volunteer coordinator or director at an agency of their choice.  Students arrange their own schedules, keep a time log and have it signed by a supervisor, record their experiences in a reflective journal, share their experiences with their classmates, and submit a two-page paper at the end of the semester.


L. Extra Credit Opportunities


There are 3 quizzes.  If a student wants to raise any quiz grade by a full grade point, they may take advantage of several extra credit opportunities. 

There are three videos on ceramic artists on reserve in the library, for viewing in the library only.  If any student views a video and hands in a one-paragraph summary or notes taken while viewing the video, they will raise one quiz grade by a full grade point. 

There will be some other opportunities to earn extra credit by viewing art exhibitions and writing a 3-6 sentence response to the exhibit.  The instructor will announce these opportunities as they arise.


M. Library Resources


There are two periodicals in our MCC library devoted to ceramics:  Ceramics Monthly and Studio Potter.  There are also many books on ceramics with call numbers in the range of TT 900-950 and NK 3600-4500. 


Three videos have been placed on reserve for your use.  They are:

            Toshiko Takaezu:  Portrait of an Artist

            Randy Johnston:  The Nourishable Accident

            Betty Woodman:  Thinking Out Loud



Ceramics Studio Procedures


Use of Facilities

§         Only students currently registered in ceramics may use facilities; children, family or friends are not allowed in the studio.

§         Excessive production of ceramic works will not be allowed, and the interpretation of the word “excessive” is entirely at the discretion of the instructor.  The instructor reserves the right to refuse to fire any work, either because it is inappropriate for the college environment, because it is too large, or because it poses a risk to other work or to the kilns or other equipment.


§         Radios and other music may not be used during class time, except by permission of the instructor.



§         Smoking is not allowed in or near the studio.


§         Footwear is mandatory at all times.

Work Space

¨      Please make it your responsibility to help keep the studio clean.  Your contribution to studio chores will figure in to the “attendance” portion of your grade.  Work habits and effort are an important part of the evaluation process of your grade.  If you come late, leave early, sit around the studio when kilns need to be stacked, shelves need to be organized, etc., you will be losing grade credit towards your final grade in the course.  Helping in the studio is mandatory and is part of the course.   At the end of each class, studio tools and work surfaces (wheels, tables, slab roller, extruder) are to be clean and all work stored on shelves.

¨      All clay and glaze (wet or dry) and water containing clay or glaze must be kept out of the lavatory sinks in order to prevent clogging the drains.  Instructions will be given for use of the outside barrels.


§         Cell phones and beepers should be turned off during class.  Only in an emergency should phone calls be made or received during class time.


Special Accommodation

§         Please talk to me at any time (after class, before class, during office hours, or by telephone) if you need special accommodation.  The College also has wonderful free counseling, tutoring, etc. that I can connect you with.





For the following assignments, you may choose to work with coils, slabs, pinching, or wheel throwing (or a combination of methods).  You must, however, make at least one piece that is over 15” tall (when wet) and this piece must be constructed in more than one day. 


Note:  Projects are graded when they are unloaded from their final firing.  If a piece is damaged or broken before it can be completed, show the instructor what remains of it, for partial credit.


Choose to complete 9 of the following 13 projects:



1)      Make a hand built or thrown piece (pot or sculpture) of your original design, with particular attention given to three aspects:  the overall form, the top or rim, and the bottom or foot.


2)      Make a three-tiered piece (sculptural or functional) where each section has a different shape or form.  You could design the piece as if it were three very different elements stacked in an interesting and dynamic balance, or you could go for a more organic flowing of related forms (like the way branches grow from a tree trunk, or the way the neck and head of a bird emerge from its body).  Or you could make the piece look like architecture, as if it were a building with three different sections or levels.


3) Make a teapot or complex sculptural form, designing it first by doing drawings in your notebook.  The drawings should be available for the instructor to view.


4)  Research a style of ceramics or a ceramic artist or a historical period, xerox or print out some images to show the class, make a brief written report on your research, make an oral report to the class, and make a ceramic piece inspired by the artist or period you researched.  You will find two periodicals, Studio Potter and Ceramics Monthly in our MCC library, as well as some good books.  The public libraries or the Internet are also sources.


5) Find an object, either from nature or man-made, and use it as inspiration for a piece.  Make sure you have the object or a photo of it to present with your finished piece.


6) Make a series of three or more pieces, which all explore variations on the same theme (this theme can be form, technique, decoration, or something of your choice).  The pieces may be functional or sculptural.


7) Create a piece that is functional and has a good fitting lid OR is sculptural and has a good fitting door or opening of some kind into the piece.


8) Make a piece that looks like it is made of a material (or object) other than clay.


9) Make six small studies (maquettes) for sculptures, with each exploring one of the following styles:

a)      Realistic (looks like something we would recognize)

b)      Organic (based on the form of a living plant or animal)

c)      Geometric (based on geometric forms)

d)      Architectonic (like architecture or buildings)

e)      Abstract (not looking like anything we would recognize)

f)        Expressionistic (expressive of emotions)


10) Research the fine art painting of one of the following artists:  Matisse, Gauguin, van Gogh, Bonnard, Kandinsky, Klee, O’Keeffe, Miro, Mondrian, Pollock, Rothko, Frank Stella, Lichtenstein, or de Kooning, and copy the painting style of one of these artists on a piece made for this project.


11) Make a form that is constructed in piecework, expressionist fashion, like the work of Peter Voulkos.


12) Make a musical instrument out of clay ( it could be a flute, an ocarina, a drum, or other percussion instrument).  This assignment must be completed by April 2 (including final glaze firing) so that the music class taught by Robert Wehrman may use any instruments we create in a collaboration with our class, where they compose music for our instruments, and perform it on them.


13) Make a planter designed for a particular plant OR a container for serving a particular food, and be prepared to present its special characteristics that make it a particularly appropriate vessel for containing either the plant or the food.


NOTE:  You may create your own assignments or variations of these assignments as substitutions, as long as you get prior approval of the instructor, before initiating the project. 


For the following assignments, no substitutions are allowed:


14) Make a simple plaster press mold (1 piece mold) for a chopstick holder for the Class Act Restaurant run by the Culinary Arts Program at MCC.  If you have already made a mold in last semester’s Art 243, you may use the one you already made, or you may make another, or you may make some other simple one piece mold for another purpose.


15) Make 10 clay chopstick holders for the Class Act, utilizing your plaster mold, and glaze them with appropriate glaze colors or with forest green glaze.  (If you made 10 last semester, you must make 10 more this semester, but they can be the same or different.)


16) Using a plaster mold made by your instructor, make eight square condiment dishes for the Class Act, and glaze them with the forest green glaze OR make on the potter’s wheel, two sugar bowls (without lids) and two creamers (without handles), according to the designs provided by your instructor.


17) Mix a glaze.


18) Mix a colored slip.


19) Decorate two pieces (they may fulfill other assignments) with two different kinds of slip decoration.


20) Keep a class notebook with glaze notes, lecture notes, and notes on research and projects.


21) It is required that you assist in the loading and firing (during class time) of at least one bisque and one glaze firing.  You will also be required to participate in the regular maintenance of the kiln shelves (chiseling, grinding, and repairing kiln wash).  If you choose to fire pieces in raku firings, you must assist in setting up and putting away the kiln, as well as cleaning up after each firing your work is included in.