Art 243      Intermediate Ceramics:  Hand building


Instructor:  Jennifer Owen                Office:  Ka Lama 133 and Ceramics Studio


Phone:  984-3229 (ext. 229) Ceramics studio  Email:

              984-3220 (ext. 220) Ka Lama 133 office


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

Tues. & Thurs.:  1:30-3:00 in Ka Lama 133


A.  Course Description:

Art 243 develops vessel and sculptural concepts using hand-building techniques.  The course introduces the elements of art through the making of ceramic form.  The class progresses beyond basic hand building techniques to advanced skills:  various forming and embellishing techniques, work with plaster and molds, 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 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 ceramics.


E. Course Requirements:

1. Completion of 15-20 hand built 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


Surface treatment

Working in a series

Working large

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


Week 3&4:

Quiz on clay

Advanced coil techniques

Shape development and aesthetics of proportions

Working large

Historical examples:  slides and discussion


Week 5&6:

Advanced slab techniques

Working large

Planning:  drawing and pattern making


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

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:  plaster mold making

Using mold for press-molding

Hump molds with added foot


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. 229 (984-3229) 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), and the Hui No`eau Visual Arts Center (assisting the teacher in a children’s ceramics class).

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 a free slide lecture by nationally acclaimed ceramic artist, Tom Kerrigan, on Thursday, September 19, at 7:00 pm, at the Hui No`eau Visual Arts Center near Makawao.  Any student who attends will raise one quiz grade by a full grade point.

There will probably 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.


§         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.


My goal as your teacher is:

  • to make you work hard, yet give you lots of freedom about how you work
  • to help you put yourself into your work
  • to help you experiment, take risks
  • to help you like ceramics
  • to create an atmosphere of support and cooperation rather than competition
  • to give you an understanding of the materials, techniques, and science of ceramics that will enable you to master the clay and express yourself through it




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.


1)      Pinched 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.


For the following assignments, you may choose to work with coils, slabs, pinching, or wheel thrown components (or a combination of methods).  You must, however, make at least one piece that is over 15” tall (when wet) in the coil method and at least one piece that is over 15” tall (when wet) in the slab method, and each piece must be constructed in more than one day.  Since this is a hand building class, no piece may be entirely wheel thrown to earn credit for a project, but may have wheel thrown components, since the wheel can be a very fast and convenient way to create shapes and ingredients.


2)      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.


3)      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.


4)      Texture a slab or several slabs and use them to build a piece where only some of the elements are textured (some elements are smooth clay).  The piece does not have to be built entirely out of slabs, but could use coils, pinched, or thrown as well.


5)      Render in clay a sculpture that presents personal elements of your own life.


6) Mix a colored slip.


7) Mix a glaze.


8)  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.


9) 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.


10) Hand build in any scale a trophy / monument / tombstone / reliquary that pays homage to something that normally would not receive commemorative attention, or to something or someone you seriously want to commemorate.  Write a few sentences in your notebook about the ideas or feelings that go into the piece.  This piece can be very humorous and playful and "light" or very serious and heartfelt.


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


12) 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.


13) 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, using the banana or banana leaf theme.


14) Make 10 clay chopstick holders for the Class Act, utilizing your plaster mold, and glaze them with forest green glaze.


15) Using a plaster mold made by your instructor, make four square condiment dishes for the Class Act, and glaze them with the forest green glaze.


16) Create a piece where there is an opening pierced all the way through the work, that is a main focal point in the design.  This opening should become part of the exterior wall of the piece; that is, you should not be able to see inside the piece because the opening is completely walled off.





1) Make a piece that appears as if it were machine made, not hand-built.


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


3) 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)


4) 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.


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





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.  Likewise, you may substitute assignments from the “optional” choices for certain required assignments, but only if you obtain permission from the instructor in advance.