Outreach Artist Christina Carfora-Schmitz Shares a Sunny Lesson Plan

Posted August 26, 2010 in Blog

Christina Carfora-Schmitz is a sculptural ceramic artist and an outreach artist for HCCC. Under the Outreach Initiative at HCCC, artists go to schools and community organizations to teach a variety of craft disciplines. Below, Christina shares a recent lesson plan she conducted in the schools last spring. Outreach classes start August 30 in Houston-area schools.

My role as an outreach artist last spring was to teach an after-school ceramics class at Harvard Elementary School. I had a group of six students that were in kindergarten through third grade. Our materials included natural clay, polymer clay and mixed media. From this we created a variety of projects including: tiles, coil bowls, jewelry, containers, masks, and creative creatures. Although we focused on technical skills in clay, I also shared my knowledge of art history, traveling, and life as an artist, in hopes that they will gain a lifelong appreciation of arts and crafts.

The project I have chosen for this discussion features tiles that pay tribute to the sunflower paintings of Vincent Van Gogh. The lesson began with a brief summary of who the artist is, where he lived and what he liked to paint. We looked at a variety of his paintings and students volunteered their thoughts. I told the students that Vincent Van Gogh made some of his sunflower paintings for his friend and fellow artist, Paul Gauguin; this inspired the students to contemplate who to give their creation to. Then we got to work.

First, the students looked at images of real sunflowers and sketched a design on paper. Then, I helped the students roll out a slab of clay and cut a square out using a template. I also showed them how to roll coils and pinch the clay to get the right shape and texture of the flowers. We used rubber alphabet stamps to put their name at the bottom of the tile and holes at the top, so it can be hung on a wall. After the tiles were fired, students painted with watered-down under glazes to mimic the feeling of a Van Gogh painting (we could have also used watercolors). Finally, we sponged on a clear-coat glaze, fired the work a second time, and Voila! We had a masterpiece! I enjoyed their enthusiasm and my own work was influenced by their creative ideas.

Examples of the tiles made by Christina's students.

Van Gogh Photo: Stein, Susan Alyson (1986). Van Gogh A Retrospective. Printed in China: Beaux Arts Editions. Colorplate 61, page 173.