Saturday, November 9, 2013

Microscopic Design Tiles

This lesson came from the School Arts Magazine from October of 2011, which you can view by clicking on the word MICROSCOPE.

I do this lesson with 6th graders.  The students are creating a design on a tile that is inspired by microscopic images.  This lesson extends across the curriculum because the students study cells in science.  The first thing we do is watch a Brain Pop video about cells after I explain that this project will be inspired by microscopic images.  Then I show a Power Point of microscopic images and I ask the students to look at the images as if they were designs and point out the elements and principles of art in them.

Each student gets a sheet of paper that is the same size as the tile that they will later be using and they begin to draw their design.  I explain that the design will be transferred to the tile so the students need to take their time and draw a finished design, not a quick sketch.  I encourage the students to use line and shape and that this is an abstract design.  They are not drawing things that we would recognize in every day life.

During the next art period the tables are set up like this .  The colors of glazes, for the most part, correspond with the colors of the tables.  Each table is assigned a different color with a sign above.  You can see this set up here.
I use these white, plastic lids as trays to keep the glazes on.  I am using underglazes and the students will later apply clear, gloss glaze after the designs are complete.
You might be wondering why I have a firing cone on the table!  Last year when I first did this project, at the last minute I realized that the students needed a way to write their name and class code on the back of their tile.  Otherwise it would be a nightmare trying to figure out who's was who's when we were passing them back each day. Pencil would just burn off in the kiln and I didn't have any special pencils meant for just that purpose.  So I was looking around in my ceramic supplies for something that might work.  I found these cones that are larger than the ones I use because there used to be a kiln in my room that used them but it was removed 8 years ago when I first arrived at this school because it was a dinosaur and did not work anymore.  I tried one out and it works like a piece of chalk and does not burn off when the tiles are fired.  So, this is what the students use to write their name and code on the back of their tile.
The students choose three colors that are contrasting.  I tell them to pick two light colors and one dark color or two dark colors and one light color.  The students apply three coats of each color, drying each coat in between (we use fans to speed up the drying process).  

 During the next class the students get back their tile and the design that they drew on paper two class periods ago.   This is the step when the students transfer the image to the tile.  First the students color the back of the paper with their pencil making sure the entire sheet is covered with graphite.  Then they turn it over on the tile, colored side down, and so they can see their design.  They trace the lines of their design with pencil, pressing down so the image is transferred to the tile. 


The next step is the fun part!  The students get two different scratch art tools, one with a rounded nib and the other with a pointy nib.  I tell the students to scratch the design and reveal all of the colors of glazes that they applied.  This process is called sgraffito and it is an Italian word that means "to scratch."

After the students have finished scratching their designs they apply three coats of clear, gloss glaze to the tile.  
I will post pictures after the tiles are fired.  I am excited to see what they look like finished!!!