Posted by: dbjaquith | March 27, 2016

Plaster is not the same as Clay

Plaster1In case you haven’t heard, we have not been allowed to fire clay all year. This, in addition to being denied the kiln last year from September through December. The issue is the not the kiln itself but its venting system, considered unsafe by the building inspector, then acceptable and then again unacceptable. The actual repair took less than a day but the work was wedged in-between so many other city jobs, apparently far more important than an entire school’s ability to access a vital part of the visual art curriculum.

Sculptors and ceramicists grew weary of asking “When can we work with clay?” and I grew weary of having no real answers for them. In February students in grade 3-5 were offered the opportunity to work with plaster as a 3D alternative. Though my 4th and 5th graders have sculpted with plaster every year this was the first time it has been offered to 3rd graders in my art program. They rose to the occasion and did a spectacular job!


Here’s how students developed craft with plaster sculptures:  Starting with aluminum foil and tape students construct armatures that are glued onto foam bases. The next step is to cover the entire sculpture with layers of plaster gauze, similar to the plaster used to make casts for broken limbs.



The final stages are to paint and decorate the sculpture. The yellow goat is the same sculpture as seen in the photo (above) of the aluminum armature by the laptop featuring images of goats as reference to the artist.

Awesome sculptures? Yes! Spontaneous like clay? No. These took 4+ classes to complete and required a lot of materials supervision. Super messy, super fun. But not the same as clay. And you can’t make a bowl you can eat cereal from. It sounds like our kiln might be ready very soon for use. Stay tuned!

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