CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio
CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

Monday, March 9, 2015

A Place to Experiment

The Art studio is a place of possibility. Encouraging learners to direct the course of their study means allowing for experimentation and exploration. These behaviors are foundational for artists. The Studio Habit: "Stretch & Explore" defines this creative disposition.
We know that hands-on learning is powerful, and that sometimes making a mistake is the best way to understand something.  But it can still take considerable restraint on the part of the teacher, to let students learn "the hard way."

Recently a cohort of eighth grade clay artists discovered my secret stash of marbles and began to spontaneously conduct all kinds of experiments firing the glass into and onto their clay objects Mostly they dropped the marbles into slab bowls, and observed how the glass slumped and melted to become its own glaze. 
When I found the clay bowl pictured below on the ware shelf, I knew this artist was in for a surprise. Rather than taking her aside and explaining what would happen at 1580 degrees, I prepared the kiln shelf for what I knew (and she did not know) was coming. I placed her bowl up on a stilt, and used a discarded bowl to protect the kiln shelf and neighboring objects from what was to come. 
I'm sorry I didn't get a picture of the result, but this clay artist learned a little about gravity and melting!
6th grade "J" has an unusually large collection of slab-built and wheel thrown objects to glaze. Right now, she is the only dedicated clay artist in her class. Others have tried clay and moved on to other centers.
Experiments in the art studio are "low stakes." If something is tried, and it fails, there is usually enough time to try again. It is by trying again that students make use of the knowledge they have acquired through experimentation. Each artwork is a teacher that provides insight for the next attempt. Students with the opportunity to return time and again to a favorite medium or process build their own repertoire of skills and information to inform their work.
"J's" finished giant bowl