Our first big unit in beginning ceramics class was to build a slab box that had texture, a lid, a handle, and a few added embellishments. A fellow ceramics teacher, Jen, was kind enough to share her lesson. I tried it out for the first time last year. I thought the kids did well, so I did it again this year. I think it is a good intro to the hand-building technique of the slab. Also, it brought in texture, a favorite aspect of mine, by use of texture rollers, adding a usable handle, and adding embellishments.
The students learned a lot about slabs. The state of leatherhard is one they all know now. Some really did understand the state, while other just never got there and didn’t heed advice to cover the slabs they weren’t working on at the moment, thus letting things dry out too much to use. A couple kids did find out that you can mist way too much.
But, I did hear good conversation about using the stilts (in our case made of paint stirrers) to help keep slabs even, how much pressure to use when using texture rollers, and reminders to put in reinforcing coils.
I am pleased with the results of the boxes, even though more than one handle was either not scored/slipped right or was too fragile and broke off–unfortunately, usually by me.
For the surface treatment, I wanted them to learn a technique that would enhance the texture created by the texture rollers. I asked them to choose 2 glaze colors–a dark and a light. They learned how to pour in a glaze and roll it around to cover the interior of the box. They did this with the dark. After that, they used the dark to brush into the texture. Once dry, they washed off the excess leaving the color in the recesses (and as a slight stain on the flat surfaces.) Then they brushed on the lighter color to the outside of the box, going over everything–including the dark in the texture. The theory is that the dark will show through the light, creating an interesting surface with a bit of depth.
Not everyone followed instructions, and that is okay. But, the ones that did created some wonderful looking boxes.