Thursday, February 8, 2018

Artists That Inspire Us: Clay Vessels (Inspired by Ceramic Artist Melissa Monroe)

Meet Melissa Monroe. Melissa is a lifelong Illinoisan, having been raised in Galesburg and now living in the Chicago suburbs with her family. She sells her ceramic art at shows in the Chicago area and at fine stores and works with chefs to create custom dishware for their restaurants.

“When I started working in clay in college it was impossible to predict the places it would take me. It has been fun journey of farm dinners where I provide dishes, the art show circuit in Chicago, and gallery shows. As I have grown in my work I find my creativity divided into two camps: the functional and the sculptural. My functional work has become focused on working directly with customers creating custom plate ware for their homes and businesses. I love to sit down to a day of throwing and trimming all of these commissions and getting the satisfaction of the matching sets of bowls and plates. The second part of my art is the creative sculptural side - making wild abstracted flowers and sculptural vases, bottles and jars. These are the objects of imagination and whimsy. I hope that both of my camps of artwork provide a connection with each person either in daily use or visual connection.”

Melissa is a friend and artist colleague from my home town. I've had the joy of working with her for our local artist guild and is this year's featured artist for our Illinois Art Education Association's Mosaic Magazine. Melissa is an artist that inspires me, so I decided to share her work with my 4th grade students.

The Project

Inspired by Melissa’s style of ceramics, students will create their own clay vessel displaying a face. This will be done by using the slab technique for ceramics.


Ceramic Clay, Water, Glaze, Canvas, Clay Tools, Rolling Pins

This project will take about three 40 minute classes for creating and glazing, and one 40 minute class for assessment and artist statements.

Day 1: Introduction and vessel design. Students are shown a slideshow featuring the artist Melissa Monroe, as well as the artworks she created. After a group discussion about her style of work, the teacher demonstrates how to create a vessel using the slab technique. Students are given a portion of clay and instructed to take ¼ of the portion to roll into a ball and press down to make the base. With the remaining clay, students use a rolling pin to roll the clay out to a slab that’s ¼” thick. Next they are to draw a long rectangle in the slab, cut the remaining clay away, and wrap the slab around the base. Once the slab was wrapped, students marked the bottom of their vessels with their initials and wrapped their projects for the following week.

Day 2: Details and finishing touches. Prior to students receiving their projects to finish, they are shown how to attach facial expressions using the slip/score process. Similar to Melissa’s designs, students add eyes, nose, mouth, eyebrows, and any designs that show expression. Once completed, students handed in their projects to dry over the week. A week or two is needed between days 2-3 for clay to dry and fire in the kiln.

Day 3: After clay is fired, students are shown how to apply glaze to their pieces. Projects will go through a second firing

Day 4: Chromebooks needed to visit Artsonia to write artist statements (or create your own method of writing artist statements with students)

Here are the finished art pieces!  The lesson plan with standards will be available in this year's printed Mosaic Magazine for IAEA members.

Art Teacher Blogs

This post is a part of The Art Ed Blogger's Network: Monthly Tips and Inspiration from Art Teacher Blogs. On the first Tuesday each month, each of these art teacher blogs will post their best ideas on the same topic.

Participating Art Teacher Blogs:


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