Punkin Time



Doing clay with fourth-graders in thirty minute classes is problematic. I know you are thinking, “Are you nuts?”, but it can happen. This lovely lesson from Ceramic Arts Daily filled the ticket with a cute little ceramic Jack-O-Lantern.

Check out their great how-to video here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnViFPenWeo


We watched a short video on where clay comes from and what it is used for in every day life. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhYWuAGVU8k My kids had no idea that things like sinks and toilets are made from ceramic. I portioned out the correct size balls of clay for each student before we began the project. I covered the work tables each day before they arrived.

Day 1

I demonstrated how to make a pinch pot. Students used sharpie to label a quart-sized sealable baggie with their name and class period. Whoa they were excited.

Day 2

Students made their pinch pots using a circle on their work table to measure their pot size. The idea was that it could be no bigger than the paper circle and that both pinch pots had to be approximately the same size. Both pinch pots went carefully back into the baggie until the next day.

Day 3

The students scored and slipped the edges of both pinch pots and joined them together. I gave each student a new portion of clay for the stem. They shaped and attached the stem. Using a sharpened pencil they carefully engraved their name on the bottom.

A Few Days Later

leather hard

I’ll admit it, I almost waited too long. The pumpkins were pretty hard when I went to carve the faces. I carved the eyes and the mouth with an X-Acto knife for each student. The idea of X-Acto knives and fourth graders made me a little queasy and to be honest I thought they might crush the pumpkins trying to carve through them.

Air dry for at least 10 days or until bone dry and fire to bisque. Glaze and fire again.

My students were so pleased with their Jack O’ Lanterns. I wrapped each one in tissue paper and hopefully they  made it home in their backpacks in time for Halloween.



3-D Snowflakes


It has been unusually warm here in north Texas. I’m not complaining mind you but I’m craving a little Christmas weather.

The kind of weather where a pot of chili with cornbread takes the chill off your bones. The kind of weather that makes cider and hot chocolate taste good. Sweater weather. So time for a little snow artwork.

My good friend Billie Slater used to bring her Cadets into the building singing…”Pray for snow….pray for snow….” in their best Native American chant rhythm. Well I’m not quite up to that vocally, so we are making snowflakes. Big 3-D snowflakes. I found a very clear tutorial here on the wonderful blog, One Less Headache. Add good instructions plus a sprinkling of science and math and voila, 3-D snowflakes.


I have my winter board done too for a little extra snow mojo.


Let’s get this straight…..not sleet…not ice..I want snow, the big fluffy kind you make snow ice cream with.

Throwback Thursday – Geckos

My Throwback Thursday art project is one from 2010, where my teaching partner Skipper Bennett and I created giant Geckos with our 6th grade advanced art group. I have a love/hate relationship with papier-mâché. Love the results. Hate the mess.This was a BIG, MESSY project, but boy it was fun. It was like a mini-science fiction movie, when the giant geckos appeared on the front of our school building. It was great to see the parents reaction as they came around to pick up their kids at the front drive. Geckos!

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Chinese Lanterns


Hallway 2Inspired by the wonderful blog , What’s Happening in the Art Room?, I decided to try Chinese Lanterns this year with my 5th grade art students. These lanterns involve developing a drawing that will work on four vertical panels as well as on a three-dimensional rectangle. I gave students the option of coming up with four separate ideas, one for each panel, or having one idea wrap around the rectangle. In addition, students focused on successfully using soft colored pencil technique in their composition.

Lanterns are used in a myriad of celebrations in China, the most famous being The Lantern Festival, which is the customary end to the Chinese New Year celebration.

Chinese New Year begins February 8th in 2016. This is the Year of the Monkey. DSC09232What 5th grader wouldn’t love that?

An ancient Chinese folk custom is to attach a riddle, poem or phrase to the lanterns, so I added this to our project (additional writing component). I think my students were as excited about their riddles as they were their lanterns.


Riddles 2

Here’s how we did it.


  • 12 x 18 white drawing paper
  • rulers
  • scissors
  • pencils, erasers and colored pencils
  • poster board for lantern stencil
  • black construction paper – 7 inch squares (2 per lantern)
  • yarn or string
  • hot glue gun (under adult supervision only)


I began this project in January, right as we came back from the Winter Holiday. I asked the students how they celebrated the New Year. I had them write a resolution in their sketchbook; which I defined as ” A plan to do something positive to make your life better .”  We talked about resolving only things we had control over and what a positive resolution was. We even broke down the word, discovering that “solution” is part of resolution. What child does not need to practice planning positive ways to make their life better?

This exercise became a springboard for talking about New Year’s celebrations around the world, which in turn brought us to the Chinese New Year and creating our lantern.

I discussed coloring technique with my students, which in this project is coloring solidly, but LIGHTLY! The idea was to mimic the soft watercolor work of Chinese art. They drew their compositions in pencil first, which they outlined in colored pencil, then softly filled in the interior. As always, some are more successful than others.


After they created their colored pencil drawing, they laid a template I made from poster board over the top. The template was a little smaller than the drawing and has the four panels separated by notches (see picture below). Students used a ruler to draw light pencil lines to separate the panels.


Students handed the drawing over to me for folding and assembly because this really requires a hot glue gun.


The top and bottom of the lantern is a seven inch square of black construction paper. I used a pointed tool to poke a hole in the center of each square and pushed the yarn through the hole and hot glued it on the underside. The folded rectangle is hot glued to the squares to complete the lantern.

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While I was assembling and gluing and burning myself about fifty times, the students were coming up with their riddle, which is attached to the bottom of the lantern.

Acres of Lanterns in Production

We displayed these at open house and they were a big hit. Congratulations to my creative 5th grade artists.







Foil Embossing


IMG_0210Tooling foil is such a lovely material. Students familiar with the baked potato version of foil are always curious how this material reacts to a tool. My simplest project using tooling foil is just a straight emboss from a photo.IMG_0229




Students select a calendar photo that has a subject they like. I always have a collection of discarded calendars from teachers.


Tape the photo to the back of the cut sheet of tooling foil. I caution them to only put only one piece of tape at the top of the photo. That way you can lift up photo every once in a while to see how the foil is taking the embossed lines, or if you missed any lines.

  1. Lay the foil with the photo attached on a thick pad of newspaper. This is important. The give of the pad of newspaper is what allows the foil to accept the embossed line.
  2. Select the most important lines in the photo and trace them with a pencil. Press hard enough that you can feel the foil give a little, but not so hard that you punch through the foil. As they work, they view their progress by lifting up the photo. Here’s where they can add textural elments that are not in the original photo.
  3. Color with sharpies! Sixth graders LOVE working with sharpies. Mistakes can be corrected with Germ-X and a tissue.

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IMG_0207 IMG_0196 IMG_0170 IMG_0171 IMG_0194 IMG_0211


DSC08952You are never too old for Halloween fun. Something about this holiday inspires you to be silly and creative. That is if you were raised with a Halloween like I was; where it was all about spooky stories, slightly scary but harmless costumes, hay rides, bonfires and trick or treat candy you did not have to check. Period. No other meanings implied or intended. Having said that, I broke out the pipe cleaner spider project just as a way of reminding myself that the Halloween of the past can still be recreated in my room. Yes, you can make a science curriculum connection in the study of arachnids…blah, blah, blah….I want to make slightly trembly spiders on hot glue spider webs, because they make people squeal and they are cute.

Can we just be kids in the art room for a second? Okay.

Here’s what you need for each spider.

  • 4 pipe cleaners
  • 16 beads

Here’s what you need for the spider web.

  • adult supervision to use the hot glue gun
  • a background of some kind – I like black foam board
  • hot glue gun and hot glue sticks

To make the spider:


  1. Get 4 pipe cleaners and bend in half.
  2. Cross over half the legs. make sure that the body loop is no bigger than a quarter. Short-legged spiders are not as cute.
  3. DSC08946Twist the legs under the loop at least 3 times so the legs won’t come undone. Place the body of the spider on the table and bend the legs up so that you can separate 4 on each side.
  4. DSC08947Add 8 of the beads close to the body.
  5. DSC08949With the spider still on its back bend the knees in the same place on each leg and position the second bead on each leg above the knee.
  6. DSC08950Turn the spider over and spread the legs for balance. 4 to the front, 4 to the back. By the way this fashion maven spider sports the Mineral Wells Ram colors.

Spider webs are just hot glue applied to a black foam board. Make glue lines out from a corner and then half circles that cut across.  If you want your spider to stay put on the web, apply him while the glue is still sticky.DSC08951