Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Clay - Faux Food

The children use clay to make food that appears as real as possible. For ages 9 to 13. Plan 3 to 4 sessions.

  • Working with three-dimensional form
  • Seeing objects as a combination of shapes and textures
  • Working with underglazes and glazes
three-dimensional, scratch and slip, greenware, bisqueware, underglaze, glaze

Click here for more information on working with clay and to learn about the materials and processes used in this project.

  • 12- by 18-inch Masonite boards with the rough side upone for each childor canvas to cover the work surface
  • Clayone grapefruit-size ball for each child plus a few extra
  • Clay needle tools or tenpenny nails (Nails that are 3 inches long.)
  • Containers with a small amount of slip or waterone for every two children
  • Loop tool for hollowing out thick pieces
  • Underglazes in a variety of colors (non-toxic)
  • Clear glaze (non-toxic)
  • Brushes for applying underglazes and glazes
  • Plastic bags for gradually drying the clay projects
  • Pictures of food for reference (Food magazines are a good source.)
First/Second Session
  • Check the clay several days ahead to be sure it is of good workable consistency.
  • Wedge the clay into grapefruit-size balls, planning one for each child plus a few extra.
  • Cover work area with individual Masonite boards or canvas.
  • Set out clay balls and needle tools or tenpenny nails.
  • Set out containers with a small amount of slip or water.
  • Have pictures of food available for reference
How to Begin
  • Explain to the children that they will be using clay to make realistic-looking food. Remind them that this project will take several weeks to complete since the clay must be dried slowly and fired in the kiln several times.
  • The children should know that before clay projects are fired in the kiln, they are referred to as greenware. After the first firing, they are referred to as bisqueware. Glaze is applied to bisqueware and put in the kiln again for a final glaze firing.
  • Tell the children that it is important to make sturdy pieces that will hold together while going through the firings. Demonstrate how to attach pieces of clay using the scratch-and-slip method by scratching the surfaces to be joined, applying a small amount of slip or water, and pressing the two pieces together. Be sure the children understand that if they don’t scratch and slip their attachments, the pieces of clay will likely fall apart as they dry.
      • Greenware that is more than 1½ inches thick will need an air-release hole to keep it from breaking while firing in the kiln. The children should keep this in mind as they work and try to avoid overly thick pieces. However, let them know that if a hole is needed, it will be in the bottom where it will not be seen. (To make the tea in the teacup pictured above, a thin slab of clay was attached near the top of the cup. Then a small hole was made in the bottom of the cup to allow the air to be released.)
      • Discuss foods which are familiar to the children, such as hamburgers, hot dogs, and pieces of pie. Remind them that the food must be sturdy and three-dimensional, or viewable from all sides.
      • Explain that the children should think of their food in parts. For example, to make a slice of blueberry pie, make the bottom crust first, fill it with small balls of clay the size of blueberries, and then add the top crust.
      • Distribute the clay and let the children begin making their clay food.
      Note:  If a second session is needed to complete the clay food, store the works on a tray, wrapped tightly with plastic to keep them from becoming too dry. When the pieces are completed, make air-release holes in the bottom of any pieces which have enclosed hollow areas or are more than 1½ inches thick before drying them slowly under plastic wrap, gradually loosening the wrap over a two week period. Then bisque fire the pieces in a kiln.  

      Next Session
      • Set out bisqueware.
      • Set out brushes and a variety of underglazes.
      How to Begin
      • Explain to the children that they will be adding color to the bisqueware with underglazes, or paints for clay. In another session, they will apply a clear glaze for shine and strength.
      • Demonstrate how quickly the underglazes dry when applied to the bisqueware. The children will need to dip their brushes often to avoid scrubbing and to cover all areas. They should carefully dab into any cracks or rough areas on the clay surface. If using opaque underglazes, the last coat applied will be the one seen. This makes it easier to add any details and designs.
      • Before giving the children their clay pieces, warn them that bisqueware is very fragile and must be handled carefully.
      • Have the children paint their food with the underglaze colors. 
      Note:  Allow the pieces to dry overnight. Although the children can apply the clear glaze to their pieces once the underglaze dries, it is best to low-fire the underglazed pieces once more time before putting on the glaze. 

      Final Session
      • Set out clear glaze and brushes.
      • Set out dried or fired underglazed clay pieces.
      How to Begin
      • Explain to the children that glazing the clay pieces makes them stronger and gives them a durable, shiny surface.
      • Applying the glaze too thickly will cause the colors to become cloudy after firing. (The number of coats needed varies according to the glaze instructions, but usually one or two coats are sufficient.)
      • Be sure the children understand that if glaze gets on the bottom of the bisque ware, it will stick to the kiln shelf during firing. If any glaze does get on the bottom, wipe it off with a damp cloth before firing.
      • Explain that as the clear glaze dries, it will cover up the underglaze colors. When the clay is fired in the kiln again, the glaze will melt and turn clear, allowing the colors to show through.
      • Have the children apply the glaze to their pieces, stressing once again to handle them with care.
      Note: Leave the pieces uncovered to dry, and then glaze fire them in the kiln.

      • The children should plan to use one ball of clay; otherwise the project can become too big and time-consuming. However, have extra balls ready for the occasional exception where a little more clay is needed.
      • In most cases water works as well as clay slip for joining pieces of clay and is less messy.
      • It’s important to emphasize and monitor the safe use of needle tools.
      • Remind the children how easily greenware and bisqueware can be broken.
      • This project is more convincing if the clay food mimics the color, size, and shape of the real food.
      • To make the icing on the doughnut pictured below, very thick slip was applied with a knife and then painted with brown underglaze.
      • Are enough details included to make the food recognizable?
      • Does the food look complete from all sides, making it three-dimensional?
      • Discuss how each food was broken down into simple shapes.
      What the children might say...
      • I don’t like to scratch and slip. It takes too long.
      • My clay is getting all slimy.
      • I don’t know what to make. Everything seems too hard.
      • I’m going to make a pizza.
      • Did I make this too thick?
      What you might say...
      • You must scratch and slip so that all the pieces will stay attached after the clay dries.
      • When you scratch and slip, only use a tiny amount of water to avoid making the clay too wet.
      • It becomes easier to make clay food when you separate it into individual parts. For example, a sundae might have a “ball” of ice cream, with a “swirl” of whipped cream, and a “round” cherry with a stem on top. 
      • If you make a pizza, be sure to include the sauce and all the toppings.
      • If your piece is too thick, I will make a hole in the bottom to release the air when firing in the kiln, but it will not show.
      Click to view this lesson in a printer-friendly format.