Totem Poles

Southwest Pottery






By Julia

8 thoughts on “Ceramic Sculpture”
  1. Hey I like your stuff. Let me get right to the point. I teach ceramics in Rochester NY. I generally teach 2D design but I was given this class on my schedule. No choices here. Well I was using some of your lesson ideas as motivation for projects. We are doing “Busy Hands” right now. Next I want to do the “Story boxes” I want the student s to see other student’s work.
    Can you email me any or all examples of beginner and some advanced ceramics works. Thanks in advanced. Are you still teaching at La Serna High School? The school website is not working like it did a month ago.

  2. Hi Julia… I, like your previous post from Dwight, want to get right to the point. I teach at Mt. Carmel High School in San Diego and my students are doing the Totems right now and I was hoping that you could e-mail some pictures of them as well as the hands interacting and Story boxes. It is always so helpful to have images and you have some really good ones that I could put into a PPT for the kids. I would appreciate it very much… also I am assuming that you are not at La Serna HS anymore…what a shame – they will really miss your talents I’m sure. Cretia

  3. Julia,

    I stumbled into your web site and as I am working with a large group of seniors making three, nine foot totems, I was fascinated by your straight forward approach.

    Because our totems are for an exterior and permanent installation, we were cautious. With approximately five hundred pounds of wet clay in each totem, we were concerned with the foundation, the compression and once we stacked them, I learned about “deflection.” in a hurry.

    I am interested in how you dealt with these engineering forces.

    We complicated the process by deciding that our totems would have a sculpural profile whixh led to a secondary support system. The subject was open to the many individual artists. Our unity is the type of dark red clay and a limited glaze palette which gave us subtle colors from the trees and creek in the near surroundings.

    It has been a fascinating project.

    Questions: Where are your totems? Can they to be viewed by the public? Do the openings in the totem units remain open to the elements? What is your clay? Firing cone? Electric kiln?

  4. Thanks for checking out my blog page… I hope I can help give you some ideas for your current project!
    Answers: Our totems are currently inside the Ceramics classroom at La Serna High School (I recently moved to Hawaii, so I don’t actually know if the new teacher left them up). We did deconstruct them for transport to our annual art show which was held in the gymnasium. Although the totems have always been displayed inside, they could be put outside considering that they were fired to maturity at cone 10 and are vitreous. The exposed openings, or elements wouldn’t be the issue so much as vandalism. We used Long Beach blend clay purchased from Aardvark, cone 10, and fired in a gas kiln.
    As far as compression and deflection, we didn’t have any trouble considering that the totem was constructed from fairly “light” coil cylinders that were created in sections (you can view individual sections under Ceramic Sculpture). We didn’t put the sections together until they were completely fired. The inner supporting structure was an old volleyball pole with a cemented-in tire at the base, which was very stable and HEAVY. Our main concern was measuring the diameter of the cylinders so that they would still fit around the pole after shrinking approx. 15% in the firing process.
    Hope this helps!

  5. Hi there! I love these images! The work your students produced is awesome! Great job!!! I randomly stumbled upon this stuff while seaching for animal sculptures but I saw your totems and loved them. I teach high school sculpture and have wanted to try totem poles for a while now. I like your idea about stacking students’ work together. Do you have any plans for this? Seeing the images is great, but I would be very interested in reading through your ideas and how you taught the actual project (if you wouldn’t mind me sharing it with my kiddos).
    Thanks for sharing!!!

  6. Hi Julia,

    I just stumbled upon your website after having googled “coil pots” and being piqued by your wonderful octopus coil lamp. I was enjoying looking at all the wonderful work when I noticed that your school is in Kapaa.
    I am a ceramicist and art teacher in New York City and my husband and I spent our honeymoon in Kauai this past summer.

    This has been a real treat!


  7. Hi Dara,

    If you ever end up back on Kauai again, let me know if you want to come visit my class… I love to bring in guests!


  8. Hi Julia,
    I am a high school ceramics/sculpture teacher and make totems with my students as well, and enjoy seeing how someone else goes about it! My advanced students each make their own totem and have to problem solve how to stack the pieces in a stable manner. I really like your technique of building around the pvc to keep the diameter of the pieces the same. Thanks! I have experimented with various types of bases and armatuares and due to budget constraints, usually make them by casting concrete around a piece of re-bar into some sort of mold (buckets, plastic traffic cones, large plastic flower pots -whatever I can scrounge up! ) A few students like to leave the color as is, but most end up spray painting it to go with their totem.

    I am working through making some that would be permanent installations and have to stay outside in Ohio weather and am trying to find ways to secure the pieces so there is less movement. Have you ever tried to use any type of foam or filler that you spray inside the pieces as you install them piece by piece?


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