Pinch Pots

Pinch Pots are almost always one of the first projects in any Ceramics class because they help students learn some of the most fundamental skills needed for both hand-building and wheel-throwing. The artist begins with a wedged ball of clay, inserts a thumb by pressing into the center, and pinches the walls of the pot while rotating and smoothing. Sounds easy? Surprisingly this takes quite a bit of practice!

Once my students had successfully created a pinch pot, I asked them to add something to it in order to add interest. That “something” was up to them (as long as there was no trapped air to create an explosion), and it was wonderful watching the original pots transform under the influence of their imaginations!

A Close View of Nature

Georgia O’keefe’s large-scale flower paintings were the inspiration for this watercolor painting assignment. Students were assigned to choose a natural subject, and then look very very closely at it. When arranging the composition on paper, the subject should flow off of the edges of the page, with the option of zooming in so close that it becomes almost abstract.

Adding another dimension and level of complexity to the learning process, students were assigned to complete 2 paintings, identical in every aspect with the exception of reversing the colors. In order to accurately select complimentary colors, students had to work closely with the color wheel and their knowledge of color theory.

“Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small it takes time – we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.” Georgia O’Keefe


We studied the artwork of Canadian artist Emily Carr for this expressive watercolor assignment. Just as Carr enjoyed plein air painting, the students took their sketchbooks outdoors and found a tree to capture on paper. Although the initial sketches were derived from studying nature, the students used their artistic license of expression when rendering gestural lines and mixing colors.

“There is something bigger than fact: the underlying spirit, all it stands for, the mood, the vastness, the wildness.”
Emily Carr

Ceramic Coil Lamp

I constructed this lamp as an example for my Kapaa Middle School students, who are building coiled vessels that incorporate an animal or sea creature. I used an octopus (locally referred to as “Tako”) as my example to demonstrate how the tentacles could be interwoven and entwined within the coil design. I wanted my octopus to blend in with my coil pot in the same way that real Octopus are able to camouflage themselves against the reef.

Kahu Kai Mosaic Mural

Kahu Kai translates to “caring for the sea,” and is the theme for an island-wide mosaic mural project that KMS Art students participated in. The mosaic panel will be one of 24 panels (all created by school children) that will be installed as part of the newly restored Kamalani Pavilion at Lydgate Park. The original pavilion was built by volunteers in 2004, but was lost to a fire in 2007. We teamed up with the Garden Island Arts Council to sculpt local sea creatures out of clay, and then arrange them with a background of small colorful tiles to create a unified seascape mural. Kapaa Middle School students are currently working on a second mural to be displayed at our school!

Magazine Mosaic

While Kapaa Middle School’s 7th and 8th grade Art students worked on the Kahu Kai Mosaic Mural project, 6th graders created a different kind of mosaic. Instead of ceramic tile, these mosaic fish are composed of small cut-up magazine images. Don’t be fooled… selecting colors, cutting pieces, and arranging them to fit perfectly took an enormous amount of concentration and patience! Currently these colorful sea creatures are decorating Kapaa Middle School’s main office.