Ceramic Tiki Sculptures

Kapa’a Middle School’s Art students finished their tiki sculptures with either a pure white or natural brown glaze.  By limiting to one glaze color, the emphasis of this 3-dimensional work remains  the carved textures, modeled form, and sculptural details.


In addition to expressive tiki characteristics, some students chose to include added symbolism to represent a specific hawaiian tiki god or their own special meaning.


While mainly decorative, the tikis can also serve a variety of functions, from garden art, candle holders, incense burners, or creative containers to hold knick-knacks.  Melted colorful class at the base adds a colorful surprise when you look inside!

The sculptures pictured here are only a few samples to represent a range of students from 6th, 7th, and 8th graders selected from all of my classes.  In all there are 170 tikis that required a total of 500 lbs of clay, 5 gallons of liquid glaze, a number of kiln loads, and 4 months to complete!


Inspired by Masters


While making and creating original Artwork is the main focus of my instruction, students also gain important skills through the study of Art History, criticism, and analysis. I’m careful to embed these connections and critical thinking elements within every project, but for this particular assignment they were the main focus.


Students worked in groups to complete a graphic organizer (above) that helped them navigate through the steps of Feldman’s Model of Art Criticism. Students’ understanding was evaluated on the level to which they completed the graphic organizer in their sketchbooks, and their ability to explain it to the class during a final group presentation.


I designed this project to accomplish one Student Learning Objective (SLO), a component of the new Educator Effectiveness System (EES) required by Hawaii’s Department of Education this year. Multifaceted and demanding components of the EES system were rolled out during this “practice” year. Unfortunately, this new expectation lacked the necessary structure, models and training to support success. As a result, many teachers were overwhelmed, frustrated, and discouraged. I am attaching all of my planning documents, rubrics and results (excluding any confidential information), in the hopes that it will help other teachers accomplish their goals (see the links at the end of this post).


A Student Learning Objective (SLO) is a broad overarching goal that embodies the core of instruction. Student achievement is measured by individual growth toward understanding and mastering the SLO. Hawaii teachers were required to design and implement two SLOs this year. My first SLO may appear simple, but requires a solid understanding of the fundamental principles of Art: “Students will apply an understanding of the Elements and Principles of Design when interpreting, evaluating, and/or creating Art.” Click the links below for documents.



Trash to Treasure

“Collaborating for a Cause” was at the heart of this project that involved collecting plastic and waste from local beaches and making a statement about the environment.  After several beach clean-ups and discussions about our message, students got creative inventing ways to make socio-political recycled works of Art.


The title of this artwork references the power and source of the famous “Delorean” from the movie Back to the Future. This iconic car travels through time completely powered by feeding trash into its flux capacitor. Flux is the action of flowing in or flowing out, and capacity is the maximum amount that something can contain.

The artwork titled “Flux Capacity” displays an incredibly powerful, beautiful, and dynamic force of nature that is infected with non-biodegradable plastics that are currently plaguing our oceans, beaches, and marine life. This is a call to all surfers, swimmers, and beach-lovers to join in an effort to clean our waves and water!


This artwork seduces you with its beautiful colors and painterly design.  Once it draws you in closer, it may come as a surprise that parts of it are made from colorful plastics collected from our local beaches.

Sometimes it takes a different viewpoint or creative eye to find something that we normally think of as ugly trash, and turn it into beautiful artwork.  As you allow this work to sink in, you may begin to uncover the layers of meaning that are captured here.


As you read the message in this artwork, who do you see?  Plastics and trash were adhered onto a mirror surface so as you read the words “Our Beach,” you also see yourself.  The reflection might evoke feelings of personal responsibility because we all play a part in overconsumption.  We can also all be part of the solution!

When students came up with the message they wanted to communicate through this artwork, they initially said “Your Beach.  My Beach. Our Beach…  Make a Difference.”  The final artwork was streamlined to impact viewers with a simple and meaningful idea that connects us all.



This group of artists formed their composition on a large plastic buoy that was found littering one of our local beaches.  The mosaic of colorful found-plastics looks beautiful, yet also implicates the threat our Earth faces.

Look closer and you may also notice some familiar island forms whose symbolic colors stand out against the blue-green seas.  The same threats that face us globally, also ensure imminent local impact.  Let’s make a positive difference!