If you choose to use any of

Ceramic slab boxes

Personal Clay Box

An Art Lesson by Marvin Bartel, Ed.D.

Emeritus Professor of Art, Ceramics and Art Education

Goshen College


  1. Cut the box open by cutting around the sides in a tapered notched or wave pattern. Cut it with a very thin knife point.
  2. Make waves deep enough. The lid should not slide off in any direction.
  3. Use a wood paddle to gently refine the exterior.
  4. Use metal rib to remove lumps and the exterior lines the joints show.
  5. Use small amounts of clay to fill divots and dimples in the surface.The inside needs to be refined.
  6. The top will need a small coil added to fill the joint on the inside.
  7. Use thick slip to prepare the joint for the coil to be smoothed into the joint.
  8. Similarly, fill vertical corners with coils if they need it.

Style Having listed all these finishing criteria, it must be added that it is also very valid to make raw edges and raw clay joints if the artist's style requires it. In speaking about mass media, Marshall McLuhan said, "The medium is the message." As clay artist, I think the medium and the process is the message. If the artist wavers between "slick tech" and "abstract action-expression, " the effect may be weak, ambiguous, and confusing. However, if the artist is brash, convincing, and consistent, it can be very strong work.

In music we don't expect a folk singer to start performing hard rock and don't expect a rock singer to mix in smooth melodic ballads. Just as in music, visual style portrays the artist's conviction, consistent mood, and aesthetic stance reflecting a particular artist's preferences. Students are not expected to have a mature style, but they are expected to practice creating consistent style, albeit temporary or experimental for them.

Something supportive of the main idea must be incorporated in the decoration. Requiring decoration is a good way to encourage more creative problem solving experience. There are many ways to decorate, including:

  1. Paint with slip. Glaze with more than one glaze.
  2. Add some clay to build up pattern, picture, or texture (relief sculptured surface).
  3. Remove some of the colored slip (sgraffito) to create pattern, picture, or texture.
  4. Incise lines in the surface to create a drawing,
  5. Find items to stamp into the surface.
  6. On a new piece, pre texture the clay.
  7. Add pieces on the bottom to raise it off the table a bit.
  8. Add handles.
  9. Using a stamp designed by the student with an idea based on the student's self descriptive list
  10. Words relating to the user, the contents, or meaning intended.

Design Principles to be Considered While Planning and Working

  1. Unity (avoid parts or visual aspects that are overly distracting or out of place).
  2. Variety and Harmony (make it interesting to look by using "visually related parts").
    Some ways to do it
    Repeat a shape while changing the shape's size, color, or texture.
    Repeat the size, but change the shape, texture or color.
    Keep mixing and matching the visual elements (line, shape, texture, color, tone or value).
  3. Subject matter (image) has power to incite the imagination. Use images unexpectedly to surprise, enlighten, confound, and delight the user.
  4. Function and usefulness has power to reward the user. Use function unexpectedly to surprise, enlighten, confound, and delight the user.


  1. Creative designers intentionally make lists of ideas.
  2. Creative designers intentionally make lists of sketches.
  3. Creative designers often repeat the same sketch with many variations.
  4. Creative designers hate to copy, but they love to see how other designers think and surprise us.
  5. Creative designers seek out feedback from those whose opinions they value.
  6. Creative designers push boundaries of function, materials, and fabrication processes.
  7. Creative designers are constantly looking for other alternatives - even opposites are more apt to be considered by creative minds than by the average person.

Why Make Requirements when Teaching Art and Creativity?

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