Lesson #3: Adding Pattern

Part of the unit: Discoveries in Clay |


How can we add patterns to our pots?
Students will be able to:
Create a pattern using a feature of a favorite animal
Use various objects to create a textured pattern in clay
Students will understand that:
Artists are inspired by the world around them.
Animals have played important roles in cultures throughout history.
Working surfaces, two pre-rolled slabs of clay for each student (approx. 1/4" x 3" x 4" and 1/4" x 4" x 4")*, various tools to make textures (natural materials, toothpicks, kitchen implements, etc.), large paper for demonstration, paper, pencils, a rolling pin *If it is not possible to pre-roll slabs of clay, students will each need two 2" x 2" cubes which they can flatten with the heels and sides of their palms.
When Clay Sings by Byrd Taylor and Tom Bahti; Various images of animals to be used a reference; Students' prints of animal artworks from their research.
Revisit When Clay Sings (This book should have been read to students the day before this lesson). Show a few of the Navajo pots in the book.
  • How did these artists make their pots special?
  • What do the shapes and patterns on the pots remind you of?
  • Where do you think the artists' saw these shapes and patterns? The storybook connects the shapes and patterns to the natural world of the artists.
Ask a few students to share the examples of animal sculptures that they found in their on-line museum research.
  • Why do you think artists made sculptures of animals?
Invite children to speculate as to the roles animals may have played in past societies. They might have been a food source, a threat, a part of the work force, or endowed with magical powers. Invite the students to draw a connection between Navajo pot decorations and the animal art of other cultures. People make art about what is important to them.
  • What animal is important to you?
Next time we meet we will make animal heads on the lids of our pots. Today we will finish the pots and start our lids.
  • What pattern could you make on the sides of your pot to connect it to your animal?
Make a large drawing of an animal. Select one or two important shapes from its body and use those shapes to build a pattern. Invite students to think of patterns they could build using features of their favorite animals: a pattern of curly lines for a pig, a feather-like pattern or a triangular beak pattern for a bird, etc..
Students will make a drawing of their favorite animal. They will then choose one or more shapes from its body and use them to build a pattern on a clay tile. If slabs have not been pre-rolled, students can flatten their cubes with the heels and sides of their hands. The teacher can encourage students to explore the different kinds of marks made by various objects.
  • How could these tools help you make your textured pattern?
Once the students have practiced making their patterns on the clay tile, they can make the patterns into the sides of their pots. Students should be reminded to use one hand to support the inside of the pot while pressing the pattern on to the outside. When the pots are finished the students can gently set them upside down on lid slabs and trace around the pot to mark the dimensions of the lids. Students should place the lids in their ziplock bags to keep them moist until next week.  
  • Which animal did you choose to use?
  • Which features did you use for your pattern?
  • Which objects did you press into the clay to make that pattern?
Take a trip to the Brooklyn Museum and visit their Arts of the Americas collection. Students can bring their sketchbooks and make drawings of ceramic objects that feature animals.