|Original Story Teller Figure by Helen Cordero|
|Helen Cordero at work on a Story Teller figure|
This was a five week after school clay workshop for students in grades 3, 4, and 5. Building on skills learned in previous classes, we moved forward in doing figurative work with animal and human themes.
For the first week, we focused on the work of Cochiti Pueblo artist Helen Cordero, who began her art journey making ceramic vessels, but later changed direction and moved into doing figurative work. We looked at her Story Teller figures, based on her childhood memories of time with family.
Sketchbooks and pencils
White low fire clay
Canvas mats for work surface
1. We looked at photos of Helen Cordero at work on her Story Teller figures, observing the adult figures, the size and location of the child figures, colors used, facial expressions, etc.
2. We discussed family traditions of story telling and reading, recalling our own experiences.
3. Students spent a few minutes making quick drawings in their sketchbooks to generate ideas for their own version of a story telling figure.
They needed to include:
-One large figure, human or animal
-Open mouth on the large figure
-Two or more smaller figures added to original
4. I gave each student two pieces of clay. One for the main figure and one for the smaller ones. For the larger figure, they rolled out a ball for a head, two long snakes (one for arms and one for legs) and a squarish shaped piece for the trunk of the body.
5. They attached the arm snake across the top of the body, and the leg snake at the bottom, attaching with slip and score technique. Heads were added on last and shaped to include necks. Most everyone made their figure seated for stability.
Bending the legs, the figures were placed on pieces of mat board so students could move their pieces around and work from all sides.
6. Next, using modeling tools, students added details (clothing, hair, facial expressions, etc) .
7. For tiny figures, we took a small ball of clay and squeezed a neck and head shape at one end. They looked like small bowling pins. Two cuts were made in the sides for arms, and one cut on the bottom, so the two parts could be separated into legs. Students then went to work creating tiny versions of the larger figure and adding them to the large figure securely.
8. Pieces were examined for strength and cracks were smoothed over with fingers.
9. Pieces were allowed to dry for later firing and glazing.
This lesson was one hour in length, with 10 minutes added at end for clean up.