Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Middle Eastern Doors

Central Idea: Expression of belief is all around us.
Lines of Inquiry: Middle eastern architecture, the roles of pattern in Islamic art

These lovely ceramic and glass  pieces would have been a great culmination of a unit focusing on Islamic Art but it being the end of the year and given the time it takes to "do clay", we worked backwards.  The doors were the first thing we did and then we backtracked and explore patterns and their role in Islamic art.

I got the idea for this project over here, but I adapted it a bit.  The children were given pre-cut slabs and I had examples of middle eastern archway shapes for them to take a look at.  They decided on their shapes for the whole piece and the interior door.  In retrospect, this would have been a good design lesson for them to play with in their sketchbooks-- but again,  it was May and we just didn't have enough time.

The children were given scrap paper that was cut to the same size as their slabs-- they had to fold it in half and draw half an arch, then once they cut the folded paper it was perfectly symmetrical.  They used the paper as a tracer for their clay and then used that same piece to draw, cut and trace their interior door.

Here was the success criteria for the patterns which were imprinted with screws:
The most challenging part was using a subtractive technique to carve out the interior doors.  This is where the glass shards were going to go so they needed to be level and deep enough to hold liquid (hot molten glass that is!).  Many kids made them too shallow or poked holes in the bottom, it wasn't easy.

After the bisque firing, the kids used three coats of Crystaltex glaze and then the fun of picking glass for the doors began!  I had a ton of glass for fusing left by the previous art teacher but glass marbles or broken bottles would work just as well. I look forward to next year when this unit and project can get given the time and attention it really deserves. 


  1. Fantastic lesson! I do have a couple of questions about it though...How big are these? When you add the glass pieces, do you have the children handle the pieces of broken glass? And, when you fire the pieces, what cone and speed do you fire them at? I've heard of melting glass in a ceramic kiln, but I've always been afraid to try it.

  2. Thanks a lot! The pieces are 8x10 inches and smaller, (that's the size of paper they used to make the stencil). The kids used a paper towel in their hand to pick up the glass, by the end of the lesson many of them were just very carefully using their fingers for the bigger pieces. I fired the pieces just like a regular glaze fire-- I think I had some greenware in the kiln too-- Cone 06, fast speed. Don't be afraid of glass, throw a couple of marbles in your next pinch pot for the glaze firing and you'll be hooked. :)

  3. I love how you take the real traditional historical context and how you applied it!

  4. Hi Princess Artypants,

    Is there any way I can contact you by e-mail? I am an Elementary Art teacher at International School of Latvia and I am struggling with out documentation! Grrrrr... I am looking for some advice and/or examples of how should a good PYP Art documents look like. How do you document what you do? what standards you use? ho do you choose what to teach? how many Units you collaborate with? How does you year long plan look like? Scope and sequence documents? So many questions... Seeking for help!