Greek pottery is easily identifiable in the modern day–people largely tend to recognize this style of Greek art when they see it. This quarter, sixth graders worked on a cross-curricular project uniting the history and artwork of Greek pottery, becoming artisan storytellers.
As Ms. Anya Grady’s Latin students study ancient civilizations, they see the impact these eras still have on today’s culture. When they dove deeper into the history of Greek pottery, students learned to identify and differentiate details and styles as they encountered them in examples outside the classroom.
“Although these civilizations are long gone, I teach my students to recognize the influence they still have today. Students are always excited when they find something that we've learned about in their everyday lives,” said Ms. Grady.
Classes began by focusing on the evolution of Greek art styles and a few of the more easily identifiable types of pottery. They discussed how we instinctively know what modern vessels can be used for, and compared that to those created by early Greeks. From there, Ms. Grady introduced early styles of decorated Greek pottery art, focusing on the iconic black figure and red figure styles that are widely recognized.
Students then took what they learned and made their own two-dimensional, stylized design. They pulled inspiration from their own stories, history, and the everyday, brainstorming to recreate their images in the Greek style. They showed a huge range of creative expression, choosing subjects ranging from Abraham Lincon and Groot, to Mary Poppins and favorite athletes. They analyzed how figures are identifiable without labels, and experimented with how to apply the Greek style to their ideas. They then moved to a new medium, painting their finalized design after transferring it onto a colored plate. Students were excited to see the connection with the ancient vessels in how the original color of the plate provided the contrast with their paint.
“I’ve definitely recognized some of the Greek art styles that we learned about in Ms. Grady’s class in old buildings and drawings, and it was fun learning how to paint the character I picked–Mickey Mouse–in the Greek stylized way,” said Sophie Miller ’27.
Concurrently, the sixth graders began working with Mrs. Paas, creating their own three-dimensional clay plates to which they would ultimately apply their two dimensional designs. In the art studio, Mrs. Paas led students through the traditional hand-building process of creating a slab plate.
“Having previously worked in the medium, the students built upon their prior knowledge of the stages of clay that included hand-building in the wet stage, letting the clay get to the dry stage, and finally firing in the kiln to reach the bisque stage,” said Mrs. Paas. “After the pieces are fired, we will discuss the vitrification process and what happens to make the material go from clay to ceramic.”
In the final steps, Mrs. Paas will demonstrate how to create a watercolor "wash" on top of the bisqueware which students used to create their Greek designs.
“This project was challenging, but it was a fun experience,” said Jules Whittemore ’27. “I liked being able to work with the clay and use my hands in a different way. It was fun to make something and to be able to get my hands dirty!”
Throughout the project, students were encouraged to focus on self-analysis, recognizing how to improve, as well as the purpose of breaking down ambitious goals into small steps. They were emboldened to step outside of their comfort zone and explore where their creativity would lead them, as well as the many ways their academic knowledge and skills helped them process their ideas.