Design Thinking with Clay – Smarter Interior Design

Clay is my absolute favorite medium to work in, and usually my students’ favorite, as it allows for quite a bit of creative freedom. It’s also a great tie-in with science and geology by introducing the firing process from greenware to glazeware, and the various types of clay.  Of all media, clay is the best material to literally see problems and solutions from all sides.

Interior Space Lesson – 8th Grade 3D Art

Think of a space that you frequent that might be designed or laid out inefficiently–a kitchen too small for both an oven and refrigerator; a space too small to call your own personal area; windows that don’t allow enough ventilation… how might you redesign the space to be more efficient or solve your problem?

OBJECTIVES (students will be able to)

  • Create a three-dimensional space with a floor, two walls, one window, and one door (MINIMUM)
  • Create at least five different items, belongings, or features made out of clay.
  • Model a solution to a real-world problem that students might have in their personal or school life.
  • Use watercolors to create the illusion of light coming from outside or a light source within your space.

** Your final work should fit within a space that is 6″ wide x 6″ high x 6″ deep.**

My students’ initial planning sketches showed they understood the objective of solving a problem. However during production, many pieces became less about the specific problem to be solved and more about creating a miniature personal space–a miniature version of a place that students could relax and call their own. Among the solutions were many couches, large beds, bean bag chairs, flat-screen televisions, stereo systems, and a second-story hot-tub–all well rendered with great craftsmanship.

Quiet 8th graders are engaged 8th graders, and at this point I let go of the reigns a bit and let the new creative direction take its course. There was also an added modular aspect to the project, where a group of any four spaces combine to create a larger social space and common area.

Finished work


Progress pics – after kiln fire #1

An alternative to glazing & creating the illusion of light

The final part of the assignment was to create the illusion of a light source using glazes (liquid glass). However I recently experimented with using watercolors on unglazed clay after spilling coffee on my example piece. Unglazed clay is extremely porous, soaks up liquid quickly and dries even quicker–much more conducive to getting a lot of work done during a 45 minute class. Using a little restraint with the pigments, students have great control over shades and tints.

Initially there was difficulty visualizing a light source and creating cast shadows, until I realized that using an actual light source would generate those shadows to recreate with watercolors:

The only restriction besides the size requirement was not using straight black for shadows. Shadows are rarely pure black, rather increasing shades of the same color.

I’m really happy how these developed, with some great discoveries for both the students and me. 8th grade really went above and beyond the bar that I set for them for this project.