Sixth-graders at Oswalt Academy are trying their hand at Raku pottery as part of their IB studies into ancient civilizations. This type of Japanese pottery traditionally forms tea bowls used in the tea ceremony.

It is hand shaped rather than thrown, so the students had spent some time two weeks ago shaping their clay into bowls and vases.

On a sunny Wednesday in Walnut, the students were out learning how to add glaze to their products. Nogales High teacher Jim Ellison was anxious to show the young artists the glorious colors they could add to their earthenware.

"Now that the clay has dried, you have to decide what glazes you want to use," the visual arts instructor explained. "I'll show you how to add the glaze then you can decide."

Nogales High School Visual Arts Teacher Jim Ellison shows Oswalt students how to glaze Raku pottery. (Photo by Gina Ward, courtesy of Rowland Unified)

The kids could dunk their works of art, pour the glaze over them, or sprinkle some glaze on. All would produce different effects.

So the students gathered around the steel utility tubs to watch Ellison demonstrate the three very different techniques.

"This may look like runny mud, but the glaze will oxidize when we fire our pieces next week," the art teacher said. "Then we'll get amazing colors liked the finished bowls I showed you earlier."

One tan colored glaze would turn into a shimmering blue when fired. Another beige solution would turn into a multicolored finish.

The sixth-grade teachers asked the Nogales High instructor to come out to their Rowland Unified school


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to motivate their students.

"We wanted to integrate art into our unit study on ancient civilizations," explained sixth grade teacher Kimi Smith. "The pottery has really piqued the students' interest. They think it's really neat."

Three high school students helped the students put glaze on their cups and flower vases.

"I think it's good to give them a taste of the art classes they can get at Nogales High," said senior Abraham Deavila. "If we can kindle their interest in the arts that's a good thing."

The 17-year-old sculptor wishes he had had such an experience in elementary school.

"I didn't know how much I loved art until I took Mr. Ellison's class," Abraham said. "Now I'm preparing pieces for my own art show in the spring."

The Oswalt kids didn't seem to mind getting their hands dirty in the interest of art. Eleven-year-old Ma'kayla Butler decided to go with the multicolor glaze.

"This is fun, I like to try different things," the sixth-grader said.

Classmate Elisa Castillo slowly poured the multicolor glaze over her clay. The 11-year-old left parts uncovered so they would turn black when the pottery was fired.

"I like the way that looks," Castillo said.

Sixth grade classes cycled through the outdoor art studio throughout the day.

The students can't wait until next week when they'll visit Nogales to use the high school's kiln to fire their Raku pottery.

richard.irwin@sgvn.com