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Copy of Experience Craft: STEAM 2017-2018

Page history last edited by Susan Cormier 2 years ago


Experience Craft: STEAM Concepts


STEM is a national initiative to promote education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math in order to ensure future U.S. economic prosperity. The STEAM movement came out of the desire to insert Art and Design into the national agenda of STEM education and research in America. STEAM seeks to foster the true innovation that comes with combining the mind of a scientist or technologist with that of an artist or designer.



Craft and Design Galleries, 3rd floor, Uptown

60 minutes in length

5 stops



How do science and craft intersect? Through close looking, conversation, and in-gallery activities, students will gain a greater understanding of the material properties of clay, glass, metal, and wood and how artists use their knowledge of these material properties to create works of art. Recommended for grades 3-8, this tour integrates the North Carolina Physical Science Standards with the Visual Arts Standards.



  • Students understand how clay, glass, metal, and wood can undergo physical changes.

  • Students gain confidence in developing personal interpretations about works of art.

  • Students create connections between scientific methodologies and artistic process.






Welcome students. Introduce them to the Mint Museum.


What do you know about art museums?

How do we act in a museum?


Explain how looking closely and deeply helps you notice more things. Inform students that they will be looking at each work of art silently before discussing the work as a group. Ask them to listen to and consider other students viewpoints and to raise their hand if they have something to share. Encourage everyone to participate in the discussions.


Let students know that throughout the tour they will be trying to create interpretations, or explain the meaning behind, works of art. Explain that interpretations of an artwork can grow and change as you continue to look and think more deeply. Add that they may be able to contribute to what is known about the artwork through careful looking. Acknowledge that people may have different interpretations of a picture and that is fine. Strengthen students’ understanding of the word interpretation by using it throughout the tour. For example, “Thank you Joey, for sharing with us your interpretation of this piece.”


Clay, glass, metal, and wood consist of matter. Matter is anything that has weight and takes up space. All matter has physical properties you can see or feel (color, size, texture, shape, and mass). Objects of clay, glass, metal, and wood have physical properties. Matter can undergo changes to its physical properties. Heat can change clay, glass, metal, and wood. These materials can exist in different states of matter such as liquids and solids. Compare physical properties to a person’s characteristics, or attributes: hair color; height; clothing.


Let them know that they will be spending the next hour exploring how artists use their knowledge about the properties of clay, glass, metal, and wood to create works of art.














by Danny Lane


Materials: Stacked float glass, pour cast color glass, blown color glass, post-tensioned float glass, steel, mirror, poplar burl wood, local stone, LED lights, plastic apple

Key Concepts: transparency, refraction



Why does the apple behind the glass wall appear to move and multiply?


  • The stacked glass acts like lenses that refract, or bend, light so that objects behind the glass change and appear to move. Our eyes cannot see the light bend, or change direction. Instead, we see opaque objects, like the apple, appear to move and multiply.


What property of glass allows light to pass through it?


  • Light travels in a straight line. Transparency (water shares this quality) allows light to travel through glass, but not in a straight line.

  • Danny Lane describes his work as a “liquid lens” or a “veil [that] teases the mind’s...desire to understand...the mysterious luminous forms shifting behind it.”

Hands-on:Manipulate float glass pieces or “lenses” from Threshold


How does looking through the narrow side of the “lens” change how you see the objects and people around you?


  • If you look at an object through a glass window, it appears about the same as it would without the window between your eyes and the object. If you look through a glass of water at an object, you see distortion.

  • The water acts like a lens (transparent material curved on one or both sides) and refracts, or changes the direction of, light that passes through it. Similarly, light passing through the narrow side of the “lens” is bent more than light passing through the broad side of the “lens.”









Boat: King’s Voyage

by Bertil Vallien


Materials:Sand-cast glass, copper and glass inclusions

Key Concepts: sand-casting



What can you infer about how this work of art was made by looking at this image of the artist at work?


  • Glass is most stable when it’s hot or molten. It can be poured into molds, blown into hollow shapes, even floated into panes. It has to be cooled slowly in an annealing oven or it will crack. If it cools too quickly, glass will undergo thermal shock and develop a “check” in its structure – much like a windshield that gets hit with a rock.

  • Vallien describes the process: “I have developed the sand casting method over a long period, but actually it is dead easy: it is damp sand that one fills with glass. In order for this to work, a lot of preparation is required, and for it to turn out well, a great deal of planning is needed.”

Hands-on:Manipulate the cast glass object.


Think about the texture: How can glass be rough on one surface, and smooth on another?


  • As glass cools, it conforms to the texture of the surface it’s touching. If it doesn’t touch anything, it stays smooth.

  • The artist uses a sand mold to cast his sculptures. He mixes a special sand recipe and pours it into a long container, or mold, and then shapes it.


Look closely at King’s Voyage


How do you think the artist put the masks and other decorative elements into the glass?


  • The mold is filled with glass in layers, and within each glass layer, the artist’s team can use long tongs to lay out “inclusions,” or decorations.

  • The inclusions have to be heated before they put them in the molten glass so they don’t go into thermal shock and crack.

  • He can sprinkle glass powder inside the mold, and it will stick to the hot glass when it’s poured.


Why do you think the artist chose to work with glass instead of another material? How do you think glass helps communicate an idea(s)?


  • The medium’s transparent and translucent properties allow us to view the masks and objects within. According to Vallien, “Glass is an invisible substance that ‘eats the light’ then redirects it...it’s impossible to capture on paper.”

  • According to Vallien, “the boat is a shape that all people in some way have a relationship with. It is also an abstract shape [form]. It is an adventurous mode of travel…it has also been used as a metaphor for reaching other worlds, as when the Vikings buried their chiefs in ship tumuli (burial site). [The Boat] is a container for all manner of messages.”












American Chestnut Ellipsoid

by Edward Moulthrop


Materials:Lathe-turned chestnut wood

Key Concepts: lathe



What material do you think was used to produce this object?


  • The bowl emphasizes familiar wood grain patterns but has a smooth, glass-like surface that contrasts with the dull, rough properties characteristic of wood in nature.


Why do you think this material was chosen?


  • Because the bowl is a simple shape, it brings attention to the complex surface patterns of the wood. According to the artist’s son, Philip, “Ed liked simple forms, he didn’t like complex or intricate forms. What he loved was the wood. [The work] concerns the beauty of the wood as revealed through form.”


What clues can you find in this image that suggests the process used for making this object?


The artist used a lathe, a machine that holds a piece of wood and spins it, in order to shape it with a cutting tool. Compare a lathe to a pencil sharpener.

Hands-on:Manipulate the cross-section of a turned bowl and finished bowl made by Philip Moulthrop.


Think about wood in its natural form: How has the form and surface of the original wood changed? What similarities and differences can you notice between these bowls?


The artist used finishes and sandpaper to polish the object to a high shine. He lets the beauty of the wood’s natural design be the decoration on the surface. The glass-like finish emphasizes the wood’s color and pattern.




by Anatoly Tsiris


Materials:Lathe turned maple, walnut, mahogany, oak


Ask: How does the surface of this work compare with the surface of the finished bowl from the study collection?


  • Unlike Philip Moulthrop’s bowl, Tsiris has added small pieces of differing woods that contrast with the natural color and patterns of the maple surface.

  • The technique involves a woodworking tool called a biscuit joiner (used to make cuts) and hand- made biscuits, or small wood oval shaped discs, crafted from different kind of woods, to fill the cuts. They are glued, sanded, and finished with the large piece.











by Brent Kington


Materials:Forged and oxyacetylene gas-welded steel, paint

Key Concepts: forging, fulcrum



What do you know about metal and its properties by looking at this image of a blacksmith at work?


This piece is made of steel; which primarily consists of the metal iron. Steel has to be red hot to be forged, or shaped, with a hammer. It’s also a lot heavier than other metals.


Look at the surface of Weathervane. Where do you see evidence of forged steel?

Hands-on:Manipulate the small iron disk.


How do you think the artist created the patterns that you see on this disk?


Steelcannot be bent until it is heated and then forged.


Why do you think the artist forged the ribbon-like forms in Weathervane? What do you know about weathervanes?


  • The ribbon-like form can be set in motion by the touch of a finger or wind (it can rotate 360 degrees). But even when static, the form’s twisting lines imply movement.

  • According to the artist: "The weathervanes were about implied motion and real motion. My intention was that as the pieces moved...it [would] appear like a different piece; the gesture would change.”


How do the heavy steel disc shapes remain stable, or balanced, even though they are different distances from the center and one shape is larger than the other?


  • To solve the problem of balance and stability, Brent Kington placed the disks at different distances from the fulcrum, or center vertical balancing point. The larger disk is closer to the fulcrum.

  • Compare the piece to a seesaw: the center of the seesaw is the fulcrum; a smaller person can lift a larger person if that person is closer to the fulcrum.










Mr. Tutti Atomic

by Kate Malone


Materials:Molded and hand-built stoneware, glaze

Key Concepts: mold, crystalline glaze



What do you see?


According to the artist, “I think of my pots as people. All of my pots are generous and friendly. Nature is at the root of everything I do. I [capture] the force of nature, the freshness and sense of growth.”


How do you think the artist created the geometric spheres and the vessel form?


  • The artist used semi-circular molds to cast the geometric spheres in clay. Clay, when wet, can be molded and shaped. Wet clay was pressed into the molds. When the clay dried, or became “greenware,” it was removed from the molds and attached to create the spheres.

  • The vessel form was hand built uses coils of clay.

Hands-on:Manipulate the bisque fired ceramic pot


How does this Kate Malone’s piece compare to “greenware” or wet clay?


  • This is a bisque-fired sample. When an artist creates a piece, it dries, and then it gets baked, or bisque-fired, in a kiln.

Hands-on:Manipulate the glazed ceramic pot


How does the surface of this pot compare to Kate Malone’s piece?


  • A glaze is applied to the surface of the bisque fired ware and then re-fired in order to adhere the glaze to the ceramic surface, making it impermeable, or able to contain water or liquids without leaking.

  • If you’ve ever baked a cake or a pizza, you know that your oven has to reach a certain temperature to cook these foods. When a glaze is fired in a kiln, it has to reach a certain temperature to form the glass-like surface on the clay.

  • After the bisque firing, the artist glazes the object, either by painting or dipping the object with glaze. Mr. Tutti Atomic was bisque fired before the artist applied her glaze.

  • Then a piece gets fired again, and the glazes often change color or become “glassy” during this second firing.


What ingredients might the artist need in her glazes to create the shiny crystalline surface decorations?


  • Glazes have a lot of the same ingredients as glass. Glazes are also comprised of different minerals, or solid substances that occur naturally, e.g., silica.

  • The artist added the minerals zinc oxide and silica to her glaze so that when heated in an electric kiln, they would combine. When slowly cooled, this combination of ingredients forms crystals.

  • According to the artist, “one never knows how many or what size crystals will form.” In order to predict possible outcomes, however, the artist tested, or experimented with small pieces of clay and her crystalline glazes in the kiln: “I have been developing glazes for more than 25 years and have devised over 1,000 recipes.”

  • According to the artist, “the glazes feature a surface of crystals that physically grow on the surface [of the vessel] during cooling after a...kiln firing. The crystals grow and then fix in the glassy matrix, and create a shimmering surface like a butterfly wing under a microscope.”









Did you have a favorite work of art? Why was it your favorite?

What material would you want to work with and why?


Thank students for participating and encourage them to return to the Museum with their families.










Woodturning is a process of carving a piece of wood as it spins in place on a machine called a lathe. The lathe is designed to turn a piece of wood on its axis, most often in a horizontal position. (Think of a potter's wheel on its side with a block of wood fastened in the center.) As the wood turns, it can be shaped with sharp tools. The result will be a symmetrical object. Turned wood is the term applied to any wooden object shaped while it revolves around a fixed axis. Everyday objects like stair banisters, wooden salad bowls, and baseball bats are created using a lathe.




The process of hammering metal to shape it. Depending on the type of metal, it may need to be heated in order to forge it. Iron needs to be heated to shape it. Silver is soft enough that it doesn’t need to be heated to be forged.



Clay Phases or States

  1. Workable clay: state in which the clay body is moist, plastic, and can be easily molded.

  2. Leather hard: Leather-hard refers to a stage in the drying process the stage when the clay object is approximately 75-85% dry. Clay bodies at this stage are very firm and only slightly pliable, making this the best time to carve or trim.

  3. Greenware: unfired clay bodies which have reached near 0% moisture content. Bone dry greenware is very fragile in this state and can be easily broken.

  4. Bisque fired: preliminary firing in a kiln to harden the ware for glazing.



A thin, glass-like coating that fuses to the surface of a clay object by the heat of a kiln. The essential ingredient of a glaze is silica. In its pure, crystalline state it is known as quartz.


Crystalline glaze

A glaze that has crystal clusters or single crystals infused in the glaze. The addition of the mineral zinc encourages the crystalline formation.




Molten glass is poured into a compacted sand mold. A rough, granular surface results where the glass comes in contact with the sand.





A process by which a hot glass object is cooled slowly in a special oven. If a hot glass object is cooled "too quickly," it may be strained at room temperature, and therefore may break easily. If the glass is cooled slowly, so that the temperature near the surface is never very different from that of the interior, then the strain in the resulting object is reduced. Such glass is said to be annealed.


Float glass

Created in a factory by melting glass in a long furnace and flowing across a bath of molten tin. The resulting glass combines the finish of sheet glass with the optical qualities of plate glass.




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