Ancient Egyptian Clay Cartouches

16 Jan

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In celebration of Room 14’s unit on Ancient Egypt, we decided to make personal cartouches from clay.  In ancient Egyptian times, a cartouche was a “name plate” that was inscribed with hieroglyphs.  Using a hieroglyph translator chart, the students decoded their names and inscribed the symbols on a clay oval slab, creating a cartouche.

Lesson Overview:

I started out by explaining the lesson while the kids sat on the floor.  We talked about cartouches and I did a sample hieroglyph translation on the whiteboard with my name.  I explained that the first step was to accurately translate their name on to a piece of paper.  Then I demonstrated to them how to wedge the clay to remove the air bubbles and how to roll it out into a slab (about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick) .  I then used a  cartouche template I had cut out  from tag board to trace the shape on to the clay.  (I cut out several of these for students to use)  Or,  I explained they could cut out their own cartouche oval without the template.  Then I explained that they would take their pieces back to their desks to work on the hieroglyph inscriptions and design.

Step 1:  We had the students practice their hyroglyphic names on a piece of paper.  Hyroglyphic charts can be found on the internet. Here is an example:  http://www.uhsda.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/hieroglyphics-table.jpg  Once they had successfully completed the translation, we set them to work on the clay.

Step 2:  I set out two old cloth shower curtains for the students to wedge and roll the clay on.  If you roll the clay on a desk it just ends up sticking!  (Think bread dough!)  Once they had their cartouche shape slab, they carefully carried it back to their desks and set it on a piece of paper to prevent it from sticking.  I used construction paper so that it would be strong enough to support the clay during the drying process.

Step 3:  Using their hyroglyphics paper rough draft, the students inscribe the design on to the clay using a thin pointy tool (toothpick, pencil,  clay tools)

Step 4:  I stored the cartouches on the shelf in the kiln room to dry for about a week and then bisque fired them in the kiln.

Step 5:  After firing, I brought the pieces back for the students to glaze.  They choose a lighter glaze for the background and a darker one for the hieroglyphs details.

Step 6:  Glaze fired the pieces and returned to the students (finally!)

Comments:  A ceramics project is a commitment of time on the docent’s part (and the student) but it is well worth it.  The students love working with clay and its great to give them the exposure to this medium.  Ceramics projects do break – part of the deal – but they can be glued with superglue after the bisque/glaze firings.  I highly recommend trying one ceramics project a year!

Art Elements covered: Form, Shape, texture, line, color

Art Docent: Kimberly Albert

Room 14 – Gaffney, 3rd grade

albertclan@aol.com

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