Local Artist Helps Derry Students Create ‘Story Bowls’

East Derry potter Mike Gibbons visited both East Derry Memorial Elementary School and Derry Village Elementary School for two weeks to work with fifth graders during art classes as they create ceramic “story bowls” under his supervision.

Before Gibbons arrived at the schools for the pottery work last week, each student had written a story that reflected something meaningful to them and then illustrated it, first on paper, then onto foam bowls.

In the first week of Gibbons’ visit, students created ceramic bowls using a clay slab technique and then chose one color slip to paint the interior. The bowls were then left to harden.

Gibbons patiently demonstrated the technique for the fifth graders, showing them how to roll out the lump of clay in preparation for making their bowls. He used a toy rubber ball that he fitted into a paper bowl, on which they placed their flattened clay to form a bowl shape.

Jennifer Downing at East Derry was all smiles as she got ready to roll out her ball of clay and said, “I think this project is a good idea because it produces something for us to use or eat out of. It is cool. I chose music as the subject of my story, and I will sketch a musical note into the center of the bowl and put notes around the sides. I am really enjoying doing this.”

Another student, Jacob Kenney, was carefully working on his clay, concentrating on following Gibbons’ directions. “I love doing this because me and my dad do ceramics all the time,” he said. “I chose to write about sound waves and will use sound waves and a house as my illustration. I chose these because I like to meditate a lot.”

For the second week of his visit, Gibbons will have the students use the sgrafitto technique to draw and carve their story designs through the slip and into the interior of their bowls. Sgraffito is a painting technique where the artist scratches into the top layer of the paint to reveal areas of the surface underneath.

Gibbons will then take the bowls to his East Derry studio, where they will dry before he places them into the kiln for firing. The bowls will receive a clear glaze and one more kiln firing from Gibbons before they are returned, finished, to the students.

The students were enthusiastic about working with a local artist while creating a unique piece of art. The Parent Teacher Association (PTA) made Gibbons’ visit to the two schools possible.

Carol Vincent, East Derry Memorial art teacher, said, “This is a wonderful opportunity for the students. It is a very personal project, where the students will have a memento to take away. Their choice of decoration for their story reflects who they are and makes a great memory. As fifth graders, they will be leaving this school, and they will have
this piece to take with them as a memory.”