Sharing Art
Western Reserve Public Media
Ceramic Tiles Project


Regional Artists: Bob Yost, Akron
Featured Museum: The Butler Institute of American Art
Featured Artist: Susan andSteve Kemenyffy
Featured Work of Art: "Raku Platter"
Featured Teacher: Laura Donnelly, North Canton City Schools

Lesson Overview:

  • Art Content Subject/Theme: Positiveand negative design

  • Medium: Clay

  • Product: Tile

  • Function: Decorative

  • Design/Style: Positive and negative individual creation

  • Approach: Expression. Work with positive and negative designs to create a design for an individual tile. Transform ideas from paper drawing to clay tile

  • Studio work: Clay tile creation and design


Video Synopsis

Bob Yost explains how he does research to find the patterns his customers want on handmade tiles. He demonstrates how he determines the design, traces it and makes a plaster mold. The mold is then used to create multiple tiles that are fired to create glazed ceramic tiles. The school project uses student-created cardboard patterns to create glazed ceramic tiles.



Students will:

  • design and use procedures to test the suitability of various tools, techniques, processes and materials for different purposes and effects of a relief tile.

  • communicate information about an idea (positive and negative space) or event through the use of clay relief tile.

  • examine various works of relief tile to discover common components.

  • examine the similarities and differences of how various art forms express an event or idea.



  • Positive

  • Slab

  • Bisque

  • Symmetrical

  • Score

  • Glaze

  • Relief

  • Asymmetrical

  • Texture

  • Fire

  • Negative



  • Video interview with area artist Bob Yost

  • Visuals of reliefs through history

  • Visuals of positive and negative design

  • 25 lbs. (05 06 fire) white clay

  • Rolling pins

  • Leveling sticks

  • Variety of everyday tools for cutting scoring and adding texture to clay tile

  • Paper towels

  • Newspaper

  • 1 dozen Exacto knives

  • Scissors

  • 6" x 6" pieces of cardboard for patterns (2 per student)

  • 6" x 6" wood boards for carrying wet tiles

  • 1 gallon plastic bags (1 per tile)




Day 1:
Introduce and view positive and negative design concept. Hand out nine panel progressive design paper. Direct students through it as they design.

Day 2:
Show the Sharing Art video, “Ceramic Tiles.” View historical reliefs.  Discuss, compare and contrast Bob Yost’s tiles and historical tiles.  Explain our intentions to create a clay tile from the previous day’s designs. Discuss and write self-assessment plan based on learned concepts and responses to artists’ work.

Day 3:
Demonstrate slab tile technique, proper scoring, and the addition of texture to the clay. Explain time frame, class management and organization.

Day 4:
Distribute clay and begin tiles.

Days 5 & 6:
Finish creating tile with a self-critique. Allow time for the tiles to dry before firing to bisque.

Day after firing:
Demonstrate and apply three coats of glaze.

Day after glazing:
Glaze fire the tiles. Return tiles, documentation in sketchbooks and have students fill out self-assessment sheet.


Lower Grade Level Project

Using found objects from nature (leaves, stones, shells, nuts, sticks, etc.), students may use textures and patterns from nature to create designs on their tile.


Higher Grade Level Project

Students may create a radial design on the surface of the tile created with found objects and raised areas of clay.


Assignments of monitors and distribution of supplies

Each table has four people. each with a number 1-4

  • #1 sets up newspaper at the beginning and throws it away during clean-up

  • #2 gets the water container and replaces it during clean-up time

  • #3 retrieves tool tray and replaces it during clean-up

  • #4 wipes the table at the end of clay time to assure clean tables



Self-assessment following the criteria agreed upon before beginning project. Some suggestions:

  • Time management

  • Attentiveness during presentation

  • On task

  • Active participant

  • Construction: Slab is flat with edges smoothed and name on the bottom surface.

  • Design: Balanced composition with positive and negative design shown.

  • Texture: Two other textures, each repeated somewhere else on the tile.

  • Glazing: Covers top and sides including the recessed areas. Evenly coated with no glaze on the bottom.