Cliff Mendelson instructs the students about pottery in Mrs. McMahon’s art class During the first week in November, ceramic artist, Cliff Mendelson, presented his unique, fact-filled workshop “A Day in Clay” to the Garden City High School art classes. He transformed the art room with an astonishing array of informative display boards outlining the history of ceramics, and brought pottery samples from many ancient and modern cultures. Mr. Mendelson creatively demonstrated the pottery making process by showing the students how clay is kneaded, “thrown” on the wheel, formed and painted. It was evident that the students were fascinated by his ability to form a ball of clay into a vase or bowl, using his hands and specific potter’s tools. As he worked, he explained that every piece of pottery is composed of universal elements such as the lip, neck, shoulder and foot. With his expert guidance, student volunteers were able to experience the pottery making process themselves, by performing the many steps involved in making a vase. Within moments, that vase was cleverly transformed into a pitcher by adding a curved handle and forming a spout! Mr. Mendelson dis-cussed the painting of pottery and how metals in the paint produce desired colors, such as iron oxide for terra cotta, cobalt for blue, copper for green and vanadium for yellow or brown. After the completed pieces were painted and decorated, they would be fired in a kiln at close to 2000 degrees. The art students left Mr. Mendelson’s workshop with an excellent understanding of how pottery is made and its significance in all cultures.
Cliff Mendelson working with a student on clay in Mrs. McMahon’s art class Cliff Mendelson is a ceramist and educator, having taught in New York City at the Parsons School of Design, Hunter College, and the 92nd Street Y. He also teaches at Westchester Community College and the Westchester Arts Workshop. Mr. Mendelson has a B.F.A. from the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts/Tufts University and has exhibited at the Azuma and Jane Hartsook Galleries in New York City and the Boston Center for the Arts.
This program was coordinated by the Arts in Education Committee of the Garden City School District Parent Teacher Association funded by the Garden City Union Free School District.