Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Terracotta Warriors

This project is a great way to tie art and history together, if you are studying China or Asian cultures in your classroom, you can create an army of terracotta warriors with your class.  The Terracotta Army is a collection of terracotta (a type of clay) sculptures depicting the armies of the first Emperor of China. The purpose of these warriors was to protect the emperor in his afterlife and to make sure that he had people to rule over.  There are over 8000  life-size warriors, horses and chariots that make up the collection.  It had been buried until  farmers accidentally found them in 1974 while digging a well in a remote area of the Shaanxi Province.  

Once you have discussed the amazing magnitude of the terracotta army with your students and shown lots of pictures, each student can easily create their own warrior. You can use terracotta clay for this project if you want (it contains a lot of iron and hence it stains everything easily!) but I used a low fire white earthenware clay and stained the surface of the clay afterward to get the rich red tones.  Start by giving your students a piece of clay that is about the size and shape of a hot dog bun.  With a knife, cut the bottom third of the clay down the middle.  This will create two separate legs.  Then cut from where the armpit would be on an angle towards the outer edge of the block of clay to create each arm.  Next squeeze the clay to create a neck and round out the head with your hands.  This should give students a basic human form.  They can change the position of their warrior if they want to by bending the limbs to make it kneeling or sitting.  Next have them use tools and their fingers to create the details and features. Remember that if they add any clay on, they'll need to scratch-to-attach.  Use lots of references to look at the details in the uniforms of the warriors.  Once they are dry, you can bisque fire them and then I painted mine with a red iron oxide wash to give them their terracotta color. If you've used terracotta clay, you won't need to color them.  To make the wash use 2 parts red iron oxide to one part gerstley borate (all available at ceramic supply stores) and mix with water to a thin consistency.  Paint on the wash and then use a damp sponge to wipe the surface off lightly.  Glaze fire the pieces and you can assemble your terracotta army ready for battle!

!!!B CR8IV!!!

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