Legacy Tiles

Every year our 5th grade class completes a legacy tile. Students have been creating and installing these ceramic self-portrait tiles at my school since 1996! These portraits line the hallways of the building, visualizing each individual's story and capturing the moment in time they were created.

Similar to my Layers of Identity lesson, my young artists discuss how our identities are complex. This project begins by exploring and unraveling the many layers of our identities and brainstorming ways we can visualize who we are beyond our appearance. I use an apple to illustrate the complex and intersecting layers that make up our identities. We discussed what these layers are and why they are an important part of who we are as individuals. My young artists then create a clay relief self-portrait that visually represents at least one (or more) aspect of their identity from within each layer.

To get started I use a slab cutter to slice 1/2 inch slabs. I then have a square 4"x4" template (cut from cardboard) that my young artists use to cut out their individual tiles. We then ensure that we use proper slipping and scoring techniques to firmly attach our 3-dimensional forms. We also carve out additional details into the background, making sure to also use texture.

These are the clay tools I recommend using for this project:
Face molds- I have an assortment of mini face molds. They are originally made for fondant decorations but work great with clay! They provide a great base to get started with but students are not required to use them. Here is a link to the set I purchased.
Slip- I have a cup of slip at each table, students use old paint brushes to apply onto their work without having to get their fingers too messy.
Needle Tool- These tools are great for cutting the clay and engraving small details.
Feather Wire Texture Tool- This is essentially a wire paint brush. They are AMAZING for scoring the clay! We also use them to create different textures such as hair, grass, sand, and more!
Modeling Tools- Each table gets an assortment of various modeling tools to help create their work!
Wood Stylus- although these are meant for scratch art, these are really great for "drawing" onto the clay!

After a kiln firing we add color with tempera paint. If your interested you can learn more about my painting routines here.

Since the eyes are so small, we first use a white paint pen to fill in our eyes before using colored sharpies for the pupils. Some students also use fine tip sharpies to add eyelashes!

After I seal their work with a clear acrylic coat spray. I then use Loctite Power Grab Heavy Duty construction adhesive to permanently install the tiles onto our walls!

Student Art

Like many school districts, art remained virtual for all students during the 2020-2021 school year. As such we were not able to complete our legacy tiles as we have traditionally done. So instead I found a digital solution! My young artists used PIXLR to create their digital self-portraits which I then had printed onto ceramic tiles from Artsonia. Even though they may not have been in the building during their 5th grade year, their legacies still live on within the school!