ARTS271 Beginning Ceramics, Lisa Nocentini, Summer I 2019 | SACI College of Art & Design Florence

ARTS271 Beginning Ceramics, Lisa Nocentini, Summer I 2019

The aim of the course is to guide the students through a progressive understanding of the complex nature of the ceramic medium. Ceramics deals with materials and processes that are quite complex and the nature and behavior of clay, glazes and temperature need to be fully understood to be able to express one's creative ideas freely.

All the basic techniques of clay forming will be explored including some instruction on the potter’s wheel. We will glaze and decorate our fired pieces using various techniques (underglaze decoration, overglaze decoration, majolica painting, etc.).

The program of the course includes a series of practical demonstrations, lectures on essential theoretic information on the nature of clay and of glazes and on firing clay, slide shows on historical and contemporary ceramics, field trips to visit shows and workshops.


Week 1

Monday, May 20
- What is ceramics: a brief intro with slides; general information on materials being used in the studio, the kiln, studio rules, common terminology, safety issues, etc.

- Preparing clay for work: wedging and kneading
- The round form: pinched pots
- Modeling and working from the solid form (start project " An animal head")
- Prepare slabs for geometric project ("A slab box")

Wednesday, May 22
- What is clay/plasticity and shrinkage
- Visit the Room of the Maiolicas at the Bargello Museum

- Straight sided form: making a box with leather hard slabs ("A place where you can be yourself'')
- Modelling and working from the solid form (finish project)
​- How to use soft slabs

Week 2

Monday, May 27
- Types of clay, types of ware

- Start coiled form project ("A coil vessel")
- Start wheel practice (centering)

Wednesday, May 29
- The origins and development of Raku (with slide show)

- Finish coiled form
- Make raku pieces

Week 3

Monday, June 3
-The effect of heat on clay and stages of firing

- Continue wheel practice (centering and making a simple bowl)
- Start final project

Wednesday, June 5

Week 4

Monday, June 10
What is a glaze

- Glazing techniques: how to apply a glaze, how to use under glaze decoration
- Finish final project
- Wheel practice (cylinder forms)

Last wet day June 11

Wednesday, June 12

- Glaze faults and how to cure them

- Glaze work
- Overglaze decoration
​- Trim wheel pieces

Week 5

Monday, June 17
- Review for final test
- Visit traditional terracotta workshop in Impruneta and Lisa Nocentini's studio

- Final glazing of work

Wednesday June 19
​Final test and final critiques


It is essential that students come to class ON TIME. Important information will be given during the first few minutes of each class. Demonstrations, slide shows and lectures will take place at the beginning of class. Two latenesses are equal to one unexcused absence.

Work Outside of Class Hours

Students are requested to finish all assignments given in the assigned time. You are required to spend a minimum of 3 hours per week in the studio outside of class hours. In any case, consider that your success in developing studio skills will be directly proportional to the time spent in the studio outside of scheduled class times.

We will regularly make work that requires drying time between various stages (such as waiting for a pot to be “leather-hard” before applying a handle). This means coming into the studio outside of class to cover or uncover work to control drying and finish work begun earlier.

Cleaning Up

Each student will be responsible for cleaning personal and shared areas. It is expected that you will clean an area that you find untidy even if you didn't leave it that way. If we all do this we will have an efficient and safe place to work. A messy, dusty studio is a HEALTH HAZARD for everyone. Being messy and not cleaning up will affect your grade.


You will be required to keep a sketchbook for class. Its purpose is to document your ideas and artistic development. You’ll find that it can be your most useful tool in helping you to work out your ideas and plans before starting your projects, and during them. Bring your sketchbook to every class. It should also include all class information, all handouts including this syllabus, notes from class lectures. They will be checked on a regular basis.

Field Trips

One or more field trips will take place during the semester. Participation on these trips is mandatory.


You are strongly recommended to take advantage of the ceramic books and publications (Ceramic Review, Ceramic Monthly, Pottery Making Illustrated) that we have in the library. Most books in the ceramics section are on reserve and can only be consulted in the library. Make sure you take some time to do this.

General Safety & Emergency Instructions

Click here for a pdf of SACI's General Safety & Emergency Instructions.

Additional Safety & Studio Rules

Do NOT use machinery unless you have been instructed in its use by the instructor of this course.

  • Access to the ceramics studio is allowed only to students enrolled in the class.
  • Always clean up at the end of class: do not leave without cleaning up your working space (table or wheel, tools and plastic containers), and putting away all tools and materials used.
  • Do not leave clay bags or clay bins open.
  • Dust formation should be kept to a minimum: do not let pieces of clay or clay slop fall on the floor (if this happens, clean it up immediately).
  • Do not use sand paper on raw clay.
  • Always use a dust mask if you have to sand bisqued clay or if you have to use colors and glazes in dry powder form.
  • Always use a protective dust mask and/or gloves whenever a particular glazing material's composition requires you to do so. In any case always follow your teacher's instructions.
  • Do not leave glaze bins or color containers open and always put them back in their storage area (inside the cabinets).
  • The glaze sprayer can only be used after proper instruction by the teacher.
  • Wear a dust mask provided by SACI when you use the glaze sprayer.
  • Wear gloves provided by SACI when using the kilns.
  • Do not smoke, eat or drink in the ceramics studio.
  • Do not wear flip-flops in class - only safe, closed shoes.
  • Never touch kilns unless authorized by the instructor.
  • Do not keep your cell phones on during class.
  • Floors need to be left free of objects so that the cleaning staff can vacuum the studio area.

Evaluation & Grading

Projects will be evaluated at midterm and final critiques. Keep in mind that grading of studio work is necessarily a subjective process; however, the following points will give you an idea of the criteria I have in mind and their relative importance in determining a grade:

1) Generally, I will be looking for evidence of involvement with the problems presented, the dedication and effort applied to them, and the quality of their solutions.

2) In the ceramic process, problems of aesthetics and design are inseparable from the craft techniques that express them. A well-crafted work by itself does not constitute a work of art but a great concept cannot be expressed without the adequate technical skill. Workmanship, therefore, is an important part of the final grade.

3) I will appreciate evidence of original thinking and of awareness of the possibilities of the medium.

4) Individual research is also a very important part of your work.

5) Proper handling of studio tools and equipment and correct safety and maintenance procedures are considered. Participation in studio maintenance and cleaning up are essential.

6) Participation in the critiques and the capability to verbalize ideas and concepts are also important components of your final grade.

A short quiz test will be given during the finals week, dealing with the information on technical and historical issues discussed during the slide presentations and lectures.

Grading: Grading will be based on the following: Assignments are worth 60%, Quizzes 15%, and attitude and class participation is 25% of your grade for the class. The final grade will be determined by an overall judgment of the professor.

All assignments done on time and meeting assignments criteria.

Attendance, participation, and attitude - excellent.
Artistic and technical development evident in work.

Exceptional creative energy.

Extra hours in studio outside of class (6+ recommended).

Participation in studio maintenance and clean up, loading and firing of kilns, clay recycling.

All assignments done on time and meeting assignments criteria.

Attendance, participation, and attitude - good.

Artistic and technical development evident in work.

Good creative energy.

4 extra hours in studio outside of class.

Participation in studio maintenance and clean up, loading and firing of kilns, clay recycling.

All assignments done on time and meeting assignments criteria.
Attendance, participation, and attitude - adequate.

Artistic and technical development evident in work.

Adequate creative energy.

3 extra hours in studio outside of class.

Participation in maintenance and clean up of studio.

All assignments completed, but performed below average.

Completing too little or unsatisfactory work.

Poor attendance.

Did not meet enough requirements for the course to pass.

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