ARTS372 Intermediate Ceramics, Lisa Nocentini, Fall 2019 | SACI College of Art & Design Florence

ARTS372 Intermediate Ceramics, Lisa Nocentini, Fall 2019

Course Description

The intermediate course is structured to give students who already have a basic/sound knowledge of building and glazing techniques a deeper knowledge of the various aspects of contemporary ceramics: throwing and hand building functional forms, vessel forms and sculptural work. According to each student's interests, the course may verge towards one of the two following major directions of contemporary ceramics: A) functional ware; B) vessel and sculptural forms.

During the semester students will work on 4 main projects:

1) Project using the potter’s wheel (in relation to the skill of the student), given by the instructor, dealing with functional ware. 3 weeks.

2) Hand building project, given by the instructor, dealing with vessel forms or sculptural forms. 2 weeks.

3) A project combining or selecting between throwing and hand building techniques (functional or sculptural), chosen by the student or suggested by the instructor. 4 weeks.

4) Pieces for the Raku firing, chosen by the student. 1 week.

The course’s aim is to lead students towards learning new and/or more advanced skills and to be able to understand the basic concepts of design and aesthetics of handmade utilitarian pots and of vessel/sculptural forms. Students are encouraged also to create works that will express content creating their own vocabulary in clay.

Glazing techniques and firing processes will be dealt with during the course of the semester.

Students will be introduced to the rich ceramic tradition of Italy and of the Mediterranean area with the use, in the studio, of local clays and glazing materials (low temperature earthenware). Students are also expected to gain additional awareness of historical and contemporary ceramic art by visiting ceramic exhibitions and museums, by traveling whenever possible to places that are rich in ceramic traditions (Montelupo, Deruta, Faenza, Vietri, etc.) and by reading books and magazines in the SACI library.

Tentative Schedule

Week 1

Tues, Sept. 10
- General information on studio organization, its proper maintenance and materials being used

- Preparing clay for work: wedging and kneading
- Getting acquainted with the clay and the wheels

Thurs., Sept. 12
- Assigning projects for the wheel

- Start project no. 1 (wheel: throwing)

Week 2

Tues., Sept. 17
- FIELD TRIP:  Visit the room of the Majolicas at the Bargello Museum

- Work on project no. 1 (wheel: throwing)

Thurs., Sept. 19
- Lesson: What is clay? Its origin, physical and chemical characteristics
- Work on project no. 1 (wheel: throwing, altering forms)

Week 3

Tues., Sept. 24
- Using colored slips
Continue work on project no. 1 (wheel: trimming)

Thurs., Sept. 26
- Continue work on project no. 1 (wheel: trimming, adding handles)

Week 4


Tues., Oct. 1
- Lesson: Different types of ceramics (with slide show)
- Finish project no. 1 (wheel: trimming, handles)

Thurs, Oct. 3
- First Critique

- Research and start project no. 2 (handbuilding)

Week 5


Tues., Oct. 8
- Lesson: Drying and firing clay
- Continue work on project no. 2 (handbuilding)

Thurs., Oct. 10
- Continue work on project no. 2 (handbuilding)

Week 6


Tues., Oct. 15
- Glazing techniques: How to apply a glaze, how to use underglaze decorations,
glaze first projects
- Finish project no. 2 (handbuilding)

Thurs., Oct. 17
- Session of silk-screening (serigraphy) techniques with Prof. Kathy Knippel (Laboratorio Firenze)

Week 7



Tues., Oct. 22
- Research and start final project

Thurs., Oct. 24
- Midterm (second) critique



Week 8

MIDTERM BREAK (October 26 - November 3)



Week 9

Tues., Nov. 5
- Lesson: The origins and development of Raku
- Work on Raku pieces

Thurs., Nov. 7
- Finish Raku pieces
- Work on final project

Week 10


Tues., Nov. 12
- Lesson: What is a glaze? Its composition and the function of the different components
- How to use underglaze decoration
- Continue work on final project

Thurs., Nov. 14
- Continue work on final project

Week 11


Tues., Nov. 19
- FIELD TRIP: Raku firing at La Meridiana in Certaldo

Thurs., Nov. 21
- Third Critique

- Continue work on final project
- Glazing

Week 12

Tues., Nov. 26
- Lesson: Glaze faults and how to cure them
- Continue work on final project
- Glazing

Thurs., Nov. 28
- Continue work on final project
- Glazing

Week 13


Tues., Dec. 3
- Continue work on final project

Thurs., Dec. 5
- Finish final project
- Glazing

Week 14

Tues., Dec. 10
- Lesson: Different types of firings
- Glaze final project

Thurs., Dec. 12
- Final glazing
- If time allows, field trip to local ceramics studio

Week 15

Tues., Dec. 17
Review for final test
- Studio clean up

Thurs., Dec. 19
- Final test and final critique

(The order of subjects may change during the semester at the teacher's discretion.)


Students will have to take two tests based on the theoretical information given during the lectures: one before the mid-term break and one during the final examination week.


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 6 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.


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

Two 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, Ceramics Monthly, and 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.

Cleaning Up

Each student will be responsible for cleaning personal and shared areas and should make the process of recycling clay as easy as possible by following the rules posted in the recycling area.  It is expected that you clean the area of the studio where you have worked even if you didn't find it clean.

You will need to put back all materials (stored in bins, jars or bags) to their original storage cabinets after use. Floors need to be left free of objects so that the cleaning staff can vacuum the studio area.

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.

General Safety & Emergency Instructions

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

Studio Rules for Your Health and Safety

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 outside in the garden.
  •  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.

Evaluation & Grading

Work will be evaluated at midterm and a final critique will be scheduled at the end of the semester. 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.

Two short quiz tests will be given at midterm and during the finals week dealing with the information on technical and historical issues discussed during the slide presentations and lectures.

Graduate Students
Students in MFA, MA, and Post-Bac programs are expected to complete additional assignments and to produce work at a level appropriate for students in a graduate program. They are graded accordingly and, if they successfully complete all course requirements for graduate students, receive graduate-level credit for the course.

Grading Criteria
Grading will be based on the following: Assignments/work are worth 60%, Quizzes 15%, 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 assignment criteria.

- Attendance, participation, and attitude - excellent.

- Artistic and technical development evident in work.

- Exceptional creative energy.

- Excellent ability to verbalize concepts and ideas, participation in critiques.

- 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 assignment criteria.

- Attendance, participation, and attitude - good.

- Artistic and technical development evident in work.

- Good creative energy.

- Good ability to verbalize concepts and ideas, participation in critiques

- 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 assignment 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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