Friday, July 12, 2013

LESSON: Claymation Alpha Morph (Part 1: Preparation)

Many of us grew up with the classic claymation stories like Rudolph or Suzy Snowflake.  I had never actually MADE a claymation before, though!  In this project, I had students choose a letter to morph into an animal or object.  Here's how it went:

PRE-PROJECT: TINY TOTEMS:  To get my kids used to handling clay, I had them read
about Native American Totem Spirits, and then draw thumbnail sketches of their own Totem Animal.  Then, they used Sculpey* to additively sculpt a tiny 3D animal that would be no larger than their fist (i.e. fit in their hands).  I baked them, and they painted them.  
*If you are not familiar with Sculpey, it's pretty awesome.  I really want to do ceramics with my kids (maybe down the line), but we do not have a kiln to fire their work.  Sculpey is a great substitute for smaller projects, and there are a ton of different types of Sculpey for various needs.  I most often use Original Sculpey because you just bake it in the oven (or toaster oven) for 15 minutes, it hardens, and you can paint it (acrylic paints).  

Challenges:  
  • Students working SMALL.  
  • The Sculpey that I had purchased (white, original Sculpey) was really TOO pliable.  I am used to working with Sculpey that is so stiff it takes some time to knead it to be pliable.  I was going to call Sculpey, but then did a little research and they actually address that question in their FAQ section (thank you Sculpey!).  Here's the answer and solution to that:  http://www.sculpey.com/faq-new/209#
  • Getting students to think abstractly.  No surprise there... it is certainly a tough balance of taking more time to instruct this, and trying to just push through so that they learn the sculpting techniques (which is more the reason for doing this mini project) so that we can move on to the larger project.  
  • Making sure that students didn't forget to address connection sites on the mini sculptures ("Okay, but see here?  When I bake this, the arms will fall off.")
  • Having to take home sculptures from the stragglers.  In other words, if all students do not finish at the same rate (or by the said deadline), you will have to keep bringing home little guys to bake.  This is not that big of a deal since it only takes 15 minutes, but just more annoying than one might appreciate.  This would not be a problem if you had a toaster oven brought to school, or your school had a kitchen/oven available to use. 
WHAT??  How could I have forgotten to take photos of these awesome tiny sculptures?  I know... I suck.  When I get back to school, I will take photos of the leftover sculptures and add them here.  

INTRO TO CLAYMATION:  To start off this part of the project, I showed several videos of claymation.  I had just learned this really great process called Lesson Study during my previous ILT (Instructional Learning Team) in which you are supposed to use this protocol to observe your colleagues teach a lesson that you all plan together (the idea being that you then rework the lesson together based on observations of how the students react and learn during the lesson).  I thought it was a perfect protocol to use when discussing work with my students.  It's very similar to a critique process, but elaborated a little more (or more specific to learning a lesson).  In our sketchbooks, I had the students divide the page into two columns.  Left hand column is labeled as "Obervations;" right hand column is labeled as "Insights, thoughts, AH HA's!"  
As we watched each video (sometimes twice), students watched and wrote down observations WITHOUT opinions.  We had practiced this several times with our "Looking at Art" Protocol, so these students were pretty good at separating observations from opinions.   Then, I gave them time after the video to write down any opinions, thoughts, insights or Ah Ha! moments about what they saw.  
First of all, this is a great exercise in training art students to really LOOK at the artwork in a way that collects evidence for their opinions.  It also turned out so insightful to ME because my students noticed things about the video that I hadn't, or had very interesting thoughts on the videos.  Lastly, I will DEFINITELY do this again because I noticed that when starting the claymation project, the students basically taught themselves on what the project expectations should be, and what to look for while creating.  (I should have, and in the future will, have students then create the project expectations WITH me... therefore completely giving them the opportunity to invest).  

Here are the videos I showed:

A great little flip book animation series.  Students really loved how simple but still so very successful these are.  Also, they pointed out how there were surprisingly quirky tidbits that made the animation just a little more interesting.


Then, I showed a clip of Shaun the Sheep.  Apparently this is no longer available on YouTube, but you can google Shaun the Sheep and maybe get a little short clip to show.

Next, I showed The Making of Shaun the Sheep.  This is great because it gives students a glimpse of how intense the work is that goes into making a 20 minute claymation.  They also observed different aspects that make it interesting like textures, scenery, props, etc. that may or may not be made out of clay.  



Next, I showed student work (elementary and high school).  We looked at how even though some of the work might be "rough", it was still successful.  We also looked at how the figures moved and/or morphed.




In these examples, we specifically paid attention to morphing and transitions:





Then, we took a look at MY example, in which I made a time lapse of the process (showing how I work from planning/sketching, to creating, to troubleshooting/problem solving as I work).




And the product:




And then put together to make a mock movie with music and effects:






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