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Object Lesson


University of Missouri


Course Level


Conversation points for instructors

I came up with this assignment when we were forced online this past Spring.  I could not reasonably expect my ceramics students to continue working with clay for a number of reasons, so I switched to more of a ceramic \ art appreciation model. 


I developed this for my beginning ceramics class, but it can also be used for 3-D Design or Sculpture. 



Project Prompt / Challenge

This project will challenge you to see the things around you in a new light through a series of object-based exercises. 



There are two parts to this project:


Listen to Radiolab, Things episode

Watch Leonardo Drew Video

Watch Doris Salcedo Video

Read intro chapter to  Glenn Adamson’s book Fewer, Better Things

Write a 400-500 word essay on what you learned about the role of objects in your life from the above content.


Part B: LOOK

  1. Read Jules Prown article “The Truth of Material Culture: Fact or Fiction”

  2. Now, identify an object that you frequently use in your daily life. Observe your object and write an in-depth description of it (200 words) in the spirit of Prown’s material analysis of a teapot. Your challenge is to describe the object in writing with enough detail that someone who cannot see it in person will be able to imagine it. Plus, make a full-page sketch of it as well.

  3. Next, you’ll use your smartphone to start taking images of your object once a day for a week. While this is obviously not a photo class, each image must strive to capture your use of the object in a different way.

  4. Upload your sketch, description (200 words), seven pics to the Discussion Board along with a short essay (300 words) about what role your object plays in your life, why you chose to use the object over others, and how this assignment has changed your awareness of it.

  5. COMMENTS--After posting your images & reflections, go back to the discussion board and check out four of your classmates’ images and read their write-ups. Submit a substantive comment (4 sentence minimum) for each of the four people on their object\images.

  6. Finally, read and reply to all the comments made to you about your object\images and write a thoughtful reply (2 sentences minimum).

  7. All comments within the discussion will be tracked. You will be graded on your pics as well as on your written reflection. 



smartphone or digital camera & sketchbook for documentation

2 weeks

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