Subject: Functional objects
Activity: Make a sculpture of an everyday object
Materials: Modeling clay
Vocabulary: Amphora, ceramic, functional, non-functional, vessel, sculpture, symmetrical
An amphora is a type of clay vase with two handles that was used in ancient Greece. A long time ago, these vessels served many purposes: they were used to store food, water, and wine in the same way we store milk in a jug and food in containers. The vessels were often painted with figures that told stories about history and the gods. A person living in ancient Greece would sometimes have the same amphora throughout their lifetime. The Greeks did not have many other means for storing or transporting food and liquids, so amphorae were very important to them.
This sculpture, by the artist Bryan Hunt, is today’s version of the ancient Greek amphora. It looks very different from a real amphora. Instead of being ceramic, or made out of clay, Hunt’s work is made from bronze metal. That makes it much heavier than a real amphora. A ceramic amphora would be very smooth and symmetrical, but this one is rough and lop-sided. By making these changes, the amphora doesn’t work and isn’t useful.
We no longer use vessels like amphorae everyday, but we still have to carry and store foods and liquids. What do we use instead?
How are the things we use to store food and drinks similar to and different from an amphora?
What would happen if you tried to use the amphora sculpture for a purpose, like holding water?
Have your child choose an object from your home that you use everyday. Using modeling clay, make a model of this object. Think of the ways in which this object is useful to you. Change your clay model so that it can no longer serve this purpose. What new function might your object now serve?
Amphora —A clay vessel with two handles that was used by ancient Greeks to store food and liquids
Functional —Designed for and serving a specific use
Nonfunctional —Not serving a purpose or being useful
Vessel —An object designed to be used as a container
Sculpture —A work of art that has height, width, and depth
Symmetrical —Being balanced or equal on both sides
Jim Dine, History of Black Bronze I, 1983