Header for Lesson Plans - Resources for Teachers


Playing the Part of the Potter

Work of Art: Platter

Subject Area: Art

Time Frame: Three Classes (45 minute periods each)

Lesson Objectives:

The students will be able to:

Relevant TEKS:

Knowledge and skills. Complete TEKS for 6th grade art.

1. Perception: b.
2. Creative expression/performance: c.
3. Historical cultural heritage: b

Materials: (This activity requires the use of computers.)

  • clay
  • watercolors


  1. Introducing the Work of Art

Hispano-Muslim conventions were often combined with motifs and surface decoration of European, Chinese, and even native Mexican origins to create a distinctive Puebla style.


This seventeenth century platter was used in everyday life for food as well as decoration.

Technique or Process

The shape of this platter is derived from Baroque silverware. The lavish use of cobalt blue on this platter is extraordinary considering its value at the time. There are no known sources for cobalt in or near Mexico. Puebla workshops probably purchased cobalt imported from Spain, where it had been sent from the Middle East or North Africa in cake form.4 It is also possible that it was imported from China.

Cultural Roots

Among the Hispano-Muslim decorative conventions that have influenced Puebla potters during the seventeenth century, the horror vacui (fear of empty spaces) was perhaps the most important. The affinity for decorating the entire surface of a vessel with small dots is typical of this aesthetic. In the 1682 amendment to the 1653 issuance of the potteršs ordinances, the first clause specifies the use of aborronado (blurred dot) decoration in blue, which is visible in this platter.

  1. Link to image on exhibition web site - Platter
  • Have students view an image of the platter.
    1. What do you notice about this platter?
    2. Is this a typical shape for a platter?
    3. What colors and patterns are in the design of platter?

  • Discuss horror vacui (fear of empty spaces) and how this piece illustrates this.
    1. Do you notice any area of the platter without a design?
    2. What is the purpose of covering the entire surface with small dots?

  • Discuss how the decorations are from several different influences.
    1. What types of objects can you see on the platter?
    2. What culture is the blue and white ceramic associated with?

Art Activity

  • Students will start with a ball of clay. They will push their thumbs into the center and begin to pinch up the walls, turning the ball as they go to keep the sides an even thickness. Finish by patting the bottom on a hard surface to flatten it.

  • Once the clay pot is completely dry it can be fired. Students can paint on it with watercolors.

  • Have the students pick one color to paint with on their pot.

  • There should be no empty spaces on their pot (a la horror vacui). They should use different patterns all over the pot.

Evaluation Procedure:

Each clay pot should be of even thickness, painted with one color and have no empty space. See assessment matrix.

Extension Activities:

Social studies: Where the different motifs originated
Science: Location of cobalt and how it might have made its way to Mexico

Link to home page of The Granduer of Vice Regal Mexico

image of a line divider
Home | Handbook | Lesson Plans | Games and Activities
Exhibition | Collectors and their Collections | For Teachers | Cultural Exchange | For Families | Timeline | About this Website | Site Map
Museum of Fine Arts Houston | College of Education, UH

Graphic links to MFAH, College of Education and University of Houston

link to museum of fine arts houston link to college of education at the university of houston link to the university of Houston website
Link to home page of The Granduer of Vice Regal Mexico