Ode To The Elementary School Art Ashtray


This post may be a little dated to some readers but to many of us we have fond memories of the lovely clay art projects in elementary school circa 1980. It was a different time and what flew then would sure to crash hard today. I kind of miss that naivate’. Simple.

Around the beginning of December the art teacher’s project for the kids was always geared toward Christmas presents for the folks. I am not sure if they do that now with the whole “Christmas is offensive” campaign that seems to exponentially increase each year. But back in my day, parents always knew their tax dollars would yield intelligent kids and some sort of ornament each Christmas. The real bonus would be a clay thing. I say clay thing because many parents got just that; a thing.

Ball Art Room

I remember these projects would always give me delusions of grandeur and at the end of it I would be the envy of every kid as I brought home the most beautiful clay thing my parents had ever seen. Of course being a no talent ass clown grounded me within the first few minutes of art class. Clay was not the medium for me.

modelingclay-main_FullI really can’t remember how long this project lasted but I believe it was a couple of weeks. Each day we would retrieve our work in progress that was wrapped in cheese cloth from the fridge and start on destroying what we had done the previous day. There were not many guidelines for what the final product would be. If you had an artistic inkling then perhaps the folks would receive a pot for a plant or a nice plate with a hand print in it. If you were like me and struggled to form any sort of shape they got an ashtray.

pottery1It was a cool time when a kid could express his or her love through artistic expression resulting in a carcinogenic ash receptacle. There is no way that shit would fly today. Under that dump-in-a-jar plan for zero tolerance I am sure a kid who made an ashtray would be suspended and child services would be called ensuring a debate on Foxnews’ Kelley’s Court. (That woman sucks) No, kids don’t make them like they used to.

Well, the process would draw to a close soon enough. Once the shape was made it would bake. Then you painted it and glazed it and that usually sealed the deal for me. It wasn’t just shit but colored shit after that. But by that time I was just happy to be done with it. Of course the teacher had to grade it. No matter what I got the elementary equivalent of a B which was VG for “very good”.

img_1773Don’t be fooled, the picture above was not done by me. Actually this one is pretty fucking good. It is far less bumpy and minus the fingerprints. The only way to to tell the difference between my ashtray and petrified orangutan shit was the fact it had a convenient dent in the middle; perfect for putting out a cowboy killer.

On Christmas morning I would give them the ashtray with a little trepidation because even a little kid knows the difference between art and deification. But my parents always looked at it as if I gave them gold. Today I really look back at that and know how much they love me. They didn’t even smoke.

A few years ago I found my ashtray. It was in the table top Nativity set and baby Jesus was sleeping in it. I kid you not. But don’t tell him, he doesn’t need to know it’s an ashtray.

14 thoughts on “Ode To The Elementary School Art Ashtray

  1. So, kids don’t make ashtrays any longer. One June, when max was four, I got a mound of plaster with nuts and bolts stuck into it. It was about the size of a baseball and spray painted a gaudy metallic silver. It came with a card that said, “Happy Father’s Day Mommy!”

    Best present I could ever receive.

  2. Thanks for the petrified orangutan shit with the convenient dent in the middle, son!

    You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to pull out that greeting card. I thought I’d have to add it to my reject pile.

    Just another reason why I revere your blog.

  3. haha we’d always make clay wall flower holders. If you can picture it.. it was like a square with a pocket in the front to stick some dried holly or something. So eventful 🙂 I think my mom even still has mine hanging up. What a lady. 🙂

  4. I made a Swawk.

    It was this bird thing that had the body of a swan with the head of a hawk.
    I painted it brown and yellow and gave it to my dad.

    I should have made an ashtray, my dad DOES smoke.

  5. I never got the privilege of having the experience of making an ashtray, when I was a freshman in high school I took ceramics and failed. The only thing I took home completed was a tile, a square of clay I put a cartoon face on and painted and was done. Most of the time my friends and I hung out in the storage room and cut chunks of clay apart with a wire and talked. Me failing to complete an assignment for that class was one of the two times I got punished in my growing up. I couldn’t watch the Simpsons Sunday of that week and I was so pissed. I know what episode it was and have watched it several times since (when Mr Burns finds out he has a long lost son voiced by Rodney Dangerfield) but I was at the time not too happy.

    The only two things I brought home from shop class in middle school were a wood racing car w/ plastic wheels and a narrow rectangle w/ my name drilled in the middle of it by the teacher. He made us sand the piece of wood w/ our name on it so much. I felt like I was never going to finish. It’s around here someplace.

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