Crossing Borders/Breaking Boundaries IV:
The Impact of Islamic Culture on the Arts of the Renaissance

July 19-26, 2004
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Lesson: Ceramics and Patterns with Islamic Roots and their Effect on Christian Europe

Teacher: Monica Cerkez

School: St Mary's County Public Schools

Appropriate Grades: 9-12 Special Ed

Duration: 8 days* 45 min., daily

Discipline(s): Crafts

Abstract: The free trade of luxury goods between the Islamic sphere of influence and Christian Europe during the Medieval and Renaissance period led to a transfer and fusions of ideas and styles. This fusion is particularly visible in the Arts. In this unit students will track the transmission of ideas by studying ceramics and pattern styles and technology as they moved from China through the Middle East and into Europe. The Unit includes an investigation of Islamic Culture, Majolica Ceramic Production, the Principle of Design: Pattern and the full writing process. While this lesson is intend for Fine Arts, it has potential application for Social Studies (History, Geography) and Language Arts.

Stage 1: Identify Desired Results

Essential Curriculum
Maryland State Content Standards (Reference the first section of the St. Mary's County Public School System's Essential Curriculum for specific content area standards.)

Students will demonstrate the ability to perceive, interpret and respond to ideas, experiences and environment through visual arts education.
Expectation A Students will identify, describe and interpret qualitites of form that affect visual perception and response.
Indicator - Critical Response Students will use appropriate art vocabulary to describe, analyze, and interpret qualities of visual form perceived and recorded in works of art.
Benchmark -CRAFTS I Students will:
- Compare and/or contrast several natural or human-made objects on specific criteria, using predetermined vocabulary.
- Demonstrate the processes of identification, description, analysis and interpretation as steps leading to the assessment of one's own craft.
Expectation B Students will select works of art and interpret their meaning bases upon the application of expressive characteristics and use of symbolism.
Indicator - Critical Response Students will describe analyze, and interpret how artists select modes of representation and formats to express personal ideas, thoughts and feelings.
Benchmark - CRAFTS I Students will:
- Compare and/or contrast expressive characteristics of functional crafts used within historical and contemporary cultures.
- Identify criteria to assess completed crafts focusing on quality of craftsmanship.
Expectation C Students will compare the use of elements of art and principles of design in selected works of art and demonstrate their application by executing expressive compositions, characteristics and the use of symbolism Indicator - Critical Response
Students will use art vocabulary to describe and analyze the role of design in expressing unique visions.
Benchmark - CRAFTS I Students will demonstrate a craft and identify appropriate art vocabulary to describe and analyze qualities that make the work unique.
Students will demonstrate an understanding of the visual arts as a basic aspect of history and human experience.
Expectation A Students will propose ways that the visual arts reflect significant historical, cultural, and social issues
Indicator - Creative Expression Inspired by selected works of art from different times and places, students will create a work of art that explores a cultural and/or social issue.
Benchmark - CRAFTS I Students will:
- Demonstrate the use of symbolism in crafts to represent cultural ideas
- Create works of art that reflect particular cultures, times and places
Indicator - Critical Response Students will determine the ways that works of art provide social commentary., document historical events and reflect the values and beliefs of the society in which they are created.
Benchmark - CRAFTS I Students will describe how values, beliefs and customs can be expressed through crafts.
Expectation B Students will determine factors that influence the creation of art in specific historical eras and places by studying works of art and other sources of information.
Indicator - Creative Expression Inspired by selected works of art from different times and places, the students will create a work of art that explores a cultural and/or social issue.
Benchmark - CRAFTS I Students will create a project with the use of symbolism to represent a cultural idea
Expectation C Students will draw relationships between the stylistic choices artists make and the context within which they work.
Indicator - Creative Expression Inspired by the Unique styles and forms of different artists, students will create expressive works of art based on the same subject or theme.
Benchmark - CRAFTS I Students will, using the works of art from a selected culture and/or period, identify unique styles and create a craft that is reflective of the culture and/or period.
Indicator - Critical Response Students will compare similarities and differences in style an technique among schools of art and periods in art history, using information from various sources.
Benchmark - CRAFTS I Students will compare and contrast how symbolism has been used in crafts to represent cultural ideas.
Expectation D Students will explain and support historical, theoretical and aesthetic assumptions to explain how artistic processes and contents influence, and in turn, are affected by other disciplines.
Indicator - Critical Response Students will use a study of historical periods to identify shared underlying philosophical values and cultural ideals that influenced the artist, authors/poets and/or musicians, that contributed to a specific stylistic movement.
Benchmark - CRAFTS I Students will evaluate how technological advances have influenced design and media choices in the creation of crafts.
Students will demonstrate the ability to organize knowledge and ideas for expression in the production of art.
Expectation A Students will demonstrate competent application of the skills, knowledge and attitudes required to produce works of art in a variety of media
Indicator - Creative Expression Within the context of a give or chosen art problem, students will select media, experiment with processes and representational skills.
Benchmark - CRAFTS I
Students will demonstrate the use of a variety of tools, media and materials to experiment with processes and explore range of ideas.
Indicator- Critical Response In reflecting on the completed work, students will describe, analyze and interpret the meaning created and evaluate the choice and use of media, skills and knowledge in solving the art problem.
Benchmark - CRAFTS I Students will compare and/or contrast stylistic differences of crafts produced in class and elaborate on how the subject matter may be addressed with different media.
Expectation B Students will create visual images that reflect knowledge of various subjects from observation and imagination. Indicator - Critical Response
Students will describe source(s) of ideas for a personal work and discuss how ideas were generated, how representational problems were solved, what visual reference and/or information was used, and how the work changed from beginning to completion and what was thought about the process of making the work.
Benchmark - CRAFTS I Students will:
- Demonstrate a variety of tools and Materials to create crafts
- Evaluate how ideas were developed, steps and procedures used in completing a final craft project.
Students will demonstrate the ability to identify, analyze and apply criteria for making visual aesthetic judgements.
Expectation C Students will develop and refine a set of criteria for judging art and apply it to personal choices and strategies in decision making and art production.
Indicator - Creative Expression Students will design a presentation of personal work as a process portfolio to demonstrate a set of criteria that reflects person aesthetic choices.
Benchmark - CRAFTS I

Students will, based on stylistic trends, produce a process portfolio that demonstrates the student's personal style and/or expression.


What enduring understandings are desired?
The free trade of luxury goods between the Islamic sphere of influence and Christian Europe during the Medieval and Renaissance period led to a transfer and fusion of ideas and styles. This fusion is particularly visible in the Arts.
- Ceramics and ceramic production from this period demonstrate this idea.
- Recognizing patterns and their origins is a way to track cultural interaction.

What essential questions will guide this unit and focus the teaching and learning?
How are ideas transferred between cultures?
What is a pattern and how is it created?
How are ceramics produced?
How are the arts of the Islamic world and Renaissance Europe related?

What key content knowledge will students acquire as a result of this unit?
What will students know?
Students will be familiar with the historical and social context of art objects from Medieval and Renaissance Europe and the Islamic world.
Students will recognize the influence that trade with and through the Islamic world had on the Renaissance in Europe.
Students will recognize various styles of ceramics and be familiar with the vocabulary of ceramic production.

What key skills and processes will students acquire as a result of this unit?
What will students be able to do?
Students will understand procedure for creating fired ceramics.
Students will locate countries and regions on a world map.
Students will use the complete writing process.

Stage 2: Determine Acceptable Evidence of Learning

What will students do to demonstrate the desired knowledge/proficiencies?

Through what performance tasks/projects will students demonstrate understanding? Include the rubric(s).
Students will produce Islamic style patterns using the four operations of repetition.
Students will produce a glazed ceramic tile or plate using Islamic motifs.

Through what other evidence, such as quizzes, tests, and constructed responses, will students demonstrate achievement of the desired results?
Students will complete a time line.
Students will produce a one minute constructed response.
Students will complete a review worksheet on ceramics vocabulary and process.
Students will produce a written report using the complete writing process.

How will students reflect upon and assess their own learning?
Students will complete a written reflection with each project.

Stage 3: Plan Learning Experiences and Instruction

Instructional Activities

Describe the instructional activities, such as Content Reading and Writing Strategies, Graphic Organizers, Cooperative Learning, and Technology, which will be used to help students reach the desired results.

Cooperative Learning
Reading for Information
Reading to perform a task
Guided practice
Independent practice
Organizing information into big Ideas
Internet search/Research
Self evaluation
Problem solving

Unit Timeline (Daily Lessons):

Day One: In the computer lab, students will choose images of ceramics from pre-selected web sites. These sites will include materials from China, the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe. Students will print the image and write down the complete attribution, being sure to copy the region, material, style, date, etc. on post-it notes. Instructor will also provide images from various cultures to insure complete coverage. As a group, students will compare images and create a list of similarities and differences on easel paper. Students will then cut out images and attach them to a wall size map of the world that includes the important cities and trade routes. Students, working in pairs, will write a one minute response to the question: Why do works of art from such far away places look so similar?

Day Two: Opening Question: How do ideas move form place to place? Using the student generated list of similarities and differences and the students’ responses to the previous day’s reflections, the instructor will lead a Lecture/Discussion (including visuals) of trade and idea exchange through the Middle East. Included in this discussion will be that state of the world in the Middles Ages in the Islamic world and in Europe, including the spread of religion and the state of technology, architecture and literacy. Important to the discussion will be how the trade in luxury goods brought money and goods into Europe and helped to spur the European Renaissance. During the discussion, students will develop a timeline of events. Students will be given a summary sheet to keep in their notebook on the material covered.

Day Three: Patterns, patterns everywhere. Opening question: What is a pattern? (Planned or random repetition of elements, one of the principles of design) Students will choose Islamic patterns from provided samples. Students will view Renaissance images that include the pattern to develop the connections. Instructor will demonstrate use of stencils and pattern creation. Using quarter stencils based on the samples, students will create images using the four elements of pattern: translation, reflection, rotation, glide reflection.

Day Four: Ceramics. Opening Question: What is clay? (Sticky kind of earth use to make ceramics) Students review the materials and processes of ceramic production (vocabulary and process worksheet). Students, using the map from day one, discuss the development of lusterware and Majolica ceramics from China through the Middle East to Islamic Spain and Christian Europe. Students produce tile or dish blank and store appropriately.

Day Five: Opening question: Why did the Mediterranean potters develop tin glaze? Students use their design, developed on day three, to decorate the ceramics. According to ability, students can choose to A: Glaze fired clay blanks in Majolica technique (this will take a few sessions) or B: Use wooden stamps to impress clay blanks produced the previous day. The stamps are based on the stencils used on day three so that students can reproduce designs. These designs must be dried and fired before they can be glazed.

Day Six, Seven and Eight: Writing. Students will produce, according to ability, a written report on the unit (five paragraph to two pages) using the full writing process. The report should include the history, materials and processes used in the production of the project. This activity will be interspersed with the completion of the ceramics, extra painting time for group A, firing and glazing for group B. At the completion of the ceramic project, the students will complete a written reflection on their experience. Each of these days would begin with an opening question appropriate to the day’s work.

Possible Key Words for Internet Search

Islamic Ceramics
Ceramic Production
Islamic influences on Renaissance Art



Akar, Azade. Treasury of Turkish Designs: 670 Motifs from Iznik Pottery. Mineola: Dover Publications, Inc., 1988.

Ecker, Heather. Caliphs and Kings: The Arts and Influence of Islamic Spain. Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 2004.

Forsgren, Krista A. And Benskin, Elizabeth. Arts of the Islamic World: A Teachers Guide
Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 2002.

Hume, Helen D. Art History and Appreciation Activities Kit. West Nyack: The Center for Applied Research in Education, 1992.

Mack, Rosamund E. Bazaar to Piazza: Islamic Trade and Italian Art, 1300-1600. Berkely: University of California Press, 2002.

Mittler, Gene A. Art in Focus. Woodland Hills: Glenco/McGraw-Hill, 1994.

Rodriguez, Susan. Culture Smart. Paramus: Prentice Hall, 1999.

Wilson, Eva. Islamic Designs for Artists and Craftspeople. Mineola: Dover Publications, Inc., 1988.

Web Resources

(Please note some of these will work as links, others need to be typed in at your browser, but all of the addresses are correct and functional as of 7/25/04)
Wonderful, map-based, interactive world history of art timeline. Fun to use, easy to navigate, beautiful images and full attribution.
Web-based teaching course on Islamic ceramic history and making from oxford university. (No Images)
302 attributed images of Islamic style ceramics from the Islamic Ceramic Museum in Cairo, very clear description of styles.
Brief history of Majolica ceramics with link to lesson on creating majolica tile and list of colors and chemical composition of colors

The following resources all provide useful images with full attribution.

Post-It notes
Islamic Stencils
Colored Pencils
Wall sized World map
Ceramic Rubric(to be developed)
Clay terms and Process Review Sheet (to be developed)
Pre-Write formats(included)
Reflection formats(included)
White Talc Clay
White Opaque Gloss Glaze (Amaco Type F)
Majolica Glazes
Paint Brush
Clay Tools
Pattern Sheets
Wood Stamps to match Pattern Sheets


Project Reflection Form


How successful was I?

What did I learn that I didn't know before?

If I had to do this again, what would I do differently?

What should my grade be? Why?


Crafts - Report Worksheet




Directions (At least 4 sentences or steps.)

History (Paragraph - at least 5 sentences. Be sure to answer the questions: What? Who? Where? When? and Why?)

Sponsored by
the Center for Renaissance & Baroque Studies
and the Maryland State Department of Education