Radial Balance with Talavera Pottery Repousse and Drawing Project

Talavera Repousse Metal and Drawing Project

Talavera Repousse Metal and Drawing Project – Middle School Art

While searching for a project on radial balance for my middle school art classes I came upon this fantastic lesson from Painted Paper called “Mexican Mirrors“. Her lesson plan was done with her 4th grade art classes, but I needed to adapt it to middle school students to include how to create a repeated precise radial balance design. I also wanted to go deeper with the techniques of metal embossing: repousse and chasing. The changes are reflected in the lesson plan below.

Please give credit to Painted Paper for the original lesson:


Metal Embossing Tools StylusSt Louis Crafts Aluminum Metal Foil Sheet Roll – 36 Gauge – 12 inches x 25 feetSpeedball Super Black India Ink, 1 PintRed Devil 0320 Steel Wool, 0000 Super Fine, 8 Pads, Pre-cut 11.5 inch diameter “plates”, Pencil, Eraser, Ruler, Sharpie – Fine Tip, Colored Pencils or Markers, Pre-cut 5″ aluminum circles, Metal Tools, Paper Towels or Newspaper, Craft Glue


  1. Learn about types of balance: symmetrical & asymmetrical balance, with focus on radial symmetry.
  2. Demonstrate how to use the proper tools and techniques for metal tooling.
  3. Gain appreciation for Talavera pottery (particularly plates), and pull inspiration for their own radial designs by exploring examples.
  4. Understand how the principles of harmony and variety and therefore apply to these Talavera “plates”.

This project combines the radial design symmetry seen in many Talavera plates, but adds a twist by turning their “plate” in to a metal centerpiece with the added metal tooling.

Teacher Preparation:

  1. White 12×18″ 90lb. or thicker paper (poster board), draw a 11.5 inch diameter circle for each student.
  2. Trace a 5″ circle in sharpie onto aluminum one for each student. (I used a plastic lid)

 Delivery: Radial Balance Talavera 

  1. Physical Balance is the equal distribution of weight that causes an object(s) to be stable. This applies to 3D art.
  2. Visual Balance is a principle of art that is defined as the equal distribution of visual weight in a composition so the artistic elements in that composition look stable. This applies to both 2D and 3D art.
  3. Central Axis: An imaginary dividing line that runs down the middle of a piece of art either horizontally or vertically.
  4. 3 Types of BALANCE
    1. Symmetrical balance means both sides of an axis line are the SAME (or almost the same).
    2. Asymmetrical balance means each side of an axis line are different yet visually equal. This type of balance is more interesting to look at, but harder to achieve.
    3. Radial balance means lines or shapes grow from a center point.
  5. TALAVERA POTTERY (resource: Talavera pottery)
    1. The term “Talavera” comes from the town in Spain named Talavera de la Reina. It is here where this unique style of glazing came to be.
    2. Talavera pottery is the Mexican variation of the Spanish majolica produced in Talavera de la Reina.
    3. The craft arrived in Mexico after the Conquest (1500’s) when the city of Puebla was settled.
    4. Today Talavera pottery is made in the towns of Puebla and Dolores Hidalgo.
    5. You can often see the influence of Moorish designs in Mexican Talavera but it is strongly influenced by floral designs and copies of famous Mexican paintings and Mexican religious art too.
    6. Much of this pottery was decorated only in blue, but colors such as yellow, black, green, orange and mauve have also been used.
    7. Video:
    8. Look at the examples of Talavera plates. Notice how radial designs use floral motifs. Think about a floral or feather motif you can create in radial symmetry.

Activity 1: Metal Repousse

  1. Using the “5” circle template, create a repeated radial design that is influenced by Talavera pottery patterns. Don’t make the design too small or complex as this will make the metal working process more difficult.
  2. Cut the circle out.Talavera Repousse Metal and Drawing Project
  3. Transfer your design onto the metal sheet provided (demo).
    1. Place a foam sheet under your metal.
    2. Tape your drawing to metal sheet.
    3. Trace over all your lines with a pencil. If you used a shape template, use that to trace the shapes.
  4. Use metal repousse techniques (chasing & repousse) to make the surface 3D.Talavera Repousse Metal and Drawing Project Talavera Repousse Metal and Drawing Project
  5. Use permanent colored sharpies or the “antiquing” technique to give color to your metal.
    1. Clean the metal first with rubbing alcohol or soap to get rid of finger prints.
    2. Apply India ink with paint brush, let dry.
    3. Burnish the raised areas with steal wool to reveal the metal beneath. Set aside until the end.

Activity 2: Radial Drawing

  1. Using the template provided to make your quarter section design, create a repeated radial design that is influenced by your metal design.Talavera Repousse Metal and Drawing Project
  2. On the given 11.5” circle, divide your circle in to 4 equal sections, like a pizza or a pie.
  3. Apply black “layout” pencil all over the BACK of your quarter-design.Talavera Repousse Metal and Drawing Project
  4. Tape your quarter-design onto the circle.
  5. Trace over all your lines with pencil.
  6. Repeat in each section of your “circle.”Talavera Repousse Metal and Drawing Project
  7. Once complete, you can trace your lines with a sharpie, or leave in pencil and outline with the colored pencil as you color in your design.
    LIMIT TO 5 COLORS. Color your design in with markers or colored pencils. Remember to keep your colors in repeated radial symmetry as well.
  8. Use double-stick tape metal repousse to the center of your circle.

Student Work

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Talavera Repousse Metal and Drawing Project

Talavera Repousse Metal and Drawing Project – Middle School Art

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