Back on my (Clay) Horse

I am in week 2 of teaching Ceramics at the kids’ school.  It is such a total joy to be back at it.  Kids love clay, and I love clay and we together are a perfect pair.  We are actually 8 pairs as I have 16 2nd-5th graders in there.  It is one of the largest classes that I have taught in a long time, but it feels much more manageable as I no longer have unwieldy and malfunctioning sewing machines to wrestle with.

The first day I thought I would let the kids touch and mess around to their hearts’ content.  It is sort of  hard for me to turn over control when I only have 10 weeks of instruction, but it seemed wise to let them mess around now before we launch into real building.  I gave them the assignment of making a magical place to go on vacation to.  They needed high places and low places.

This is a cliff with snake holes (complete with snakes!).

Here is an arch with vines and a tree.  Zephyr was in class that day, although he won’t be for the rest of the term.  The kid is only 5 and can’t handle that we will be smashing some projects.  I’m moving him to theater!

This is a savanna scene.  Obviously, none of this would hold up well if fired, but experimentation was the goal here, not end product.

The students really enjoyed playing without much guidance.  The room became relatively mellow, with most of the conversation just expressions of excitement for each other’s inventiveness and desire to show off their ideas to me.  I know the days will come when there are tears of frustration and heartbreak at the limitations of clay, but for now, it is all good times.

Really, I do have students in there besides my kids, but until I get formal permission to picture them, I am cropping those babies out!

Best thing about the new class?  I get to work in the art room.  The teacher gave me two whole shelves!  Imagine that!  She totally needs every inch of storage she can get, but she generously gave me two whole shelves!  There is a sink there.  Yeah, really, I know!  Don’t I sound like a public school teacher, rapturous about a sink?  And I hate to admit it, but the teacher there is messier than me, so I don’t have to worry too much about annoying her too much.  Anything I do in her room is seriously making it cleaner, not messier.


Worse thing?  Ummmm… see that clay there?  I got two huge bags of it for free a few years ago.  I knew that it was some fancy clay from Georgies, but I didn’t do my research before having the kids do an actual project with it during week 2.  I thought I was saving money, being prudent.  Turns out that : “The coarsest of all our sculpture clays, this body contains two types of coarse sand plus nylon fiber. The character of this clay comes from the basalt sand that bleeds out when it fires.”  That is code for “this clay will spit out chunks of melty stuff that will stick all over your kiln shelves when you fire it”.  It requires a process called “wadding” which I have never done and am not really sure how to do.  Well, crap.  I’m so glad I got it for “free”.  Now I need to hop off to the store and buy kiln wash and wadding material which sounds like a chemistry experiment.

All the same, clay is awesome.



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