Sunday, August 9, 2009

What is clay

I like to ask my students this: What is clay?
Often they are puzzled. Mud or dirt is their usual response. I like to explain that clay is drawn from a long process of erosion that occurs over thousands of years. I tell them that clay started as mountains of rock which were battered by glaciers, windstorms, and rain turning them into boulders, rocks, sand and finally clay. The clay is host to colonies of bacteria and organic decay that make the clay flexible and give it plasticity. Once the children learn this I hope that they gain a new understanding of what clay is. Some get it others don't.
Clay is also much more--in a philosophical sense. Clay is earth. It is substance. It can be liquified and poured into molds to mimic any object. It can be subtracted, added, divided and multiplied. It can withstand extreme cold(vitrified) and intense heat. It can be extremely strong(see Space Shuttle) or extremely fragile. Clay can heal ( infections. It can calm nerves, help with arthritis, and exfoliate dry skin. It can be used to hold things, transport, and store. It can insulate. It can house people. It can be eaten.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Teaching Art

Today we made wood sculptures at Pratt. I brought in a box full of wooden craft shapes that I picked up at a yard sale, some colored wooden blocks that I got at the Goodwill Bin store and a bunch of wood scraps from the mill on 1st ave and my garage. Plus I brought in a bunch of found objects, that the kids used to decorate their sculptures with. Some of the kids made trophy like statues while others made boats, cars, planes, rocket ships, portraits, musical instruments, and a crane. They really used their imaginations to make some splendid art pieces and seemed to have a lot of fun doing it. This week wraps up with me teaching summer camp at the Kirkland Teen Center Monday through Friday , where I taught a different project each day to the same group of 5 to 8 year olds. This weeks theme was Stories in Art, so we made comic books, trading cards, ceramic sculpture, a framed narrative painting, and a story box diorama. I also taught my regular classes at Alki( Beg. Clay, Advanced Clay for youth, Beg. Wheel for Adult), and Teen Wheel and Adult beginning pottery at Kirkland Art Center.
With this rigorous schedule I still find time to create some new stuff here and there, and for each project I teach I usually make an example or two.(see above)
The classes are really important to me. I get stressed out if I don't think I have enough of the the right supplies before a class starts. Usually though everything goes just fine. I get along with most of the kids pretty well and it seems they are learning creative problem solving in numerous ways. I like to give them a lot of lee-way in terms of what they can make. If a kid has an idea that I haven't thought of, they have free reign to do it how they wish. A former concern--and I say former because the more I teach the less it's a problem--is how to extend a project to keep kids from getting bored during the duration of the class. Lately I've been getting over that by 1)Explaining the projects in greater depth than normal 2)Providing a show and tell of examples and Samples 3)Encouraging them to change/alter/ or add on to their art piece. 4) Having them make an experimental 2nd piece of art or more 5)Making them assist in the teardown/cleanup operation. For the most part the kids have a great imagination and want to make something which makes teaching easy.