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Clay Every Day Summer Workshop

I don’t know where the time has gone, but tomorrow is our last day of Clay Every Day already. It has been an incredible week of art making and friendship forming. We’ve been meeting every morning from 9 -12. Monday was ferociously hot and humid (at one point 90 degrees). My three small fans did not do the job, so we borrowed 2 “turbo” fans from the school, and they made a big difference. Clay is a fickle material and I was worried about how it would dry, or more realistically, if it would ever dry. On Monday we made 2 slab tablets, a slab drape bowl, and a pinch pot into which we embedded texture materials such as yarn and lace.

Tablets, pinch pots and drape bowls…
Pinch pots with texture materials and slab drape bowls…

Tuesday was another excellent busy day which was made even better by the arrival of 2 special guests, my granddaughters Julia and Sarah, who came to create with us for the day. We worked on openwork slab cylinders, which we wrapped around cardboard tubes to create the form. Honestly, I have some concern about these because they are not drying evenly and we have already had some cracking. I patched up several of them with slip today and am coaxing them to heal and stay together using elastic bands. I hope to walk in tomorrow and see them all standing proudly without cracking! Fingers crossed! Here are some photos from terrific Tuesday:

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Mishima and Sgraffito were the words of the day on Wednesday. Mishima, which is the scratching out of lines within the clay, filling them with glaze or slip, and then scraping away the edges so only the lines remain glazed. This proved to be challenging for many of the artists. Over-scraping caused the lines to disappear. I have given the teaching of this technique a lot of thought, and I think next time we do it, I will present it with a different focus. For instance, scraping away from the lines, rather than over them. I think this will work, and am looking forward to experimenting with this technique for my own work. In my mind I envision a wood-cut print result, only on clay.

Sgraffito was much easier. For this technique, the leather hard clay is covered with glaze and the image is scratched out of the glaze.  As most of the artists have had experience with scratch art, they did well and were super confident with this technique. Thank goodness for happy endings! A fellow art educator and friend who teaches in a neighboring town stopped by for a couple of hours to see about these techniques. It was great having another set of hands to help with these detailed projects. Speaking of details, the artists have come up with a new word, “detallic”, which to them means someone who wants to take the time to focus on and include all the details possible. What a great word!

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It is Thursday already today. Yikes, I really do not know where the week went. First thing today, we switched the clay tablecloths for paper on the tables because starting today it’s all about the painting. Then, the artists finished up their sgraffito tablets and removed the texture materials from their bowls before glazing them. We were going to glaze the slab cylinders today, but I decided to give them one more day to dry.

The artists then painted their drape slab bowl, which is the first part of a 3-piece dinnerware set to be painted with a theme. Realizing that we had limited time to make clay pieces and fire them, I purchased some bisqueware dinner plates and tumblers from Clay King. They are a really nice product, uniform and well made. The artists have begun painting their “dinnerware sets” in themes ranging from “underwater “to a “tree in the forest”. They are coming out really well and I can’t way to see them when they are fired.

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Which brings us to tomorrow, Friday, the last day of Clay Every Day…if the creek don’t rise and the good Lord’s willin’, the cylinders will have dried enough to paint without cracking. When they are finished, if there is time, I have some bisque tiles for the artists to experiment with using cut-paper stencils and glaze. And then there is clean-up. You should see our floor. Yikes.

But until then, I want to share that I have BEEN BLOWN AWAY but the focused attention these 5-7 grade artists have shown for THREE HOURS EACH DAY. Keeping in mind that we just finished the school year where art classes are 50 minutes long, period, I am so impressed and it has been so good for me to see the benefit of extended learning time. During the school year, for 6 hours a day, 180 days a year, I live my life in 50 minute intervals. You could put me in a closet and blindfold me and I can tell you when 50 minutes is up, I swear. Whether or not the creative juices are flowing, class is over when it’s over. Not so during this week of Clay Every Day. It is a very different experience for the class and myself when the  kids get all the time they need to relax and embrace their creativity. And this group hasn’t wasted any of it. Here are some photos of the focused learning I am talking about:

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I will publish photos of the fired work when it is ready later this summer. I’ll also send out a group email to notify parents. Keep an eye out for that:


Until then, the pieces have to dry thoroughly and I have some firings to do. What a great week and official end to the 2012/13 school year for me. Thanks for getting your hands dirty with me… 🙂

Have a great summer and keep making ART!

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