The Clay Workshop
Growth through Creative Discovery
Saint Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225 – 1274) defined ‘human’ as “a being with brains and hands. As such our greatest joy comes when we can employ both simultaneously in ways which are creative, useful, and productive.”
All children love working with clay, essentially a step away from ‘making mud pies’, although in our case somewhat more organised and productive! Children love to make things by combining pieces of clay. The gradual increase of growth brought on by the additional layering of new pieces of clay enables a child to see their progress in stages, making passive knowledge active, and also leaving the field of interpretation open for the child. This works well when children are making sculpture based on their own experience, for example a visit to the Kruger Park may facilitate watching a family of Dwarf Mongooses at play, then reproducing the antics or the mongoose in sculptural form.
Various themes will be introduced when appropriate such as Easter, Christmas, summer, winter etc; as well as well-loved fairytales. The children will learn how to work with clay and gain an understanding of its unique properties; its strengths and weaknesses, and how to ensure that the desired effect can be achieved. Emphasis will be placed on fun with as little adult intervention as possible in order to retain the child like qualities of originality and naivety, which are very special and unique to children’s art work.
My goals in teaching children clay work are:
- To encourage a creative spirit in every child, and to enable them to express that creativity.
- Enrich and/or inspire creative genius while generating an environment initiating creative problem-solving
- To allow children to make their own decisions and gain knowledge from the outcome, such as seeing mistakes as part of the creative process and thus personal development.
- To inspire a pride in accomplishment from an early age. Children feel an immense sense of pride on the completion of each of their projects and parents are encouraged to lavish praise on them and display or make use of their masterpieces proudly.
Some Interesting Information on the Wonders of Clay:
The first thing that happens when a child squeezes a piece of clay is that the form of the clay changes, teaching children ‘cause and effect’. Every child needs experience to match their developmental levels, and learning that actions have consequences teaches them curiosity and investigation, in this way the brain develops along with the piece of clay. Neurons and synapses in the brain are constantly being produced due to the tactile feedback being received from the hands. Self-investigation is initiated constantly, and children will develop skills at their own intrinsic level, often with no adult motivation.
The benefits of working with clay are:
- Improving decision-making abilities and problem-solving skills,
- Developing impulse control
- Discovering and enhancing self-esteem
- Developing and utilizing patience
- Working with clay develops motor skills by improving hand-eye co-ordination, encouraging right-brain thinking, essential to later growth of both spheres.
- Planning and decision-making, and cause and effect. Once the children understand the properties of the clay and how it can be manipulated, they start to think ahead to new projects and areas that they can apply their new found skills
- Sequencing and patience! Although clay is a very immediate gratification medium, the whole process from formation, drying, glazing or painting, and firing, takes time and children learn to appreciate each stage of the process involved in each project.
- Creativity!! The most important skill that is transferable to all other areas in life, both structured schoolwork as well as other art and craft activities.
- Social skills. Children work in small groups and students are encouraged to share ideas and talk about the experience they are gaining.
- Lateral thinking and constructive criticism in a very positive and sensitive manner whereby the ‘work’ is viewed objectively by the teacher and only technical improvements are discussed to improve technique and understanding of the medium.
- You will see increased ability, self confidence and self esteem.
(Based on research done by ‘Americans Arts Foundation’).
What we do:
Each student is given limitless access to clay and limited access to tools (so to encourage them to use their brains and their hands). Each lesson will focus on a different ‘task’ or project, such as wind chimes, clay animal sculptures and figurines, coin boxes, mosaic tiles etc., and then, on completion, the works of art will be painted.
Art is born of the Observation and Investigation of Nature
Cicero (106 – 43 BC)