It has come to my attention that lots of Visual Arts programs/classrooms don’t seem to be doing clay anymore!
I have developed this opinion after discussing it, off the cuff, at school, at network meetings, at our Outer West Visual Art Teachers Network Professional Learning Day, earlier this year, talking to colleagues at last year’s Art Education Victoria Conference, etc, etc, etc.
And, as far as I am aware, modelling is still a part of the Visual Arts Curriculum in Victoria.
I use clay for most of my modelling sessions. It’s fun. It’s messy! It’s cheap! And my students love it! And I love it!
And, let’s face it, the Visual Arts room is the last place in the school where you are not only allowed, but encouraged, to make a mess, while you express yourself!
So what is happening out there? Are you still doing clay at your school? Have you got a kiln that is no longer being used? Why not? Do you find it too messy? Seriously? Or is all the kiln firing too time consuming? is it an OH&S matter at your school? Why? Do you use alternative materials to clay for modelling or is it just not part of your Visual Arts curriculum any more???? Do you find it a bit scary – a bit out of your comfort zone? Would it be helpful if more networks or other bodies were offering more professional learning in this area?
Please reply and comment on my observation as I would really like to know what you think.
PS I have mentioned this to my students and they have been as horrified as I am that there are other students out there who seem to be missing out on such a wonderful material to learn and have fun with in the art room.
The Grade 2 children made snakes to celebrate it being the Chinese Year of the Snake!
I was surprised at how much the children whinged and moaned about how rolling the clay hurt their hands! And there were more children than I expected that really struggled to roll a sausage at all. We had a chat and it was interesting that most of them couldn’t remember the last time they had played with playdoh. Most insisted that they had never done this at school and didn’t have it at home because it was TOO MESSY! And these days the amount of children that help to roll out pastry in the kitchen at home would fit in a thimble. So how are these little people supposed to exercise these fine motor muscles? In the Art room I suppose!
I was thrilled with how much effort the children put into painting their snakes once they were all finally fired. I’m sure this is directly related to the detailed work of Queensland artist Dave Behren’s that we were looking at and working on at the time!
This is what happened when I gave the Grade 1 children a tub of wooden clay tools for the first time. Up until this stage they had only been using their hands and fingers as tools. I explained that this was a time to try out and experiment with the tools and see what they could do with them.
It was interesting how some of the children madly textured their work while others incorporated the tools into their finished items. Hey, I didn’t tell them that they couldn’t do that!
Quite a few of the children created a clutch of a few small items rather than make one large piece, and they all knew that none of this work was going to be kept but I would try to photograph their experiments before their session finished.
We certainly had a terrific discussion after everyone had walked aroud and looked at each other’s work.
“How did you do that?”
I wish I had thought of that!”
“I’m going to try to do mine like that next time!”
How did you make that shape?”
“Can we use the clay tools like that?”
“I made my clay flat like a picture but next time I want to make a fat shape that sits up on the table.”
And just in case you were like me who mistakenly assumed this was a nice tree – this is the Tower of Isengard from the Lord of the Rings!!!
Last term, yes, in the incredibly hot weather, was when I was working with clay with Grade 3. The Main Art Room was a dustbowl for most of the term as the clay dried out and broke down so quickly but I had to persevere as we can only do clay activities in our Main Art Room. I thought I did pretty well as I only decided I couldn’t face it on one extremely hot afternoon, so that grade drew pictures with the air conditioner and fans on full blast!
The first skill to be learned was how to roll a slab to an even thickness, then we used tools and our fingers to incise into the clay as well as adding extra bits on using slip and correct joining technique. We worked on all these skills over a few weeks and this also gave us time to experiment with the type of picture we wanted to create on our slabs as we packed the clay back into a cube at the end of each session.
I can’t stress enough how valuable it was to make time during each session to all walk around the tables (not touching, of course) and look at what everybody else was doing. The discussion after this was always intense and interesting and lots of children decided to try something new next week for their picture after they had seen what their fellow artists were doing. When I had photographed several of the slabs during these sessions I started to show these images to all the grade 3’s after we had looked at the work from their own group.
Most of the slabs in these photos were practice slabs and didn’t end up getting fired so I’m really glad I photographed them when I could!