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.
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!