St. Gabriel Episcopal School preschool and pre-K students have been exploring natural clay and learning clay-working techniques for the last couple of months. Our work has culminated in mixed media clay painted sculptures that will be featured in our Art Show Friday evening January 22nd- Sunday January 24th, 2016 in the entryway of our school. We are using The Language of Art: Inquiry-Based Studio Practices in Early Childhood Settings by Ann Pelo as a guide. We documented students’ comments and discoveries as the learning process progressed.
Day One: Clay, these are students, students, this is clay!
We introduced our students to the sensual nature of clay by having them get
down on the floor, taking off their socks and shoes and exploring the clay with their hands and feet. The students couldn’t believe they were being invited to do this and were unsure at first, but eventually immersed themselves in it!
Look! It’s getting flatter
It’s starting to look like the moon.
I made a footprint. You can see my toes!
(Wraps clay around her toes). I’m making shoes.
I’m pounding it! It looks like a pancake.
I can pick mine up and I can flip it.
It’s cold. It’s hard. It’s hard to push in.
I’m getting slippery on mine.
Mine is really flat now. I can’t get it off the mat. It’s squishy squashy squished.
It is getting hard like concrete from a cement truck.
Day Two: Oops- don’t slip in the slip!
We put the clay on our art table and learned how to manipulate clay with our hands, soften it with water, and how to make slip or clay glue. We got gloriously messy.
Teacher: Here is a way to soften your clay- we’re going to make some slip with this sponge and a little water- it’s like glue for clay. Here’s how you can remember the word slip—-you’re walking along (shows fingers walking in the water on the table) and then all of a sudden, you slip—whoops! (Fingers slip in the water and fall down.)
Student: Hey! I’m going to try that (imitates slipping fingers.)
Ha ha ha!
Teacher: So what is the wet clay liquid called?
It’s slimy, like dirt.
How about I push down on it like this?
It got flat.
It’s hard to press.
Look! I’m finger painting with clay! (Uses fingers to draw squiggles in slip on table.)
I wonder what happens when you press the sponge into the clay? (Sponge absorbs the slip and turns gray.) Hey! My hands are gray too!
Mine feels smooth, like an animal’s back.
Teacher: You are all using different ways to push down and flatten the clay- one is using his weight, one is using his arm muscles, one is pushing on it with her hands, and one is pounding on it with her fist.
Student: Yeah, but it all works.
Day Three: Roll, roll, roll, tap, tap, tap
We learned how to wedge the clay by rolling and tapping to get rid of air bubbles, made a pinch pot and how to connect one piece of clay to another. We constructed snow people to learn to use slip as glue and understand how to use clay to make a representational figure. Some of the snow people grew to snow towers!
Teacher: You need to wedge the clay, or else when you put it in the fire in the kiln, guess what might happen?
Explode like a volcano.
My clay (after wedging) looks like an elephant (trunk)!
(After wedging then poking a hole for pinch pot): Mine looks like a tunnel….or maybe a cave.
I think mine is a sidewalk.
Mine is a monster. It has a hole.
Mine has a long hole too!
Now mine looks like a pot.
Day Four: From lump of clay to mixed media art piece
We used our learned clay-working techniques to each create a mixed-media assemblage piece for our art show. Students took white air-dry clay and added seeds, sticks, buttons, pipe cleaners, feathers, springs, and other fun things to make either a representational or abstract work, and great creativity emerged.
I’m putting sticks in here to make these kinds of shapes.
My clay is going to flip. Look!
Mine is a design.
I’m adding things to my surprise. Don’t look! I need some seeds.
I want to make a fox but I need to see what one looks like. (Is given a book with pictures of foxes.) Oh good! That’s what I need.
I’m making a candle cake. It’s for the mouses because it’s little.
There are white feathers on this cake so I think it is for angels. This is what angels eat if it’s their birthday. It is beautiful! This is really special so the angels can let people know they have an imagination.
Mine is getting bigger. Look! It made a hole! Look! It made a circle!
Day Five: Whimsical color
Students painted their creations with tempera paint, choosing colors, choosing what to paint and what to leave natural, paint brush techniques, keeping colors pure in containers with dedicated paintbrushes, and repairing pieces with glue. Adding color added even more life and whimsy to the art pieces. Later they used varnish to add a glossy finish.
I’m going to make mine look like a real rainbow!
(Painting feather) I’m trying to make a pink feather.
Look at my water! Does this look like real water?
I’ll carefully turn this so I can paint each candle a different color.
Teacher: Do you think you’ll have enough colors to paint all your candles a different color, or will you have to repeat?
Student: I think so, if I us white and black. Why is there gray?
Teacher: You might need it if you paint a rainy sky, elephants, whales….
Student: Or sharks!
Look! You can use your finger to paint!
I’m going to try that. You can mix. I’m mixing it!
Mine is a big land to explore. One day I’ll go to that land and bring digging toys. The river washed away all the toys- it’s a magical land.
I’m done with mine. It is not for holding. It is for looking.
Our final art pieces will be revealed and available for looking at our upcoming Art Show!