Monday, March 30, 2015

creating with a kid- playing with clay

If you follow me on Instagram or frequent my blog you will know that we spend A LOT of time making art as a family and I get asked lots of questions about our process. Once in a while I like to share my thoughts on "creating with a kid" here on the blog. (Please note that I am not a childhood development expert or a kids' art teacher- I am simply a mom who is an artist!)

While I have been drawing and painting since childhood, the earliest memories I have of creating are playing with clay. My parents are potters who have always worked from their home studio and I've spent my entire life around clay. I have very vivid memories of molding and sculpting pinch pots, I can remember my brother and I buzzing with excitement to open the kiln to see our fired projects, I remember sitting on my dad's lap while he taught me how to throw on the wheel and spent hours in the studio while my he made pots. While I never became a potter (not yet), the entire process of taking a lump of clay and turning it into something beautiful is something so familiar and entwined into my memories and creative identity. I am convinced that it played a big role in my development as an artist and a creative person.

As I have shared in past posts, it is important for us to incorporate Lucy into as many creative projects as possible. And while it makes no difference if Lucy grows up to be an artist, we do want her to be a creative thinker. I believe creativity and the ability to think in a creative way it one of the greatest gifts we can give our children. 

Lately, we have been introducing new things to her and one of her favorites is working with clay. I shared a few weeks back, Lucy has been asking for and LOVING new challenges/techniques and clay seems to be right up her ally! Gone is her fear of getting clay on her hands and in it's place is a curiosity and joy that comes with the process. With my parents down the street, we have access to a lot of materials that she can experiment with and get creative in new and different ways.

While I believe that just about any creative process (drawing, painting, crafting, etc) is wonderful for kids- playing with clay is magic! Today I am sharing some of my thoughts, insight and tips for introducing clay to kids (or anyone of any age).

Clay is a wonderful sensory development activity for kids (and adults). From rolling and squeezing to forming and sculpting the clay, it can be a really great activity for young kids to grow and development their dexterity and sense of touch. Lucy started playing with PlayDoh and initially just loved the way it felt to squeeze handfuls of it through her fingers. While she really enjoys building things from clay, at three she still loves the way it feels to squish, roll and smash that clay, heck, at 40 years old I still love the ways it feels! 

TIP: You don't need access to a fancy pottery studio to get your kids playing with clay! Play-Doh, air dry clay, homemade dough, modeling clay, EVEN MUD are all materials that work great for sensory play.

Lucy loves to create a story around the things that she makes and using clay to create a narrative has been a really fun way for her to express herself. When working with clay you can make things that are not possible with drawing, painting and 2-D techniques- you are able to create dimensional objects. Though this process a child can actually create things from their experiences or imagination that become real! Right now this seems to be Lucy's favorite part of clay play- she spends a lot of time creating objects that interest her (lizards, pizza, worms, shoes, people) and then has fun playing and acting out a story with her creations. Clay has been a really amazing way to cultivate imagination and her passion for story telling. 

TIPSI treat the clay process much like we do the rest of our art projects- I give very little direction or input about what to do. My goal is encourage Lucy to explore the materials on her own. I let her use her imagination to make discoveries through experimentation and play.

When we are creating alongside each other we spend a lot of time talking about her stories and the characters that she is creating. Instead of telling her what to do and how to create something, I spend a lot of time asking open ended questions to help her develop and grow her creations.

I don't know if any of you have ever pounded, squeezed or molded clay but it is incredibly soothing and therapeutic. Lucy has loved playing with clay since she was tiny and is one of the few activities where she is ALWAYS focussed and calm for a LONG time. Working with clay, especially hand building, is such an engaging process. I have found that it is a great activity when we want things to transition or quiet down. At three years old, life can be overwhelming and Lucy can struggle with coming down after a big day, relaxing after a meltdown and challenged at times with the ability to focus. I know that pulling out clay will instantly create a quiet, peaceful environment and provide an outlet for her to relieve some stress.

If there was ever a medium that teaches you that mistakes are ok it is clay! Clay is one of the few materials that you have a lot of control and influence over. In a moment your clay creations can get ruined- a hole, a rip, a collapse can all happen but you can also repair and build things back up quickly and easily. Unlike drawing and painting, there is a little more forgiveness and flexibility in working with clay. As an artist I know that this is an AMAZING lesson to learn! Often when making art, we get so wrapped up in perfection and fear of making a mistake. Working with clay has the ability to teach you that mistakes can be repaired and you have the power to fix them. Lucy, whether she knows it or not, is learning to problem solve and embrace mistakes when she is playing with clay. When her pot crumbles on the wheel from too much water, she is able (with some help) to build it back up again and form it back into a new pot.

In my opinion everyone should try to throw a pot on the wheel at least once in their life! It is an incredibly thrilling (and humbling) experience that will change your view of the creative process forever. For a child it is FUN, like A TON OF FUN activity that combines sensory play with creativity. Getting to form a lump of clay into something functional with your hands is incredibly empowering and is a wonderful way to create an experience for a kid to feel proud of their accomplishment. Throwing on a wheel can be challenging with a toddler-  Lucy started out very unsure and nervous about the process but with a little time and help from my dad she is now comfortable and loves the process. Her big brown eyes light up when that lump of clay turns into a pot. Currently she loves changing the shape of a pot with her hands and gets a big kick out of using a sponge and different tools to manipulate the pot.

TIPS: Finding a space and a place to throw on a wheel can be tricky. Often bigger cities have community craft space, pottery studios and classes where you can learn and use a wheel and fire pottery in a kiln.

Finding resources for kids, especially toddlers can be a little tricky. I recommend doing some research to see if you have any local potters in your area. Try reaching out to see if they ever open up their studio space for a demo, firing pottery, teaching classes or volunteer their time. Growing up my parents would were always doing pottery demos at Sunday school, birthday parties and community gatherings.

Another option is to actually purchase your own materials and supplies. There are all kinds of pottery materials, even simple wheels made for kids to experience the process in a smaller way.

You can read all of my "creating with a kid" series HERE
You can read more about my family and pottery HERE, HERE and HERE


Sue Marrazzo Fine Art said...

NICE Job! What a sweetie! said...

sweet post. i love art with kids. we learn so much from them! : )

magali said...

so beautiful video, you are realy a great mom , I love your universe, France kisses

Michelle P said...

Such a beauty! That video made me smile. She's a lucky girl to have these experiences! Arts and crafts has always been a big part of me and I loved sharing that time with my daughter but she's now almost 15 and isn't interested like she used to be. Im hoping that in time, she'll come back to it.

Beulah Bee said...

The joy in her face as she sat at the wheel is universal to all potters. You described it well. Thank goodness there's Play-Doh as pottery studios/classes are scant. I hope parents out there make good use of your "creating with a kid" series. I think it is as important as you do.

Stephanie said...

Lucy is so cute!!

Tammy@T's Daily Treasures said...

So cute when she dropped the sponge. She is so lucky to have these opportunities. What great coordination she has. I have a feeling I would collapse that pot in a nanosecond. :)

Sacred Gypsy said...

The excitement and joy on her face is so beautiful! My daughter spent hours working on art with me when she was little. As a teenager she know longer wanted to have mom on a project with her but she never left her creativity or art by the wayside. Today she is an art major in college and having fun exploring and finding her creative place. What is really cool though is how that creative side of her spills into her whole life and thinking!

Elizabeth said...

That video just melted my heart! What a beautiful experience to capture and share -- thank you! My daughter has just turned one and those quiet moments when she's snuggled up in my lap with a few crayons in her hands, starting to make marks here and there, is just the best.

Anonymous said...

Really beautiful to watch, I smiled all the way through. So much joy. Wonderful.
Sara said...

stunning post, always love made me cry watching the video. what a wonder of a relationship lucy has with her grandfather oxox

Dorothy said...

Love this post! I have been trying to make similar memories with my grandchildren. Sometimes it geys really hard, especially when my sons cannot u derstand why we make such messes and lunch is only grilled cheese served on plates with well painted newspapers as a tablecloth.

Dorothy said...

Love this post! I have been trying to make similar memories with my grandchildren. Sometimes it geys really hard, especially when my sons cannot u derstand why we make such messes and lunch is only grilled cheese served on plates with well painted newspapers as a tablecloth.

Andria said...

Lucy is looking so grown up! What wonderful lessons she is learning through her play.

Jill said...

Access to such an art...tricky for sure! Oh, I can see that I would love it.


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