Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Making Textures in Clay

I have worked with clay for thirty years, starting as a potter and then switching to sculpture a few years later. Clay is my passion for a number of reasons - I loved making mud pies as a kid and I still love the feel of clay in my hands. In particular, I love experimenting with texture in clay - to say is it impressionable would be an understatement.
Driftwood, a gourd, a pod and a cinnmon stick
I have found that experimenting with textures in clay is an activity that appeals to kids because they learn while they play and create. Understanding how a textured surface produces an imprint can be an ahh-ha moment for a child as they press found object. One experiment I enjoy is using the end of things, like markers, caps and even a cinnamon stick, to press texture into clay.

I started my experiments in textures from things I found in my father's workshop. He was a farmer and there were always interesting things I could find to press into clay on his workbench. I'm still inspired by those memories and I often visit hardware stores, especially old ones, to hunt for interesting objects.
A shell, a peach seed, coral and a produce bag
If you are looking for an easy clay project to let your kids experiment with textures, just create simple clay tiles, divide them into four squares and have kids press a group of objects onto the tile. You can make a theme, like seeds, leaves or shells. Or you can let it be more free-form and have them bring whatever they might find in the house, their toy box or the yard together to try.

The right texture can make trees with great looking bark and lots of attitude.
Then, you can talk about what the textures remind them of - the scales of a fish, the bark of a tree or the hair of a shaggy dog. I use texture to create all kinds of animals in my work and kids can be just as easily inspired. Give it a try!

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