Why do children love pottery?

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March 10, 2014

Why do children love pottery?

I found several quick answers when I asked them to write down their thoughts on this question.

Why students like pottery class

So they all agree that it is fun and that there are no limits to what they can do. I have been running children’s pottery classes from my pottery studio in Graiguenamanagh (MountBrandonPotterySchool) since last October and have often asked myself the same question.

Parents drop off their kids every week and during the hour-long class magic happens. At the beginning I introduced them to making pinch and coil pots and there was no limit to their imagination. A plain pinch pot was transformed into a 3-legged treasure box and coil pots became snails or even big scary monsters.

Kids are curious, they love how clay feels. Often it starts out with and “Oh“, followed by “this is cold“, but very soon the kids get completely absorbed by the malleable quality of clay. It is very forgiving. Mistakes can be rectified easily and quickly.  And kids instinctively learn what they can or cannot do. And if it can’t be done in a certain way they are very likely to find an alternative. It’s great for hand-eye co-ordination and they work hard at manipulating the clay.

On the learning journey I explain certain rules to them which will be helpful to making successful pieces like slip and score two pieces of clay in order to join them together so that they don’t fall apart when they dry. They really respect these rules and even remind each other if something is amiss. Like: have you put a hole into this ball so that it won’t explode in the kiln?” or “this is very thick, should you not hollow it out so that it dries quicker?” or “this arm is very thin, you’d better attach it to the body so that it won’t snap off so easily.”

Kids are clever and enjoy helping each other. Last night we were glazing and the youngest guy (5) was struggling to mix the brush-on glaze which had settled in its pot. A girl 2 years older than him took over and helped him. They ended up glazing his pot together. Sometimes they get totally excited by their ideas and it can be daunting to “translate” their idea into clay. An 8-year-old came to me and said that he wanted to make a farmer and asked how he should go about it. First I asked him to make a drawing of the farmer and then we looked at the 2 dimensional idea.

Farmer

I asked him how many parts would be required to construct the farmer in clay. It quickly became clear that once we had the head sorted, a long shape could make the rest of the body with additions of arms and a sheep. After this initial brainstorming Jack was on his way. He started with the body and within 30 minutes this form was emerging: wellingtons, a coat and arms.

Clay Famer

The hour flew and we had to postpone the sculpture for another week (put under plastic the piece will stay malleable and won’t dry out, ready to be worked on the following week). That night Jack left with a big smile on his face and he told his mum that he could not wait to come back the following week to finish off his piece.

So clay projects can be really quick or they can draw out for a couple of weeks. Clay is fascinating and it motivates children to work harder for longer – sometimes I feel an hour is too short. But there’s always the plastic freeze-in-time-method…

And back to the dexterity theory, I think it is very true. Working with clay helps children’s sensory development and motor skills.

Another student (6) was making a plaque which we were making using a rolling pin. After the plaque was made he suddenly disappeared and I saw him lying on the wooden bench. I was confused and watched on: he produced the rolling pin and did a few push ups before returning to decorating the plaque. It was very funny and everyone was highly amused. So working with clay is definitely fun and also good for their dexterity – in more ways than one (as proven by Tom).


“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”   Albert Einstein

Click on the images below to enlarge.

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