Notebook, 1993-


[From: Mattil, Edward L. Meaning in Crafts. 3rd Ed. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1971.]

Common Earth Clay

This can be purchased as dry powder to be mixed with water or moist and ready to use.

If the teacher is working with powdered clay for the first time, he would do well to mix his clay with small amounts of water until it is a good consistency. A good consistency is one that allows the clay to be manipulated without cracking and yet be stiff enough so that the clay doesn't stick to the hands too much. A very pleasant and clean way to mix the clay is to put about a pound of powdered clay in a plastic bag, add a small amount of water, press out all the air, fasten the bag with a heavy rubber band, and give it to one of the children to knead. Kneading is itself often very enjoyable to young children, satisfying a kinesthetic desire. If the clay seems too dry, add a bit more water; if too moist, add some more dry clay. The teacher will son discover his own formula for mixing clay and water to produce a good consistency. The clay will work best if allowed to age for several days after it has been kneaded. It can be stored for an extended period of time in the bag in which it was kneaded.

This type of clay can be fired in a kiln, but as a rule it is permitted to harden by drying in air. Pieces can be softened by being soaked in water. This clay is about the same as that which the children might find in a clay back near the school or along the edge of a stream, except that when purchased it is always in a refined, gravel-free state. Sometimes it contains certain materials to make it harden more permanently. Earth clay has definite limitations, in that it always shrinks during the drying process, preventing the use of any type of framework or armature inside the clay figures; built on a frame, the dry figure will generally break into many pieces. Therefore, the teacher working with ordinary clay must limit the modeling to rather compact, bulky figures without delicate appendages. However, such limitations are desirable, because they place before the child a new problem requiring a new solution.

If a kiln is available, it might be desirable to fire the works of the older children, but it is generally unwise to fire those of the very young. To fire the work of a child who is doing little more than 'scribbling' in clay is to place undue emphasis upon the product. When using earth clay, it is permissible to allow the young child to paint his finished figure if he so desires. Teachers have no business developing 'purist' attitudes about the art work of children, for anything that fosters sincere self-expression is desirable. Therefore, the painting of clay figures, which adult artists might shun, is acceptable with children.

[Mattil, Edward L. Meaning in Crafts. 3rd Ed. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1971.]



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