Clay is a fantastic resource for schools. Kids relate to it immediately and it usually engages their attention for surprisingly long periods. The majority of Pupils will learn best when their hands are busy. It is the 3D equivalent of Drawing; it’s not just for arts and crafts; it’s versatility and affordability means it can be used to enhance all sorts of subjects even maths or history. Many children will find expressing and accessing their ideas in 3D much more natural than using 2D and for some it will be much easier than using words.
Bringing an experienced Ceramic Artist into school is a great idea and will be worth every penny for special projects. But for everyday use the most important skill needed is the one you have; knowing your kids and understanding how they learn best. The clay-skills required are very straight forward.
Plan to recycle the clay at the end of each session just like a superior version of Plasticine.
Apart from special Projects there is no good reason to fire clay-work in Primary School. Firing adds complications to the skills required, storage problems, big costs and lots of extra work for teachers.
If you want your Pupils to benefit from the science and art of firing ceramics bring in a Raku Potter for a day. It will be fantastic fun, massively educational and the ceramics will be gorgeous!
You don’t need all these things to start off. Quality hand-building clay is the most important thing. There are countless different clays designed for different tasks. The wrong clay can make people feel like failures.
Until it is fired Clay can easily be recycled endlessly until the end of time.
1 x 12.5kg bag of Hand-building clay with grog. Scarva Earthstone ES70 Architectural Body Clay a gorgeous, professional quality white clay from Scarva Potters Supplies. My favorite supplier of outstanding sculpture clays. Including delivery you will spend about £32.
Bath Potters Supplies are the most helpful, kind supplier I’ve come across and they will give you great advice. Just tell them you want a white (non-staining, easy to clean up) medium grogged (grog gives the clay much better handling qualities and the greater dry strength needed for self-hardening use.) hand-building clay.
Delivery will be about £10 for up to 25kg.
All the ‘Self-hardening’ clays I have ever tried are unpleasant and difficult to use, very expensive and not significantly stronger when dry than a lovely quality hand-building clay.
Tools make all the difference to what you are able to make. Using them develops fine motor and eye-to-hand skills
Wooden Modelling Tools and Ribbon Tools will be the most popular. Ebay always has affordable letter stamps that will be very useful and sometimes good tools.
These wooden fine modelling tools are outstanding. T1005 Steel Carving Tool Set from CTM Potters supplies are great value, really useful and very long-lasting.
Absolutely gorgeous forged steel tools also from the excellent CTM, will improve your work massively at the fairest price I have found.
OTHER USEFUL THINGS
-Re-usable plastic table-cloth cover if you are worried about scratches on your tables as this clay has small grit in it.
-a few micro-cloths. They are the quickest, easiest cloths for cleaning tables and hands.
-Boards are optional. B&Q will custom-cut a sheet of MDF for you. A board wide enough to fit across a wheel chair is great for some people.
Approx cost, incl. sheet MDF; £60. You don’t need all these items to start off.
The quality clay is the important item. Clays are made with recipes and therefor there is an infinite number of types of clay, each with particular properties. ES70 is absolutely lovely to use; it feels very nice, it’s not sticky, it doesn’t stain, it’s easy to clean up (on carpet let it dry + brush out), it’s not irritating to sensitive skin and you can eat it! Most importantly it is very easy to use so people get good, rewarding results quickly. Beginners deserve a great material that will reward their bravery for trying something new and give them fab results that will spur them on.
ES70 works very well as a self hardening clay and can be decorated with poster paints once it’s dry.
Plan to recycle all the clay, even if it’s painted or has dried completely. Explain that the clay is expensive so you need to keep it for next time so that they don’t think it’s because you assume they will make rubbish! Pupils are usually perfectly happy to let it go. Often it takes the pressure off to make a ‘product’ and they can relax and enjoy the making part more.
Re-using the Clay
-At the end of a session drop all the clay back in the bag. (lots of pupils will love smashing the work up!)
-Put bag in Bucket
-slowly pour a cup or so of water over the clay in the bag to soften the clay.
-Close bag w/ twisty
-leave over night or longer.
-place bag on floor and step on it a few times to “knead” the clay, turning bag a few times.
-Voila! It is ready for use. You can re-cycle your clay endlessly.
!? Bag goes rock-hard; Allow to dry completely, drop lump on floor to break up, put pieces in bag and recycle
!? Bag goes quite hard; knock holes all over lump. (hammer + screw driver= surprisingly satisfying task!) Return to bag and add water.
!? Bag goes too squishy; Tip clay onto a board and allow to dry until usable. “Knead” a few times over the day (or two) so that it dries evenly.
For larger quantities of clay recycling click here.
-Always close bag tightly w/ twisty
-Ideally store in a handy frost free place but it doesn’t matter if the clay freezes.
-Ideally have the bucket on wheels as 12.5kg is quite heavy (plant pot wheels – Home-Bargains, £1.99.)
-Have all the kit together for quick access by everyone.
You can see more about the wonderful, 2 year long, Arts Care Gofal Celf Project shown in the pictures here; The Tumble Commission, parts 1-8
General information about Workshops with Osprey Studios.
More information about collaborative and community projects.