© 2010 Marla McLean claymiles

Of “stuff”

(That’s Miles, above) While work and life are intertwined, being snowed in away from the school place gave me an opportunity to work on some of my own “stuff.” I will presenting at an International Conference on Young Children and Creativity in New Jersey March 3-5. The list of speakers include Howard Gardner. My presentation is entitled “The Studio Experience in Early Childhood as Social Activism.”  It will be stories and images of transformation within the context of my work and experiences at SWS. Thanks to the snow-in, it is completed! Still time to register and attend. I am part of a juried exhibition at Adkins Arboretum, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. While I have never been there, it looks like a fabulous 400 acres of beauty. My piece is “Raindrops on Asphalt and Feathers on Sparrows.”  RaindropsDetailThe theme of the show is related to Wildlife of the Mid-Atlantic. Clearly the curator Carla Massoni of the Massoni Gallery, stretches the theme as much as me, because my art is a nine piece mixed media assemblage that would not grace the cover of any botanical or wildlife journal. Raindrops2The opening is September 27th from 5-7pm if you want to take a trip. Thanks to being snowed in I was unable to drive the piece up to Ridgely, MD, and had to bubble wrap and ship it to the gallery. While being snowed in, my daughter was dancing frevo in the streets of Olinda, Brazil for Carnival. Her luggage was lost, but if you click the link, it’s hard to feel sorry for her. Feel sorry for my husband and I who managed to ship a 42 lb box of her belongings  to Uruguay where she will be studying for six months. The sun came out and it was time to return to SWS. On February 16th all the children and teachers risked their lives but made it into school. Despite missing Valentines Day, yours truly donned a new dress and transformed into the annual Love Fairy. lovefairy1Love dust was sprinkled, chocolates were handed out, cards were sorted, and alot of cupcakes were consumed. Best of all, the studio table was covered with canvas and beautiful red clay is being handled by all. I love clay, and am smacking myself for waiting so long to haul out the real stuff (not playdough, the stuff of Mother Earth.) Next week the Kindergarten classes will be visiting the Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit at National Geographic. I especially wanted them to have some first hand experience with clay. Right now I am reveling in the kinesthetic and expressive qualities of clay. While the idea is to give the kids lots of experience with the material (not “make” anything to save,) I am teaching a few ceramic techniques/lingo: claymoveThe slab (also known as the pancake) is such a physical process, the whole body is engaged, just look at Ella and her hair flying in a forward motion. clayballsThe sphere (also known as the ball) is tricky, but you can turn those spheres into so many things. The coil (aka making snakes) is a vital element when creating just about anything.claycoil The pinch pot (poking, pinching and pulling exercise) great for hats, mountains, bodies, and as Malen imagined, a meteor that flattened her little world. The experimentation and creation is giving everyone (including me) great satisfaction as well as many many more ideas. Here’s some of the stories from this interaction. clayO1 clayO2 clayO3 “It’s a guy that stuff falls out of the sky. It catches it with the tail and bounces off theshell. And it goes back and forth and it can do more than one thing at the same time. When there’s too much bouncing, this part catches some, and there’s a bridge too. It bounces and catches. It keeps switching like a pattern.” (Owen’s (Pre-K) construction was a story in the making. He developed a technique of pinching and adding clay. He told the story as he worked. He included qualities such as it’s ability to multi-task, as well as the idea of patterns that he noticed as told the narrative. From above, it is a compelling design.) clayTurtleclayTurtle1 Henry M.  (Pre-K) was sitting directly across from Racecar the Turtle and was aptly inspired. claybalanceclaybalance1 Chiara (Pre-K) struggled for a long time trying to balance her person. I reminded her that the solution was the same as building with blocks or when she created her wooden figure. After many tries, she was thrilled to find success after creating a base slab. “I am making a story. There’s a crib and a baby. The baby has a bottle, and a cat, and the cat has a clay  bowl” Grace, Kindergartenclaystory Grace also told a story, but she had the idea before she created, whereas Owen’s story grew out of sculpting as he worked. It is a constant question for me as a facilitator, create from the plan or plan from the creation? claykaiKai’s alien. (Kindergarten) He asked me many times to take a picture since it was going to be recycled. For some children, it was a mesmerizing experience, like Brigid, (K) who at times gazed off as she felt the clay. For others it was a physical joyful experience, like Philip (K) or like Max (Pre-K) who created a boat that he moved as a toy in play. claypinch clayjoy clayboat Perhaps as human beings, we are hard wired to connect with this vital organic material. This “stuff” that bridges all types of learners and is so easy to transform again and again and again. (below, Annika, K) clayheart

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  1. Agi Kovacs
    Posted February 18, 2010 at 3:09 pm | #

    Dear Marla,
    Amazing images and very cool sculptures!What a great project!
    It’s TERRAFIC!

  2. Posted February 18, 2010 at 4:05 pm | #

    Hey the Love Fairy really went haute couture this year,tres elegante ! she used to be more Punk Princess With Sparkles, as I recall.

  3. Josie
    Posted February 18, 2010 at 6:33 pm | #

    Beautiful and what a fun project!

  4. Posted February 19, 2010 at 12:35 pm | #

    What’s your favorite source for good but not bank-breaking clay, Marla? How much do you find is a good amount to have on hand? Do you apportion a certain amount to each child, or do they choose the size of their own portions?

    Congratulations on your gallery exhibit! It looks compelling.

    Now I’m off to the website to check out the Conference on Young Children and Creativity! Awesome.

  5. Posted February 19, 2010 at 6:54 pm | #

    Clay is extremely inexpensive, and can be reconstituted by keeping it moist (wet towel, spritz of water, in a bag, in an airtight container)
    I like to purchase locally from Baltimore, Clayworks Supply, Inc (CSI). When planning a project that will be fired and glazed, you just budget it in some extra. Right now, there is no kiln in my school. I have in the past lugged some work to be fired at another school, but it is a lot of hauling and parts break. Hopefully a kiln is in the works this spring. It’s still worth using clay, even without a kiln.

  6. Posted February 21, 2010 at 11:17 am | #

    There is so much in this post to comment on I don’t know where to start …

    I wish I could see your “Raindrops” piece in person. I’m really curious about it. What media are you using? How big is it? I wish I could see the whole thing.

    I should have guessed you were a costume person. I have a couple hundred costumes here at the house, many of which I made myself. I especially like wearing costumes when it isn’t Halloween.

    We’ve been using the same batch of clay for over 8 years now. I love the idea that it bears the memory of every child who comes through the school. You’re right, it’s a vastly different experience than playdough.

  7. Posted February 22, 2010 at 9:27 am | #

    Thanks for your comments. You can go to http://marlamclean.com to see my piece. It is my personal art website. Click portfolio and then Sculptural Assemblage. I appreciate the interest.
    Great to know there’s more of us out there who still like to do dress-up. Luckily, we put ourselves in situations where it is considered socially appropriate, lol!

  8. Posted February 25, 2010 at 12:37 pm | #

    Thanks for the comment. But also thanks for such a wonderful blog post. As an artist and a mom I really appreciated it. I felt like I was right there with them. Thanks!
    And have a wonderful day!


  9. Posted March 1, 2010 at 8:49 am | #

    What a wonderful, interesting, thoughtful piece. I’m struck by your description of yourself as a facilitator—and by your question of whether to “create from the plan or plan from the creation.” What a smart thing to do—have the kids work with clay before taking them to see the Terra Cotta Warriors. What gorgeous shots, too.

  10. Posted March 7, 2010 at 8:29 am | #

    I saw your talk at the Creative Mind conference and you were fantastic! Your work is inspiring and your photography is beautiful. Thank you for sharing. I’d love to come visit your school some day!

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