Kids N Clay
Pottery is one of the most creative activities you can let your child experience. Children are born naturally creative, and inquisitive. They are full of energy and have a desire to express themselves. You can encourage that self-expression through healthy avenues such as art classes and clay classes.
If your child has not taken a class at the McKinney Center, we do encourage you to consider Art Adventures as a first step. Art Adventures is not necessarily a prerequisite for the clay classes but the mobility skills, development of dexterity, coordination and hand strength that is developed in Art Adventures, along with the drawing, painting, and sculpture techniques taught can help greatly when working with clay.
The Kids N Clay course is taught by Kara Bledsoe. The class bridges the skills that have been developed in the young artist with their innate ability to create with their hands. Specifically geared toward younger elementary students, this basic introduction in clay construction includes hand-building, extruded work, slab building, and pottery wheel, allowing many ways to transform what is in the young artist’s mind into a 3-D work of art they craft themselves.
Kara is an experienced clay instructor with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a concentration in ceramics at East Tennessee State University. She spent several years teaching after-school programs through Johnson City Arts Corps. She has taught at the McKinney Center for several years and loves working with our youngest students. When you see Kara at the McKinney Center you may also see her lovely daughter Rose.
Kara will help students create 3-5 projects over the 4 sessions in this course that truly taps into students’ creative and cognitive abilities. This class size is small with no more than 8 students. They are given a good deal of one on one instruction in order to complete their projects successfully. These projects may be name trays, cups, bowls, sculptures such as kittens, dogs, and unicorns, and decorative items. Please remember that the esthetic of the end product is not as important as the process. As they squish, pinch, roll, pull, and shape not only will their faces be priceless, but the dexterity, strength, and coordination that they are developing is essential to future success. This is probably your child’s first clay class. Their mugs will not be perfect and may not be usable but the things they will learn in this class will stay with them forever! As an instructor Kara provides nurturing and positive energy within the class to help keep her students motivated. She is also there to help them overcome obstacles that they may encounter while creating.
An important lesson for children is to understand that their actions influence the outside world. For example, while shaping the clay, children must observe and carefully think about their actions – is the clay too thick?, do I want to make it taller?, how should this dog’s tail look?, etc. It forces them to think about and plan what they want to do with their creations.
At the end of the four-week session your child will choose one or two pieces to place in the student art show. This is an opportunity for us to celebrate your child’s dedication and hard work during the class. It is also a time to showcase their masterpiece to their family and friends.
If you and your child love this class we encourage you to consider taking another session of Kids N Clay, as projects change each semester. Depending on the student’s age, Creative Construction or Young Potters may be a good option. The McKinney Center typically offers a summer pottery camp as well held during the month of June.
The registration fee includes the instructor pay, use of approximately 25 pounds of clay, use of glazes, use of tools, and two kiln firings. Clay has to be dry and be “fired” twice in a kiln before being ready for use. Due to the thickness of clay (and children’s projects tend to be rather thick) it can take several days or weeks for a piece to dry completely. It is important that pieces dry before being placed in the kiln. If moisture is still in the walls of the clay or if the clay has significant bubbles they can explode. After drying, the pieces are placed in the kiln for their first firing which is called a “bisque” firing. This is a two-day process due to the kiln needing to time to heat up, reach its full temperature for a certain period of time, and then it cools down. After the cool down process, the pieces are unloaded and then glazed. After the glazing is complete the clay pieces are loaded again in the kiln and fired to over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. This process can take as long as three days due to the temperature max of the kiln. After the kiln cools and is unloaded you will be called to come and pick up your child’s work!
How can you encourage creativity at home? You can provide opportunities to let your kids get their hands dirty. Whether it is with clay or play-doh, allow them to experiment. It’s okay that your child may not make anything physical or usable. The goal is to provide your child with a whole range of health and mental benefits, including better hand eye coordination, stronger motor skills, stronger problem-solving skills, just to name a few. Provide motivation and positive praise as their imaginations guide their creations and they would like nothing more than for you to help them create their masterpieces!
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ABOUT THE MCKINNEY CENTER
The McKinney Center at Booker T. Washington School is a multi-use facility providing arts education through Jonesborough's Mary B. Martin Program.