clay castle made from individual bricks made at the cheltenham science festival by lots of families and school children

families making clay bricks in the makershack at cheltenham science festival 2019

It was fab to be back at the Cheltenham Science Festival last month.

We’ve been involved in the Makershack since its inauguration in 2017. This year we encouraged visitors to make a press molded brick, using real brick clay from Coleford Brick and Tile Company based in the Forest of Dean.

The bricks were assembled into a giant castle and we worked with nearly 10,000 people over the x6 days of the festival! – that’s a shed load of bricks! The sheer volume of visitors meant we had to build a fresh structure each day, deconstructing the building at the close and re-claiming the material for the next morning.

Athough the Makershack was primarily aimed at Primary school aged students – (and man, there must have been very few Gloucestershire schools who didn’t visit the show), on Friday night grown-ups got to play with the technology in a special after-hours session between 8pm and 10pm.

Although it’s full-on, we love the #makershack and look forward to sharing the scientific benefits of engaging with clay, with festival visitors in 2020.clay castle made from individual bricks made at the cheltenham science festival by lots of families and school children

school children enjoying hands on making clay bricks at cheltenham science festival 2019

sticks and match sticks stuck into a clay mound as part of an EYFS creativity and clay project

As a long time associate artist in residence at Washwood Heath Nursery School (WHNS) in Birmingham, I have been asked to facilitate a project looking at how clay might improve the learning experience for children with Special Educational Needs (SEN). The 10 day project will span the 2018/19 academic year and I am employed to engage the children and staff for three or four days each term.

As with all my clay adventures in Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) documentation is key and an essential part of the project. Each week I observe the youngsters, photographing their interactions and recording notes.

Here are excerpts from my notes from the first session 7-11-18:

Having just a few SEN children to focus on is going to be really beneficial. I found in the past, in my enthusiasm trying to give all the children the best experience, all of the time, I ended up spreading myself too thinly. It’s going to brilliant just to focus on a few and do some real in-depth exploratory work and build some meaningful relationships. Great stuff and I’m genuinely excited to working in this way.

Had a quick briefing with ‘N’ and then set up on the clay table. ‘K’ kindly presented me a list of the children’s names and I spent a lovely morning identifying the children I’m working with and getting to know them one to one. In future weeks, I’m going to set up an activity on the table that the whole of nursery can access and then hone in on my SEN focus group, either at the table or in other parts of the nursery.

‘L’

Perfectly at home on the clay table and spent a good 30 minutes rolling flat slabs and using lolly-pop sticks to mark and prod the sheet of clay. Experimenting with the different sides and ends of the tool to create different marks, drawing straight and circular lines in the clay slab. Uses finger to slide/blend the clay onto the surface of the table. Good exploratory stuff and experimentation

When ‘L’ first sat down at the table, she used a rolling pin to lightly tap away at a dried clay pot, creating a layer of fine particles and dust on the board. She used her fingers to draw through the dust. I introduced a pinch pot with lid for her to contain her dust and broken bits of dried pot. Another child ‘H’ (great interpersonal skills) came and sat next to her at the table and ‘made’ together. – lovely! Holding hands and swapping the odd word or two.

‘L’ seems a happy soul, singing along to the children’s songs playing on the white board whist she works the clay. If you’re happy and you know it pat the clay! Enjoying counting to five as she helps to flatten the clay slab. When ‘L’ leaves the clay table she heads over to the carpet to play the drums and percussive instruments. Music and rhythm is going to be a brilliant way to connect with the ‘L’….and probably the rest of the children too!

child draws with fingers through dry clay dust  on table

‘Z’

I went to find ‘Z’ in the classroom as he was somebody I hadn’t had opportunity to meet yet. I found him happily playing with his plastic dinosaurs. “Stegosaurus!” I headed back to the clay table and grabbed a lump of clay and quickly made a T-rex in front of him. He was suitably impressed, disappeared and then returned with his own lump of clay to model (or to get me) to model another dino. He didn’t need too much persuasion to join me at the clay table for some more clay dinosaur modeling. “Make a stegosaurus out of clay” Loved the way he used a pencil to very carefully prod eyes into the dinosaurs head. We somehow ended up with a two headed stegosaurus! At the end of the session “bye bye dinosaur” on the way out he saw a small, life like plastic spider “spider” became slightly obsessed and slightly frightened by the realistic toy. Maybe a starting point for next time?

dinosaurs modeled in clay by nursery child

Thrown and assembled wheel thrown pot made by young man with aspergers at eastnor potteryLeon’s one of regular and valued customers. Every Tuesday he spends an hour or so with his support worker or mum at the Pottery making and decorating pots on the wheel.

For the past seven weeks he’s been working on a single, ‘£100’ pot. Each visit is spent making a separate section on the wheel which is then joined to the one made the previous week.

Over seven weeks, the pot has grown organically and sprouted several handles and palm tree additions. The last couple of weeks have been spent painting the sculpture in coloured under glazes and slips. It emerged resplendent from the kiln a few weeks ago and we think it’s brill! Here’s a link to a short video showing the pot in all it’s 3D glory: Young man with aspergers makes amazing pottery

Boosted by the success, Leon is onto his next project – a ‘£200’ pot!

collaborative mud sofa at Hay Literature Festival with Eastnor Pottery

Great to be back at the 30th Hay Festival of Literature 2017 in May.

On one of our last outings at the Festival, back in 2008 it rained and rained and rained for the whole duration. We found ourselves working in a foot of muddy water, the consistency of chocolate smoothie, constructing a mud sofa and arm chair with festival goers young and old.

We were delighted to be re-united with quite a few veterans of the 2008 mud bath, including these twin girls who had braved the mire aged just 4 yrs. Here they are then and now!

twin girls return to Hay on Wye Festival to make pottery with jon williams the flying potter

Father and daughter decorate a freshly thrown pot togetherWe enjoyed working with this young family, particularly the birthday girl who made a fantastic clay bowl on the potter’s wheel. The concentration on her face as she used the banding wheel and paintbrush combo to decorate her masterpiece…

twin18 month old enjoys exploring clay at Eastnor Pottery

4th birthday pottery treat at Eastnor Pottery

18 month old plays with clay at Eastnor Pottery

 

 

 

 

 

If you fancy celebrating a family occasion in a unique and creative fashion then drop us a line and we’ll book you in: Tel 01531 633886 or email admin@eastnorpottery.co.uk We are open Tues – Sat 10am – 4pm and have a variety of projects and prices for our customers to enjoy.