natural resources for pattern making in clay session with jon the potter from eastnor pottery and the flying potter

textured terracotta tiles made by young children at washwood heath nursery school and jon the potter from eastnor pottery and the flying potterThese amazing terracotta tiles have been made by the talented children at Washwood Heath Nursery School in Birmingham. Although they look rather stunning arranged here on the ground, the tiles form part of a much more ambitious project at the nursery.

Jon the potter worked with artist in residence Claire Witcombe, Nursery staff and of course the children to plan an exciting and inspiring project to introduce aspects of pattern making, surface design and construction. The aim, to create something that would pool the skills and experience of all the collaborators and result in an outcome everybody could enjoy and share – as well as provide the children with an exceptional learning journey along the way.

After much consultation and planning, a shelter proved to be a popular choice with all stakeholders – a structure the children could pass through, play in and around. It was decided the interior space would be protected by hand made roof tiles, co-created by the children in a series of practical workshop sessions.

natural resources for pattern making in clay session with jon the potter from eastnor pottery and the flying potterautumn oak trees in eastnor herefordshire

Natural resources, hand tools and other mark making objects were introduced to the clay table for the children to press and work into the clay. Once they had flattened large lumps of terracotta clay into flat slabs, the children got to work, pressing and rolling the tools and resources into the soft material. They were also encouraged to cut their textured slabs into uniformed shapes by slicing around a template especially prepared for the task. The range of patterns produced, and the degree of exploration was a delight to behold….And as for the sheer number of tiles made – WOW! Proper tile making factory.

pressing oak leaves into clay slab with jon the potter at washwood heath nursery school in birminghamcutting clay tiles at washwood heath nursery school with jon williams from eastnor pottery

table full of mark making materials and clay at a creative session led by Jon Williams the flying potter at washwood heath nursery school in birminghamThe 100 tiles have all been fired and ready for dispatch! The baton now passes to Claire who will enable the children to build the main structure from recycled pallets and boards. The roof tiles will be added later by the children using hammers and nails to hang them on the timber – a traditional and contemporary technique used by roofers in the construction industry all around the world.

The project is a fine example of partnership working and creative collaboration and we all cant wait to see the final piece installed in one of the Nursery’s exterior spaces.

Clay Sculpting

A lot of home-schooling going on at the moment!

Over the years we’ve produced a collection of ‘how to do’ videos.

In an attempt to help educate and ‘entertain’ the nations children, we’ve dusted off a few of the ‘better’ (?) ones to post here on our website.

Here’s the first one on how to make a clay fish. If you don’t have access to clay, why not try using play dough?

Good luck everybody and we’d love to see how you get on. Ping us a pic on Twitter, Face Book or Instagram – make sure you tag us in too! We’re @eastnorpottery on most platforms.

Loads more where this little gem came from! Head on over to our Eastnor Pottery YouTube channel for more epic productions!

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!