iron age clay round house made by yr4 at finstall first school and jon the potter

collaborative totem pole sections made by jon the potter from eastnor pottery and meadows first school

Spent the week before the October half term heading North up the M5 into Bromsgrove, where I had the pleasure and privilege working with children and staff at two of the town’s First Schools.

Monday and Tuesday were spent at Meadows First School working on a whole school project making a ‘Well Being’ totem pole. Once it’s fired, the terracotta sculpture will be installed in the school’s well being garden in the school grounds.

clay totem pole made on one of the flying potter's visit to meadows first school in bromsgrove

Although the project was a collaborative one with each child in the school contributing to the whole, it didn’t stop a YR2 pupil designing and making her own personal interpretation:

On Wednesday I headed across town at Finstall First School making Iron Age houses with YR4 and oak leaf tiles with Reception class.

iron age clay round house made by yr4 at finstall first school and jon the potter

I’ve worked with both schools over a number of years and have become a regular activity at both. I love my visits to the Bromsgrove schools and sometimes get to encounter the same children. It’s great to see they develop their ideas and creativity year on year.

clay tiles made by Holy Trinity school and the flying potter from Eastnor

The Summer term in schools is one of the busiest for the Flying Potter.  SATS are done, the sun is out and teachers  are looking to reward their children with creative and fun activities. Little surprise then schools plan their ‘arts week’ for this time of year.

Here are the ceramic results of a couple of  whole school, recent  ‘arts week’ collaborations undertaken in the West Midlands.

collaborative coil made with children from Tividale Primary School and Jon the potter from eastnor pottery and the flying potter

One of x6 collaborative terracotta planters at Tividale Primary School Sandwell.

clay tiles made by Holy Trinity school and the flying potter from Eastnor

Tile panel at Holy Trinity Primary School Sandwell

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

Clay dinosaurs made by YR reception at Woodlands Infant School with jon the potter from Eastnor Pottery

Jon worked with the two Reception classes at Woodlands Infant School in Shirley earlier this week. The four and five year old pupils have been studying dinosaurs as part of their learning and were really really excited about making their own pottery creation.

Making clay dinosaurs has to be one of our favourite themes of all time. Probably, in part something to do with our son’s obsession with all things Jurassic when he was a youngster.

The children used the simple technique of sticking two pinch-pot bowls together to make a hollow structure. Next they fashioned their hollow ball, without breaking the seal into a dinosaur of their choosing, using an additional lump of clay to make legs, spikes, horns etc.

As well as learning new clay skills the children also used lots of new words and vocabulary to express what they were doing. Here are just a few snippets of conversation with their teacher after they had completed the activity:

“I was going to make a T-Rex but I changing my mind. The Slytherin [painted slip!] was the best bit – it makes it look shiny”

“I made a T-Rex, I made the mouth wider”

“I was squeezingly it carefully so it didn’t burst – I stroked it and it sticks”

“It stayed brown when I put it [green slip] over the top”

“I found it easy doing the body. I made the tail a bit lumpy and a bit short”

“I made a theradactile it had wings – I rolled them”

“I cant really spin it with my finger [making the thumb pot] if it didn’t have a hole it would explode”

“The spikes was tricky, I tried to flatten it and stick it on”