Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Potter's Wheel

The children squealed with excitement at the thought of coming up with beautiful creations at the potter's wheel. They sat attentively as he talked about clay. "Clay has no worth", said the pottery teacher, as he slammed down a beautiful ceramic vase and let it shatter into pieces. "It comes from the earth. It's like mud. It's only valuable when someone makes something from it. That is when it becomes precious." The children sat in awe and wonderment. A bit startled that the pottery teacher smashed a perfectly good vase, their eyes opened and their ears perked up.

To the childrens' surprise, the pottery instructor took them for a ride and showed them many different types of soil and how to find clay. First, they saw top soil in the ditches along the highway. Then they saw another layer of "dirt" that was rocky. Still no clay. At the beach, they found sand with its coarseness and granular characteristics. Finally, along the sandy beach, they found some patches of clay.

"If it looks like it's cracked, you know that it's clay. That's one if its properties", said the teacher. The kids and the teacher eventually found a spot where there was some really good quality clay and they dug and dug, and loaded their pails with clay.

"Now, do we make pottery?" asked one of the students. "Not yet." The children never anticipated that their pottery instructor would be teaching them everything involved in making pottery. Pottery isn't just sitting at the wheel. The kids were thinking that they'd be given a slab of clay from a bag and they'd be able to watch the wheel turn and turn as they swirled the clay to form their creations. They never thought that they'd learn such valuable lessons like where the clay comes from, how to get clay from its natural environment, and how to clean, filter and prepare the clay. They were not aware that the process of making pottery was so involved. "Pottery is 80% preparation and 20% actual making", said their instructor.

Who would have thought that the children would be learning so much about the elements, the environment, the Earth, and so much more? The children sat with their sensei as he discussed methods and techniques. One bright pupil just absorbed all the information and when asked if she understood, she recanted the methods and techniques. She loved learning about pottery done on the wheel, freehand or free form, using a mould, and the coil method.

It's been nearly three weeks since the students began their pottery lessons, and they have learned so much. They haven't even begun the actual making of the pottery yet, but they already have a wealth of experience to take back with them when they return to their country in a few weeks. As a teacher myself, I am thrilled that the students are learning everything about pottery, including where the clay comes from and how to prepare their own clay. They are learning everything from step one. What a pleasant and unexpected surprise.

Photo from http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/ucl-views/pottery


doggy mama said...

Wow, that is really amazing! I think it's so wonderful that they are learning ALL about everything that goes into making pottery. They will remember all of that whenever they see the creations they finally get to make!

Pinks & Blues Girls said...

I'm telling you... I want you to move to RI and teach my boys. The passion and love you have to teach and to do things with children... it's amazing and inspiring!!
- Audrey
Pinks & Blues Girls

mrinz said...

'Hands on learning' - they will remember forever!

Sandy Carlson said...

What a beautiful picture. That's really wonderful. Makes me think of Louise Harter's work (www.louiseharter.com). She too is a spiritually in-tune artist. She has no kids, but she has a heart for all she does, too!

Chrissy121875 said...

I thinks it's amazing too :) I just love the look on kids' faces when they learn new things! The excitement in their eyes when the light just goes on in their heads...It's priceless! Though they love the learning about pottery aspect, they're also itching to finally get their hands messy and start creating their works of art! LOL!

:) Move to RI and teach your boys...THAT would be awesome! ;) There's just so much I want my students to see, do and learn. Luckily for me, these students are really receptive and enjoy what they are learning. We have classroom time and outdoor lessons. They love outdoor lessons, but I don't think they know that they are actually really working on their English listening, speaking, reading (and overall communication) skills...while having fun!

Chrissy121875 said...

I agree with you 100%!!! I hope that these students can go back to their country and years from now, look at their photographs and journals from their time in Canada and remember all their experiences with fondness.

PS. Are you going to go back to writing your blog? I really miss it!

Yes, it is a really gorgeous photograph! Unfortunately, I did not take it! I did credit the website I "borrowed" the photo from though. I was going to put one of the photos that I took of the students' pottery lessons, but this one was just too pretty to not post! I'm going to check out Louise Harter's site now. Thanks for sharing! There's a lady on the Island (Manitoulin Island) whose pottery I just adore. We got some of her pieces for our wedding and I am just so addicted! I'll be taking pottery with my sister-in-law and mother-in-law when summer's out. I can't wait!

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City girl moves to the country, falls in love, and marries a farmer. She tries to incorporate her city ways with her new country lifestyle and blogs to keep in touch with friends, family & students who live far, far away :) Can this city girl go country? Watch as she learns all sorts of exciting things about life on the farm and in a small rural community. *UPDATE* We are now parents! Our baby girl was born on Nov. 11, 2008 (at 28 weeks gestation- 12 weeks premature, but she's quite the trooper)!!!
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