This Is Serious Fun!

By Levy Vargas

The idea of simply putting your hands on a piece of clay is already exciting, no matter how old you are, using clay will always be fun. And, yes, one can make anything with clay. Any shape, any idea — we just have to figure out how….

I love teaching this process of transforming a natural material like clay with the abundance of ideas that flow when a child learns a new technique.

The most important thing is how they feel about themselves when working with clay. Often they are surprised and/or impressed with their own expressions. To me, this is the most valuable lesson about ceramics. This simple realization of feeling capable of doing things nurtures the student’s creativity, self-discovery and self-confidence through their creative evolution.

Rule #1
Ceramics can last forever, or…

I always remind my students that a piece of fired clay can last thousands of years if we carefully handle it, or simply just a few seconds if by accident we elbow it to the ground…crashhh!!! So what we learn is that even though ceramics can be durable, they are still fragile. We learn how to be gentle, how to move things gingerly, how to find a balance and the fragility of things.

Rule #2
No fun no gain

Often working with clay is similar to cooking. There are recipes and measurements and tools and utensils that will be used to make a project.

I’ve seen kids so excited just to open a bag of clay so they can try to guess how much it weighs. They like to slice a piece off with a nylon cutter or spread a chunk of clay onto a board as if making pizza. Any way you see it, ceramics has got to be fun! Well, until the time comes to clean up the classroom. Though if done properly, this can also be an enjoyable activity.

Rule #3
Believe in magic

Clay is a very rewarding and satisfying material. It is friendly, pliable and has memory. Everything you do to it — every mark, every scratch, every touch of your fingerprints — it all will be there. As we create unique pieces, they are the reflection of our imagination, our touch, our contact and then here comes the fire…! The expectation… will our pieces survive the fire? Will the glazes reach the proper temperature? This is the magical part of the whole process.

All of this happens in our MCS clay room. Even though learning ceramics is fun, I love that we learn much more than how to simply “make things.”