Have you ever been scrolling time away on Pinterest looking at gorgeous creations you fear you may never recreate as beautifully even if your life depended on it?
Well, I have. More than once. In fact, I have a serious case of Pinterest envy. It’s a hard habit to beat and I shall admit it this one time that I may be a bit of a perfectionist. I like things to be just so. Especially when I have a certain project in mind, I can get a bit, well … carried away.
BUT when it comes to getting creative with my kids, I have learned my lesson the hard way. And when these gorgeous stamped clay bowls got me all excited about doing some serious clay stamping of our own, I was determined to approach things differently.
This was going to be a project we’d all enjoy, no matter the results: true process art, experimental, 100% fun.
Now, let me tell you how it went down this one afternoon in New Zealand.
Kid Stamped Clay Bowls, a Process Art Activity
First of all, I’d like to thank Emma, who has this amazing craft blog called Gathering Beauty and who is the creative brain behind these beautiful stamped clay bowls I fell in love with. She has been so kind as to cheer us on as we took her idea and had some fun with it.
After our diy toy garage disaster a couple of weeks ago, I forced myself to set down and take a few minutes to think this activity through. What did I want to accomplish? It was simple really:
- I wanted to introduce my kids to the (to them) new technique of stamping on clay, which I was hoping would be a lot of fun!
- I wanted to show them that when the clay dries, it becomes hard and will turn into something you can also use.
And while in my mind I really, really wanted this to be about the process and not the product, it would be nice to end up with some kind of useful clay bowl. Right?
So I realized preparation is key. Setting the activity up in a way that is fool proof is the way to go. I decided to cut out very thick pancake like circles of clay and let the children pound away on those. That way they’d be free to experiment their hearts out and I was sure at least some ‘pancakes’ would survive for me to turn into bowls.
And that’s exactly what happened: full on clay stamping, lots of poking, a bit of licking, some elbow pounding, ink on the walls and so much more. It was fun all around.
Some clay circles didn’t survive the enthusiastic toddler’s interpretation of process art, but that’s ok. He modelled and remodelled and pounded some more and absolutely loved it. Clay feels and acts so differently from play dough that he could really take all his energy out on that little ball in front of him.
My 5 1/2 year old daughter was much more methodical in her art process. She experimented with colours, patterns, pressing down hard and being more gentle. She also understood that in the end, this clay circle would turn into a bowl she could actually use. With that in mind she played around for a while to figure out which style she liked best. I adored observing her process it all!
In the end we managed to turn most of the decorated or ‘heavily worked’ clay flats into little bowls. Because some were so thick it took a couple of days for them to completely dry out. I also decided to put a layer of varnish on them just for added prettiness. (I can’t help myself.)
For a step by step break down of how to successfully make these clay bowls, I’ll refer you back to Emma’s tutorial on which we based this art activity. We’ve been freestyling a bit, making it up as we go along and once you ‘get’ the process, you can easily do the same: make it your own. You can read the instructions here.
Process versus Product: finding your own way.
What I’ve learned from making these kid stamped clay bowls is that it’s perfectly possible to find a balance between a process art activity and still ending up with a nice product. One doesn’t have to exclude the other.
I love creating beautiful items. The process of figuring out designs, patterns and working with different kinds of fabric gets me all excited. In a way it’s process art too, as it’s the constant process of experimenting and figuring things out that I’m so drawn to. And the end result needs to ‘feel right’ rather than look as I originally intended it to (it never does!)
When it comes down to creating with my kids though … it’s a whole different ball game.
Luckily there are lots of talented artists out there who really nail this process art for kids thing: Art Bar and Meri Cherry are some of my favourites. Their projects are truly inspiring and we explored some of their techniques here and here. And we even made some artist inspired sculpture art which prompted me to collect artist inspired kid art and bundle it in an article which will walk you through the history of modern and contemporary art. It’s pretty amazing.
While process art might not be my strong point, I am good at coming up with creative mother/daughter collaborations. Over the past couple of months my girl and I have been loving working alongside each other in my studio. Here are some of our projects:
- we made an embroidered treasure map: kid designed and mommy made
- we made these fairy hair clips for pretend play
- and we made these mini felt bags for our Playmobil people
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