Talk and tips -Teaching

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If the skills you have as a potter are not passed on then all that you have worked for will fade.

Most of the potters I know at some time in their career have diversified into teaching, demonstrating or some other occupation that gets them over a lean time. I first touched clay at an evening class, got enthused, moved on to college and then became a potter but I never forgot the enthusiasm I received from my night school tutor. When I left college I set up my workshop making tableware and garden pots but 2 days a week I taught at adult classes which I did for over 30 years. Many of my students went on to further education which if you like completed the circle.

Now I’m a bit more chilled with my children grown and flown and no mortgage so I started doing the odd day in schools, it may not be for you but this is how I go about it.

In my local area there are around 70 primary schools which I have on email or I post fliers. I will usually only go in for a day and I will do any theme they like. If you know my work it is mainly thrown but I rarely take a wheel in; so for instance a class may be studying Greek history and I go in and make some clay masks for comedy and tragedy, another school are studying Incas so I make some Inca warriors with them.

Some schools use self hardening clay but it’s difficult to use with all the nylon fibres  so I take in good quality clay and at the end of the day take it back to the workshop fire it and return it for the children to paint with school paints. The picture above is a mural I did with a rolling group of five children at a time. I let the whole school submit designs, the Head chose two and I amalgamated them into one. The mural is around a metre high so I went in with a sheet of clay on a board we made the mural then cut it up and it was returned stuck to a board  ready for painting.

You will need tools for 30 children but this doesn’t have to be expensive, I made rolling pins out of drainpipes and have a chest of tools with old dinner knives and some modelling tools but I find the most useful tool is a pencil for joining bits and incising. I would think my whole tool set cost around £50.

Last week I assisted some GCSE students on a project before that it was primary children making Anglo Saxons – just do them from the waist up as it saves having wobbly legs! A while back I assisted on a maths week, after scratching my head for a while I came up with a chess like game with a system of scoring that they had to add up and take away.

Often I will go back to a school a year later and the children will come up to me full of enthusiasm saying how they enjoyed the clay work they did. There is also talk in parliament about increasing the school day with the extra activities that they can’t fit in during the day.

If you need any further tips on this – get in touch.

In the meantime don’t forget to vote for me on the selected awards at http://www.craftmaker.co.uk/davidmelville 

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