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germie-jollies, naughty bits, kids, and spring cleaning

updated sun 16 apr 06


Elizabeth Priddy on fri 14 apr 06

If I had no constraints on OSHA, kid friendly, wood
and all that...

I would build a very lightweight fiber beehive updraft
on my cart, one that could either serve as a scrap
fuel kiln, or block off the firing chamber and insert
a burner for fast and furious raku. Easy to lift and
modify on site.

But part of what excites me about my project is the
anticapatory excitement for the kids, making pots
ready for when we build it up and fire it off, the
restless night waiting to open it the next morning,
also ensuring a slow natural ramp down for some
surface interest. The feeling of equality and
fraternity developed by working cooperatively toward a
common end and burning things up to boot.

In that three way split, the first x number go to the
kids participating. They might take the racer, but
they more often take the one they painted, their
choice. Onsite that day, they make me two pots, one
to replace the one they keep and one for the program.
I have only seen parents of fairly overpriveleged kids
balk at this. For everybody else, I talk about the
program and show how to make a simple pinchpot with
them working along with me for the first five minutes
of class. I usually have some of the pieces that the
seriously handicapped kids made in front of me holding
my sponge and water. No lecture about abilities, just
two very nice hand pieces that were made by people who
can't walk or think like they can. "who made that?
Chris, he has MS and is in a wheel chair, so he can't
use the kick wheels, but he sure has a way with
texture!" No big message, just the facts of the
situation honestly presented. I will let them make
the connections that whatever the ability level of the
kid is what I EXPECT them to try to achieve, and if
brushing pre-made glaze on a pot some other kid made
for the program is a real accomplishment, that's cool
with me. But I can tell if you are not trying and
will ask you to do more than you think you can. And
lo, there you are! I have worked with hundreds of
kids over the years, so I have gotten pretty good at
sizing them up quick. A first ta da is to have them
set the pot aside to set up and to choose their
decoration tool, a large bucket of stamps and
roulettes that I unceremoniously dump on the table and
let them pick the one that each will use. [any
bickering results with "oh my, how did that get in
there, that one is MINE, you two will have to find
another"-clever ears search harder for a 'good' one of
their very own. If a kid really seems to want to keep
a stamp, and I really like that one, I just make a
quick inverse copy of it and add it to the others they
make that day. Sometimes the salvage roulette I make
is even cooler than the one they take away.]

When we are all done, I ask each of them to make me a
stamp to go with the program. The feeling of being a
part of something, of knowing that some other kid
might fight over using "their" stamp or roller, and
just the fun are rather overwhelming. Very
structured, but very exciting. They are particularly
curious to match roulettes with the pots available to
paint that day, as I usually have some kids with
physical limitations that make making a pinchpot
impossible, so I have some ready for simple
brush-glazing. I cull the stamps from time to time,
sometimes taking a flat one and making a roullette for
me, which is my preferred pattern maker. The ones
that are hard to use or particularly lumpy make for
good accent beads that I let them paint with cold
finishes and use for jewelry, a nice necklace
certainly counts for their "give back pot" and are
usually first sellers at the yearly auction for SA.

I have as much or more fun than the kids, and every
time I use a stamp to make a little pinch pot, I am
reconnecting with a kid that had a good time. you
might be surprised at how many I can remember a face
and stamp combo for. One of my boys who became my
apprentice was helping me in my personal work one day
and I said to hand me that roullette and he did and
got a curious look to see what I was going to do with
it. I often use "bob" to go over corners, because the
marks it makes are very uniform and it is just the
right size for my hand, like a nice polishing stone.

He said, 'you kept "bob". I remember making it. I
thought it was horrible. I was just joking when I
said it's name was "bob" and you had to keep it
forever.' I showed him the result and how even and
yet patterned the foot of my little pot was after just
one swipe with "bob" across the edge. I laughed and
said, "it's MINE, get your own!" He's a good kid. he
cuts my grass now in exchange for his lessons and time
in the studio. We always run a deficit in the winter
and get caught up by the time he goes back to school.
He has been with me since he was 11 and he's 15 now.
I was a head taller then and now he is 6 foot and
still growing. I love to see them sprout up because
it means they can lift heavier boxes. He and I built
my chimney kiln and next week we are assembling a raku
kiln and firing it. He thinks he is coming over for
two days of his spring break to help me clean out the
studio. I am hiring a handy man to do that with me.
It will be a fun treat for both of us, that I can
afford just now because the DVD launch was successful
and so I can finally get back to work with new
shelving and a clean studio, despite a baby and a bad
back. I was always my own handy man, but I could not
resist the price of $10 hr for lifting and hauling
all the things accumulating in my studio that I don't
make art with to the dump, and $25 per hour to
assemble pre-fab shelving that has locking cabinets to
keep the boy out of the nasties in my studio. yes, i
could put them together my self. So Could my husband.
The isssue is When? with him working to keep the
lights and all that and me keeping pace with a 19
month old. Sometimes you just have to pay the man.
And every dollar I re-invest in getting all
accumulated mess that is not pottery related and
makeshift shelving that kind of happened over time, is
a unit of order and calm in my studio environment,
which I absolutely need to work and paint. Right now
it is still too chaotic out there for me to
concentrate but my goal for April was to back the
truck up to the studio and every day move either new
shelving and useful stuff in, or no longer useful
stuff out, or expired baby/guestroom gear off to the
Goodwill. Also a large slab roller and enameling kiln
off to finally pay up the trade I made for a used
truck. i had to dig them out of the clutter, but my
friend let me trade on "time", so its all good. I am
getting there and by next thursday, I will be looking
at a clean studio with sturdy shelves to keep things
that might fall on or collapse under the weight of a
toddler's climbing adventures, and locked cabinets for
my "contains lead" Spectrum bronze and other sharp or
naughty bits...

I can't just assume any more that I will not eat my
own glaze but the boy is going to have to learn to
entertain himself cause mom-mom has things to do.
Lucky for me, a block and a tube mailer are hours of
fun if it also includes free range to "pet the doggy
with the tube". The dog is still faster than the
toddler at this point and manners with pets is his
daily school these days. he is getting it. He tried
to "pet the doggy with the brush" the other day, so
there is forward progress in all things.

Happy Easter, Good Passover, and a Warm Spring to
everybody. Spring is a good time for renewal of all

too excited to sleep, my teacher is coming to visit
from VA tomorrow and she has not seen my son yet!

Elizabeth Priddy

Beaufort, NC - USA

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