Monday, August 1, 2011

Back to Work

I realize it is nearly a month since posting here..and as a follow-up to the last post (sounds slightly military) I did get a few slices off that clown fish cane.  Most of them went to work as examples of how (not) to do caning while I did a camp workshop slightly more than a week ago. 

Earlier in July, I was at an art camp about 20 miles from here and worked with a delightful group of 9 to 14 year olds.  They were probably one of the most dedicated group of clayers that I have ever had the privilege to work with. will just wanna have fun.  Well, we did have some fun but mostly they were a very task oriented group and extremely receptive to soaking up techniques in polymer clay. 

The workshops ran one week in length on a daily basis for a time of two hours.  After spending a bit of time the first day introducing polymer clay and its nuances, we set to making items.  We did some rudimentary caning and color blending, and of course, one of the favorite activities was rolling the pasta machine.  By the end of the week, I was no longer having to respond to "How many times do I roll it on this setting?" as the kids became extremely familiar with the machines.  No doubt some of them will have them on their wish lists for birthday or even Christmas gifts. 

There were fifteen kids in the class, and I had seven pasta machines for them to share.  It worked pretty well, with one kid cranking, and the other passing the clay through.  Of course, they did the rock, paper, scissors thing to see who would roll first, and I thought of renaming the procedure "Let's Rock and Roll", but I think that's been said before somewhere.

The title of the activity was "Going Mobile with Polymer Clay" and their big project was to make either a linear mobile, a stabile (no one chose either of these two) or a regular three or more strand mobile.  I don't know if there are correct 'mobile' terms to use for the suspendables, so I had to make up words.  Pretty soon 'thingies' and 'gizmos' became part of the week's vocabulary for kids who weren't familiar with such high-tech terms.  Speaking of high tech, my "smart white board" was a long piece of off-white newsprint which I taped to a window and just moved up as new techniques were introduced. 

After making a couple of projects (beads and light switch covers), we set out in earnest to make the focal elementss/structures for their mobiles.  I gave them free rein and let them choose which ever theme appealed to them.  Warning to potential instructors in this type of project:  Be prepared to make anything!  I did have a couple of days to access their abilities in the preliminary projects, and croyez-moi!  I would not have allowed such freedom if the group had not been so task-oriented or willing to work so diligently.  Our time was very 'committed'.  We had essentially two two-hour sessions to make as many focal elements as needed to convey the theme.  These ranged from spelling out a name to various sports activities, equestrian memorabilia ,undersea critters, to favorite seasons, foods, "modern art" and to the extremely challenging Harry Potter Shields/Coats of Arms that one gal chose to do.  (The words keep echoing...Sydney needs mores scrap clay...)

The final day was reserved for finishing and assembling the mobiles. As the days progressed,  I would bake all the pieces in my home oven and took them to the class.  On Friday,  we put a simple coat of acrylic finish on each of the elements, and then they had the most daunting task of all ahead...stringing the mobiles and getting them to balance.  We used 20 pound test fishing line as the suspending agents.  From somewhere in the depths of my basement, I had  located some extremely useful bamboo 'sticks' which (Thank YOU someone) were pre-drilled at three strategic locations. This took away all the problems of making the mobiles balance.  Every single one balanced perfectly.  I was amazed;  when I make these things myself, that is when the air is the bluest.  For the kids at camp, it was a piece of cake.  They simply laid the sticks on the floor, got their fishing line, interspersing beads, focal elements and went to work.  No twisting and getting pieces tangled up...And when we went to make the final "suspending" cord, all we did was put a long piece of line through the two end holes of the bamboo, skipping the middle one, and made a triangular 'hanger' and it all worked.  We also used fishing 'sinkers' beneath each of the focal elements to suspend them in what would seem like mid air.  I did have pictures taken and will post a few of them when I can 'find' them on hubby's camera. 

It has been sort of anti-climatic since that week of high-energy activity.  As a follow-up to the camp 'routine', I've made the elements for a couple of my own mobiles.  One is a garden theme and I am going to assemble that one today.  Hopefully it will work as uneventfully as the ones at camp did!

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