Getting muddy

BIG RAPIDS –  Children learned how a useless lump of clay can be turned into a handy object, such as a mug, at Mugs Deconstructed, a Festival of the Arts event aimed at youth, on Monday at Artworks.

Artworks instructor Margo Berke said the purpose of the event is to give children, who might not otherwise have the opportunity to experience working with clay, the opportunity to learn and feel about the art form and – of course – get muddy.

HANDLE: Leaning in to see how to scratch and add slip to the surface of the clay, children learn how to attach a handle to the body of a mug. (Pioneer photo/Miranda Roberts)

HANDLE: Leaning in to see how to scratch and add slip to the surface of the clay, children learn how to attach a handle to the body of a mug. (Pioneer photo/Miranda Roberts)

“It’s very hard for the average person to have access to clay,” Berke said. “If you can get clay, what do you do with it? And once you make something, it needs to be fired to be useful or even to be saved.

“I’ve provided mug bodies (for each child) and I have a selection of handles they can attach to their mugs to make a mug.”

Berke began by wedging the clay, ridding it of air bubbles, followed by throwing the clay on the wheel. She explained in detail what she was doing as she centered the clay, created and widened a hole in the center and brought up the sides, giving it the shape of a mug.

The class then learned how to create a pulled handle, however, all decided to make textured handles instead, using pieces of ridged cardboard to indent their hand-rolled clay logs.

Children attached their own handles, learning the importance of scratching the surface of the clay and using slip, a liquid combination of clay and water, to bond the handle to the mug.

“I don’t get many chances to play with clay,” said Kora Behrens, 13, as she attached a handle to her mug.

TEXTURE: Mary Behrens adds texture to her mug handle by rolling it between two pieces of ridged cardboard. (Pioneer photo/Miranda Roberts)

TEXTURE: Mary Behrens adds texture to her mug handle by rolling it between two pieces of ridged cardboard. (Pioneer photo/Miranda Roberts)

Before leaving, each child personalized their mug with an underglaze. Berke said she will add a clear glaze once they are dry and then fire the pieces in a kiln, after which time parents will be able to pick up their children’s work of functional art.

Festival of the Arts continues through the end of February. For the first time, the month-long celebration of the arts includes FestLabs, creative laboratories designed by facilitators for specific age groups in varying genres, such as visual arts, language arts, music, movement and dance, nature and wildlife and more. FestLabs for youth will be held on Feb. 24 and adult FestLabs will be held today and on Feb. 25.

For more information about Festival of the Arts, visit brfota.org.

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Posted by Miranda Roberts

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