The Clay Teacher is from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Here I talk about being The Clay Teacher, my life as a teacher and a potter. I talk about our business, family, friends and the teachers and students we meet. I show my and their work. We are passionate about getting clay in the hands of as many kids as we can.
Our websites are theclayteacher.com, funclayprojects.com, outofthefirestudio.com, and howtomakepottery.com
For older Canadians, this title might sound vaguely familiar.
Another busy week! I think the only people as busy as we
are during April are accountants. However we are having much more fun.
Monday and Tuesday we were in St. Albert with Neil M. Ross.
What a great school. We have been there so often over past few years that we
feel almost like staff. We had 6 great workshops with the grade 5’s and 4’s.
About 140 kids making Mother’s Day presents in two days. Wednesday and Thursday we were at Johnny
Bright still doing Mother’s Day gifts with all the Grade 1’s. This time we made
about 150 little candle holders for Mom.
The students really enjoy the wheel
This morning was only a half day and we did 50 more Mother’s Day presents
with Laurier Heights. This month we have made about 800 kgs or 1765 pounds of
clay into gifts for Moms. That is a lot of clay projects for Mom. That is just for April. One has to wonder how many tons of clay
projects is The Clay Teacher responsible for??
When we run as fast as we have been this last month, it is
hard to keep up with the little things, like blogging. We meet so many wonderful little sparks in the classrooms day after day, it is hard to share as much as I would like. We did Lady
Bugs a while ago with St. Maria Goretti. Maria Goretti is a very multicultural
school. It has a real cross section of
new Canadians. We were working with some kids that recently arrived from
Africa. I was talking about the Lady Bug
legs have to be as thick as your pinky. They had never heard of a “pinky” and talking
further, they had never heard of a Lady Bug. So when we started having fun and
adding hair and hats etc. they thought they had come to a very strange place.
Why would you put a hair on a beetle or even want to make one out of clay? It
is just a bug. Here is a very cute Lady Bug, weird or not.
Friday night. Time to get loaded….. the kiln, but we must get unloaded first. We still do a
number of fired workshops and we must keep the kiln running to keep up and make sure all the Mother's Day gifts arrive on time. Here are the guys waiting to be unloaded and delivered on Monday.
It has been a busy last few days…. or should I say daze. Last Thursday we made Lady Bugs with grade 2 and then set up the Make It show
It was a good show. I like doing
that show, the vendors and the people who put it on are great. The crowds are there and we sell stuff. For
the past couple of years, out side of the Edmonton Folk Fest vendor tent, I
have not made pots. We were at the show over the weekend and the want to make
lots and lots of pots came back. I have
made literately tens of tons of clay into pots and I used to think that there
was a finite amount of pots one person could make, however, I was wrong. I just needed some time off. This
summer, when The Clay Teacher is taking some time off, The Potter, http://www.outofthefirestudio.com/ will return, hopefully for good. I need to find a balance between The Clay
Teacher and The Potter . I was all potter and no teacher for years, for the past
five years, I have been all teacher and very little potter. Those two girls are going to have to learn to live together. When the want to make pots left me, it was just like someone had moved out of my life,
actually left the building. When the want to make pots came back, it was like that same person/friend had returned home. I was soo glad to see them and so happy they did. However it will be awhile before they get to make pots, or we get to visit.
Last Friday we had four workshops. Four in one day is always a little crazy.That Friday night we worked the Make It show. Saturday and Sunday at the show were
good, lots of people and the sales were pretty good. We have a new product with the craft kits and
a new product is sometimes is a hard sell. Education is a big part of what we do. I sometimes think we should be a food vendor. The cookie lady sold a whole lotta cookies. I won't tell you how many wonderful cookies I had last weekend.
Monday was 88 kinders making roses. Tuesday was 75 Grade 6
making family groups. Wednesday was only a “oner” with a wonderful teacher we
have worked with for years and we made Mom and Me, a great little plaque for
Mother’s day. Thursday we made 52 Roses for Mom and today we finished off the week of 67 Mom and Me plaques.
It was fun because all the kids had Mom come and they made the plaque together. A good time for everyone!
This weekend I have some books to do and taxes to file, but before I do that we are going to the local car show to see all the new cars and drool. It
might be a while before the potter gets to make some pots, but at least she came back home!
I started blogging again with every intention of posting three or
four entries a week. We go to a different
school every day and teach from pre K to grade 12. Mainly we work with K to 6. We talk to over
8,000 kids a year and everyday something or someone really stands out. I
started this blog to share all that, however these last while has been busy.
There are just not enough hours in the day.
It is an old saying, but true.
workshops everyday, the pots to be made, kits to assemble I just have not been
blogging as much as I would like. I did do
a fun thing for a boy in university. If you asked him he would say he is a
man. He is working on an engineering assignment
based on a beer culture. See I told you
he was a boy. He designed the mugs on his pc and I made them. It was fun to invent. I have made a lot of mugs over the years and
I never thought I would say I had fun making a mug, but I have always liked the
invention side of working with clay. They are about 7 inches tall and turned out great. He will finish them, so I sold them wet. A
first for me.
Today we work with Grade 2 making Lady Bugs, and then after lunch we set the trade show.
The Clay Teacher
Thursday we had a morning workshop with special needs
Kinders and then in the afternoon, we worked with grade 6. The young ones made coil pots. I wasn't sure
of the abilities of special needs Kinders, so I thought a coil pot would be a
good place to start. We have done coil
pots with pre K to seniors and one thing I have found is that the younger the
student the better and faster the coil pot gets built. These little guys just jumped right in and did it. We had flowers, letters, lids and handles in no time at all. They had fun building and did not get in their own way. There was no ego, none of, is this okay, is this right, is this nice, or just shut down because they were unsure. I often can't tell the difference between a K pinch pot and one made by an older student, expect the K's don't take nearly as long to finish. They did a great job.
After lunch we worked with Grade 6 making Big Mouth Beavers.
They too did a great job, but by the time students get to Grade 6, ego and insecurity
has often gotten their way. One boy wanted to quit before he started. It took a bit of working with him to get him
going. It is a fine line to walk. Do it all for him, or do nothing and let him
fail. However by the end of the workshop he joined in and made a great Beaver
wearing a ball cap and eating a cookie. Other students, each step of the way,
was …is this okay…. is this right… will you make this for me…. I can’t do it.... are you sure this is okay. Not all of them of course, but there was a
lot more fear of failure in the Grade 6’s than the Kinders. I kept telling the
older kids, there are no rules, it is a Big Mouth Beaver, if you like it, it is
right! Listen to that feeling in your tummy that tells you it is right, or
wrong. I am not sure what happens to the kids from Kinder to Grade 6, but as they get older, somehow
they are getting in their own way and letting fear and insecurity over ride their
egos. I have seen kids break down and cry over playing with a ball of mud. By the end of the workshop everyone was on track and having a great time. The work speaks for it's self. Here is a link to facebook and the video of the Big Mouths.
It has been a fun and fast couple of days making bugs. Yesterday we made caterpillars 47 little guys in kindergarten. What a bunch of bright little sparks they were. One little girl stands out. We always take our little red wagon loaded with everything we need to the workshops. We did the morning workshop, went for lunch and left our wagon in the class ready for the afternoon session. After the afternoon workshop was finished, we loaded up our wagon and started to leave.
A little girl stopped me and asked if that was indeed our wagon and not something that belonged to her teacher. When I told her it was our wagon, she looked me square in the eye and asked if it really was our wagon, why was it there, in her classroom, before we got there. If it was our wagon, we would have brought it in with us. She was wonderful. What a refreshing display of confidence. She was not rude, just standing up for what she thought was right. I don’t think I would have done that at that age, stood up to an adult I didn't know. Here a few high lights of the day.
This morning we made Lady Bugs with Grade 2.
I thought they did a great job until a mom helper for the next workshop thought the students had just finished a wonderful Turtle workshop. I think they are cool little Lady Bugs and maybe Mom just wasn't looking at them in the right light.
After lunch we made Bouquets of Roses with Grade 1. I was happy to see that the roses were lying on the plaque like a rose and not sitting upright like a cinnamon bun.
It was good day. Tomorrow we have Kinders and coil pots in the morning and Grade 6 after lunch we are making Big Mouth Beavers. It should be fun!
Break went by so quickly. It was here
and now it is gone. It is finally spring here in Edmonton and
today we went for our first walk in the park this year. I am fair weather
walker and today the weather was fair. Last year we were regularly walking a four
mile loop until winter and we haven’t walked since the fall. Those 4 miles are
longer and the hills are much steeper than they were last year. I am not sure
how that is??
The park in our
neighbourhood has a small lake and is home to a number of Canadian geese. The
birds might have been a little over optimistic in their recent home coming. The
pond is still frozen over. It was comical to see the geese standing on the ice,
walking around on the ice all the time loudly honking as if to
say.....hey....where's the lake.....where's the lake.... last time we were here
there was a lake???? There were a number of confused, unhappy and very noisy
We did one workshop during Spring Break. It was great. We did a mask workshop with Grade 7 – 9. It
was a speed workshop. We need the full
90 minutes for mask making, but it was the last day before their Spring Break
and the kids had their own rhythms and time frames. By the time they had wondered into the class
we were almost 30 minutes late starting.
With some pushing a a bit of help, they did well and they finished. Some
of them had not worked with clay before. I have to ask, how does a student get
to grade 9 and not work with clay?? They had a blast. One girl chose to miss
her bus and have her parents pick her up so she could complete her mask.
Tomorrow is Caterpillars with Kinders. Nothing says spring like a caterpillar. Well that and a walk in the park.
Sunday morning we drove to Weyburn Saskatchewan, about 8
hours from here, to visit Jim’s Mom in the hospital. I have always lived in the
north, but it has been a long time since I have seen snowdrifts like we saw in southern
Saskatchewan. There has been record snow
falls for the region and it shows. We were driving beside snow drifts that were
in some places 6 to 8 feet deep. I am not sure how they found the road to clear
it. They ploughed out the side roads and
again, how would you know where to go when it is all one big snow bank? I saw a truck in a field and all you could
see was the roof and a few inches of windows. Some drifts were as tall as the
roofs on the farm houses.
We got there in time to help Mom move out of the hospital
into a yet smaller room in a senior’s home more equipped to look after her. There was only space for items that were very
important to her as the room she was moving into was very small. We took a larger shelving
unit for all of the family pictures, her lift chair, bedside table, a few
things for on top, her clothes and a few incidentals. . We also took her shelf
made from apple crate boxes. Years ago before
cardboard boxes, fruit came in wooden crates and many people, including my
parents, used them as shelves, either stacked or nailed to the wall. When she
got married her apple box shelf unit was their first piece of furniture. Two apple boxes stacked one
on top of the other. She has had those shelves for over 60 years. The
last thing of importance we took was a clay cat her youngest son made in
The cat is great little door stop cat. He did a good job, but as far as I know, it
is the only thing he made in school out of clay. It is sad that even back then, clay was not
that readily available for students to work and play with.
That is why we, The Clay Teacher, are trying to get clay back into the class room and back into the hands of children, so one
piece does not have to be that important.
If Ed had made a number of cats, his mom could have had lots to
choose from to carry around with her for years, and Ed, after all those cats,
would make one kick butt cat. I didn't think to take a picture of the cat, but since it has been around for the last
40 years, I am sure I will see it again and have a second chance to take its
picture. How many clay treasures are out there? How many kids during their school years only get to make one
or two things out of clay that are now a family keepsake? When we say
Every Day is Clay Day, just think how great that would be!