Sunday, February 19, 2017

Clay Rattles

Even little kids can learn out to make a pinch pot from a small ball of clay, and a pinch pot is just a couple steps away from making a clay rattle or shaker. The first step (after rolling clay into a ball) is to push a thumb into the center the clay. I recite the Little Jack Horner nursery rhyme as I do it.  Demonstrations are hard to do for blind students. So much of what is learned is learned from observation.

I have students pretend their hands are hand puppets that they make talk with their fingers close together, fairly straight and pushing against their thumb, that way I can see if they're ready to start pinching the edges of the clay to stretch the walls thinner and make a bigger hole.
Once the pot is big enough, they can add tiny balls of clay made the day before by a previous class. I find that dried out pieces of clay are much less likely to stick to the fresh clay, but another technique involves wrapping balls of clay in some newspaper inside the rattle to prevent sticking. The paper will burn in the kiln, freeing the balls to rattle. If the students didn't make the pot opening small enough to easily pinch close and smooth out, a small lid can be used and blended into the edges.

The first batch ended up looking like a bunch of rocks, waited to be painted after firing. But by the second class, I figured out that students enjoyed carving a little texture, or adding small ornaments like a clay worm, a bee, a butterfly, a heart, a flower, or a favorite letter.  A few added handles, but the shaker fits so nicely in the palm of the hand, that almost everyone felt happy with their little treasure. The fact that it makes sound adds another layer of pleasure, especially for my students, who hear much better than they see.

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