Category Archives: clay

Kitchen Textures


Thank goodness for spring, and its ability to give us hope that we are not condemned to a life of shovelling snow. Having said that, it does bring plenty of rain, and the need for rainy day activities. Making textures is a fun and simple way to keep fidgety fingers happy, and what better place to start than in the kitchen.

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Talking Trees


The power of the almighty googly eye does not cease to amaze me. My plans to make a kind and wise looking tree were thwarted by those eyes, turning said tree into a purveyor of nightmares. It began innocently enough, with the new season of Game of Thrones inspiring me to think of a project about enchanted forests and trees, and the role they’ve played in so many wonderful books and movies. Think of the Ents in Lord of The Rings, the grumpy apple trees in The Wizard of Oz, Grandmother Willow in Pocahontas, and the troll trees in Bridge To Terabithia…which brings us to talking trees. Just remember, when making your own, the use of googly eyes is optional.

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Gargoyles and Grotesques

Long before we invented downspouts, the Ancient Egyptians and Greeks were worrying their pretty heads off about water damage. I’m guessing it was during a night of serious debauchery, that someone had the idea of strategically placing sculpted lion heads with spouts on the sides of buildings, thereby redirecting the flow of water from rooftops to prevent erosion. Brilliant, n’est ce pas? And so began the idea of adorning buildings with human and animal stone carvings, to protect masonry and mortar from water. They became highly popular during Medieval times, and graced the facades of many cathedrals like Notre Dame de Paris. It was believed the more grotesque looking ones served as a reminder of the evil that lurked about, while others served to protect from evil.

I have loved the troubling little faces of gargoyles and grotesques ever since I can remember, but only recently learned the difference between them. A spout. When it rains, water flows through the gargoyle’s elongated body, shoots out of its mouth through the spout, earning it the charming nickname “water vomiter.” If a stone sculpture lacks the unique ability to vomit water, it is called a grotesque. Today, however, the terms seem to be interchangeable.

When making your gargoyle/grotesque, keep in mind that a variety of human and animal forms were used. Animals were chosen for their symbolic meanings, and common ones were dogs, lions, eagles, wolves, monkeys, goats, and snakes. Some were fantasy creatures like dragons, griffins and chimeras (imaginary creature composed of body parts from different animals), while human gargoyles were often strange and humorous looking, perhaps like your Uncle Freddy.

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Silly Creature Sculpture

“If people did not sometimes do silly things, nothing intelligent would ever get done.” Ludwig Wittgenstein.

He’s got a point, and that’s what this project is all about. Making a silly creature means letting your imagination go wild and the sillier, the better. Think wings, multiple eyeballs, crooked and disjointed parts, anything goes. Then we can move onto something more intelligent.

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Ganesh Clay Sculpture

Ganesh is the elephant-headed Hindu god of wisdom, success, and good fortune. He is one of the most popular Hindu deities whose birthday is celebrated during the Ganesha Chaturthi Festival falling between August 20th and September 15th. This god is hugely popular, and is prayed to before starting important things such a new job or even before writing school exams!

Ganesh has a long trunk, big ears, and a large pot-bellied body of a human being. His four hands each hold a symbolic object. In his upper right hand he holds an elephant goad (rod) which helps remove obstacles and be steered in the right direction. The noose in Ganesh’s upper left hand helps to capture all difficulties. His lower right hand is used to bless his devotees. Finally, a modak (sweet rice ball) or a lotus flower is held in his lower left hand, as a symbol of human evolution and joy.

Several months before the Ganesh Chaturthi celebration, beautifully decorated clay and plaster models of Ganesh are made by artisans. They are used to decorate homes and local communities throughout the festivities. We will be making a clay model of Ganesh. Now that you’ve learned a bit about this god, why not see if there’s a celebration in your community, so you can experience the festivities first hand.

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Mexican Folk Art Suns

Mexico has a tradition of making beautiful folk arts and crafts which are both decorative and utilitarian. Different regions and native groups have their specialties, and a variety of materials are used including clay, textiles, metal and paper. The region of Metapac is known for its clay work which includes beautifully designed suns, and like many other cultures, the people of this region have worshipped the sun in recognition of its role in enabling us to survive on this earth. Admittedly, the suns in the photo above look a little serious and even confused, but they have a tremendous load to bare and can’t possibly be smiling all the time. Maybe the one you make will look a little more relaxed.

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Crooked Little House

Charlotte Gainsbourg’s song Greenwich Mean Time planted the seed for wanting to make a crooked house. If you listen to the lyrics, you’ll find the song’s inspired by this old English nursery rhyme:

There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse.
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

This had me wandering about the internet for examples of unusual and crooked architecture, of which there is plenty. You can view some amazing images here:  UNUSUAL ARCHITECTURE .

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Egyptian Amulets


All cultures have some form of good luck charm, like the rabbit’s foot or four-leaf clover. In Ancient Egypt, charms were known as amulets and were usually in the form of plants, animals, or sacred objects. They were thought to provide protection against evil or danger, as well as bringing good luck. These ornaments or jewelry were even placed with the deceased to ensure they had a safe afterlife. Some amulets are currently on view at the Art Gallery of Ontario. I had children make these clay necklaces, inspired by the exhibition King Tut: The Golden King and The Great Pharaohs.

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Filed under clay, Egypt, jewelry, Multicultural Art