So, basically these days I make lots of things in my studio, which is very quiet because I am the only person there, most of the time. Sometimes I luck out and Joanna is there at her wheel, or a student comes up and helps me see clay in a new light. I’m making my winter line for for Handworks.

Winter line

I teach classes at the Saint John Art Centre to children and to adults. In the kids class there are up to eleven students, and up to four in the adult classes. Both classes have things in common. I always start things off by sharing that my goal is to introduce any new things they would like to know, as well as improving areas were they need work. They help me know what the ambitions of the group are and then we make a plan to form the class structure. After all that we know one another well and then we establish the ‘cool rules’. I ask them – and it’s harder for grown ups to talk like this than it is for children- “what kind of environment do you need in the classroom in order for us to get all this work done?”

Most of the time someone reels in the usual suspects, like: raising one’s hand to share (more important in the larger class), only walking around in the room, only speaking positively about one another’s work, and leaving other people’s work be. That’s usually all they ask for and I write them down on a large sheet using only positive statements, like: walk only, use and inside voice, hands off others and their work. I refer to the rules as little as possible, but please remember that many of these kids can’t read yet.

Last group, the kids wanted to make small clay houses, among other things. Adorable.  So here is the list of things they determined were important to the construction of a clay house:

A house, a list, and a hand

So I cut up the clay into bits for the home, the roof, the chimney, balconies and left a slab for the yard. They each used the clay differently and then painted them to the next level:

Colored house, hands and a sense of pride.

So, the big things I have seen turn my class room into a smoothly operating creativity mobile include: everyone talks positive about the work, no matter if it’s their own. Adults especially try and get away with saying that they find their work boring or that it’s ugly. The way that I indicate this is in violation of the cool rules is to say: “if you looked at my pottery and said that it was boring and ugly, that would hurt my feelings. So, we can’t do that here. Let’s find a way to talk about what your pieces need in order to inspire you.”

Maybe that sounds lame, but we all have to be jarred out of our mental tilt-a-whirls to see what’s really going on. I need that tremendously, since I spend so much time alone.  It’s easy to say small cruel things to ourselves, and get away with it, but it’s important to have a cool ruler inside who sticks up for and demands positive growth. I think it’s a little easier for me to enforce this in the classes because there’s a physical space and in that space, the cool rules are in effect. So, if things get totally out of hand I can say, “of course you can engage in negativity, once you’re all done here.”

I will say more about the adult classes soon. They’re a bit more complex and difficult to document, but probably more interesting for this crowd.