Home > Uncategorized > Week 10: I Play with Clay

Week 10: I Play with Clay

  I have a 13-year-old boy who, like many of his peers, loves playing video games. On Sunday, I decided I needed to do an intervention. I refused to allow him to spend hours playing his X-Box.  What followed was a familiar pattern: whining from him, suggestions from me all of which he rejected.  Finally, I told him about a walk-in pottery workshop I had read about at the Goggleworks in Reading. He came out firmly against this. I made him go anyway.  Here’s my account of what happened.

1. I am accused of ruining my son’s life: It took us about half an hour to get to the Goggleworks. Most of the car ride was spent either in silence or listening to my son complain about how much he did not want to do this activity.

2. It was 2nd Sunday at the Goggleworks: The Goggleworks  is an old factory in Reading which once manufactured safety goggles, and which has been revitalized as a center for the arts.  It includes artists studios, galleries, classrooms, and a theater. On the second Sunday of every month, there are workshops and other events, and the studios are open so that you can see the artists at work and talk to them. When we arrived, I decided we should explore the place a bit.

3. The artists were friendly:  The day we went, the artist studios on floors two and three were open.  All the artists were welcoming when we stepped into their studios,  and were happy to answer any questions. My son preferred that we not ask any questions, but even he grew interested in at least some of the work. The woodworking shop was open and a man was carving a large sculpture. The galleries were also pretty interesting, including an exhibition on Works in Fiber by artist Brenda J. Bunten-Schloesser. The image on the right is from that exhibit.

4. Interactive pieces. An anime artist had created some fun interactive pieces that appealed to my son and which I also found intriguing. These painters were made up of squares that looked like random facial features, with a cut-out mat on top outlining each square. When you moved the mat to the left, it formed one face. When you moved it up it formed another, and when you moved it to the left it formed a third.

5. The Ceramics shop.  After we’d toured the studios and visited the gift shop (which had lots of cool artsy jewelry and other stuff) we went to the ceramics shop, a small building right outside the front doors. We passed a group of jugglers who were entertaining a crowd, and later, through the window of the ceramics shop, we watched them juggle with fire. We learned that the walk-in workshop, which involved a lesson on the pottery wheel, cost $30 per person. For free, though, we could “play with clay.” We opted for the freebie.

6. We Play with Clay. The “play with clay” topic was caterpillars. Artist in residence Bethany Krull could not have been nicer in handing both me and my son a tube of clay and explaining how to make a caterpillar. She did not at all appear to disapprove of us, or think that maybe we were too old for it, considering that most of our fellow sculptors were about five or six. This, surprisingly, did not seem to bother my son either. He had taken a ceramics camp last summer and learned a great deal about sculpting with clay, so he was pretty enthusiastic about creating a caterpillar the moment the clay touched his hand. This, in stark contrast to the long car ride of complaints.

7. Caterpillars? Really? The thing about making something simple like a caterpillar is that you can try to find ways to make it interesting. We tried for quite a while. I’m guessing we spent an hour making ours.  I put little horns down the back of my caterpillar. Bethany showed me a neat tool to use to make indentations for legs.  Ian’s face came out looking very cute.  Other adults were doing this as well, including a man across from us who was making a very fierce looking caterpillar.

8. We bought ours: The play with clay activity was free, but, for $10 the Goggleworks offered to glaze and fire it and you could keep it. No way we were letting those masterpieces go. We gladly paid $10 for each of them and they are right now being glazed and fired.

9. I hope to go back. The Goggleworks periodically runs something called a Souper bowl workshop in which participants learn to make a bowl. For $25 they make two bowls and donate one to a soup kitchen. Pretty cool, huh? I hope to do that, possibly next month. Bethany showed me some of the bowls and they were very pretty.  It doesn’t involve using the pottery wheel, so it didn’t sound difficult.

10. I can’t win. On the way home, my son was in a much better mood, but he still insisted that I’d ruined his Sunday!

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. May 1, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Laura, It’s been fun catching up on your blog! It sounds like you’ve been having a lot of fun. I’ve always wanted to check out Goggle works so you’ve inspired me. Anytime you are going to torture Ian again, give me a call and maybe Abe and I can join you!

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