Monday, July 28, 2008


I never went to camp as a kid, but last week, I got the chance to have some fun at a camp here in Portland. I was a guest artist at the Museum of Contemporary Craft's School's Out, Art's In summer camp for children.

What better way to spend a summer's day than playing with clay and making masks. I was there bright and early Monday morning along with Kate, Shir and Jessica to set up for the 'campers'. They set up tables and chairs while I cut and stacked blocks of nice, red clay. When the children arrived, we went on a private tour of the museum's exhibit, "Generations, Ken Shores" led by Kate. This exhibit was filled with wonderful ceramic pieces both functional and non-functional, glazed and painted, as well as mirrored architectural pieces. Looking at the colorful, textural sculptural pieces, we explored the many ways that clay can be used in artwork.

With all this inspiration, we got to work in the studio/lab area. I did a quick demo of slab mask making and talked about shape and form. Then the children went to work rolling out their own slabs of clay and shaping their own masks. Pushing into the clay. Pulling it out. Attaching pieces. Carving lines and forms into it. Or punching holes in it, so that later they could add wire, beads or feathers. Some were inspired by the human face, others by animals. Some worked from photo reference materials, others from their imaginations. Whatever their inspiration, they worked all morning and afternoon building their own unique clay masks. At the end of the day, the masks were taken to be bisque fired and returned to the children for another day of art adventure.

On Friday, I came back to find all the masks had made a beautiful transition through the kiln. Each mask was bisque fired and ready for the next step: Color. We spent the day talking about and experimenting with color. How do certain colors make you feel? What are the primary, secondary and tertiary colors? How can you blend, layer and texture with colors? Then after everyone had painted their masks, we added extra elements. Feathers. Wire. Beads. Ribbons. Yarn. Just like each mask maker, each and every mask was individual and unique.

The week of art ended with a gallery show of all the artwork created by the children, papermaking, woodworking, wire beading and clay mask making. It was a fun, energetic, exciting and inspiring week. And I think we all had a great time at camp!

1 comment:

Susan J Tweit said...

Wow! I wish I could have been a kid at art camp with you, Susan! I think making masks is such a powerful activity and such a wonderful way to "play" with different ways of seeing ourselves and others. Blessings to you on giving those kids such a great gift.

Susan JT