Saturday, August 20, 2011

MECA-Seton Montessori Thesis: Montessori Clay Part 1 of 3

A long time ago I stumbled upon Montessori, but did not see it as my life path.  I was to be an artist and I simply needed a job in a Montessori school.  Alas, I feel in love with the classroom and was swept into a new direction.  I am sharing with you my required Montessori Thesis: Montessori Clay which illustrates how I combined these two paths.  MECA-Seton Training Center and Celma Perry in Chicago continue to influence me daily and my own Montessori school is celebrating our 25th anniversary.

Montessori Clay
(A condensed version)
As a novice Montessorian, I began to use art and writing as a way to communicate with the children. Acting as assistant, I was overwhelmed and touched by these minds and hands that so freely expressed themselves.  Their images on paper were often so clean, so strong and exact that I became enthralled with their method of creating. I saw this time as a chance to cultivate their spontaneity, to analyze and dissect their learning processes for putting line on paper.

I began to focus in on the children’s written steps to shaping letters. It was my shift to sit at the sound table and child after child traced sandpaper letters learning their sounds. I began playing with the process. What steps are taken by a child who transcends from random marks to mastery of prescribed letter symbols?
I began observing and in researching the steps in which a child learns how to write, I set up a course of introduction that has little to do with Montessori’s guidelines. At the time, however, it had much to do with my own understanding of the process. I wasn’t trained as a Montessorian as yet, and even though Maria had formulated a precise method, I needed to manipulate the variables myself during this first taste of discovery.
As we sat at the sound table I took many children through a step process.

 Step one was to ask a child to write their concept of a letter without showing it to them. I simply asked, “Please write the letter “a” for me.” I would let them write whatever they pleased with no interference but encouraged them to write a series.  What I witnessed was fascinating. Usually, the form of each line that was put down was totally different than the last. These roving lines had a magical quality to me like primitive hieroglyphics.

Step two was to show the sound. Their concept changed little.

Step three was to trace the sandpaper letter 3 – 5 times. Here was the starting point of their recognition and hand control, an obvious deduction for Montessorians, but an eye opening one for me, an artist.

In a sense, I was sad to see the children’s  spontaneity regimented. Soon enough they would be drawing a pre-schematic set symbol for “bird” and “house”.  To see these initial curving, searching lines slowly being structured into letters had a great impact on my art work. The extemporaneous, chance occurrences of shape, line, and repetition of their writing surfaced as my own investigation on “line as symbol” in clay.  My aim was not to copy but to emulate or empathize with the same excited technique employed by the children. By throwing clay coils onto a surface they took on a random quality, shaping themselves. Similar to a child, I became a non-manipulative creator. The coil-lines themselves projected the freedom of act I had been searching for within my own body of work. The following photos express it best…

A child's drawing inspires the tiny inscribed plate below:

"Ok Set" platter. The result of a child's desire to write sentences becomes a theme set in porcelain.

In the evolution of lines into letters a frame often arises to accentuate the grouping.

This standing slab echoes this child's wanderings. 

Taken from a child's drawing, this fantasy of "R" is restated in a colored coil porcelain version.

Two Standing Bottles

Slanting Evolution of "R"

Cary's Calligraphy

The importance of these grouped symbols is most evident!

Nastl  =  10  Bottle

The grace of a three year old's hand reasserted.

Flower Bottle

Montessori Thesis / Language

A continuation of the thesis that I presented to Celma Perry at 
MECA-Seton Montessori Traning Center in Chicago. By day I worked in my clay studio and at night I made required teaching materials for certification. Here I was inspired by language materials to make unique classroom objects in clay.

The Mystery Bag holds large clay letters to be felt through the bag and guessed at.

Having fun with an initial sound exercise.

Initial sound cards made from clay match to the animals!
The lightheartedness expressed in their modeling is certain 
to carry through to the child!

A second set of clay cards are for sounding out the words!

These whimsically shaped sounds are wall tiles. Children's recognition of the sounds would certainly add visual interest 
to the environment! 

A Clay Hanging Peg Board Alphabet

Why do letters have to be flat? A child can feel these raised sounds!
Fun to look at and exciting for children to identify!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Montessori Thesis / Practical Life and Math

My Montessori training center, MECA-Seton in Chicago, had monster requirements of their future graduates. We made vast quantities of materials for approval by sage, Celma Perry.  Our final opus was a Montessori thesis. Here is a condensed version of mine posted in parts for you to view.
 I was working on my masters in clay when I discovered Montessori.

Montessori Clay

Practical Life and Math in Clay
What better complement to flowers than the earthiness of a clay vessel.
Wheel thrown and hand built vases

Miniature pitchers for rice or water pouring exercises

Matching pitcher and bowl sets

Tweezer  Sorting Exercises

Tiny squares are paired according to dots of color

Extruded geometric and decorative colored-clay shapes are grouped according to likeness

Matching Exercises

I carved the original pattern into a plaster stamp to decorate these clay slabs with leaf and flower motifs.

Clay rings paired according to natural clay color.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Children's Open Studio Art in Clay

Cool Video at the bottom of this post!

Braided clay coil handle basket

Alien with gun!


I was busy and ignoring this kid and when I turned 
around he had made this tea pot! 

The Wrestler #1

Lidded Stamped Jar made by a three year old.

Wrestler #2

Easter Basket

Japanese stamps that actually say office things like, 
"out going mail"! 
I bought them at an office supply store in Tokyo and my Japanese friends thought I was crazy.

Beautiful Coil Pots by four and five year olds.

See the video here: