Students unleash their creativity at clay workshop

January 27, 1993|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,Staff Writer

Her hands covered with hardened clay, 13-year-old Elaine Marshall proudly shows off a creation lying on a worktable at the National Museum of Ceramic Art. Her work has a forked tongue, sharp toes and bulging eyes that stare tauntingly back at her.

"It's a gargoyle and it's three animals in one -- just like the one in the picture -- if you can't tell," said Elaine, a seventh-grader at Francis Scott Key Middle School. "It's the way I saw it, the way I feel about it."

This month, Elaine and other students from city middle schools have expressed themselves in clay at the museum, located near the Inner Harbor at 250 W. Pratt St.

The students and their art teachers have been going to the museum for daylong workshops in which they work with ceramics instructors and art education teachers from the graduate art program at Towson State University.

The program, funded by the Abell Foundation and the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., ends next week. Other sessions begin in the spring for two weeks and for the month of January 1994, said Shirley Brown, the museum's acting director.

Ms. Brown says the program is

designed to further students' creativity, individuality and self-esteem.

"We want to inspire them. We want to advance their art skills and this does that," she said. "This is the most kinesthetic art form. When these kids make something, they're so proud."

The 3-year-old National Museum of Ceramic Art is the only nonprofit institution of its kind in the country dedicated to the exhibition and documentation of the ceramic arts. It puts on exhibitions of contemporary ceramic artists and past masters from a variety of cultures and periods of history.

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

In the program for middle-schoolers, the students are urged to use their individuality and to lose their inhibitions.

One student, after squeezing and molding a piece of clay for several minutes, offered this appraisal of his work as it lay unrecognizable and in pieces on a table: "This looks like something they serve in the cafeteria. Maybe even better."

Joann Strickland, the art teacher at Key Middle School, said the school does not have a kiln for clay projects, so the work and instruction students get at the museum is their first contact with the material.

"We've been asking for a kiln for a long, long time," Ms. Strickland said. "This is new to a lot of them. To some, when you think of ceramics, you think of dishes at your mother's house. This isn't like that at all."

Tammy Littleton, 12, said she particularly enjoyed working with the potter's wheel.

"It's different because you make things out of clay that you never thought you could make," she said. "It's real ooshy, that's why I like it."

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