If I use clay in the classroom is it going to make a mess?

Good Morning Colleagues,
A great worry that can prevent teachers using clay in the classroom is the mess that it may make.
Of course it is true that clay can be a messy activity which can upset the caretaker and the cleaners. Over the years working in schools and in particular in primaries ,where most activities take place in the classroom, I have acquired a few simple practices that minimize mess.
Firstly when purchasing
I would recommend a grey or buff coloured clay. Although the red terracotta/earthenware is probably the most responsive and malleable of clays, it can stain carpets when first used due to the iron oxide content (this does come off however over a few cleans and does not present such a problem on a hard surface)
Secondly- restrict the use of water to a minimum.
It is something of a myth that lots of water has to be used with clay. It doesn’t. Many pupils and teachers are aware of the process of throwing clay on an electric wheel to make mugs and jugs. This process does require lots of water but hand building does not. If the clay is soft coming out of the bag it will stick to itself or a dab from the finger will do it. there is no need to make clay into mud.
Put water in a flat paint dish so that it can not be knocked over.
Finally- consider the table covers that you are using
Table covers need to be heavy so that they do not slip or get dragged in different directions thus emptying the contents onto the floor. Covering the tables with newspaper serves little purpose and actually prevents pupils successfully rolling out coils of clay to construct their pots from. Working directly onto the table surface and using the edge of a plastic ruler to scrape off any excess clay before wiping is a better solution.
I hope this helps and improves your experience of using clay in the classroom. Please get in touch if you have any other questions regarding this or any other aspects of working with clay and I will try to help.
Richard Gibson (MA)
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Can I use clay in the classroom if I don’t have a kiln?

One of the biggest concerns teachers have about using clay in school is that they do not have a kiln to fire the work in.
Although desirable it is no longer necessary.
Like many teachers I have been disappointed in the alternative air drying clay that suppliers sell to schools and have refused to use it as it always seems to hard and dries really quickly, and frankly does not really have the same properties that we would expect from normal malleable clay.
However, help is at hand and I would recommend Potclays Creative Grey. I have found it to be the best on the market. 
It has most of the qualities you would expect and when it does dry out a simple spray from a hand held water sprayer will restore the material back to good working health quickly. 
I would further recommend that schools purchase it directly from the manufacturer (Potclays Ltd) as I have discovered that it is difficult to know how long the material may have been on other suppliers’ shelves which can most certainly affect the condition of the clay.
If you are ordering a large amount you can also save costs by arranging your own freight delivery.
Once you have the clay, store it in a cool place wrapped in plastic or under a waterproof tarpaulin and it will last for months possibly years.
If you have any other questions regarding clay in the classroom, do not hesitate to contact me.
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Team building improves productivity

Team Building with Claydayz and Richard Gibson, MA.

 With more than 20 years experience as an artist, specialising in ceramics and public sculpture, Richard Gibson, MA is best placed to deliver superb, original team-building events that have art and ceramics at their core.  No need to have prior experience of any form of art as Richard leads the team members, step-by-step to an outcome that is both astounding and astonishing!  The outcome, which is kept by you and can be placed on permanent show, if you wish, at your place of work, will be a tangible, happy reminder of the fun experienced on the team-building day and the relationships that were cemented.

 During this event groups of participants will be set the challenge of inventing, designing and making a clay mural that bears the image that they have created which they feel best represents their department’s ethos, character or experiences as employees of the company.  The department will have the option of one of the finished pieces being taken away for firing glazing and mounting to become a permanent piece of work.

 The outcomes of a team-building day, or half day don’t just include improving the communication and the collaborative skills of your people. Planning together, bridge building, problem solving, time management are skills that are also prominent throughout the whole process. As individuals, team members feel empowered and their morale is raised.


Contact Claydayz, 07967215745 or email:  rich@claydayz.co.uk


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Organising a clay workshop, mural or mosaic project with Richard Gibson, MA, of Claydayz,


Organising a clay workshop, mural or mosaic project with Claydayz

 For more than ten years Richard Gibson, MA, of Claydayz has been organising clay workshops and mural and mosaic projects for schools and colleges.

 As all efficient companies do these days, Richard makes the time to elicit feedback from schools once he has completed a project.

 Interestingly, this feedback has thrown into focus some insights into what makes Claydayz workshops and projects stand out from the crowd.

 Teachers and lecturers are the same as the rest of us and they have certain concerns when it comes to putting their neck on the block and inviting someone into school and college to take responsibility for a major art project.  They worry about details such as will everyone see this as a success; will the artist be as good as I think he is; will he be able to cope with a range of pupil abilities and, in some cases disabilities; will he complete the project on time; will he accommodate our timetable and will there be an unholy amount of mess?

 All of these concerns are perfectly valid and this is why Richard Gibson and Claydayz have been so successful over the years as these concerns are taken very seriously by Richard and are addressed as a priority on every project.

 Firstly, Richard has been an artist for over 20 years. He has a BA degree in sculpture and a MA in installation art.  He is also a fully trained ceramicist who has exhibited widely.  Since completing his education he has always made a living from art; no mean feat in any era. Richard has also spent many years as a lecturer in art so when he comes into schools and colleges he has the professional skills and knowledge of a real artist, and he can combine these with the necessary skills of a teacher.  Having worked closely with the ’Artists in Schools’ Project he has advised teachers on how they can improve their creative classroom practice, so he is an experienced educationist.

 Richard has been commissioned to work with pupils in KS1 up to students studying at degree level.  He has been commissioned to work with pupils with learning difficulties and those who have been identified as Gifted and Talented.  He has also worked in referral units so is very competent when it comes to creating the right learning environment for those with behaviour challenges.

 Richard is in demand so completing projects to a timescale is as important to him as it is to the school.  He will also fit in with the school’s preferred timetable. 

 As far as mess is concerned he can work in a purpose-built area or he can adapt an ordinary classroom, making sure that when he leaves, so does the mess!

 Here are some comments from schools that Richard has worked with, in the last few days.

 `Richard’s passion for clay really enthused our students, they learnt many new skills and insights into the amazing world of clay! A very enjoyable and rewarding one day workshop.` Many thanks.

 James Knight Head of Art/D&TBasildonLowerAcademy-Basildon, Essex


I would just like to thank Richard from Claydayz for the outstanding tile mural he has produced with our SEN students, which now stands proudly on display on our entrance wall. The project set was to produce a tile mural that reflected our SHAPE curriculum and that every student in the school could contribute to, and all this was achieved with a great deal of creativity and patience. Great relations with staff and school  and kept to the time scales set. I have asked Richard to come back and do another project on Global Education with our students because I am so pleased with his first piece.

 Gary Dodds

Headteacher StMartinsSchoolDerby



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Claydayz clay workshops, murals and mosaics in your school

Claydayz clay workshops, murals and mosaics in your school


Clay workshops

 Over the past ten years Richard Gibson, MA, of Claydayz has been working with pupils of all ages, across the UK.  Clay workshops are particularly popular with lots of schools and pupils benefit enormously from the ‘hands on’ approach to learning that takes place during a clay workshop. Teachers use the clay workshops to not only deliver the art and design curriculum but also to deepen pupils’ understanding in subjects as wide ranging as maths to geography.  Pupils really understand the difference between a 2D shape and a 3D shape when they actually create that shape themselves!  Remembering the features of a variety of shapes is much more memorable when you have actually made them yourself, and the shapes sit on the classroom shelf as a long-lasting reminder.


Mosaics and murals


Richard is also much in demand for the breathtaking mosaics and murals that he, along with the pupils of the school, designs.  Schools contact Richard to arrange a mosaic or mural project for a wide range of reasons.  During the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic years, schools across the country wanted to celebrate these events with their pupils by creating mosaics and murals to hang in reception areas, the main hall and even on the outside of the school building.  Often a school has an anniversary of its own to celebrate, such as the passing of 25 years or 50 years since its foundation.  Some secondary schools use the creation of a mosaic or mural to reinforce its mission statement to the pupils and the local community, or to underline to pupils the personal attributes that forge success in adulthood.  Some schools have commissioned Richard to inspire their pupils to create a mosaic or mural that underscores the religious faith of the school.

 Whatever the reason behind the school’s desire to create a mosaic or mural, Richard project manages the entire experience.  He can advise on the direction of the project and then he will come into school and involve as many pupils as the school wishes in the composing of ideas for the mosaic or mural in art workshops.  He then assembles the final piece at his studio, glazing and firing the mosaic or mural.  He can even arrange the final hanging of the artwork.

 These projects are not costly but their value is incalculable.  The enthusiasm, creativity and pride that a project such as this inspires in pupils are a joy to see.  It is the sort of event that takes place at school that is remembered by each pupil throughout his/her lifetime.

 To arrange a mosaic or mural project, a clay workshop, an earth oven project or INSET training contact Claydayz, Richard Gibson, on 07967215745, studio:  01780 470477 or email:  rich@claydayz.co.uk.  See http://www.claydayz.co.uk for further information.  Follow us on twitter and facebook.

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Clay workshops by Claydayz.co.uk

Kinaesthetic learning

Clay workshops by Claydayz

 When Richard Gibson, MA, goes into schools to deliver clay workshops invariably teachers are delighted and amazed at the professional results that pupils are inspired to produce under Richard’s tutelage.

Not only are they excited by the quality of the artwork that is formed by the pupils but also they often remark on the greater depth of learning that takes place due to the nature of the learning experience, which is a kinaesthetic one.

So many pupils, who are predominantly kinaesthetic learners, miss out on learning through the style that suits them best because the nature of many subjects taught in schools does not lend itself to kinaesthetic learning.  However, clay can be a medium through which kinaesthetic learners can learn in a number of subjects if a little ingenuity is employed.  This is where Richard’s skills in teaching kinaesthetically come to the fore.

Claydayz Clay workshops for core subjects

 For example, Richard runs courses for KS1 and KS2 in mathematics, using clay to help pupils recognise the different features of 2D and 3D shapes.  Pupils learn how to turn 2D shapes into 3D shapes and they gain a deeply memorable idea of the difference between these shapes in the process.  Workshops on the Italian mathematician Fibonacci are also very popular.  In literacy Richard utilises the medium of clay to help younger pupils understand how to form letters and correlate what they have composed to the letter sound.

Producing animal models assists in children’s understanding of literature and aids discussion of characters’ actions and motivation in stories.

There are so many ways in which clay enhances creative thinking and independent learning.  Richard always takes the time to discover what the learning objectives are and spends time helping the teacher compose the best workshop to suit the children’s needs.

Teachers often comment that the handling of the materials involved, the physical activity involved and the making of sculptures and models add up to lessons that are not just satisfying for pupils but very memorable.  The learning is embedded much more firmly when constant activity is involved in the lesson.  Even those reluctant learners respond positively to a well-organised Claydayz clay workshop.

Richard can be contacted on 07967215745 or email Richard on rich@claydayz.co.uk.  The studio number is 01780470447.  Visit www.claydayz.co.uk.

Richard offers clay workshops for KS1 –KS4.  He also runs mosaic and mural projects for all ages and earth oven building projects.

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Teacher Training – INSET with Richard Gibson MA of Claydayz

Teacher training  INSET days with Richard Gibson, MA, of Claydayz

Following the success of his clay workshops in schools and colleges, many teachers asked Richard Gibson if he would come back and take staff INSET, training teachers how to make the most of clay as a medium through which learning can take place.  Richard created a workshop-style INSET and has for many years been going into schools to help teachers develop exciting and creative curricula that use clay.

Many pupils, if not all, respond exceedingly positively to learning that involves them kinaesthetically.  Teachers who have introduced Richard’s techniques into their lessons have, on many occasions, remarked that pupils who have behavioural difficulties become totally absorbed in the lesson when the use of clay has been at the centre of the learning.  The keen interest that is aroused by using clay helps the individual pupil feel more fulfilled and this has a positive knock-on effect on behaviour generally.

Richard Gibson’s INSET programmes cater for KS1 to KS4.  Richard usually works closely with the teacher in charge of CPD before the training takes place so that the INSET training is individually tailored to the needs of the teachers.  The topics that Richard has covered in these training sessions are wide and varied, helping make maths, English, science, geography and history come to life, as well as teaching clay making techniques, of course.  Richard also explains firing, glazing, kilns and appropriate health and safety.

Richard’s training sessions move at a brisk pace and are highly kinaesthetic which teachers usually find stimulating and fun.  The time usually flies!  It’s also a great way to team-build at the beginning of a new academic year or term.

A typical INSET session will commence with a short introduction on the history of the use of clay and then move quickly into the specifics of what can be taught and how it can be taught.  Teachers find this kind of training memorable because they work with the clay and experience the lesson from the pupil’s perspective.

The following topics are ones that Richard has been asked to teach on numerous occasions and they have proved particularly popular and effective in the classroom.

Shapes found in maths – 2D – 3D Coil pots using cylinders (African, Greek, Roman, Egyptian)

Spiral pots and sculpture using improvised moulds (link with natural science)

Mini beasts: exploring shape (rope, spiral, ball), plus ‘Hungry Caterpillar’

Literature, for example decorating letters

Rainbow bird and fish.

Decorating with shapes

Pinch pots with eyes closed!

Animal modelling: solid body and hollow body KS1 elephants


To slip or not to slip

Richard Gibson can come into school to do training at the beginning or end of term.  He can also be booked to do twilight sessions. To book contact Claydayz on 07967215745.  Call the studio on 01780 470447.  Follow Claydayz on Twitter and see our Facebook page.

Claydayz also offers clay workshops for pupils, mosaic and mural projects and earth oven building.

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Building with Clay

Building with clay.

One of Richard Gibson’s enduring enthusiasms is his love of building, using a variety of clay-based materials. Here he discusses two varieties of building materials, with which he has worked. Richard shares this type of information with the pupils who attend his Claydayz workshops and they find it fascinating. Richard finds that the vast majority of children have never before considered the central importance that clay has played in the history and development of mankind through its use in pottery and building shelters and homes.

One traditional method of building was known as cob. The material cob is a combination of subsoil and chopped straw. It is traditionally mixed together by a team of oxen, each ox doing the equivalent work of about ten men. Interestingly, excrement which finds its way into the mix helps bind it together.

In Britain, cob housing is mainly found in Devon, parts of Dorset, South Hampshire, Wiltshire and parts of Cornwall due to the subsoil being of the appropriate clayey consistency. A variation on cob, called Wichert is also found in Buckinghamshire.

The walls are usually built on a stone foundation but if stone was not available then a plinth would be built from rubble.

Erected in courses or ‘lifts’, the height of one lift depended upon the width of the wall which was usually between 0.9 and 1.2 metres. Each lift was pitched up to a worker standing on the previous layer and trodden into place. A completed lift would be allowed to dry partially and settle for approximately one week before the next one was applied.

Another fascinating building material is called Pise de Terre (pise). Pise is thought to have first appeared in France around the mid-sixteenth century. The term applied to a method of constructing walls that were approximately 50 centimetres thick by ramming earth between parallel frames that would be removed to reveal a complete section of hard wall. As with cob, pise also was a building method that was prescribed by the materials found locally to the intended building site. Specifically, soils containing 50% of sand would be needed; silt was a valuable resource. Unlike cob no water was required as dry soil was rammed between the shuttering. Some images of sculptural work that Richard has undertaken in pise can be seen on his website, http://www.claydayz.co.uk.

Building with earth, although on a gradual decline, survived in Britain, Europe and other parts of the western world up until shortly after the Second World War. From the beginning of the twentieth century, steel, concrete and bricks began to take the place of earth but during difficult economic periods earth building would reappear.

Richard Gibson, on behalf of Claydayz, is frequently commissioned by schools to teach pupils all about how to build a clay oven, usually in cob, and the pupils take a very active part in preparing the materials and the sculptural design of the oven. These project workshops usually stretch over a 4 day period so that pupils can see the clay oven evolve. Following Richard’s input, most schools then use the oven on a regular basis to teach pupils more about sustainable sources of energy and how to cook nutritious, simple food. There is a growing number of Forest Schools attached to schools in Britain and clay oven building is very popular on these sites.

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Building an earth oven

Building an earth oven

Mud is a near perfect building material. For thousands of years man has built ovens from mud. The best ovens in the smartest bakeries in the world today are often brick, which is made of kiln-fired mud.

Building an earth oven is not difficult and once it is ready for use, it can produce spectacular results – bread and pizza being very popular with teachers and pupils alike.

Oven fires are well-contained and quite safe as long as you use common sense and brief the pupils on safety issues. Oven fires are fuelled by wood, a relatively inexpensive and eco-friendly fuel.

What is ‘cob’?

Richard Gibson uses cob to make the earth oven and cob is a mixture of earth sub-soil mixed with sand and straw. This mixture naturally becomes very hard and durable, thus making a perfect material for the structure of the oven.

Locating an earth oven

It is advisable to spend a few moments considering where you will locate your earth oven, on the school premises. It is suggested that the ground should be roughly level where the earth oven is to situated. Also, endeavour to site the oven so that the door faces away from prevailing winds. And, of course, you will need to assess any possible fire hazards. It can also be helpful to take into consideration the proximity of the kitchen and water supply, although for the majority of schools these amenities are never far away as the grounds are usually not that vast.

The aesthetic design of the earth oven.

It is important to Richard Gibson that the aesthetic design of the earth oven is attractive and enthralling, as earth ovens are inherently sculptural. Mud is lovely to work with and the openings of the oven suggest all manner of real and mythical creatures. Some earth ovens become totemic structures, a house god or a piece of abstract art.

Pupils’ clothing

Stout boots or Wellington boots are the recommended footwear for pupils. Also, pupils should wear ‘old’ clothes, particularly old trousers as they will come into close contact with the cob. Pupils trample the cob underfoot in order to prepare it for use as a building material, on a large tarpaulin. This process emulates the traditional process of making cob which involved oxen trampling the muddy mixture. Indeed, pupils are involved at various stages of the earth oven building process.

Booking an earth oven building project.

Please contact Claydayz.co.uk, Richard Gibson, MA at
rich@claydayz.co.uk or telephone 07967215745. Richard’s studio number is 01780 470447.

Clay workshops, art workshops, sculpture workshops, mural and mosaic projects are also available.

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