By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — Students in Derry elementary schools had a date with clay.
Fifth-graders are enjoying an art project and getting tips from an expert.
Schools welcomed local potter Michael Gibbons to the classroom for some unique ceramic work. Gibbons is working with fifth-graders in both Derry Village and East Derry Memorial elementary schools as students create their own ceramic “story bowls” under his watchful eye.
Derry district art teacher Clare Scanlon said it’s always a pleasure to have Gibbons visit the classroom. He has been part of art projects in past years, including helping students create tile murals and other clay creations.
Before Gibbons came to school, Scanlon said students illustrated their own special stories, or something meaningful about themselves, first on paper, then on foam bowls for practice.
Last week, the actual clay process began with students receiving a ball of clay, which they rolled out flat, then formed over a ball shape into a bowl. Paint was applied and then the bowls were allowed to dry.
This week’s work includes having students use a technique to carve their special story designs into the bowl’s interior.
Students normally don’t use a lot of clay during regular art classes.
“Kids at the elementary level don’t get to experience clay,” Scanlon said.
The school doesn’t have a kiln so once bowls are done, Gibbons will take them back to his East Derry studio to fire.
“He does a lot of work outside the classroom,” Scanlon said.
Gibbons told students what they see in the early stages of their project will change dramatically.
“The clay will look very different than what you see now,” he said.
Students rolled clay like they were rolling a pie crust, making sure to keep the round shape intact and the thickness was right.
“I like this,” 10-year-old Jennifer Willette said during a session.
Jennifer’s special story was abut a family trip to Maine.
Jazmyn Genao, 10, was also using a favorite family trip as her special story that would eventually be carved into her bowl.
“I did the beach and there was a park there,” she said.
Other students’ stories included other fun family trips and one student event chose her own home as her most special story theme.
Once bowls are fired and glazed, they will be returned to the students.
Scanlon said Gibbons’s art visits in Derry are supported by school PTA groups.
“The students look forward to working with a local artist while creating a unique piece of art,” she said.