My darling Mairi Rose is many things, but easy to shop for is not one of them! I confess to being entirely stumped as to a gift for her this Christmas. No one else could think of anything either. Believe me, I asked! I finally settled on creating a kind of hand pottery set. Perhaps not the flashiest of gifts, but it’s frankly been a beautiful experience that has added much to our homeschooling week.
To put together the kit I started with ordering 25 lbs of white air dry clay. I can’t find the clay I bought, but I’ve heard good things about this one. Lots and lots and lots for sharing and long-term use. I re-purposed a caddy that we already owned. I keep most of the clay in a closet in the original packaging and bring out five pounds at a time. Even with at least three young people playing, this lasts a long time. We’ve found that the best way to store it is in a ziplock bag with a damp paper towel and with as much air as possible removed. We’ve had no problems with dry out when stored this way. In addition to the clay I purchased a set of wooden sculpting tools. These are great and just right for kid sized hands. As well as some acrylic paint for finishing the dried clay pieces. To these I started adding bits and pieces from around the house: doilies to roll prints onto the clay, a giant silicon baking mat that didn’t fit any of my pans to use as a work surface, toothpicks for poking holes and supporting larger and more detailed sculptures, a piece of sponge for smoothing the clay. I found a flower mold ice cube tray at a library sale for 25 cents to use as a paint pallet. Mairi discovered that empty thread spools make a pretty little flower print. Rubber stamps, both with and without ink, are fun to play with and the kids really enjoyed embedding beads into their projects for Valentine’s Day. We’ve also made a lot of prints of flowers and leaves (taken from our house plants at this time of year!), with beautiful results.
Every Monday afternoon we take everything out and create. Right now just the clay is entirely satisfying, but now that this family rhythm is established I’ll be mixing it up at times to keep things fresh, swapping out clay one day for say modeling beeswax, home-made play dough, or kinetic sand working with different themes and projects in mind.
Since people are likely to ask, the candle above was made using this candle making kit which Mairi received for her birthday. As you can probably tell, art supplies are our major expenditure when it comes to gifts for the children. We spend very little on toys, preferring to make most of what they own, but we do try to ensure that they have quality supplies to work with.