I still play in the mud!
Technically, I play in clay, but I mush and squush, pat and pound, and get lots of dirt under my fingernails in ceramics class. What was great about a rain like the 40 day flood? Shampooing your hair outside. A muddy stream meant tadpoles to inspect. Wet sand on the beach? I still like the feeling of the gritty sand surrounding my sinking feet. Do I sound like a big kid? Hmmm, maybe that’s why no matter what else I’m doing, I’m thinking about children’s books.
Each of my latest ceramics pieces has elements that can relate to children’s books. “How can you relate pottery to books?” you might ask. Hon, if you talk to me for a few minutes, you’ll find out that I often connect seemingly random things. Is that kid-like, too?
I’ve mentioned this before (My Writing Process (Bunny Hop) Blog Hop)–I find children’s books magical. There’s something lovely about words on a page that bring you to another world, make you laugh, let you to believe the unbelievable, teach you something, allow silliness to surface, relate to your own life, can be read dozens (hundreds) of times and always feel fresh. I strive to create magic in my children’s books.
I made the lantern boxes above with Hubby in mind, inscribing them with our wedding date. I love the Little Bear books. In the scene below, “The skunks decided to get married. They had a lovely wedding.” What’s timeless about them? The characters are sweet yet wise, proper yet loving. Friendships and family, the underlying themes, are set in a world seemingly simple, but filled with depth of emotion. Little Bear stories expand my heart.
I make lots of ceramic bowls! I’m not at the point where I can tell the clay what I want it to be. The clay tells me what it wants to be. Boy, is that clay bossy! And a bossy character is part of what makes the Max and Ruby books funny. My kids and I never got tired of reading Bunny Cakes. The scene below sums up the whole book. “Max wanted to help. ‘Dont’ touch anything, Max,’ said Ruby.” You know I have triplets, right? My kids could relate to the sibling rivalry. Guess what theme I explore in some of my books?
Forests are infinitely fascinating to me. I made the plate above with a forest theme: wood grain, foliage and a brick path. I even pressed a piece of wood along the edges. Owl Moon teaches readers about owling, or looking for owls in a forest at night. Not only does the text make you feel the hush of winter snow, the anticipation of calling the owl and the wonder when you see it, the illustrations beg to be studied and explored (look for other night creatures hiding in the branches).
Water is the theme of this handbuilt plate. I glazed the pebble impressions, wavy, watery and slim, rope patterns green and blue. I was thinking of the beach when I made this plate. The Pig in the Pond isn’t set at the beach–its set on a farm–but a hot day, farm animals, Neligan the farmer and a pond are all key elements in this funny picture book. My kids and I laughed every time we read it, especially since Neligan gets naked!
Picking out the red in this plate and accenting it with green and blue took concentration. Loving Mouse Paint did not. Just because this is a board book and it’s about white mice doesn’t mean it isn’t huge in excellence. The mice jump in jars of paint, hop around and mix colors to make other colors, wash themselves off in the cat’s bowl, then paint paper instead. But they leave some paper white “because of the cat.” Genius!
I also make lots of mugs. What’s better in mugs than tea (or coffee or hot chocolate)? A constant source of my childhood imagination was tea parties, whether it was with my stuffed animals, friends, or underwater at the town pool. Mommy Badger carries a tea set in the scene below. The Frances books were written when picture book word counts were longer. They’re perfect for children ages 4-8 who want to sit and explore a story. Frances sings silly songs, likes to rhyme, is a picky eater, gets jealous of her baby sister and has to learn how to share (she reminds me of me!). Her parents get annoyed and frustrated with her, but Frances learns about the world around her with their guidance and, of course, love.
Hon, do you relate things in your life to books, children’s or otherwise? I’d love to compare notes!
Max and Ruby by Rosemary Wells
Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh