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Early years artists

Artist Sophie Zadeh, many of whose wood sculptures look like shells and sea life, came to our early years centre as an artist in residence. After a visit to the Blue Planet aquarium at Ellsesmere Port, we researched sea life from books, photos and artefacts such as shells and pebbles. We talked about different shapes, colours and patterns, and commented on the textures of the objects.

Working in teams and individually, the children drew what they had observed. Next they explored working with clay - rolling, pinching and using real potter's tools, after which they made their own models of sea life, using different materials to create textures and patterns. They made fish and shells and used bubble-wrap pressed into the clay to make patterns, or used a tool to create striations.

The children's clay art was arranged in a display panel in three zones, representing life from the bottom of the sea upwards. Sophie then made plaster of Paris and poured it into the panels so that the children could still see the shapes they had made. Then they worked as a team to remove the clay and plaster panels from the mould and painted the clearly visible forms in bright colours. The final panel looked really good and the children had learned a great deal about sea-life, about using clay and working with an artist. They had also gained much useful language, talking about such things as why jelly-fish and seahorses have these names.

Linda Kirkham, Gamesley Early Excellence Centre, Derbyshire

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