…the kid knows what he needs to turn a blah afternoon into a great one.
After last weekend’s satisfying foray with clay, this weekend, my nine year old requested another sculptural medium that I just happened to have on hand as well…an industrial sized roll of plaster wrap cloth (like they used to use for plaster casts when you broke a bone in the old days, when I was a kid).
He independently set about cutting the plaster wrap into one-inch strips, then decided he wanted to wrap a clay bowl that we made last weekend with it. He thoroughly enjoyed the process of dipping the strips in water and smoothing them around the solid piece of clay.
Next, he surprised me by asking to make a cast of MY hand. In my many years as an art therapist, I spent many a session painstakingly and gingerly applying these plaster strips to my students, most often creating face masks, occasionally covering their hands in various positions. It was always considered a great moment in the therapeutic relationship, when a client felt safe and trusting enough to allow for this kind of interaction. And for some of the kids with whom I worked who had experienced all kinds of deprivation or abuse, this kind of nurturing, gentle attention filled a very basic need. After all those years as a therapist, and now all my years as a mom, it was novel and welcome to be on the receiving end of this process!
For just a little while, my boy was in charge and in control, but at the same time so gentle and careful as he meticulously (and I should mention that meticulous is not a word I would use to describe his approach to most tasks) formed the strips of plaster around my hand. I felt taken care of, kind of like having a spa treatment, and was delighted that he was intent on adding several layers to make sure it was nice and sturdy.
Feeling full mastery over this process now, he then embarked on his final project for the day, a cast of his own foot. Without any supervision from me (I went in the house to clean up), he completed this piece from start to finish and was thoroughly impressed with the results. He added, “It felt warm and cold and soooo soothing.” I hope that in the near future he will let me make a mask of his face…or perhaps he’ll offer to make a mask of mine!
I wonder if he’ll be interested in decorating these….with paint, collage, or by gluing other objects or materials to them. For now, his interest seems to be more in the process of building the casts themselves, whether from clay or plaster, than in turning them into something decorative or expressive. I believe he engages in these types of projects to fulfill a sensory need.
He has always been a sensory guy. See?