8.05.2008

In Which We Blow-up Camp


OK, just so you don't think the camping trip was an entire flop here's another story.  

Last fall my mom and sister went to the Grand Canyon.  As a souvenir they brought the kids back a make your own pottery kit.  After begging and begging to make pots, I put the box away until I had the time to "help" them with it.  When we on our Grand Canyon trip this summer the kids went to a pottery demo with the ranger.  The ranger did a fantastic job.  She told the Native American story of how clay came to be and then each of the kids got to design their own pot.  Unfortunately, the clay had to be reused and the pots were collected.  The kids were sad that after all of their hard work they were unable to take their pots home.  I reminded them of the kit Nonna had brought back for them and they said "What Kit?"  Just love how that out of site out of mind process works.  I promised i would show them "later."  Then the camping trip came out of nowhere and i thought this would be the perfect place to make the pots!  You see the key to this whole pot process it that the kit is designed to teach the kids the "old ways" of making clay pots.  Which involves camp firing the pots.  We would have a camp fire definitely!  You just cant go camping without roasting marshmallows!  

Saturday morning we spread out the table cloth and got to work!  Now if you have never made a pot out of real clay before.  It can be a little messy.  This is not Playdoh, this is not even close to modeling clay or Sculpty.  With clay you have to add water, to help smooth the clay and keep it from drying out as you shape the clay.  Since we have had the clay for 9 months, before we ever got it out of the bag, it was a little dry to start with.  We had prepared the clay the night before.  Breaking it apart, with a knife (did i say a little dry?)  adding water and sealing it in a Tupperware container.  Nevertheless, the clay was still dry.  So we added, more water.  Well, did I mention it was Red Dirt clay.  Yep.  Mark was the first one to get clay on his shirt. (surprise).  Then after the shirt came off the chest, hands, forehead, arms and even tennis shoes became covered with red clay mud.  He looked like a indian warror preparing for battle.  John, who tends to be the cleaner of us parents, dilligently scrubed Mark's shirt, with no luck...Sigh.  
Emma and Jack remarkably did not get covered with the red clay, I however, did not escape the carnage.   

Jack and Emma were quick to form and finish their designs which we placed in the sun to dry.  Mark took longer unable to get his design to form the way he wanted.  He wanted a bowl shape and the clay was to brittle to get the walls to form without cracking.  Then I got a idea.  Lets use one of the plastic bowls as a mold and form the bowl over it.  Brilliant!  Not so brilliant.  I  mentioned we left to get ice.  Well, by the time we returned Mark's bowl was cracked.  We didn't take the mold out quickly enough, so as the clay dried it shrunk and cracked the bowl.  We pried the clay off the bowl, ground it up and, yup, added more water.  Down went shirt number two.  Now this time we wrapped the bowl in plastic and then clay so we could remove the bowl without cracking the clay.  AH-Ha.  Now, we were fortunate to have a water spicket just to the right of our campsite.  Which made clean up easy.  Now if you have ever dealt with red, clay, icing, food coloring, etc. you know red anything doesn't clean up easy.  As a matter of fact, some of my fingernails are slightly orange, still.  You may also remember that  the desert southwest doesn't believe in drainage.  So under the spicket there was no drain, just rocks.   Basically, we created a red lake next to our campsite.  Which is LOADS of fun to ride your bike through. While Jack and Emma may not have gotten clay on them while forming their pots, they did after they drove their bikes through the "lake" a couple dozen times.  Yeah.  Anyway, after Mark's pot had dried, we felt it was safe to take out the bowl,  we tried.  yeah, yeah, yeah we tried.  Well you see,  the bowl we used was the same bowl we mixed the clay and the water in to reform the bowl in the first time.  Basically, it was covered in a mixture known as slip to potters.  The bowl was stuck to the plastic. Oh sigh.  So we rip it off the mold yet again,  mix the clay, yet again, add more water, yeah, lost shirt number three  and then reformed the bowl over a clean bowl wrapped in clean plastic.  (At this point, I am ready to KILL my mom, sorry mom)
Anyway, they all dried, thank goodness for dry heat and 100 degree temps.

We sent the kids out to collect small sticks and logs for the building of the campfire.    Which is thankfully something we don't have to bribe them to do.  We started a small fire.  For this process we needed to set the pots onto hot coals then cover them with pine needles, pine cones and sticks then stack more logs on top.  In the morning presto, ceramic pots!  TA-DA .  As we got the fire started we set the pots on the grill rack next to the campfire.  The pots need to warm up so they don't crack when placed on the coals.  After the coals were ready we used a stick, because the pots were HOT to place them on the coals.   We continued the procedure as described in the instruction booklet.  Just prior to Ginger freaking out about the ants.  We hear a BANG! POP! and stuff goes flying.  What the @#!#$!  A piece of  Emma's pot had blown clean off.   Then another BANG !  A POP!  Kids screaming and crying.  Pots are exploding, pottery shrapnel was  flying every wear.  Smoke and steam is pouring from the fire.  You can hear the hiss of water boiling and you realize.  The clay was not as dry as we thought.  Apparently.  We are under attack by our own campfire!   Eventually the exploding ceased, thankfully we only had 4 pots. Everyone crawled out from where they were hiding, not unlike the seen in The Wizard of Oz when the witch leaves and Glenda exclaims, "It's alright you can come out now."  Hey, we may even be about the same size.  
 

We left everything in the fire and the next morning we uncovered what was left of our Exploding Pottery.


Now we just have to figure out how to use this as this years science fair project. 
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