Note - Elinor, among many other activities, works with Potters for Peace and is spending a year volunteering with the Nicaragua program. Recently she was in the remote village of El Ojoche helping the potters with their throwing skills.
I read about Puedo Leer, the children’s lending library in Granada, in Que Pasa! Granada and decided I could volunteer to read to the children when I am in Granada between working in pottery studios with Nicaraguan potters. I checked it out online and found I could visit the library and read to children there or at their reading room at Hotel Con Corazon down the street on another day. I went to volunteer and the children read to me in Spanish instead! I found a book on ceramics at Puedo Leer written by an Argentinean that is very comprehensive and full of pictures. Some weeks ago I offered to do a pottery workshop at Puedo Leer as soon as I could put together some tools and enough clay to make it worthwhile.
I had finally collected some clay from my volunteering in pottery villages so Carol Rea and I agreed I would do the workshop with 10 children on Thursday afternoon. Carol dropped me off with my box of tools and a bag of clay. We set up 2 tables with plastic and newspaper and got started with the first 5 kids who showed up. It was pouring rain so I thought maybe we would be “rained out.” But not to be. A few more children showed up and more were encouraged to brave the rain and join us. Pretty soon the tables were crowded with busy fingers and we set up another table. We did pinch pots – in Spanish “olla de pellejo.” We got all the children pinching clay and then we took two pinch pots and put them together to make a closed hollow form that could be turned into a piggy bank - alcancia - small and mostly without a penny slot. Then one form looked like the beginning of a turtle, so that became the form to make.
Before the hour was up there were 20 children making pinch pots and other forms – some sculpture, some masks, some imaginary animals, even a VW bug! We tried everything. The librarian Ivania Mena and Marieke Peeters, a young volunteer from the Netherlands, helped to translate and give hands-on help when necessary, but mostly we just used our hands to communicate. Few words are needed when working with clay in your fingers.
I think everyone had a good time – even the very tired teacher! There is nothing like the satisfaction of working with your fingers in soft clay and seeing what you can turn out. I had brought clay from San Juan de Oriente and El Ojoche when I volunteered there. I have some white clay from Cinco Pinos I am testing in a small electric test kiln borrowed from the Potters for Peace supply cupboard. Since the pieces we made were small I will be able to fire them in the small kiln and return them to Puedo Leer in a week or two.
Anyone with another craft project is welcomed at Puedo Leer. A new experience for the children is always appreciated. And fun for everybody – including the teacher.
By Elinor Maroney
If you would like to read of her trips in Nicaragua teaching potter skills: