Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
By: Mohammed Shamsi
Kids were sculpting clay at the Helen Matthes Library, with a family friendly atmosphere that promotes reading throughout the summer. The project like many others is a library-funded project, but this educational clay activity was directed by the Next of Kiln studio.
Many parents bring their children to the library during the summer where there are various activities that help promote reading; the theme is called Reading for the Win. The library also wants to entertain the children and give them a safe and comfortable place to relax.
Supporting the library’s activities, Mitchell Cofflin assisted his younger sister and other kids throughout the clay project.
“I love working with kids,” Cofflin said. “(It’s a) very creative way to get the kids out of the house and do something fun.”
Audra Gilmore, a parent, said they look forward to coming to the library.
“Today is the second time this week at the library,” Gilmore said.
“We have programs that kids will enjoy and want to come to,” Vicki Funneman, an employee at the library, said.
Funneman said the library wants to “encourage kids to get into the summer reading program.”
The Mount Zion-based clay studio’s owner is Jennifer Fisher, who travels to various libraries to provide a fun learning experience for the children around central Illinois.
Fisher wants to provide kids an opportunity to learn about and experience art because schools are removing the extracurricular programs to preserve their education plans.
Fisher also described the process they use for the clay project; Next of Kiln prepares a slab of clay for the children to use, and the kids cut out the shapes they like with cookie cutters. Then they proceed to cut out the letters and afterward they score the clay and also attach some slip to the clay so it can adhere.
Then they take the clay projects back to their studio to let them air dry for a week to remove moisture and bubbles so these projects don’t combust in the oven. With some finishing touches, Next of Kiln puts them in the oven for 24 hours at around 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit.
In about two weeks, the children will get their projects back.
Fisher said her goal is to “to expose the kids to an art classroom.”
“We do these projects because they have cut so many extracurricular programs in the system,” Fisher said, concerned about the school system.