“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” – Sophia Loren

One of the first people I messaged when we decided to self-isolate at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic was Jana. I wasn’t checking up on her to see if she was OK, I needed ideas of what to do with the kids. I’d first met her at a playground in our neighbourhood and could see that she had lots of innovative ideas to keep her children engaged. It came as no surprise when she told me she’s an arts teacher.

Thinking back on my own education, the teachers I liked the most were the arts teachers. It wasn’t that the classes were easy, but the teachers really loved what they were teaching. All of my arts teachers were artists themselves who created work on a regular basis. Unlike some other teachers who clearly didn’t enjoy working with children, the arts teachers found a way to connect with just about anyone. Though Jana had some time away from the classrooms after the birth of her daughter, she never stopped teaching. She gave me plenty of ideas on what to do with the children in lockdown.

I was thrilled to find out that she’s now back in the classroom setting working with children in a public school to make art. She’s also created her own business which came out of a trip to Europe to visit her family in Macedonia, and her husband’s in the UK. In Europe, she came across Jumping Clay, which is a South Korean invention. She and her son loved what they could do with Jumping Clay so much that she’s established Jumping Clay Australia.

Engaging the Senses

When one takes Jumping Clay out of its wrapper, one of the first things to note is a subtle scent of jasmine. It’s a light smell and it’s pleasant and instantly recognisable as Jumping Clay. The ball of clay is soft and extremely pliable. You push detail onto the surface, with either fingers or a chisel (which comes in every pack of Jumping Clay) very easily. This is what makes it such an ideal tool for building just about anything, from Christmas ornaments shaped like Santa Claus, reindeers, candy canes to cuddly bunnies, sushi and semblances of other foods one can use in pretend play.

One of the things my daughter loves the most is mixing different coloured balls of clay together to get new colours. To her, it’s nothing short of magic. I should add, for me too. It takes vigorous rolling before the new colours begin to emerge out of a marbled ball of clay. There are easy to follow instructions on how big the different coloured balls of clay should be to produce the desired colours for whatever one is trying to make.

Planning and Making

Growing up, I missed out on activities that taught me creativity as a process. Like most people in my generation in Turkey, I assumed that some people were creative and could make things at will but the majority couldn’t create anything new.

Jumping Clay teaches that creativity is a process and there’s a planning stage before going out there and making whatever it is the child wishes to make. The kits break down the process into easy to follow steps and once the method is understood, one is free to create whatever they can imagine.

Teaching Resilience

Of course, with all creative endeavours, there are bound to be miscalculations or realisations that how we imagine things isn’t always accurate. This sometimes disappoints but that is the beauty of art and creativity. There are really no mistakes. With Jumping Clay being so resilient, it is always possible to start from the beginning if one doesn’t like the shape of things, so to speak.

I’d like to think of this as an analogy for life, especially nowadays with so much uncertainty as to how the economy will recover, what modifications we’ll have to make to our lives, how we will need to reprioritise or shuffle responsibilities to keep positive and build a sustainable future.

Jumping Clay, like all art and life, is something that gives you better results, the more you practice it with conscious intention. Your first few attempts at making a chocolate-filled cookie, or a macaron might be rubbish, but you may pivot and try to make a simit (a Turkish sesame ring) instead like we did in the photo above.

Accomplishment

Like most families, we aren’t going out shopping as much these days and it is fortunate that we’ve discovered we can play and make things for ourselves. It’s easy enough to transform cardboard boxes to cars or trucks of houses and Jumping Clay to pretend food like cookies, simit and macarons. I’m thinking I may even make some earrings out of it. The clay is unbelievably light and hence earrings made from it would be like feathers.

Jana tells me that she uses Jumping Clay as an educational tool to reinforce her son’s learnings at school. She and her son made the solar system together and now he can easily identify which planet is which as he was involved in the shaping of their size and mixing the colours (reddish for mars, blue and green for Uranus, rings for Saturn).

I’m thinking it will be a family accomplishment for us if we have another crack at making Christmas ornaments out of Jumping Clay to go on nana’s Christmas tree. Last year we got a little too crazy, by we, I mean a certain toddler, and all I could rescue from her hands was a bit of red and white clay to make a candy cane, which still ended up on the tree.

Jana teaches workshops at Gallery Lane Cove too. Keep an eye out.

Over to you…

What are some art projects you started with your family? How did it benefit you to work collaboratively with others in your family to make something with your hands? What was the end product like?