Saturday, February 7, 2009

Loves to Play In the Dirt

It is no secret that I love to play in the dirt. From the moment I made my first mud pie, complete with strips of grass and little pebbles - I am all about texture, I have been engaged in a love affair with the earth. 

Living in Oregon, I am often frustrated with Mother Nature conspiring to block my muse. Muddy days leave a dirt afficionado longing for dirty fingernails and the cool earth crumbling between them. But I have found the answer to dirty hands and Mother Nature working in harmony. 

Kiko Denzer, the author of Dig Your Hands In The Dirt! A Manual For Making Art Out Of Earth, says he re-discovered mud about ten years ago. This 2nd edition shows the range of earth-work by artist-builders, but its true value is in letting mud pie makers like myself expand our horizons and pursue more earthly pleasures with no regrets. 

"...just about anything works, and if it doesn't, it lets you know so you can try something else." Kiko says. The book is filled with colorful photographs of work done by students at Woodburn High School in Portland, OR and in communities around the world. Artful pieces that display the energy and creativity that happens when you mix clay and water - the essence of mud.

With the addition of a few other earthly materials, straw, baling twine, leaves ad twigs, designs can be created for mosaic tiles, columns and even bird houses. The book show details for large and small scale projects, all within the grasp of mud makers and dirt players. From a mud village in Germany, the book chronicles the work of teachers, activists, gardeners, artists, and folks wanting a better life. Art becomes a practical activity.

Along with the how to process, Kiko outlines design and patterns, mud recipes, tips and tricks for creating mud masterpieces that stand the test of time. Although some projects, like the Clay Village Project in Berlin's Britzer Garden, may be out of reach for your backyard, there are many projects that are well within your muddy grasp. 

Remember stomping through mud puddles in absolute bliss, only to have your mom burst your puddle with talk of how would she ever get your clothes clean? This book celebrates the squishing of mud between the toes as the human Sunbeam mixer for making the perfect mud batter. Clear instructions on preparing as well as clean-up would make any mama proud, and probably a willing participant. 

I can't wait to make some mud tiles for the walk way by the pond. My granddaughter is a perfect accomplice, since our Easy Bake Oven disaster. Even though we can't eat it, we have decided we are much better at playing in the dirt and making artful recipes to enjoy for a lifetime. Sharpening up my popsicle stick to write "That's What A Wise Grandma Would Do" on my tile.  

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