I approach creating Play Lab installations as I would a prompt in a classroom: what are the possibilities for exploration? What draws people in, what sparks their curiosity, and keeps them engaged? How can I possibly make it an experience to remember when the participants are creating their own meaning? Participants will be invited to sit and use clay for a short or as long as they would like. There is no expectation to "make something" - a core message of Play Lab is the value of open-ended, process based exploration and experimentation.
The provocation, the prompt, the invitation, the offer: whatever we call it, it matters. The inaugural Clay Bar is happening at a Friday evening street market: early on, I can expect families and children, but in the latter half of the night, I hope that adults will still participate and have an authentic experience with clay. As I gather ideas to build on, I am keeping all ages in mind.
Clay can be collaborative.
This provocation from the Opal School makes me think about the potential to promote a larger scale, group work for clay bar participants. Clay does not need to be small or private, and having multiple ways to suggest directions engages participants in the endless possibilities within this medium.
Clay tools can be outside of the box.
Sticks and dowels are for more than just rolling/making impressions in the clay: it is all up to the player. In this example, they support a taller manipulation (via Atelierista). If I am providing materials that are so open-ended they can work in multiple ways, the participants have even more freedom. Anything can be a tool for participants to imagine and create.
Clay can be all about texture.
We can be inspired by the experience of the youngest participants, where clay is a sensory material, and encourage participants of all ages to explore the potential of the materials. (via Playful Learning). Paintbrushes of different sizes in jars of water and misting bottles are two possibilities; a wash bin at the bar might help ease the minds of those who are wary of messes.
Clay has stories in it.
Considering the possibilities of the accessories for storytelling: the materials and accessories that are presented are part of the participant experience. Clay slabs are a provocation themselves, looking to be manipulated slightly or completely changed. Stories are a way to open and encourage dialogue with the material, and with each other.
There is no wrong way to clay.
I believe I must stay open minded to what participants might do, try, want, and need during their clay exploration, so I plan to provide beautiful yet replaceable materials so that people can truly explore, and I am not thinking about the fate of those items. Without an invitation to create a product, the process of clay exploration is completely up to the participant, with the clay bartender as a facilitator and observer, supporting participants.
Before starting a project with children, I remind myself to expect the unexpected, keep a fully open mind, and observe as much as possible. The players have much more to show me than I do them, and there is no better way to learn about how this may work unless I let it work.