23 Aug 2006

Hand and brain candy

While I am on the subject of candy, these hikaru dorodango really took my fancy. I want to make one now. One of the links on the site lead to an article about the shiny mud balls and Professor Kayo who has done much work with small children and balls of mud. The article concludes by saying:

In the field of developmental psychology up to now, play that developed children's imagination and creativity, such as role playing and drawing, was deemed important. But Professor Kayo is searching for whether developmental psychology has overlooked something very important: the experimentation children undertake in everyday activities like eating, getting dressed, and sleeping. He feels that making shiny mud balls is a good way of searching for the essence of children's play. Kayo believes that the answers lie within the hearts of children, and he continues to visit the preschool once a week.

To me, it's just soooo obvious that if you give a child a lump of to play with before they reach the age where they associate 'mud' with 'dirty', they are really going to engage with the material. It's an elemental act of alchemy, base mud becomes something shiny and precious.

I suspect that children don't have the monopoly on the answers for this, potters and other crafters may well have something useful to contribute to the field of developmental psychology. I think we all have an elemental urge to make things. We are all creators. The biblical creation myth says:

"And The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being." (Genesis 2:7)

And while I am not a fan of the bible in general, the logic of 'god creating man in own image = we are all makers' doesn't suck. Maybe making these things is the ultimate 'god game' as you become the creator of worlds....

In the mean time, I found some more detailed instructions on how to make the balls here
and here are some more mud balls that their proud owners uploaded to flickr.

I think that some of my weekend may well be devoted to literally 'playing with mud'.

1 comment:

Rebekkah said...

Developmental psychology interacting with art! I love it! I spent many years studying cognitive development, and I think there are great analogies to be made between the way a child's mind works and the way a creative adult's mind works. While the research I did and read was focused on examining how children differ from adults, and get from point A to point B, the thing I loved about being around cognitive development researchers was their appreciation that the way children think isn't wrong, but just different. The field is full of a lot of very creative people, and I think that has got to do something with spending all that time thinking about what it would be like to have a mind that just works differently than one's own.

A handy term that I consider a lot in my own life is functional fixedness. In my own creative pursuits, I often see projects as attempts to thwart functional fixedness. Sometimes in the literal sense, and sometimes in a more abstract sense of "function".