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The Art of Mud

Mud is a versatile and under-rated material, and lets face it there’s a lot of it about.  It has (and still is in some parts of the world) been used for a huge variety of purposes by mankind for millennia, for building, medicinal and beauty purposes, and making pots to name just a few, and of course as a material for making art. Today is International Mud Day, so to celebrate it, we decided to have a go at using mud as an art material.

Mud art has lots of advantages, it’s cheap, it gets you outdoors, and it also has an ancient lineage. Some of the very earliest artworks were created with mud – using it not only as a sculptural medium, but also as a pigment, because the colour of mud can vary hugely from yellow ochres, to rich red siena’s and dark umbers (all pigments which are traditionally derived from mud).  Of course clay itself is essentially mud, and the best mud sculptures are made in areas where the soil naturally has a certain amount of clay in it, which helps it to hold and stick together.  So, having found a nice muddy patch, how can you use it to create some artwork?

  • Make mud sculptures – we did a hedgehog and a snail.  You can of course further embellish your sculpture with anything else to hand, like sticks, stones, bits of broken pottery, snail shells (we have lots of those!) plant material or anything else. Our soil is rather sandy, which doesn’t make as good a material for sculpture – so we had to use a stone underneath to support the hedgehog shape (this is after all an important sculptural technique  to learn) as otherwise it all tended to flop  a bit.  You can also easily create more abstract sculptures from balls of mud, stacking or arranging them, and then further embellishing them with other materials.

mud-sculptures

  • If you’re really ambitious, you can use mud as a traditional building material (wattle and daub) by creating an underlying structure with twigs and sticks, mixing cut grass or straw into your mud, and ‘plastering’ it onto the structure beneath.  Of course for real binding strength, daub would traditionally have contained animal dung, but you may not want to go to those lengths! This is basically the material that you would originally have found between the timbers of  timber-framed houses.  It’s light, strong, cheap and effective.
  • Draw pictures and designs into the mud -  and/or add colour with coloured leaves or berries (see the post on Land Art in the Spring).

mud-drawings

  • Smooth a rock or piece of wood with clay and watch decorative cracks develop as it dries out. You can use this technique on it’s own, or with others to create your artwork.
  • Use mud with your fingers or with sticks as a paint to draw and paint designs on a rock surface. True prehistoric art! Try using your hand as a stencil to draw round or for creating hand and finger prints.
  • Create plaster casts of a child’s or animal’s hand and foot prints in the mud.  I vaguely remember doing this myself at school as a child.  The technique is simple: place a  ring of thin card around the print to hold the wet plaster, then when it has dried, remove the ring and brush off the mud. In spite of this apparent simplicity, I have to confess here that mine were a bit of a disaster.  Never having worked with plaster of paris before, I mixed it far too runny so that it didn’t set.  Still, I am undeterred, and shall try again!

handprint-plastercast

  • Use mud as ‘war’ or decorative body paint.

When creating with mud, have plenty of water nearby, and mixing sticks and spades etc. as tools.  Mud and water really go hand in hand, and only adds to the fun

And finally, it hardly needs to be said: just make sure that old or protective clothes are worn and that hands, faces and anything else that gets muddy, are thoroughly washed afterwards.

This post has been shared with:

Michelles Charm World: National Mud Day Fun

Red Ted Art: Kids Get Crafty

Art for Little Hands: Child Centered Art Party

The Imagination Tree: It’s Playtime

Nurture Store: The Play Academy

 

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12 Responses to “The Art of Mud”
  1. michelle says:

    Love those handprints! Great job on the hedgehog too!!

    Please link up your mud post here:
    http://michellescharmworld.blogspot.com/2011/06/national-mud-day-fun.html

  2. michelle says:

    Pssstt…I’m a new follower too!!

  3. aqeela says:

    a great post once again, im your new follower!
    aqeela, xx

  4. Brooke says:

    I love all these great muddy ideas. My kids have never truly played in the mud, but I think we may begin to.

  5. Oooh we made a twiggy hedgehog a few months ago and I think they are the most adorable thing EVER :-) Ours is a paperweight now… Love the idea of using mud to make a plaster caster. Fabulous.

    Fab post (as always and of course). Great to explore mud like this…

    Thanks as always for linking to Kids Get Crafty!

    Maggy

  6. jude says:

    Another case of great minds thinking alike. In fact since we did it, I’ve seen quite a few of them around!

  7. Wow! Those are very cool. I haven’t ventured into the mud yet. I am not sure how much it intrigues me although I think my children will love it. I like the hand print. I think it looks good. Not sure why it was a disaster. Thanks again for sharing at art4littlehands.com I love your ideas.

  8. jenny says:

    I love all of these ideas! I have featured them on my Playful Picks for the week:

    http://progressiveearlychildhoodeducation.blogspot.com/2011/07/its-playtime-lets-play-in-mud.html

  9. Jennifer says:

    In addition to our weekly Monday Kid Corner, this week’s theme is MUD. Brush off those archives and link them up at thejennyevolution.com. See you there! Jennifer

  10. Emily says:

    Great mud! I live in NC and whoever lives down south knows that there is quantities of red mud. I am going to make a sculpture, thanks for the ideas

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  1. [...] Artful Adventures: Make Mud Sculptures! Embellish your sculpture with anything else on hand, like sticks, stones, bits of broken pottery or even snail shells. [...]

  2. […] Handprint Plaster Casters idea @ Artful Kids HERE […]