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KIDS ROCKWELL will be open open daily 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. through April 29.

Rockwell Paper Scissors: Clay Turkeys

Food often plays a big role in art. It can be both the subject of art (what the art shows) and a tool used to make the art. To celebrate Thanksgiving this month, let’s take a look at some of the different foods found in The Rockwell Museum Galleries. Then, make your own sculpture! 

The Still Life with Fruit painting by George E. Forster shows a table overflowing with fruit. A still life is an arrangement or group of objects. This fruit might look ordinary to us, but at the time it was painted, people thought it was very fancy. Some of these types of fruit only grew in a few parts of the world, and many years ago, it was difficult to ship them around so that people could enjoy them in other places. Oranges and pineapple, for example, only grow in tropical places. George Forster lived in New York, which is not a tropical place! What varieties of fruit grow where you live?  

George E. Forster, Still Life with Fruit, 1866, Oil on canvas, 25×30 in. Clara S. Peck Fund. 2018.1.

Many artists use materials that are easy and inexpensive for them to find. Haudenosaunee artists use potatoes! Potatoes are originally from South America, and people traded them with different communities until they made their way up to North American indigenous communities. In addition to eating potatoes, Haudenosaunee artists carve them into stamps to decorate their baskets. The Potato Stamp Basket on display in the Haudenosaunee Gallery was made in the 1800s. Woven baskets like this one were used to gather, store and prepare all different kinds of foods! 

Unknown (Haudenosaunee), Potato Stamp Basket, circa 1900, ash and hickory, 11×15 dia. in. Clara S. Peck Fund. 2015.6.56.

Many of the foods we eat at Thanksgiving time, like corn, squash and cranberries, are native to North America. Did you know that turkeys are native to North America too? That means that turkeys came to live here without any help from humans. Other farm animals, like cows, sheep, and chickens, were brought to North America by people immigrating from other parts of the world.  

Turkeys are an important part of Native American food traditions. Let’s make a clay sculpture to celebrate North American food traditions! You can make a clay turkey on your own following the instructions below or come into the KIDS ROCKWELL Art Lab during the month of November to make a turkey or grape sculpture with our Model Magic. 

Materials: 

  • Air dry clay, roughly 6 oz 
  • Colorful craft feathers 
  • Googly eyes (optional) 

Instructions: 

  1. Divide the clay into a large piece and a small piece. Roll each piece into a smooth ball. 
  2. Press the small ball onto the large ball to form a head. Use your fingers to smooth over the crack so that it is attached securely. 
  3. Use your thumb and index finger to pinch a beak from the small ball. 
  4. Add feathers to the large ball to create a tail. 
  5. Use a pencil or toothpick to scratch additional details, like feathers, eyes or a wattle, into your clay.