Community Kids Try Their Hand At Sculpture

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A green alligator lies in wait on Dean Shields' coffee table.

The alligator is the creation of one of the boys in the clay class Shields is teaching to children from the Payson Community Kids program.

"He wanted green and I did not have that color of clay, so I taught him how to make green by mixing blue and yellow clay," she said.

The alligator is not alone on Shields' table. What could be a red dinosaur in a black business suit surveys the butterflies that haphazardly surround him.

These butterflies are not dinosaur lunch, they are necklaces and earrings created by students.

Shields is surprised and thrilled that both boys and girls like her class.

She took the clay projects home and applied a shiny coating of lacquer so the children will be even happier with their creations.

"At the first class, I showed them how to roll and cut out the clay and they just took off," Shields said.

Some children made pendants and earrings to keep, others will give the treasures to their mothers.

"I think sometimes the children are expressing their feelings," Shields said as she holds a free-form black, pink and white sculpture in her hand that looks like it has teeth.

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Jessica, 7, finishes a clay necklace during a Wednesday afternoon clay class taught by volunteer Dean Shields.

They took to the second class in three-dimensional creepy-crawlie sculpture "like ducks to water," she said. (Although a few of the girls, instead of making monsters, opted to make tri-colored hearts decorated with faux jewels.)

Shields occasionally makes suggestion for her students, but, so far, each child has a unique vision.

When Shields brings the projects back to the after school program on Wednesday, she also has "men at work" and "girl power" pictures to give the children.

As the students progress, Shields will help them try their small hands at sculpture, using polymer clay.

"It is a higher-grade clay, baked in a toaster oven," she said. "We'll wait for warmer weather so we can work outside and not worry about any fumes."

After that, Payson Community Kids will try make patterned and colored shrink plastic, water-based window clings and beading.

"I would like them to try foil art," Shields said.

As a crafter, Shields said, she used to make all sorts of pictures and clothing with the thin foil that comes in a variety of colors and swirled hues.

Now retired, Shields has been a waitress/bartender in Christopher Creek and owned craft store there and in Payson.

She has always loved crafts and when she visited the Payson Community Kids program, she started looking around at all the supplies program director Marcy Rogers had left over from her "endeavors," and Shields saw the future of a good match.

The class lasts for an hour a week, and that hour is a time to which Shields looks forward. She said, there is always room at Payson Community Kids for other talented people in the community to volunteer, just as she has done.

"The children are so talented and this is so good for their self-esteem," Shields said. "Their creativity is amazing."

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