School for Young Artists
My First Take on Salty but Sweet


Salty but Sweet is is very perceptive. Most seven-year-olds don’t bother themselves with insights about why I ask certain things of them. For instance, I ask the children to give me the cue of touching my arm or shoulder when I’m engaged with another student. That situation came up while I was talking to Salty. Another student had put her hand on my shoulder. I asked Salty to interpret what was going on. Salty immediately got it.

She wants your attention.

Now that may be obvious to us, but it’s not obvious to most children her age.

And then there’s the riff I repeat with new students.

Understand that there are rules here, but I don’t tell them to new students. I wait until they do something that doesn’t work for me. That way they can’t feel bad when they do something I don’t want, because they couldn’t know what I don’t want.

Her response makes me smile.

That’s a very good idea!

During the remainder of the class she tested this out one way or another.

In another instance, after we’d gone through a major extraction from my garage of a giant piece of cardboard for another student’s project, (I’m standing on an old folding chair that I’m not sure will support me, and the children are using grabber sticks (I’ll explain if you ask me.) to help…

With that experience under her belt, she then found out about melted wax. (I always have it available.) She asked if she could have another giant piece of cardboard to make a giant wax project. I said no. She looked stymied. I told her that I didn’t have enough wax for that. I told her that she could use all the wax I had available. She accepted that. This tells me that even though she has a very expansive personality, she is also comfortable with limitations.

Salty wants to know what she is dealing with, so she tests boundaries and is happy to find them. I respect that.

Her response to the Laboratory Table was interesting to me. She pointed out one of the powders, wanting to know what it was. I told her its name, but teaching names of things is not my goal. (I work on the premise that names come after experience and can limit experience if labeled to soon.) She asked me if she was allowed to mix everything together and I said, Sure. She proceeded to do that and kept calling me excitedly to observe the results.

Most of her questions to me were about boundary issues. Well into the class, she was checking in with me about what was allowed. For instance,

Where do you want me to eat my snack?

I explained

This is the messy side of the studio; you can eat here, but not that side, where the sewing machines, drawing table and computers are.

True to form she found an area I hadn’t covered.


That worked for me and she set up the snack, that her mom had sent with her, and ate it outside. She honors conventions, in this case my conventions, and she finds her own way. There are many environments where Salty will find resistance toward her personality as she grows up. Most schooling situations are not looking to nourish and protect this kind of creative spirit. Yet, this is a kind of mind we need for the society of our future.

Salty is my kind of student. I’m hoping we can find the patronage to give both of us the opportunity to work with each other.