Friday 18th , 2013
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758 A couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of driving up to Northern California to visit family along the Santa Cruz Coastline.  I’ve always found it to be a beautiful area, and since recently inheriting my father’s love for photography, I had the desire to capture it in real form.  One of many days that included our camera totes we stopped at Bean Hollow State Beach, 31 miles north of Santa Cruz and 40 miles south of San Francisco, to capture its scenic beauty.  While there, we discovered the rocks you see pictured which are tafoni rock formations.  These rocks are formed over thousands of years of erosion and micro-climate weather effects.

In Italian, Tafoni means “cavern” which is typically how these formations are described.  Often you will see these formations in honeycomb clusters on large landform plateaus.  These rock forms even take the shapes of creatures and heads.  While the landforms are created scientifically, nature has created an aesthetically pleasing formation that was captured creatively by the imaginative eye and by the camera.

How does this happen?  During the rainy season, water mixes with the calcium in the sandstone. During the dry summer heat the water evaporates, some of the calcium dissolves and is drawn out to the surface of the sandstone where it forms a hard outer layer. This evaporation process causes any calcium remaining in the interior of the stone to be distributed unevenly so that there are some soft, low-calcium areas and some hard, high-calcium areas. When the outer portions of the sandstone are cracked or broken, over time the softer parts of the interior erode away leaving the hard outer areas, forming caves, caverns and tafoni formations.

760 A tafoni inspired art activity can be created by using a clump of clay.  Encourage your children to create a 3-D sculptural piece that is made in the likeness of these cavernous land formations.  Take one clump of clay and after describing the physical features and scientific formation it is easy to create a piece that has aesthetic value and creates a likeness of a tafoni rock formation.  The best clay I used was from Blicks Art Materials.  It stays moist for longer and is easier to mold.  Once the clay is completely dry (leave it for a week in a very dry place) take sand paper and smooth out the rough edges, like you see here.  The look is going to have very smooth and continuous lines that create a morphed abstraction.      


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Leslie Fraser is the Arts and Nature Education Specialist at Kidsapce Children’s Museum and has been working with children at Kidspace since June 2008.  Leslie has been working in the museum field since 2006 and loves the opportunity to incorporate science and the arts together.