What is an oogly, you might ask? Well, an oogly is basically what you make it, but before we let you peek into the wonderful world of ooglies, perhaps it might help to show you from where they came.
It all began one peaceful day years ago. Artist Myrna Minnis was at her home in Overland Park, quietly biding her time playing with some clay she had on hand. While she was not intentionally trying to create something, it was as if in that moment, her hands were led by some unseen force that inspired her to create a little creature out of clay. Before she knew it, three of these intriguing characters stood on the table in front of her. Without skipping a beat, the voice of imagination inside her head shouted, “Oogly! Call it an oogly!” (The voice also suggested the spelling remain in lower case letters, too, as if to add to its incredible uniqueness.)
“In my mind’s eye at the time, I could just see the five letters – o-o-g-l-y – just hanging from a clothesline, waving in the breeze,” she smiles. “I didn’t have to think twice about it. That was a pure gift from God given to me over 20 years ago.”
When such Divine inspiration hits, it’s probably a good thing to follow that little voice inside your head. Minnis recalls that when she was initially playing with that lump of clay, she felt as if she found her calling, embracing her newfound passion with endless enthusiasm.
“When I touched the clay that day, it was like magic,” she recounts. “It was as if I had come home.”
These days, when she works with various children in her art workshops, the kids always bring their inquiring minds to the table and continually ask her how ooglies were born.
“I tell them the story and remind them that you just never know when a good idea will hit,” she emphasizes, adding, “And when it does and it makes your heart sing, pursue that idea with a passion.”
Acting upon her sudden inspiration, Minnis knew she just had to share this with the world, but the answer of how to do just that remained temporarily elusive.
“I just knew I had to create an oogly kit,” she says, “and within three months, the clay I needed to do just that made itself available to me.”
That was in 1989. Minnis is now on her third design of the oogly kit, which essentially started a new career for her. Actually, it’s more of a calling.
Prior to all of this, Minnis was honing her skills with clay through her work throwing pots. She then began to hand build whimsical wizards out of clay. These delightful works of art soon led her to various people who recognized how her talents and innate ability to connect with others allowed for a great teaching medium.
With a husband in the Navy in their early years together, Minnis and her two children (Yanna, her daughter, is now a business partner with Minnis) moved about from New York to Florida and then finally back to her home state of Kansas. She continued to indulge her love of art when she finally made Kansas City her permanent home back in the 1970s. Her Overland Park residence is a grand testament towards her passion and creativity, as a host of garden sculptures eagerly greet you and welcome you to sit down, relax, and just enjoy the moment.
“It’s a very fun and magical place in my backyard,” she says. “It is so picturesque and quiet. I enjoy meditating back here. It’s my little wonderland; my space of peace.”
Now that her oogly kits have taken the world by storm, Minnis’ professional docket is usually quite full, making those moments of backyard tranquility so much more appreciated.
Through the use of her clay and heavy doses of inspired creativity, Minnis encourages young people across the metro area to indulge their imaginations and stir the well of their senses.
Named “2000 Kansas Educator in Arts and Disabilities,” Minnis travels all over the city visiting schools and teaching young students exactly all that an oogly kit can do. It’s more than just a box of clay. It’s an avenue to possibilities.
Because the clay in these kits never dry, kids can continually use it, creating as many objects as they desire. There is no right or wrong way to use an oogly kit, and every time a child returns to it, a new adventure awaits.
The oogly kits are amazing tools that have come to the attention of therapists world-wide. By working with oogly kits, both teacher and student, especially those students with special needs, can make a genuine connection and tap into a place within that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.
Minnis not only visits various elementary schools across the metro area, but she also conducts workshops in her home. These classes are held once each week for four weeks. Each session is 90 minutes long. Minnis also hosts several birthday parties and Cub Scout group functions every year. Her home is a busy, yet magically happy place.
“The kids feel safe when they come here,” she notes, referring to her home, her sanctuary. “I love what I do and awaken every day eager to continue doing what I am doing. I’m very blessed.”
Minnis so spiritedly believes in the power of playing with clay and in the spirit of awakening the true genius in everyone.
“This is my gift to share with the world,” she smiles. “My dream is coming true. I am continually amazed at how this kit has brought me so many wonderful friends and experiences. Everyone should have an oogly kit.”
These fascinating oogly kits can be found at a variety of retailers in town, including ARTichokes in Leawood; the Nelson Atkins gift shop; the Learning Tree; and Brookside Science and Toy and even at McGonigle’s Meat Market (Hey—they are for everyone!) They can also be ordered online. LL You can discover more about oogly art kits by visiting TheOoglyKit.com. For more information on Minnis, visit her website at ArtWithMyrna.com.