Ema Blue spends Wednesday afternoons with me at my studio. She is my unofficial “gallery assistant” and art student. She dusts Tim’s furniture, sweeps the sidewalk, takes Charlie for a walk, fetches me coffee from across the street, and makes lovely sidewalk chalk signs in front of the gallery. Ema is 11 years old.
Ema is meticulous, creative, precise, funny, cheerful, interested, respectful and persistent. I enjoy her company immensely and I truly look forward to Wednesdays.
For the last few weeks, Ema has worked steadily on a mixed-media artwork. Inspired by the image transfers some of my women friends and I made during one of our Girls Art Nights, Ema started with some image transfers onto a canvas, then used water-soluble colored pencils and collage to complete her piece. I’m always impressed when a young person can sustain interest in a project over a period of days or weeks, and she did on this piece. She finished this one yesterday.
I will write another post soon with my thoughts on the image transfer technique we used, and how to enhance the transfers with other media to create something lovely. Hope you enjoyed seeing Ema Blue’s artwork. Please let her know what you think/feel about her painting by leaving a comment below. Thank you!
Last Saturday, the Holter Museum of Art held KidWorks! — it’s 23rd annual arts festival for kids. What a blast!! I had an amazing opportunity to help put on this fun event and boy was it alot of work. Yet, when we opened the doors of the museum at 10:00 am, just like Connie, Judy, Sondra and Hannah told me, the festival took care of itself. A gigantic bulldozer of little kids and and their significant adults moved through the museum playing, delighting, learning, appreciating, thoroughly enjoying themselves and getting a messy education in the wonderment of art.
For me — as a docent — it was incredibly fun (I hardly stopped smiling except when I was concentrating,) extremely exhausting (the tables were set to little kid height and my back hurt like hell at the end of the day) but so, so fulfilling to share my enthusiasm about art with this many kids and their peeps.
I absolutely loved witnessing the diversity of approaches. Every child, has a unique way of seeing the world and expressing what they see! As docents, we have to Let Go of Results and Outcomes. Allow Mess. Delight in Oops. Multi-task-yet-Focus. Smile. Laugh. Make Eye Contact. Then. Clean. Up.
Well … it seems at the Holter, “docent” is a fancy word for a volunteer who:
works really hard
has lots of fun with peers and with the public
stays longer than expected to clean up the mess
knows how to laugh and goof
loves to share his/her passion for the arts
gets training to use Visual Thinking Strategy in educational museum tours
has a lot of energy (enough to keep up with kids of all ages!)
has an awesome opportunity to guide kids, teens and adults in appreciating art through tours and hands-on activities
can think on her/his feet, improvising when necessary
doesn’t mind getting down and messy
knows that every individual’s experience and ideas are valid
helps organize and put on the biggest and best kids’ arts festival anywhere around
then watches the magic happen as our doors open to over 800 participants
that’s alot to pack into one 6-letter word!
The Holter docents I have the privilege to work with, are a diverse group: outgoing, intelligent, friendly and helpful to new members of the team. We are all willing to learn from our mistakes and educate ourselves continuously so we are the best “art guides” the Holter could possibly have. It helps that we have some docents who are great leaders — super organized and experienced. It also helps that the educational staff (Sondra, Aubrey and Hannah) are so enthusiastic about their jobs. I have about half of the skills I need, to be an amazing docent. I’m working on the rest. But boy, was it fun, fun fun to help make KidWorks! happen.
Sorry about the photo-intensive post today. I just couldn’t resist! There were so many sweet moments and precious connections made during KidWorks! that I can’t resist posting these. Below is a gallery with a few more images from the festival.
If you attended KidWorks, or volunteered at the festival, won’t you write a short (or long) comment to say how you experienced it? Thank you!
I remember making these dolls from hollyhock blossoms in late summer. They only last for a few hours, even less if you play with them. But they’re fun to make, and really do have lots of personality. Now is hollyhock time in Montana. Do you have hollyhocks where you live? If you do, then you’re in luck. Go find a few, get out a needle and thread and go for it.
Pick some hollyhock blossoms. Remember to get different sizes of buds, and a few leaves (for hats.) Sort the buds by size, making sure you have at least 3 buds for each arm.
Keep blossoms fresh while you work, by placing them in a bowl of water. You can also mist them with water using a sprayer.
Remove the large, fuzzy stamen that sticks out of the center of each flower. Using a large needle and thread, stitch up through two or three large flowers, layering them to look like a skirt. You can make multi-color skirts with different colored flowers. Next make the head — you can use either a small blossom that hasn’t fully opened yet, or a large bud. Stitch from the bottom of the head through to the top.
You can add a leaf on top of the head for a hat.
Use 3 buds for each arm, a small, medium and large. I like to start at one hand, thread 3 buds together, then pierce the shoulder with the needle, and continue on the other side with 3 more buds for the opposite arm. (see photo 6)
Your hollyhock doll will have personality and facial expressions if you use your imagination with her.
You can add legs if you want but I kinda like them without legs. The big skirts make the dolls look like Southern Belles at a Ball, or Ballerinas Dancing Across the Stage. If you want legs, do them the same as the arms.
Another way to make hollyhock dolls is to use long, stiff pine needles, or toothpicks instead of needle and thread. Using the thread allows the arms, legs, neck and waist of the doll to move and jiggle, and if you hang her she will dance in the breeze. Using pine needles or toothpicks gives you a stiffer doll that can be played with more easily. Here is a link to making hollyhock dolls with toothpicks.
Miss Hickory is a children’s book that dates back to 1948. It is about a tiny doll made of apple twigs with a hickory nut head, so is a little similar to our hollyhock dolls, only longer lasting. The story follows her adventures through the four seasons. And eventually, the story ends with the little doll asleep on a branch of an apple tree and in the spring the apple tree blossoms all around her. Below are a couple of illustrations from the book and a link to a tutorial on how to make a Miss Hickory doll.
If you have access to a kiln, or a friend who does, get a chunk of clay and make some of these cute little critters with your kids. We painted them instead of glazing them this time. Next time we want to experiment with glazes. Ema and Adia have some tips on making and painting little clay objects, based on their own experiences with this project.
Thank you to Gene Hickman of the Helena Clay Arts Guild, for the clay, and teaching the girls some tricks of the trade.
Adia describes her ceramic creations by saying, “I made a moon, a dog lying down, a bead and a bowl. The bowl is about as tall as a cat’s paw, and as big around as a cherry tomato. What I might put in it is a bouncy ball small enough to fit. For the moon, I chose green because I was thinking of blue cheese — the kind you eat — and I thought of green. So that’s what I painted it.”
Adia’s advice on this project:
First paint your clay thing one solid color, then let it dry. Then, you can paint other colors you want on top of that.
When you make the shapes, try not to make them too thick or they might explode in the kiln.
Ema explains, “I made a small horse and a little elephant. When I made the horse, I was thinking of my favorite horse that my grandmother owns. Her name is Rosebud. The design on the back of my horse is similar to Rosebud’s design. She is a red roan, so I painted her red.
When I made the elephant, I was thinking of my mom. I think elephants are her favorite animal. I painted it gold because gold makes me feel happy. It also has pink, black and white. I made a happy accident with the eyes. I accidentally drew a black line on the eye and the black line turned into an eyelash and then I made more. So now she looks cute. I gave the little elephant to my mom.
Ema’s tips on making ceramic critters:
Don’t make it too thin. It might crack.
If you want to paint more than one color, wait until the first color dries before you paint on top of it or the colors will mix and make a different color. If you painted yellow on top of blue when it is wet, it would make green and you might not like green. And if you painted a bunch of colors on top of another it would make brown and you might not like brown. And so on.
If you make your creature too thick, it might explode in the kiln! And that might not be good for other pottery in the kiln, but especially not good for yours.
Don’t try to make it perfect. It won’t be. But you may make some happy accidents and those are good accidents. How will you know if you have a happy accident? Say you were painting an elephant and you accidentally drew a black line on it’s back. It could turn into wrinkles. Or, say you were painting a bowl and you were painting it yellow and you accidentally got blue on it. You could make it a rainbow bowl. And so on. And that’s how you would know it’s a happy accident.
Ema, Adia and I made some really cool creatures using roots we found on the lakeshore. We picked them up because we thought each of these looked at least vaguely critter-like. Today we painted several of the roots to try to bring out the little features in the wood that looked like something or another. How do you like them now?
We have a horse, a gnome, an elephant-deer-bird, and another bird — a long-legged crane.
The following tutorial was written by Ema and Adia:
Have you ever wanted to make an imaginary creatures? Well here’s how. All you need is a few sticks and some paint. You can make whatever you can imagine when you look at the sticks.
You will need:
sticks, driftwood or roots
something to use for bases for the creatures that will stand up*** …. or
tiny eye hooks and some monofilament for creatures that will fly (hang)
I got a funky root and I kept turning it and turning it and looking at it from different angles and then I saw that it looked like a horse. So I painted it to look like a red roan horse, specifically my favorite horse, Rosebud, who lives at my Grandma’s house in Anaconda. I glued mine onto the base instead of drilling a hole because it stands up by itself. — Ema, age 10
I made a gnome. A gnome is a little person with a beard. Santa Claus is a gnome. My gnome has a really tall red hat and is walking across the log that is my base. One leg is shorter than the other because he is walking. He also has a really long white beard and tall white boots. I drilled a hole in the base and glued my gnome’s longest leg into the hole. He looks like Santa. — Adia, age 8
One of my roots looked exactly like a long, curved-bill crane so I made a fantasy bird that I named, an “oo-ooga crane.” This is the sound it makes when it’s happy. It has green and blue feathers with white spots. Also some yellow and orange eyes. I glued one of the crane’s legs into a hole in the walnut base. — Maureen
My other root reminded me of an elephant with wings. It has big long trunk, two skinny wings and a tail. I added little antlers so it’s an elephant-deer-bird. I painted the antlers blue because the Huichol Blue Deer is special to me. This one hangs from the ceiling because it’s flying. I screwed in a tiny eye-hook and hung the bird by a piece of monofilament. — Maureen
NOTES FROM THE TUTORIAL AND SUPPLY LIST:
*We used a little hot glue to attach odds and ends of roots to our creatures.
**For painting the creatures, you don’t have to completely cover the surface of the wood with paint. Leaving some of the natural wood showing looks really cool.
***If you want to make bases, cut some nice wood in a square or rectangle or any shape. Sand it so it’s nice and smooth. Sand the edges to make them roundish so they aren’t sharp. Figure out if you want to drill a hole or just glue on your creature onto the base. We made our bases out of scraps of walnut wood, the trees that grow actual walnuts on them.
Below, we have a few other roots we haven’t painted yet. We are going to keep making these creatures. One of these roots is going to become a flying dragon with a tail made of smoke and fire coming out of its mouth. What do you see in these? Please let us know in the comments.
acrylic paints, markers or other tools to decorate the puppets **
hot glue, regular glue (like Elmer’s) ***
paint brushes if you decide to use paint
How to make the puppets:
Decide what you want to make. We liked the idea of a mouth opening to reveal something inside. Ema also made an egg that “hatches.” You could choose to make a person whose mouth opens to show a word-bubble, or an envelope that opens to show a letter inside. We mostly got our ideas from this lovely Flickr user, Molas & Company, but I can think of lots more ideas… get creative!
Draw your shapes on heavy weight paper and cut out.
Cut through the middle of the shape so you have two halves to glue to the two parts of the clothespin
Paint or otherwise decorate your puppet shape.
Make the inside piece and attach to the bottom of the puppet shape.
Figure out the best placement of the two halves, on your clothespin.
Hot glue the two halves of your puppet shape onto the bottom and top of the clothespin.
Have fun with your puppets:
Adia played with her puppets while watching Fantasia, above. They are interacting with the movie. That’s what I call active-watching (and a brave puppet whale!)
Notes & Tips:
* One of the puppets we made using a lighter weight paper because Adia liked the color. The paper sort of curled, so I would suggest a heavier weight (cover stock is perfect) paper.
** We used acrylic paints and I limited the girls to just black and white (and gray mixed from the two colors.) Use brushes or any other tool you can think of, to apply the paint. The tan chameleon has a texture made by stamping white paint with the tip of a sponge brush (see photo below.) You could also use a pencil eraser to make polka dots. Get creative!
If you use a heavy weight paper, or light cardboard, you could decorate the puppets with glued on buttons, sequins, beads, felt, bits of fabric, ribbons, or pieces of magazine photos. Very young artists could use stickers.
*** We used Elmer’s glue to attach paper bits to the paper puppet shapes. Hot glue to attach the puppet shapes to the clothespin. Use whatever glue you think will work best with the stuff you’re applying to your puppets.