Sunday, April 27, 2014

what she saw

i did it again.  i taught GRACE art to the fifth graders.  oh, how i enjoy time with these classmates of diana's!

the latest presentation highlighted two artists: louise nevelson and martin puryear.  i had specific guidelines to follow in teaching this, and i'm rather pleased with myself in how i accomplished this and and how the students interpreted it.

puryear's ladder for booker t. washington was our initial design inspiration.  i gave the students a blank white sheet of good quality art paper, wood glue, an unlimited supply of popsicle sticks, toothpicks, and wooden coffee stirrers, and the directive to create a ladder any way they liked.  (there was to be no writing or identification of the artist on their piece to facilitate the next step.)

part two was my favorite, though.  louise nevelson was famous for, among other things, her assemblages of found wooden objects.  i asked for student volunteers to work on assemblages from among all the art pieces that were created.  all my volunteers were female and worked individually or sometimes in pairs to sort through and evaluate each piece.  i suggested to each girl that she find the pieces that "spoke" to her in some way: rotate them, move them around, place them next to others, see if anything emerged.  once satisfied, they named their assemblages and found places on the wall to mount them.

here's what they came up with:

"perfectly imperfect"





"the ladder of progression"


"roller coaster"

"little bits"


"little bits"
in each case, i love what she saw.  what a fabulous way to create art, embracing styles and techniques from artists they had never heard of previously.  this is just what i think GRACE art can be.

Friday, April 25, 2014

what taryn told me

we had our homeschool sewing circle/handwork club this past monday afternoon.  (yes, i know that both diana and ander are currently in public school but i try to not let that interfere with everything that has to do with our homeschool connections.  that's why we host this club once a month on monday afternoons because the kids are out early from school.)

as you may have noted, it's not just sewing we do here - we welcome all sorts of activities and projects one can do with one's hands.  rainbow loom work, drawing, sewing, and knitting are still  favorites with our ever-changing group of attendees, but i was craving origami, so i let the gang know ahead of time so other enthusiasts would know to bring their paper and their books and other resources to share.

i don't have any origami pictures from our gathering because i had my hands and my brain occupied with folding a rabbit and simultaneously guiding three other people in several different projects.  thank goodness for diana, who rescued us from the confusion we were all experiencing trying to make a standing fox.  she led a couple of friends in building the go-to creation she can practically do with her eyes covered - a cicada - while i walked taryn through the house and piano and made kathy a waterbomb.

what i can tell you, though, is that what we did earlier this week stayed* with two of us.  taryn, by way of her blog, told me that she now considers herself an origamist and has enjoyed exploring more paperfolding.  and i, perusing the library shelves for collections of poetry to read and share, found a lovely book named fold me a poem by kristine george.  the illustrations by lauren stringer  delighted me from the very first page, on which there is a charming haiku about a rooster.

thank you, taryn, for what you told me. :)

i did manage to capture this shot of ander admiring the chibi portrait diana drew of him. he did not fold with us but did enjoy directing new scenarios for his expanding collection of diecast cars characters.
* one of my very favorite sites for origami is  the instructions and videos are well done and easy for me to follow. another site with a large array of designs is

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

how my garden will grow: an earth day tribute

taking a lesson from last year, i planted my garden on the day before easter.  maybe i was too eager, though, unsure if we will get another cold snap, but live and learn, i suppose.

my search at meadows farms was pleasant and productive.  there were so many pretty things to choose from.  i came home with coleus, marigolds, cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, kale, peppermint, and three packets of herb seeds.

"mr stripey" tomato
"bush crop" cucumber

"red cherry" tomato

"red russian" kale

"black beauty" zucchini

the upper deck

this area will get a lot of shade when the tree leaves fill in, hence the coleus

so will this. i don't recall what the green leaves are for. maybe a bulb flower?

our yard planting area

ander asked for marigolds

so i got some

the variety makes me smile. as do the pots, which we received from a freecycler and decorated with tape.

i also put in some basil seeds and am anxiously awaiting the appearance of seedlings, which will prompt me to start the cilantro and flat italian parsley.

i finally ordered the seeds for the salad green ander has asked to grow since last summer: rampion.  haven't heard of it?  it's the one thing that rapunzel's mother craved while she was pregnant and the basis for the fairy tale iconic name.  i only hope our experience will be as successful as paul zelinsky's.  maybe i'll follow my homeschool friend's advice and wait until mother's day to plant these seeds.  it would be a lovely start to my growing project with ander, who says that he will harvest the leaves in a bag and wash them off and make me a salad which i will eat with joy.  i'm sure i will.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

the things i didn't expect were just as good as the things i had planned

easter sunday 2014.  not just the easter of western christianity, but orthodox easter, too.  twice the impetus for egg decorating, though we always color more than just red.

i planned to try something new this year, a different look than what we have done in the past (see here and here and here for prior examples).  i did, in fact, do that, but i want to tell you first about what i didn't plan for but loved just as much.  embracing embodied.

i made a quick trip to ohio to visit my parents last week with the kids during their spring break from school.  gammy (my mom) had hard-boiled four dozen eggs so we would have plenty of material to work with.  i wasn't sure if ander was going to want to color very many; he surveyed our work area and confidently confided in me that he was planning on doing "just two: one red and one green."

while diana started drawing on some eggs with crayons, ander was a little impatient for the water to be heated, so he decided to drop food dye directly on an egg.  he was delighted.  "i'm doing art!" he exclaimed.  yes!

putting it into a small glass was helpful to keep the dye off his fingers and the work surface

red and green for this one
we talked about how the color would not really stay on the eggs without an acid (vinegar) to etch it into the shell, so he agreed to a quick dip into a prepared color wash and was pleased with the results.

the effect was unexpected and pretty.  it reminded me of watching a glassblower at work - the misshapen blob of hot glass turning into an appealing object of an entirely different color.  ander had created a different (to us) technique for coloring eggs that was dramatic and lovely with elements of surprise and random beauty.

gammy had read about stirring some oil into the vinegar/hot water wash before adding the color, so we tried that, too.

i focused on dropping dye onto an egg already in a wash or just having come out of a wash.  both ways allowed the color to spread over the surface.

diana, as she does, created a whole series of eggs based on her favorite cool-math game du jour, rolling hero.  the ovoid shape lent itself well.

and also the rattie boys:

all in all, we made a lovely assortment.

the cracking and peeling were almost as much fun as the coloring.  ander's egg won the first round of the competition.  he enjoyed this game so much that we indulged him in playing until i had nearly a dozen eggs to peel for egg salad.  did you know that a pastry blender is an effective tool for chopping hard-boiled eggs?  all these years i've been using my egg slicer and a fork.  go figure.

gratuitous cute picture of my son holding the bunny boarding at my parents' house for the week
it was on easter sunday that i sat down at the freshly-cleared art table with my blown eggs to decorate.  diana wandered over and joined me for a couple.  i love working side-by-side with her on art.  she and i share well, offer positive comments on each others' progress, and get into our own zones fairly easily.

i was very pleased with the ease of use and effectiveness of my new egg-blowing tool.  the single hole is so small that it can be easily hidden.

my first attempt at an interpretation of psysanky using hot glue as a resist.  i don't recommend this as a technique due to its lack of precision and the stickiness of the glue, but a friend kindly pointed out it reminded her of a watermelon, so that's all right then.

zentangle egg 2

diana's zentangle egg

zentangle egg one

diana's cherry blossom

cherry blossom, in honor of the national festival we did not attend this year
i leave you with one last photo.  it's a pysanky-ish egg that a lifelong friend gave to my mom when i was very young.  she's kept it all this time and gave it to me for my collection.  i think it will inspire me to get the proper tools to work on pysanky next year.