Monday, January 27, 2014

a child's designated art space?

What are your art spaces like for your children? Do you clean everything away? Keep it out? Do your children ask for art supplies often? I've been thinking about this a lot as I set up our homeschooling environment. How many supplies can I keep out before it become chaos, and how much is not enough?

Here's a great question I got on my Facebook page, from a friend:
I was wondering if you would share your thoughts about creating art spaces for kids. S loves art and draws every day. But we are swimming in materials and space is an issue. Do you have any ideas about creating a space that works for the whole family? And what materials do you suggest? Honestly, he loves to free draw. So I always make sure he has paper, crayons, markers and pencils. Can I get rid of the bins and baskets of other materials without depriving him? It gets so chaotic so quickly. Thanks

And here is my answer:
It's a great question. I think there are a few factors that can contribute to how you handle an art area in your home. 
1- How much mess can you take? 2-What kind of supplies do you have? 3-Do you like to create with your children, or leave them to it?

1- I am a very messy person and I enjoy mess - up to a point, and then I'm done! However, I've been finding that my personal philosophy and style embraces a working/in process space. I don't like my living space to be static and feel like a hotel. That's just me. We have supplies everywhere and I try to keep them organized, but our house can feel like one big studio some times! For others this might drive them nuts (and I get it, I really do), they might need to have a specific, designated space for such activities, but I would encourage that person to challenge themselves to leave the materials out for little hands to easily access. When they are packed away and over-organized a child is much less likely to run with an idea and go crazy making (and learning tremendous amounts through that making time).

I came across this wonderful quote from Lori Pickert of Project Based Homeschooling, "A streamlined learning experience smooths off all the rough edges and the rough edges are generally where most of the learning happens". I think this applies to how your home and art making area is set up. The more access children have to getting into the muck and mess of an idea, the more they learn. 

2) I am a huge proponent of throwing out the crayons and buying kids really fantastic art supplies. Get oil pastels instead of crayons, the color is so much more rich and the texture offers so much more to explore. Buy high quality markers (that don't wash off walls!), get bottles of tempera paint and water color paint, good brushes, not the crappy kinds you get at toy stores. Having good art supplies will show your children how much you love what they are doing and will encourage them to do more because it will be so satisfying and the process and results will be so dynamic.

3) If you have a designated space that's not too confining and you have an organizing system that you can live with then you are good to go, but it sounds like it's driving you a little nuts. Do you sit down and make things with him too? Does he prefer to work by himself? I ask these things because I have found that when I have sat down and joined in, or done my own work alongside my kids, the mess bothers me less. I'm in the process with them and seeing it from their perspective which is "WOW! I have so many cool things to work with. Gimme more!" This may not be exactly what you are looking for, but if you can embrace a little of the mess and mayhem of an art space the payoff is huge. I'm so excited that S is such an artist. I'd love to see some of his work! Thanks for your question. I am working out all these things as I go along. I'd love to hear more about your solutions / process / journey.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Freak Flag Friday

What tiny part of you, that some might call freaky, will you celebrate today?

I haven't done one if these in ages. Felt some freaky inspiration to make one today. I've been drawing a lot in the evenings after the kids are asleep. I like to watch European mystery series like "Wallander" and "George Gently" while I draw. I can let go of all the organizing, keeping track, note taking, documenting, dish washer loading and unloading, dust bunny control, and relax.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Discovery (or when someone says something you've only ever felt and can't articulate)

So Many things to get written and I find writing quite hard, so I'm going to go stream of consciousness and see if I remember it all.

I'll make a list so I don't forget:

1- we've started homeschooling Rudy.
2- It's new and overwhelming
3- It's also been so much more enjoyable than I ever imagined it would
4- I've come to realize how extremely selfish I have been
5- I'm living life from a completely different point of view
6- Rudy is so happy, calm and relaxed since this HS business began.
7- I discovered, stumbled upon, this website Camp Creek Blog, and it has put words and actions to something I've only felt and couldn't quite access in my brain.
8- I'm going to publish this now and come back to write more, so check back.
9- I know I say that a lot so you may not believe me, but 2014 is also the year of better habits, and keeping a record (sketch book, HS notes, blogging, not just Instagram!) of our days is at the top of my list along with cleaning more!
10- Be right back.

So I'm back. I promised, didn't I?

My kids are playing a crazy game at the other end of the house. I've had so much coffee I feel like my eye balls might pop out, and I feel another list coming on:

1- The blog I mentioned above is blowing my mind. Not in the "why did I never think of this before kind of way", but in the "this is speaking so profoundly into my life I don't know where to start", kind of a way.
2- I have a friend who will never agree with something off the bat. She always questions, always doubts, and questions some more. I'm the complete opposite. I go gung-ho at something if I like the sound of it. I have learned to ask more questions and doubt a little more, from my friend. I don't want to be as extreme as she is, but I do want to have a healthy dose of skepticism, so that I can form my own opinion and know what I want. I'm not good at claiming what I believe and want, but I'm getting better.
3- So, taking this confidence into my thinking around the ideas espoused in the above blog, I hope to come away with a teaching / life-with-kids approach that I really believe in, and where I am not just along for the ride.
5- Messy Lab Studio grew out of wanting children to have a space to get messy, to explore ideas and to celebrate messy spaces, messy work and messy exploration. I didn't realize that Project Based Learning is what I have been looking for all this time! I haven't been brave enough, and I've been so wrapped up in my own studio work (selfishly) that I haven't cared to examine how my kids are learning, and how Messy Lab Studio mixed in with that. Lori Pickert and her wonderful blog have begun to make the connection for me. I am eternally grateful.
4-Here are some of my favorite quotes from the blog that directly relate to ideas I have been kicking around for a while. I never knew why I was so dissatisfied with the approaches I'd read about, or the projects I'd tried to do with my kids. I was heading in the right direction, but hadn't got far enough along the path. I'd been too much in the way...I'm trying to move over and let the kids run forward into deeper learning and discovery.

This first one is a zinger. I may make it my mantra for 2014.

A streamlined learning experience smooths off all the rough edges and the rough edges are generally where most of the learning happens. - Lori Pickert

If you see a table full of kids working with identical-looking projects in front of them, then you are looking at something that is not authentically self-directed or self-motivated. It is just a “cool,” “fun” project that an adult dreamed up for some kids to do, that an adult planned, that an adult organized, and that an adult carefully translated into directions the kids could follow. Look at all the work being accomplished *by the adult*. That is so much closer to what we expect to see in a classroom and too far away from real learner-centered education. - Lori Pickert

If kids cycle from one follow-directions project to the next, with everything on a time schedule (“We have to finish our rockets this week because next week we start remote-control planes!”), then what you’re looking at is not innovative, not learner-centered, and not offering deep understanding or long-term engagement. It’s the same old hash repackaged as something new. - Lori Pickert

Kids should be collaborating, supporting, learning how to offer and ask for help and how to say a polite “no, thank you.” They should be copying one another, getting excited by each other’s ideas, and extending one another’s ideas. They should be challenged by what another child does with their idea and want to go back and incorporate that child’s extensions into their own original plan.
If that is not happening, again, what is the point?
Real learning requires multiple iterations, feedback, collaboration, and sharing.
-Lori Pickert

True self-directed learning is not assigned. It is not done within a structure provided by someone else. It proceeds at its own natural, organic pace.
It is self-motivated. It grows out of a desire to learn something, create something, and/or solve a problem — but the motivation is personal.
The learner is absolutely necessary — he connects a collection of ideas, plans, questions, and actions to create something unique. If you can lift your child out and shove any kid in there, then it isn’t personal, which means you can do better. - Lori Pickert
Children can do authentic project work with the support of adults who want to mentor rather than lead. It requires adults to put the individual before the structure rather than plugging kids into a preplanned framework. - Lori Pickert

What do YOU think?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Margot Mondays - Advent calendar part I

Monday is the one full day of the week that I have with Margot. She is in preschool the rest of the week and so it's a precious day. However, like many of you, I also have work to get done, groceries to buy, dishes to do, laundry to wash, and email to check. Many Mondays are spent doing far too much busy work. I have missed connecting with my kids through art making (one of the original ideas behind this blog)  and so I thought - let's make Monday all about Margot. 

I know it's Tuesday and I'm a little late getting this Margot Monday kicked off, but to be honest I didn't think of Margot Monday until the wee hours of Tuesday morning! So here we are, and I want to show you what we did yesterday. 

Margot loves art projects just as much as I do, and so we came up with a fly by the seat of your pants Advent calendar idea. This week we used stamps, ink, and glue to make envelopes for each day of December and Margot painted clothes pegs to hang them up with. Next week we will do the really fun part of dumpster diving (or walking to our local grocery store and asking) for a palette to break up and use for the back of the calendar.

Come back next Monday (or probably Tuesday) for the next installment.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday studios - flat files


I'm pining after some flat files. Do you have any? Are they useful? I've twice been offered some, and have missed both opportunities. I'm kicking myself now. I'm salivating over these wooden ones I saw on Blissful blog

Photo: Diana Lovring
and this set that looks a little worse for wear, but very loved and still functional.

I have a  feeling I may be more in the Ikea budget range, but you never know what you might stumble on. I love this use of multiple files to create a large work space. The photo is from this interior design firm, but it looks like a possible Ikea hack to me. 

I will leave you with this exquisite set of drawers. They are part of the collection of Alketas Pazis, who runs a  prop house in Greece.  Follow the link to see his exquisite showroom. The collection is extraordinary.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

sunday studios

Jenny Saville in her studio
 ‘Motherhood has also taught me to cut the crap. I used to come in and make coffee, read the paper, have lunch. Time was fluid and I probably wasted it. Now I come in, take off my coat and start.’ -taken from

Irene Lagut in her studio, Paris, 1922

One of Picasso's most famous works, The Lovers (1923), is based on their relationship which began in 1916 and continued, on and off for many years.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

sunday studio

Here's a new idea: Sunday studios. I've been finding studios on Pinterest that I'd love to work in. I do love to have a good browse and pin, but I also miss the flick of a magazine page and the surprise and sense of discovery there was in it. On Pinterest you just expect to find inspiring things. It takes a little of the joy out of it for me. BUT...

I'm not going to complain when I find such a sweet space as this. It took me a little while to find the source (another thing that bugs me about Pinterest), but finally I traced it back to a ceramic artist who's space is named "Up in the air somewhere" studio. They make exquisite ceramic vessels, but it would be hard not to in a space like this. I love the windows, quirky floor, cluster of lights and collection of mis-matched tables.

So long Sunday.