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Glittering Shards

Glittering Shards: February 2010

Glittering Shards

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Running with a purpose

Have I mentioned that I have been running 2 or 3 times a week since January? I have been running in the snow, in the driving rain, the drizzle and occasionally, in the sunshine. Last week I saw the first crocuses and did a  little yipee inside. I am still captivated by the look of bare branches reaching skywards, against that bluey grey backdrop that is the winter sky - that's me looking for the silver lining of this winter weather that seems (still) never ending.

My running is inspired by a two-fold purpose. Firstly, to get ready for the longest run I have ever done in my life! 10 kilometres to be precise. In two Sunday's time (Mother's Day no less) I will be setting off on the the Wimbledon 10K (I am told its quite hilly - agh!). My pace is picking up, the length of time I am running is getting longer (55mins). Thanks goodness for the beauty of Tooting Bec Common to run around.

Secondly, I am raising money for the Kandy Street Children project in Sri Lanka. My dearest friend, Charlotte, has been working with the Kandy project for 3 years, providing counselling, life skills training and organisational development to help sustain and grow this crucial work with children who would otherwise be left on the streets without care, education or ways of meeting their basic needs. They work to defy the local belief that "street children are born bad". I have seen (on DVD) and heard first hand from my friends about this work and it always hits me that the very basics of practical care and nurture that we need to grow into healthy adults is just not there for so many children. Thank God for beautiful people who work against the odds to fill the huge gaps left by poverty, war, disaster and human broken-ness. Read more about  the Kandy project here and if you want to sponsor my run on 14th March to raise money for the project, you can do so by clicking below which will take you to the Just Giving website - a totally secure and quick way to donate.The money will go to the Kandy Street Project via the Epiphany Trust, which is a UK partner.

Thank you!


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Happy things

 I have finished my latest piece. When I look at this piece it makes me feel...happy. The simple shapes, muted colour palette, mixed materials (I love using slate) and the little glittery bits of broken jewellery all just work so nicely together. And my obsession with swirls continue (I just can't get away from them). This design was a doodle I did one day about a year ago - its a lovely feeling seeing a doodle turn into something so solid!

My next project is a commission of a Portuguese cockerel and yesterday my order from Mosaic Trader arrived (iridescent tiles, transluscent red millefiori, red mirror - yummy!) so I am ready to play! The cockerel is on a wedi board base as the piece will move inside to outside during the year. Wedi is totally water resistant material so great for outdoor mosaics. I created the hanging system by modifying Nancie Pipgras' wedi hanging instructions. I embedded the hanging wire (on the front of the piece where I will mosaic) into the wedi by digging a channel, pushing the wire in and then putting cement adhesive over it. The metal re-enforcement rings you can see are rivets but instead of using a pair for each hole, I used two of the same and glued them in place to form a solid ring of metal for the wire to go through. Voila! It has fully dried now and it is really strong.

The grey, cold rain persists here and the other day I was driving and heard Bill Withers'  "Lovely Day" on the radio. It got me thinking about happy songs. We need things to induce happy feelings when the weather is so persistently grim, don't you think? Another one of mine is Al Jarreau's "Mornin'". Great tune and doubly good for its reminder of that great series, Moonlighting (remember that?!).What are your happy songs?

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Orange Peel Mosaics

My lovely friend, Freddie, suggested putting citrus fruit peel on top of a radiator to release the zingy smell and the end product, dried peel, gave me the idea for this children's mosaic method. Smells great while  you are making them too!

You will need :
  • Dried citrus peel. We used oranges, clementines, satsumas and the lovely dark orange skin of our favourite Sicilian blood oranges from Abel & Cole (I had a craving for these the other day and ordered a whole bag for myself!). Lemons would be lovely too and maybe limes?
  • Thick black card, or ordinary cardboard painted black to provide a dramatic 'grout' effect.
  • White craft glue and spreaders
 After you have thoroughly dried your peel, break it up into smallish pieces.  

Cut out the shape of the mosaic you want to make (alternatively you can do a picture). We chose a sunshine and a bird to add to our spring corner.

Spread the glue fairly thickly before adding your orange peel 'mosaic tiles'.

Cover your shape with the peel, leaving a small gap between each 'tile'. The pieces can be easily shaped by snapping the edges (if only it were so easy with tile mosaics!).

Leave to dry - the glue will go clear. (If the card you have used is thin, it might curl a bit. If this happens, put it under a heavy book to flatten it).

 If you are doing a hanging mosaic, you need to mosaic the other side and leave to dry.

Make a small hole for hanging with a skewer (you can do this before you 'tile' or after as the peel is easily pierced) and attach some hanging thread.

For the bird, we added googly eyes (a big favourite around here!), some tail feathers and pipe cleaner feet.

Hang and enjoy!

Our spring corner is evolving - the hyacinth is in bloom, the sunflower seeds have sprouted and we found a salt dough bird and nest which we made last year that we have added. Meanwhile, outside it is freezing and wet. Ho hum!

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How to nurture creativity in children

I love lists. It is a matter of much amusement to those who know me well. I love them a lot, too much maybe. I would be lost without them. I have enjoyed reading my fellow local aritst, Amelia's lists on her blog recently (see here and here) and I feel its time to indulge the Monica in me with a bloggy list of my own.

I was musing yesterday on my experience of nurturing my children to express and love creativity. This was prompted by watching them bounce in from nursery, go straight to their table and start cutting and sticking gorgeous collages like this one made by Toby yesterday evening.

I realised that one of the reasons they take so easily to being this way is that I leave materials and glue in a place they can reach if they want to This led me to wondering what other things we can do to nurture imagination and creativity. It reminded me of some lovely friends who have told me that my blog has really helped them have a go at creative stuff with their kids, even though they don't feel so creative themselves. So...time for a list!

I am going to start this list and I would love to you to add to it. I will eventually put it as a separate link on the blog so that people who visit can jump straight to it. This list is just from my experience. Feel free to add your experiences, book or web site recommendations in the comments - I would love to learn more too!

How to nurture creativity in children
1. Accept that children are our teachers. They have no inhibitions, no fear of doing it wrong. They work from their left, instinctive, brains so naturally, the part we have to switch off to get rid of the voice that says we are no good at art / creativity / making.  They think wacky, make wacky - they are way out of the box. In fact there is no box to speak of (unless and until society puts it there). I have to confess to a moment of teeny tiny jealousy a few months ago when Isabella was in my studio making her own mosaic alongside me and I saw what she was making and the unself-conscious manner in which she was doing it. What a lesson.

2. Model creativity. Have a go. It doesn't matter what the end product is like, its the process that matters. Let your children see you join in, letting go, getting messy and having fun making and creating. And if you don't already, pick up a creative hobby of your own so that they see you and learn that making and creating is a satisfying part of life (in whatever form that takes).

3. Leave the stuff of making in easy reach. I have toyed with this one for a while. Truth is, because of the age my little ones, I am not going to leave paint and gloopy glue in easy reach - much as I want to encourage creative expression! Instead, I have created a table and creative corner with their pencils, glue, paper, card, stickers and such like. Its still messy. Things get taken out and spilled onto the floor (so we learn to tidy - topic for another list maybe?!). But its worth it and it works. I also leave things like finger knitting, balls of wool, scarves or threading around when they haven't played with them in a while.

3. Respond positively to the fantastical and magical - whether it is creativity being expressed visually, in words or play, don't put it down as silly. Its fun, its their world, its gorgeous - not very grown up, true - but just so special. Our two are regularly making up the most bizarre names for themselves, us and others in their pretend play. You should hear what we get called! And tempting though it is to guide their art making to what we think looks right / perfect, we need to learn to sit on our hands and watch the nose be placed where an eyebrow should be and the picture of granny getting six legs!

4. Save things that you would normally throw away to use for making. Before throwing something away, I always ponder "What can we use this for?" (see the broken whisk that became a flower here!). I save milk bottle tops (the shiny ones) and plastic lids (turned into caterpillars with pipe cleaners) and the usual suspects (loo rolls etc..!). Putting them in separate containers so you can manage the piles of stuff helps (as it does for the tidy ups afterwards!).

5. Notice things in your environment and talk about them with your children- the colour in the sky, lines on the buildings, texture. Art and creativity is about learning to see,  which children are very good atNoticing and talking about what we see can become a common currency in the language of our families that encourages the artistic eye.

6. Have Family Make Times. We haven't done this a lot but the few times we have done it stand out as really warm memories for me. We have sat round the table with a pile of play dough and made stuff. We have cut out cardboard stars and glittered them for a Christmas display (with our friends Charlotte and Rob - and I do remember Rob saying he had not made anything since he was a boy and had really enjoyed it!). We have covered the table with lining paper and had family drawing time. The key is in your attitude. You are not helping the children do art and crafts, you are doing it alongside them.Great, great fun and happy memories made.

7. Praise and show off their creative work. Avoid general "that's lovely" praise and use descriptive praise instead. "I love the way you have put those colours together". "You have concentrated really hard to draw those lines in that way" etc... I did a post here about the children's art gallery in our home and I find its a lovely way to honour their creativity too.

I am going to stop at number 7 on the list (which is quite good for me!) and hand over to you now...

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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Caught in the act of making!

Here are some works currently being made by me and three of my students - two more students are just getting going so will post them soon.

My current work - just for fun!




They are all beginners in mosic - aren't people's creative minds and hands so amazing?

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Hurry up spring!

Over the Christmas period, a shelf in our house was given over to a nativity scene (you can see it here). Once Christmas was over, the empty shelf sat there for a few weeks, looking miserable. One day I thoughtlessly placed a couple of objects there (they were floating without a home - do you have those?) just because it was somewhere to put them. Well, the contrast between the white background, the fairy lights (left over from Christmas) and the colour of these said objects (a Nicaraguan sun made of a coconut shell and seed pods and a Marimekko tin) just made me happy. Strange, I know, but the reason is that the shelf suddenly looked like spring. I am suffering, along with most of the northern hemisphere I am sure, with an urgent need for warmth and sun on my skin. Its just soooo darn cold out there. I am impatient for spring to come.

So, I decided to turn the redundant shelf, rather intentionally, into a spring corner, as our way of ushering in this most blessed of seasons.

I gathered objects and flowers in these bouncy spring colours. We made a rock spiral (oh so mosaicky, and in the spirit of "Land Art for Kids" by Richard Shilling featured on The Artful Parent blog and Land Artists, Andy Goldworthy). Some of the rocks were glittered by the kids and add a nice sparkle to the arrangement (it is still winter after all!).  Next week we will make some mosaic suns to hang from the shelf too - will post the tutorial for this as soon as its done!
Isabella was very excited to plant some sunflower seeds in these very colourful yoghurt pots (I had to raid the bird seed bag for them!). Some tulips and a budding hyacinth add the plant life and lastly, we made a huge, colourful paper tissue flower.
The inspiration for the tissue paper flower came from a broken whisk (lots of my inspiration comes from not wanting to throw things away and thinking "Surely we can find a use for this?").

You can get a whisk for under £1 these days, and with a bit of tissue paper and glue, this is a really inexpensive craft activity with a big, loud result! A new whisk will be even better than what we used as you will have a handle that can be used as a stem. Just imagine, several of these in a BIG vase!

Ok, so here's how we did it:

You need:
  • A whisk
  • Some sticky tape
  • Different coloured tissue paper
  • PVA / Children's white glue
Open up each loop of the whisk by bending it back so that each loop is like a petal
Use sticky tape to secure each loop to the one next to it, so that the flower stays nicely open

With liberal use of glue and patience, glue tissue paper onto each petal. It will be messy, and you might get holes in the paper. Just layer on top with another piece, a bit like paper mache'. 

When you have done all the petals (back and front), scrunch up a ball of green tissue for the middle of the flower and glue it on.

Finish by giving each petal a liberal coating of glue and then leave to dry. The glue will dry clear and make the tissue paper sturdy and shiny!

Beware, some colours of tissue paper (purple in particular) bleeds a lot when wet with glue - it stained our kitchen table (which we don't mind but you might!).

Have fun ushering in the spring.

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