I'm currently working on a kids' activity book that's centered around Walnut Beach, the area of Milford, Connecticut where our artists' collective shop, Artfish42, is located. Just off the coast of Milford lies Charles Island, a.k.a. "Thrice Cursed Island". for the three times it's been jinxed.
FIRST, by pirate Captain William Kidd, who's said to have dumped SOME of his treasure on the island on his way up to Boston, under a boulder known as "Hog Rock". Captain Kidd cursed anyone on the prowl for his stolen stash. (He never got the chance to come back for the goods, because in Boston he was arrested, then put in prison and on trial in England, and then... well, let's just say his sentence wasn't like a DAY AT THE BEACH.)
SECOND, by the Paugussett tribe, who believed that Charles Island was a sacred home to the spirits. After the Paugussetts lost the island to the European settlers, the tribe cursed the place and anyone who tried to live there. (Which may be why just birdies and turtles live there now.)
THIRD, by a group of 18th-century sailors who, like Captain Kidd, are rumored to have buried their booty in the sand. The curse is pretty boilerplate: "Don't dig for our stuff, or it'll be curtains for ya!"
Because of the rich history of Charles Island (which you can pretty much see if you step outside our shop and look towards the water), I HAVE to do some pirate pages. Just to give you a taste of what this book will contain, here's a logic puzzle page featuring some invented pirates of Charles Island. I like them so much I'm planning on adding to their gang for another activity.
This book will contain word searches, hidden object pictures, coloring pages -- you know, all the tried-N-true kiddie educational stuff that has been the foundation of my illustration life for Lo these umpteen years. Only now, I get to imagine it, design it, and write it too! If you have a favorite type of puzzle that you reallllllly want me to get in there -- Now's yer chance, matey!
Here's a flyer with the details about a Puppet Camp I'll be leading this July at our artists' collective shop, Artfish42, in the Walnut Beach section of Milford, CT. If you know of anyone who'd be interested in participating, please feel free to share this with them and thank you!
Everyone & their muther has a tutorial on making apple pies in miniature on YouTube. I wanted to set these pies apart from the teeming masses so I included li'l American flags. These I made by shrinking down (via my pal Photoshop) one of those American flags that come attached to toothpicks. They are attached to bits of (Christmas ornament) wire. Wire gives me more flexibility and positioning possibilities and a toothpick would have been too fat/ wrong scale. The last step was adding a layer of Triple Thick for shine, to protect the paper and make it a little more substantial.
In my last two posts about puppet-making with middle schoolers, we crafted spoon puppets and bag puppets. Next up: FINGER PUPPETS!
The sample finger puppets I made (above) were crafted from the simple patterns (below). Feel free to use the patterns for your own puppet-crafting session!
I loaded up the supply table with craft felt and felt scraps, sewing thread, pins, needles, googly eyes, ribbons, faux fur, pom poms, feathers, paper (construction, etc.). Just go through your stash of crafting supplies and pull out anything that might remotely work. You'll also need the usual: scissors, glue, hot glue, etc.
I recommend using craft felt with kids because:
It's inexpensive and kids can learn and perfect crafting techniques without breaking the bank
There are SO many colors and patterns (ladybug, zebra, tiger) and textures (cobblestone) that are sure to spark some captivating characters
I had the kids cut out the pattern of their choice and pin it to two pieces of felt (or a folded piece), so that they could cut out the front and back of the puppet in ONE FELL SWOOP. School scissors being what they are, this isn't always the easiest of tasks.
TIP: Invest in a bunch of good sewing scissors of varying sizes (kids' hands at this age range from little-kid-esque to full-blown adult size). The expense will pay for itself in decreasing the kids' frustration in not being able to cut, and will save YOU time in having to cut the shapes out for them.
If pinning isn't going well, have your kids trace around the pattern piece with a pencil or chalk. Sharpie markers are not the way to go for this task. Many of my students used them, and Sharpies, while permanent on most surfaces, don't do such a hot job on craft felt. Smeary & messy.
ANOTHER TIP: For decorating, instead of using Sharpies, try using fabric pens or the fabric paint that comes in easy-to-apply containers, where the nozzle serves double-duty as the applicator. (Remember to factor in Dry Time for these paints.)
I wanted to give the kids an opportunity to see what other finger puppets could be, so I showed them a puppet short, Mister Pink & Horsy, and brought in a couple of examples.
I've talked in the earlier puppet-making blog posts about wanting to come up with projects for the middle-schoolers that didn't seem too "babyish", and that held true for this lesson too. I can make "cute" exemplars, and those are great for many of the girls, but I can't count on tween and teen boys getting into that. SO, for another variation on what a finger puppet can be, I created a Killer Clown.
Regular clowns: Lame. Killer clowns: Way more interesting. And all you really need to do is add hostile eyebrows and some fangs!
In mocking this up, it became apparent that the legs needed to be longer to make the scale make sense. HENCE: Finger/Leg extensions. These were just quickly made, and really could be explored much further.
I'd learned about making mini candy buttons from a YouTube video which showed the clever idea of cutting strips of white paper backing from sticker sheets (around 3.8" wide). Since sticker sheet paper is slightly "waxy", it makes a pretty decent replica of the real thing. The added bonus is that it's more durable than a strip of regular ol' paper.
The tutorial showed the candy buttons being created by dipping a toothpick into acrylic paint and dotting the paint onto the paper strip. This DOES work, but it's pretty tedious, takes a LOT of time, and paint blobs/mistakes are hard to wipe off without wrecking a whole row of buttons.
One of the REALLY COOL things about being involved in the artists' collective shop, Artfish42, is this wider community of area artists we now get to meet. Michael J Clocks, a mixed-media sculptor working with recycled electronics, is one of these artists.
Michael was busy working on an installation for Smoke and Mirrors Parlor this past winter. Imagine my delight when I heard that he'd purchased a bunch of my mini composition book sets and was sketching in them. Of course I had to see! I love minis and sketching in pretty much equal measure, so you hafta know that I was crazy about the detail he was able to achieve on a small scale.
This was also the first time I'd seen the wall that he'd created for Smoke & Mirrors. Part sculptural, part mural, this piece is captivating -- futuristic, other-worldly and incredibly-detailed. Not only that, but it's a marvel to consider that it was created from discarded and recycled items.
Since I work with tweens and teenagers at the very end of their long school day, I've found it real important to show samples (my own and online references) that will entice them to dig in and make stuff.
(The above devil has faux fur for eyebrows and goatee, and a balloon for a nose. Arms are made in three parts and are jointed with brads.)
I brought in a wide variety of supplies for them -- brown and colored bags (party stores are a good source), yarn, felt, paper, googly eyes, etc. I was influenced by Fandango's unconventional items being used for hair, so I also brought in some ancient, uncooked twisty pasta that I found here at the Manse.
WORD OF CAUTION: Tweens and Teenagers will EAT ancient, uncooked twisty pasta, especially if they're trying to impress a love interest. So maybe don't bring in ancient pasta for them to use. THINGS I'VE LEARNED I SHARE WITH YOU NOW!