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Monday, February 27, 2006

What's in a name?

A much less stressful day at the little school of horrors . The substitute teacher was a retired lady who was less willing to take snash. The class teacher had worked miracles in my absence and all the dog's bodies were finished giving me a clear run at the heads.

In they swaggered, full nonsense. I decided to try some breathing exercised to begin. We inflated and deflated ourselves like balloons, several times, remembering what it felt like to be a deflated balloon - quiet and calm - and trying to keep that feeling with us throughout the day. It certainly helped with the noise lever initially. I'd like to use more drama in the classroom. I'll learn if I get the chance.

The regular teach (who is now covering for deputy head) did say she would join us if needed. When the hot glue guns came out I called for reinforcements and the three of us managed very well. I even had time to sit the children down for a bit of reflection at the end of the day.

We went round the room deciding what we would call our dogs. Some of the more memorable names were Jesus, Moses, Michael Jacksons 1 and 2 and Humper. I did enquire if the child meant Thumper but no, he assured me, it was Humper. That does have a certain logic to it as do the Michael Jacksons with their bottle top noses hot glued into place. The religious names were are a little too esoteric for me and I refrained from comment.

A better day all round wth faith in human nature restored. Almost looking forward to next week's finale.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Artic antics

May I never be as cold as I was today. It was the teacher's continuing personal development workshop held in an unheated school dining hall. Schools are normally so overheated that I always wear a tshirt, summer or winter. Usually I'm stripping off and gasping for air. Today, fortunately, I had my yoga gear in the back of the van and spent the day wrapped in my relaxation blanket, but not very relaxed!

There were four facilitators. Me and my fabric collage, a lassie using press print - drawing into a polystyrene tile in other words - the dance, drumming and movement group and the wonderful puppet man whose workshop I attended last Wednesday. We were each providing four workshops throughout the day. A total of sixteen workshops. Guess how many teachers attended these 16 workshops? Three. Read it and weep. Three. Three teachers, three classroom assistants and three children's outreach workers. We each had an average a two people per workshops. Not that I'm complaining. Worse for the participants in the dance/movement workshop. Would you like to leap about like a lunatic in the company of one other complete stranger? Well, maybe....but enough of your private life.

The puppet man, as before, was just magical. He had a black curtain over which the puppets appeared. I use the work puppet loosely. He put on a white glove, stuck a polystyrene ball on his index finger and had us totally entranced. That was one of this more complicated puppets. We laughed, gasped and sighed to the antics of a wooden spoon, a spatula, a feather duster and a carpet beater. It's just amazing the way you can read the personality of a plastic spatula by the way it walks down the street. This man is just incredible with a head full of knowledge. I want to do one of those cartoon brain transplant things with him. You know, a metal colander on each of our heads connected by some spiraling wire and arching electricity....I wish I knew half he has forgotten.

The press print lassie was making circular mandalas from square tiles and chucking the remnants in the bin! I dived in the bin after them, asking her permission to salvage her remains. Press print figures large in primary schools at the moment and is not a material I have come across before. I have plenty to play with now.

In my experience school janitors fall into one of two categories. Downright obstructive or passively hostile. Not today. The jannie was an old work college of mine from the dim and distant and could not have been more helpful. But not even he could magic up some heat. With the stringent employment laws being what they are I'm sure there would have been a below minimum temperature walkout under any other circumstances. We have a repeat performance next week when I'll be wearing every item of clothing I posses plus some I have borrowed. Trust me.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

By the power invested in me....

Went to a FABULOUS workshop today in the Scottish Mask and Puppet Centre. Can see now that I've been making it way harder for myself than it needs to me. The construction of my rod puppet here was nothing short of miraculous. They showed us a brilliant way to make a marionette using a rectangle of silk. That's it! Just a rectangle of silk. Well, okay, and a polystyrene head but the silk works so beautifully. Will make one and post soon. Glove puppets can be equally effortless. The beauty of these simplistic construction techniques is that they give the children the time and freedom to enjoy the fun bits - decorating and giving their puppet character. The guy who runs these workshops has been doing it for 30 years and I've been doing it for....6 weeks? So I guess I should give myself a break. But I can see now that a lot of my problems are of my own making. So it's curtain up and on with the show.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Moving swiftly along...

Thanks to everyone for their kind messages of support after my bad day yesterday. The difficulty arose, I can now see, as the children finished their project for the day with 10 mins in hand. The devil makes work....and all that. I've seen teach allowing them to choose a board game when spare class time arises. I'll have to prime substitute teach to the same. Substitute teach is obviously a bit like the men in ones life. Needs careful management.

The pictures shows some jewellery made from junk, another of my passions. I've been trying for months to persuade the Embroiderers' Guild to let me loose on them and the first branch recently agreed. It's a posh and prestigious branch and I'm looking forard to seeing their collection of high class junk.

I've just had another eight week booking from a primary school working with the babies this time. My brief is is texture, developing colour, pattern and shape whilst celebrating the school's 10th anniversary. With six year olds? It's enough to make you long for a five foot six, insolent, gum chewing, teacher ignoring primary seven!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Bad day at black rock

No lovely pictures of what my little charges made today. It was chaos in the classroom. Teach was out of class and we had a supply teach who was rubbish at maintaining discipline. I held my own - just - getting more and more frazzled as the day went on. The final straw was a a girl who took a piece of cardboard tube with paint on it and started chasing other children and stamping their faces. I told her to give it to me and she refused. I lost my temper and physically wrestled it from her. I wasn't kneeling on her chest (much though I would like to have been) I was just trying to take the tube from her hand while she tried to stop me, shouting ouch,ouch, ouch.

Suddenly I thought this is madness. This how you end up in court charged with assault. I finally took it from her, told her my opinion of her behaviour and went to wash up. The lesson wasn't finished - but it was for me.

In situations like this my lack of training/experience lets me down. All I have to work with is common sense. I put so much planning and prep into these lessons that they become very important to me. In reality they are not. They are useless busy work for the children. Someone else to 'do' the obligatory art and give the teachers a break. If the kids choose to paint each other purple that's really none of my concern. I should keep my focus firmly on the pay off, do the minimum and go.

Need sleep, distance, rest and maybe drink.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Gangster of Lurve

Decided to dress my mad paper mache head up for Valentine's day and turn him into a bit of a gangster of lurve. Bought some large and small paper doylies from the cash & carry and persuased father in law to donate the contents of his shredder. I rubbed the puppet's head with cellulose paste and dumped him in the paper shreddings. Then I trimmed the frilly edge off the smaller paper doylie and balanced it on his ears. Voila - hardly a fedora but none the less a hat. I like the back of his head particularly.

It did occur to me the problem might be explaining to the children not what a gangster is nor what a hat is but what a paper doylie is. When you come right down to it, what the hell IS a paper doylie. If you were very posh....and you had friends coming round for tea...and you were putting out a plate of cakes.... All these thing are as foreign to these children as indulging in a few Tia Chi moves before having musili for breakfast. Oh well, who cares. As long as they grasp the hat concept in a hurry

I also put a few stitches into my fabric collage bag to make it look slightly less flung together. There will be three other makers taking part in that workshop, providing jolly things for a bunch of primary teachers to do on what should be their Saturday off. The puppet maker on that day is going to be the main man from the Scottish Mask and Puppet Centre so I will be in illustrious company. On Wednesday of next week I'm paying a visit to his esteemed establishment for a quickie workshop . I'm guessing maybe this will be the same kind of stuff he intends to show the primary teachers. Looking forward to it and rest assured, I will report back in full

Monday, February 13, 2006

Bags of flowers

I have a workshop coming up soon which is a one hour make and take for primary teachers. They have asked for fabric collage. The little house on the prairie is what I used to offer but frankly Scarlet, I'm getting bored with it. It was before I had done much work with children myself and I now realise that precision is probably not their strong suit. I decided to free it up a bit.

Years ago I went to a workshop with Richard Box . Being a virtuous and well organised girl I was able to go straight to my techniques folder this morning and unearth my sample from that workshop. Don't you just hate me? Anyway, here is my homage to Richard which I've decided to present to the teachers in bag form. A piece of old sheet will be fine for the kids but I thought it would be nice for the teachers to have something they can actually use.

I found a great supplier for these bags which end up costing less than 50p including VAT. With amazing trust ,this company will invoice you giving you 30 days to pay. Hope the don't go bust.

A good sponging with blue paint, a few old bits of foliage rubbed over with crayon, string and foam printing blocks create the background. Highlights, lowlights and glittery bits attached with Bondaweb make the flowers. I remember Richard telling us that glittery bits should be used to represent dark areas because when they are not reflecting light, they are dark. Hmmm, a bit deep for me, that one.

Leapt out of bed and launched into this whilst still in jammies and workroom is now completely trashed......but I'll tell the teachers it's a mess free technique. Seemed to get away with it last time! :)

Friday, February 10, 2006

Minking mad heads

It was mad head day at the primary school today. Paper mache modeling with kitchen towel and wallpaper paste. I had told the teacher that this was a mess free technique, God forgive me. The kids were coated, as were the tables, the loo floor, the mirrors, the classroom floor, me....need I go on? Teach was pretty cool about it all, declaring the day a success. I was less sure.

The first weird thing happened when I showed the kids this one I made earlier. It's Tommy they declared. Then Tommy came in, stopped in his tracks and announced it to be a representation of him. Poor child, it was. Tommy was not know to me until that moment so I can only assume I am channeling some famous sculptor. I've long suspected it.

The fungal free cellulose paste was a Pig with a capital P. It refused to mix in anything like a uniform fashion. I'll take my hand whisk next time. Also, the largest tub my supplier could come up with was not enough so I'll have to send for more and pay extra carriage charges which is a pig with a small p.

Listening to the children talking as they worked was so funny. Well seen what telly they watch when one little guy declared it to be just like plastic surgery. Wonder if he'll get as far as the implants? Another child declared ' This is minking - it wid gie yi the jandees!' Translation: the viscosity of this paste is making me feel nauseous.

I had intended taking in some pictures of tribal carvings but didn't get around to it. None the less a kind of tribal feel is emerging, wouldn't you say?

This is week five of an eight week project and I'm starting to form a relationship with the kids, even the naughty ones. I will miss them when it's time to go.

Next week the schools are on holiday but the week after we'll be finishing our mad heads and moving onto the polystyrene cows. The bottle dogs I'm keeping up my sleeve for the last two weeks. Is that something you can be reported to the RSPCA for?

Before I allowed them to start their mad heads I made them string their Bender puppets. You'll have to do it for me, I can't tie a knot was the cry. I took the time to show them how to tie a knot and the satisfied sighs from the kids when they finally accomplished it was just great. Sad though, at age 11, this is the level of craft tuition they need. Velcro has a lot ot answer for.

Upper, middle and lower class

Who remembers the old John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbet sketch? That's what this reminds me of.

I'm upper class, so I look down on THEM, I'm middle class so I look up to HIM but down on HIM. I'm lower class.....and strangely enough I don't remember the punchline. Anyone?

In reality they are mad skulls waiting to be made into mad heads. I found the necks in the Scrapstore. They have a lable inside them saying Bulmer & Lumb.

, Bradford, England. Textile manufacturers. How green of them to go to the trouble of giving their used thread cones to the Scrapstore. I do like the concept of recycling.

Sock secrets

For my sweet and loyal sock chums here are some of the gory details. It's Koigu yarn from Get Knitted. (Hurray! I managed a live link!). It's a slip stitch pattern of knit two, yarn forward, slip two, yarn back. Repeat ad nauseum. There are 60 stitches in my little round foot and the pattern refused to repeat itself the way I wanted it to. You would not believe how long it took me (or maybe you would) to work out that if I had only 58 stitches I would come back to the beginning of the round ready to start again. But it's still an even number I argued with myself. Yeeessss Grumpy darling, but as you are dividing by two, you reduce your group of 30 (from 60) to a group of 29 (from 58). After that I was away. If only I had expanded my brain, not to mention my casting on, just a tiny bit further and made it a group of 31 (from 62) the sock might have been a little less snug, but we live and learn............if we're lucky.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Sock it to 'em

For kicks, I knit socks. Talk about life in the fast lane! These are knitted from the toe upwards. A lot less brain straining that way, believe me. This is the first time I've invented my own pattern and I quite like it. It looks like basket weave. I'm usually a very unsubtle person as far as colour is concerned but this fairly neutral yarn with the odd flash here and there is tickling my fancy, not to mention my feet. The downside of sock knitting is the fact that you need two. Imagine finishing a jumper only to have to start all over again.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Bottoms up

Today I have drilled 330 holes in plastic bottles to make it simpler for the kids to attach their dog's legs....if you take my meaning. Every cupboard seems to be full of plastic bottles, cascading out on you whenever you open an unsuspecting door. That was before dearly beloved hit on a ripper storage idea. He stacked them up in a little inshot like glass bricks in a wall. They are really lovely things when you see them like this. I'm sure my friend Margaret could do some fab image manipulation with them. Another challenge Margaret? Where and how to drill the holes in the differently designed bottles was also fascinating. 'Square' water bottles were the most successful. The density of the plastic varied amazingly with some fizzy drinks bottles too soft to be of much use. Mind you, depends to what use you intent put them. Had a lovely time stomping on my rejects and making a fabulous noise!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Take away puppets

Dearly beloved came back from the cash and carry this morning with some hot drink cups and coffee stirrers. I've played with them all day and here are the results. Milk Maid with her strawberry cow. The coffee stirrers make excellent limbs. If you twist them every so gently they will spilt at the top. Slip a split one onto an unsplit one and they lock together like a ball and socket joint. Superb! Stick them into the cup and wrap a bit of masking tape round the end so they won't pull out. Very successful limbs that waggle about delightfully when you jiggle your puppet about. Wanted to come up with something younger children could cope with too. My cup runneth over!


I've been given the opportunity to make puppets with larger groups of primary teachers but am going to have to adapt my methods fairly drastically in order the make them virtually preparation free. No sawing of cardboard tube or drilling plastic bottles.....hmmmm..... Much thinking needs to be done.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Sit up straight and pay attention!

The workshop for the teachers of the differently abled is over and I'm lying in a heap on the floor like a puppet with it's strings cut. Luckily I can still reach the keyboard with one outstretched arm and thanks to my supernatural touch typing skills am able to blog on regardless.

Seventeen social workers turned up but four had to leave for a funeral almost immediately so the numbers were less than I had anticipated. It was a slow start . I don't think they knew what to expect. I do tend to ........what would you call it.....cajole, if you were charitable, bully if you were honest pretty relentlessly with no talking or thinking allowed. You must follow instructions to the letter which is all very well until I issue the wrong instruction as I did today. That put my gas on a peep. However, we recovered and once I let them off the lead to be a bit more inventive, things improved. As you'll see from the gentleman above who turned his landscape on fabric into an improvised hat.

Taking of leads, bottledog was a major success generating gales of laughter. We did have a bit of a problem with them engaging in group bottoms sniffing once they had a life of their own. Bottledogs that is, not workshop patricipants.

This was the first time I had made a litter from litter (hah!) with a group and it helped me iron out a few glitches. If I go ahead and make bottle dog with my monkey children, it will need simplification and more preparation. The current leg attachment mechanism would be way too complicated . Also they tend to fall off which doesn't fill the maker with self confidence. I have a plan for a new hip replacement and when I get a chance I'll try it out.

Bottledog is of course multipurpose and can be used in place of your machine gun if you have accidentally left yours at home. Don't you just hate it when that happens?

I never feel good about asking participants to help clear up. I reckon they have paid to be there and I'm their wage slave for the day so I should do it. I'm rethinking this altruistic attitude after spending and hour and half clearing up this one. People did offer but I waved them away. Foolish woman!

I would say the day was a success overall. I learned stuff, they learned stuff which they said will be of use to them and claimed to have had a good time. What more can you ask.......but boy, it's a hard way to earn a crust!