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Friday, March 31, 2006

...and it's hey for the tartan....

I've been adding the finishing touches to the kids life sized collage puppets ready for the forthcoming display. Most just needed a few tears patched up or a few crinkles ironed flat. Two boys had started to make a kiltie figure but lost heart very quickly. I decided I would have some fun finishing him off and turning him into the stereotypical Scottish male.

Do you think I'm dating the wrong kind of guys?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Talking about happy accidents, I was packing for the sea scapes workshop today and digging out some bits of decorated paper for the ladies to play with. A couple of bits took my fancy. These baby's heads have been looking for a home for a looooong time now and I have an exhibition looming. I'm going to have them framed which means I'll miss the hand in date. Have asked for special dispensation but even if this exhibition is a no-go, there's another one just around the corner.

I would be interested to know what these images make you thing/feel if you have time to leave a comment. Thanks.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

See through sea scapes

My next workshop is not for a few weeks. It's called see through sea scapes and is for adults this time. I ask people to bring a couple of tins of soup which is always fun. Disappointingly we don't paint with the soup. The tins are to make our frames stand up. We paint with silk paint on sheer fabric, letting the water dribble down it causing trees to form as if my magic.

Next we collage together some unlikely looking background fabrics like the orange sky and dirty dishcloth sea you see here. Place a magic sheer on top of these, and voila, a stormy sea scape.

I haven't done this technique for many a long year and was having a practice the other day. In theory, any old stripes painted in any old random fashion will work as long as you don't combine too many colours. That's the joy of this workshop. We are always being bombarded with inspiration, told we must have a source, must have a design. This technique is about having the grace to accept happy accidents and the savvy to recognise one when it bites you in the leg.

I wasn't thrilled with the happy accident I was given while practicing but if you mask it off, it has possibilities.

The other part of this workshop is how to make fabric collage without having to paint anything. I collect cheap and cheerful nylon curtain and it layers up very nicely into little bondaweb sea scapes like the boat on the beach you see here.

This particular workshop is for the embroiderers' guild and the whole point is to give them something you can stitch into. I've added a couple of trees to give you can idea what a finished product might look like.

a stormy sea scape
recognising a happy accident when it happens

a nylon curtain sea scape

and finally, some embroidery.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Velvet pause

I was facilitating a disperse dye workshop for my local Embroiderers' Guild today and I thought you might like to see as many of the images as Blogger was willing to upload. The disperse dye comes in powered form and you mix it to a liquid with water. For ease of application I put it in empty roll-on deodorant bottles which then work like giant roller ball pens. The ball tops pop and off really easily but I did think when preparing for this workshop that one of the tops had not clicked very successful into place. I check through them but couldn't find the guilt party. Someone found it today though and purple dye went all over the carpet. We tried to wash it off, not very successfully. They were actually carpet tiles so we lifted the ones from under the piano and under the doormat and swapped them around. Whether or not we get away with it remains to be seen!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Putting words in their mouths

The children from the little school of horrors have to make a five minute presentation about the project we have just finished to the rest of the schools in their cluster group. Ideally the children would have prepared this themselves but disheartened by the reports of their peer group's attempt at research and concerned by their teacher's lack of classroom time I decided to write it for them. So, if you are interested, here is an overview of the complete project.

Child one: When I grow up I could be an architect. ThatÂ’s an artists who designs buildings

Child two: When I grown up I could be a fashion designer. ThatÂ’s an artist who designs clothes.

Child three: When I grown up I could be an automotive designer. ThatÂ’s an artist who designs cars.

Child Four: When I grow up I could be a product designer. ThatÂ’s an artist who designs packaging.

Child Five: Our artist and maker for this project, Sally Webster, explained to us that practically everything manmade we use in our daily lives was designed by an artist. That means there are lots of career opportunities for artists.

Sally told us that the best way to become an artist was to work hard at school and then apply to art school.

Sally herself became an artist by a different route. She studied art as a mature student after running a free newspaper in Glasgow. Today she has two jobs. Working as a community artist and using her artistic eye to buy jewellery for her shop.

Child One: Our topic for this project was the environment and we looked at several ways of making puppets from recycled materials.

The first puppet we made was a life sized Jumping Jack. We lay on the floor on top of a big piece of paper while our partner drew round our body. Using junk mail and old newspapers we collaged our puppetÂ’s skin and clothes. To make the puppet move we cut off its arms and legs and re-attached them with paper fasteners. Now our puppets will dance if you pull the strings attached to their backs.

Child two: Next we made a string puppet inspired by the TV cartoon series Futurama. Our puppet is based on Bender the Robot and is made from a plastic bottle stuffed with old crisp packets. His safety pin arms and legs are held in place with elastic bands covered with silver paper tubes. His shoulders are attached to the wooden control by two strings while another string runs from one hand, through the control and back to the other hand. To stop your puppetÂ’s strings from becoming tangled you should spin it round before you put it back in its box.

Child three: Our barking bottle dog puppets are made from one small and one large plastic bottled connected by a piece of bicycle tyre. Holes were drilled in the bottles through which we guided pieces of string. Onto the string we threaded some cardboard tube held in place by coffee cup lids. Our dogs have cable tie tails and fabric ears, tongues and collars. Their eyes and noses are made from bottle tops and buttons.

Child four: We finished our project with a crazy paper mache head moulded round another plastic bottle and an empty thread cone. modelingelling the faces we dressed our heads up with hats and jackets made from paper doilies. A paper mache head can be the starting point for all kinds of puppets. This one has been made into a rod puppet by adding some sash cord and garden cane.

We enjoyed our time with Sally and look forward to playing with our recycled puppets.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Apples and onions

I took my wallhanging design back to the Catholic school yesterday for their approval. They liked the idea and asked me to present it to the kids, which I did. I explained to these angelic little six year olds that they were going to become flowers. I don't want to be a flower said one boy. Why? Because it's a girlie thing to be? But you could be a jaggy flower! Hmmmm, now you're talking. Another male hand shot up. I know what flower I want to be - a giant fly trap. Fine, that's a flower. And can we make flies? Yes, so that you can eat them. I can see this is going to be fun.

The school has such an orderly atmosphere and
the head teacher is so hospitable. I was even invited to stay for lunch but it was a little early so I headed to my favourite seaside cafe, as planned, to fortify myself for another encounter with the little school of horrors that afternoon.

We were back to the paper mache and it was just horrendous. It was the same substitute teacher as previously and she tried valiantly to control them. Even the head teacher came and hollered a them at one point but in the end I
just had to shout above the noise as best I could. The paste was everywhere, the children appeared to be in a state of semi-riot and in the middle of it all, a neighbouring child indulged in a little projectile vomiting.

I had been concerned that the children wouldn't know what a paper doilie was. One child had to point in order to tell me what he wanted because he didn't know the word for kitchen towel. These are eleven year old, English speaking children....allegedly.
With about half an hour to go, most children had done as much productive work as they were liable to do and I couldn't face playing referee any longer. I supervised the cleanup of the classroom and them I went off to wash the paste pots . Up to my elbows in soapy water I became angry with myself for being so defeatist. This being my last week with the children. I went back to the classroom to say goodbye and found the sub, God bless her, had them engaged in a drawing activity. My favourite project with Sally. Some of the drawings were amazing and almost reduced me to tears. I asked if I could take them home as a memento. Being in pencil, some of them are a little difficult to see . These really were the icing on the cake for me, saving me from deepest darkest despair especially after another class teacher told me this little tale.

The other class of eleven year olds in this school who are involved in a similar project were given the task of researching on line possible careers as artists. They were (rashly?) unsupervised and when the teachers later checked the sites they had visited, they were all sectarian. Young Protestants, No Surrender and the like. These children are our future?

I learned a valuable lesson just as I was about to leave the school. As I walked out the front door of the horror school in walked the head teacher from the Catholic school I had visited that morning. This crystalised in my mind the absolute necessity of never carrying tales from one school to another, no matter how horrendous your experience. That is, if you wish to continue to work in an education authority where all the teachers know each other. Good job I can let of steam here!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Puppets at bathtime

Reason number 29 not to get a new bathroom suite. The bath is my dye space, both hair and fabric. This morning I've been mixing disperse dyes in preparation for a workshop with the local branch of the Embroiderers' Guild next weekend. I have all kinds of weird and wonderful curtaining which we are going to have fun transforming from tacky to tantalising.

On the subject of tantalising, I couldn't resist pausing to have a puppet moment as I chopped up my curtaining. This isn't one of my inventions. It was a method taught to me by the Scottish Mask and Puppet centre. Tie five knots in a piece of fabric and you have an instant marionette. I can imaging a giant version as a wonderful installation.

Very spookily, a face appeared of it's own volition. Can you see it? None of my doing - all I did was tie a knot.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Bags of bags

More bags from the second in the series of in service workshops for primary teachers.

Van Gogh eat your heart out

It's a long time since I've played about with Corel Photopaint. Look what I drawed this morning! Made me think that if we had some brightly coloured flower shaped masks (in the Corel sense of the word - not a thing that goes over your eyes) the children could plonk these on top of their photos and it would give them the idea of what they would look like as a flower. I think I look like a highly suspicious tournesol. I wouldn't tourn my back on me for second.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Blooming children

My next schools project is to make a hanging turning all the six year old children into flowers. We are going to photograph them and print out the results onto fabric, let the children choose what kind of flower they would like to be and stitch on their petals accordingly. It's going to be all their own work, including the design but this my first fly past the target, just to see if it would work in principal. Think it will.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Hair today, gone tomorrow.

Have gone from the dodgy perm to the toilet brush look. Wouldn't mind a few more centimeters but that's the good thing about hair cuts. The difference between a good one and a bad one is only about a fortnight!