One of a Kind Show & Sale

I went to the One of a Kind Show & Sale in Toronto today! So incredible to see so many talented artists and their beautiful and unique creations all under one roof!

I have such a huge appreciation for handmade and creative creations but I did a good job refraining from buying one of everything! There is one thing that I’m still thinking about though.. which means I might either need to go back or pick one up next year. It’s a Tamboa. A beautiful percussion instruments “that can help anyone discover or broaden his musical talents.”

Saw some old favourites too:

Yasmine Louis Textile Printing – really cool silkscreen printed clothing and pillows.

Eric Seguin – the best gift for a fisherman in your life!

Les Jouets de Bois – wonderful puppets and games for kids. The bean bag game has been a serious hit at our house (for all ages) in the last year!

Diablo Puppets – very fun puppets!

I absolutely loved talking to people about their process, their work, their inspiration… I’m inspired!

Open-ended Art

We’ve been all about open-ended art up until a recent trip to an art studio which has me thinking more about the value of both open ended art AND ‘art lessons’ or a more guided approach.  Here I want to talk about open ended art and reserve the ‘art lesson’ approach for a different post.

What is open-ended art anyway?

Open-ended art is having no expectations about the product; it’s all about the process. The focus then is not trying to achieve a predetermined outcome, but instead exploring materials and experimenting with the process of creation.  The final outcome might be based on an idea or it might be abstract.  Open ended art is all about free choice, discovery, problem solving and imagination!

“Art opportunities should be open-ended experiences, offered daily, so as to not stifle a child’s own creativity. Open-ended art is developmentally appropriate at all developmental levels and abilities. These opportunities build a child’s self-esteem, eagerness to learn, fine motor skills, and confidence!”   Source article.

The debate about open ended art versus lessons opens up a big discussion which has certainly been discussed at great length among art educators.  (This article over at Deep Space Sparkle discusses this topic from an art educator standpoint. The comments in that article are particularly insightful and exhibit the many varying viewpoints that exist.)  My goal here is to consider how, as a parent, I want to approach art making with my kids at home.

I’ll start with the top five PROS of open-ended art:

(I’ll tackle the pros of the ‘art lesson’ in another post)

  1. The child has the freedom to choose materials they are interested in exploring thus pretty well guaranteeing that the child will be engaged in the activity.
  2. The child comes up with the idea of what they will do (not restrained to working within limits that they may not like).  Again, keeping motivation high.
  3. Learning takes place as child experiments with materials in new ways. Discovering techniques and outcomes independently.
  4. Problem solving takes place as the child is deciding what to do next within the process. Having the freedom to adapt and making changes along the way.
  5. Child gains confidence from the pride of knowing that they created something by themselves! This in my opinion is all the pros wrapped up into the very best outcome!

What I’ve tended to do at home is provide arts and crafts materials and let V decide what she’s going to do with it.

Recently I put out watercolour paints and watercolour paper (along with some other random materials that she always has access to) imagining that she would make some sort of abstract drawings on the beautiful paper that we could later frame and put up around the house. Free original art! But she had a different idea. She pulled out a notepad and started painting whatever came to mind! For a while it was red stick figures…

I left her to create and she got really into this pattern of painting letters of the first initial of each of the names in our family along with a colourful pattern of stripes.

At times she got incredibly frustrated when the colours were blending because of too much water but with a quick little lesson on brush handing and some practice she learned to achieve what she was trying to accomplish. (I learned that there’s sometimes a time and place for a little lesson!)

The key learning for me in all of our open ended art explorations is that when the activity is guided by the child, the passion and inspiration is 100% there. Rashmie of Mommy Labs shares here experience in a blog post called Open-ended Art and Child-led Learning which includes this powerful quote:

A self-motivated soul can do wonders. There’s no limit to his/her creativity and passion.

It is through that post that I found Alissa at Creative with Kids’ fun tongue in cheek “10 Ways to Guarantee You Will Hate Doing Kids Crafts”. I can certainly relate to being guilty of a few items on this list! smirk

I’d love to hear your experiences with open-ended art in your home or classroom! What do you find works/doesn’t work?


Maybe Tomorrow

Much like The Little Boy Story, this totally breaks my heart:

Maybe Tomorrow
by Lindy T. Redmond

Me do it,” said the 2 year old,
“Mom, me will do it now,”
“Oh no, my dear,” she replied,
“I must show you how!”
“Let me try it,” he called at 3
“Let me make my bed,”
“No, you will have lumps in it,
Color this instead.”
So she placed the coloring book
Near him on the table,
“Now try to color in the lines
The best you are able.”
“But Mom, I want to draw the world
And all the butterflies,
I want to make the mountains tall,
And make rainbows in the skies.”
Color carefully,” she replied,
And color the flowers red,
Color the sky all light blue
Stay in the lines,” she said.
And as the 4 year old one day
His shoes he tried to tie,
His father said, “I’ll teach you how
And later YOU can try.”
And so it was, from birth to 5,
The others told him HOW,
They gave him restraints and set the laws
Of what they would allow.
Then one day the yellow bus
Came right up to his door,
The little boy thought for sure
That NOW he could explore.
He now could dream and imagine
And experiment on his own,
He could paint HIS colors
And investigate all alone.
He could soar to the highest mountains,
He could dream in his mind
He could nurture his talents,
His gifts he could now fine.
The teacher came into his room
And greeted everyone
“Take out your crayons and paper,
we’re going to have some fun.”
“Use this tracer to make a bunny
And neatly print your name,
They’ll all be brown with long ears,
They’ll all look just the same.”
But I don’t want my bunny
To stand up straight and tall
I want him crouched among the grass
And to be white, that’s all.”
“They’ll be nicer if we keep
Them looking alike too,
Now please sit down & start your work
We’ve got a lot to do.”
So slowly he took his seat,
His eyes had lost their thrill,
He now knew just what he’d face,
Monotony and drill.
“Maybe later,” thought the lad,
“She’ll let me make my own,
Maybe tomorrow I can paint
My picture all alone.”
So on the next clear morning,
They took their crayons out,
“Oh boy, I’ll make the sky orange
I’ll be different, without a doubt.”
“Color carefully,” she replied,
“And color the flowers red,
Color the sky light blue
Stay in the lines,” she said.
“Maybe tomorrow, maybe never.”
Thought the boy as he colored the sky light blue.

I am an ARTIST… video

“… I totally believe that we’re all creative.” 

So do I!

A beautifully inspiring video of artist Danielle Daniel working in her studio. This video perfectly captures the pure joy of creating.

“Teacher, seeker, storyteller, word lover, truth speller, painter and tree hugger. As in one who hugs trees. Learning to take myself less seriously, live in the present, and stand in my light. Trying every day to embrace the good, the bad and the beautiful while learning to get out of my own way to live the life of my dreams.”

Drawn in to learn more about Danielle, I visited her blog to find out that it’s her birthday today and she’s offering 30% off everything in her shop.  I ordered this print called ‘Bosom Friends’ because it sort of reminds me of my girls, one brown haired one almost blondish and how they will grow up to be bosom friends.


Reading Aloud

We all know how important it is to read to our children. If you don’t then you need to read Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox. I just came across a wonderful interview in which Mem Fox discusses the importance of reading aloud to children and adults alike.

“Never stop reading aloud, no matter what the age group is, and read without teaching.”

In the interview, Mem Fox discusses the importance of reading aloud to kids, especially for parents.  For two reason this article and Mem’s work particularly resonates with me. One, my almost five year old is this (holding fingers a few inches apart) close to reading. When we read together I want so much to get her sounding out the words… but she’s just not interested and I know I need to refrain and just read and enjoy reading together.  This article reminds me that I shouldn’t try to teach my child to read.. “[parents] should never make the read-aloud into a teaching sesson.” It makes perfect sense really. We need to keep reading fun and enjoyable.

Which brings me to the next reason I’m drawn to this article which is that it reminds me that, like creativity, reading is not something that can be forced. As a parent, your share it (whether it’s reading or creating) and you model how wonderful it is to read and listen to stories or create things or whatever it is.  It’s all about enjoyment and having fun. Something I think as parents we all need to be reminded of. At least I know I do.

One last point of note about this article is when Fox says “the book is a pathway to the rest of the world, to a huge conversation about what’s going on in the child’s life.” This is so true. I’m looking forward to picking up her latest book “Tell Me About Your Day Today” as a way of encouraging my daughter to reflect on her day and share it with me. Thinking back, last year, we actually spent time each night at bedtime reflecting on what we did that day, then we each chose what our favourite part of our day was. I think we need to bring back that little ritual. It’s a nice way of recapping all that we did, discussing things that need attention and each having an opportunity to show gratitude for what it was that day that we appreciated most. A really nice way to end the day!

Mem Fox also gave the Keynote at the 2012 NAEYC Annual Conference in Atlanta last week where she shared why reading to children changes their whole life journey. That’s pretty profound!  I wish I was there! But, I did find notes from someone who was.

Douglas Thomas on a New Culture of Learning

I seem to be attracting information on the topic of creativity, innovation and education lately. I turned the TV on today and randomly found Douglas Thomas, Associate Professor at the University of Southern California and author of A New Culture of Learning, speaking of the future of learning and technology. More specifically, Thomas was asked to speak on what learning will look like in 2030.

I was immediately drawn in when I heard Thomas said this:

“If someone finds their passion try to stop them from learning. I bet you can’t do that.”

He went on to talk about what learning is and how despite the changes in technology over the years, learning is something that has remained the same.

“Passion, wonder, curiosity and joy… those are the things that make us learn.”

A few further quotes from the lecture that are definitely worth noting here. On the topic of play and imagination and how the application of rules on imagination is key for learning:

Being able to experiment and being able to play is a foundational element… is what provokes our imagination and what really makes life interesting for us. Learning happens when you start to put constraints around that imagination. Then you get to experiment, you get to play, and you use all that sense of joy, of wonder, of curiosity to push against those boundaries and limits and seeing what pushes back.

Like the old ‘give a child a cardboard box and they’ll play for hours’… Thomas suggests:

Give a child a stick and see where their imagination takes them.

In the question and answer at the end of the talk, a teacher educator asks how to inspire future teachers in the philosophy and education of passion, relevance and play in their classrooms of the future. What I really like about this question is that when thinking about the answer, I substitute “parents” instead of “teachers” and “kids” instead of “students”.  After all, as parents we want to inspire passion, relevance and play in our kids too!  The answer?

  1. Lead by example, show your kids your passion.

  2. Understand what your kids passions are and connect that to what you want to teach them.

The following sketches are taken from a schematic found on the New Culture of Learning website.



A Space to Create

When you hear about creativity, you hear a lot about creating the right environment to set the stage for getting into the creative zone. It’s often a place that’s not too cluttered but not too sparse. A place with some toys or inspiration and most definitely some tools to aid in the creation process.  If you’re an artists, you probably desire a space with lots of natural light, a desk or easle and full access to all of your supplies. If you’re a writer, a quiet corner free of distraction might be all you need. Imagine now that you’re a child again. What would you want to see in your space for creating?

As parents we often create play spaces for our kids that are full of toys, building blocks, push toys, pretend play areas and so on. These are all great, but it can get to be a bit overwhelming when the kids toys start to take over the house. Been there, done that!  Instead, we’ve designated a space for all those fun toys in a playroom and created what in our house we call… The Work Station. Sometimes referred to as the Writing Station or the Art Station.. depending on what the task at hand is.

Creating a designated space to create in our home is one of the best things I’ve done. We’ve created our space in the main living room area of our home.  The space gives our daughter creative freedom to explore what she wants, whenever she wants. She can write, create, read, experiment and come up with crazy project ideas.. and she does!

I think all kids should have a little work area, art area.. or whatever you decide to call it so I’m sharing how we’ve set up our area and what we have in there in hopes that it inspires you to create a similar space. You might already have a kid work station set up. If so, I’d love to hear what you’ve included in it, and what your kids have created!

Step 1 : Find a space in your home to create your kids work station.
If your kids are young, like mine, you’ll want them to be within view which makes the kitchen or living room the perfect choice.  If they’re a little older, their bedroom may be the perfect place… Violet’s already asked to have her workstation in her bedroom in our next house.

A corner in your living room is all you need. We placed ours behind some living room chairs so the kids space is sort of hidden away but still part of the action.

Step 2: Set up the space with child sized furniture.
A large work surface is a good idea but any small table will do the trick. Kid sized chairs will allow little ones independence to get on and off the chairs themselves. We’ve found having a second chair for a friend is a good idea as well.

Look for kid furniture second hand on Craigslist or Kijiji, or if you’re looking for new and affordable, Ikea is your best bet.  I like this Stuva desk for all the space and the Stuva storage bench to hide away materials that get out of hand.

Step 3: Decide what you want your workspace focus to be.
It might be a writing station or an art station or a science area. It could perhaps be a mix of all of these things but I think it’s nice to pick a focus and provide several materials within that subject area. There is much to be said about this and Playful Learning is an amazing resource for creating thoughtful spaces for children.

Watch your child and see what he or she is interested in. In our case, Violet was naturally drawn to letter writing. She will make notes, write cards, seal them and adorn them with stickers, then deliver them to her favourite people. She’s even known to slip the odd letter under neighbours doors in Nana’s condo.  On occasion she’s received a letter or two back – usually with stickers and an invitation to send back more letters!  For me, it was a no brainer… a writing station it was!  I also like the idea because she is learning her sounds and is at the pre-reading stage so I like giving her more opportunities to practice while feeding into her interest in writing.

While spelling out names of family and friends as she often does, she’ll sit at her desk and call over to us in the kitchen: “what comes after the e??”

Our work area started as a writing station. It evolved into an art station the week that I brought out a set of paints. Then it further evolved into a craft station after bringing home a craft tub. It was getting out of hand, so I streamlined the work area contents and brought it back to a writing station, as shown here.

Step 4: Provide appropriate materials to bring the workspace alive.
This is the fun part. Our writing station includes:

  • coloured pencils
  • paper
  • list making paper
  • cards and envelopes
  • stickers
  • glue
  • scissors

In addition to writing materials, we’ve included reading and spelling activities:

My key guidelines for the space are to keep it clutter free, beautiful and accessible. Everything should have a place. Although it won’t always make it’s way back there and if your house is like mine, other things will make their way into the workstation, but that’s okay.  Above all the space needs to be inviting.

Step 5: Stand back and see what happens
Let the creation begin. This is the absolute best and most important part! It’s fun being surprise by what your child might come up with. Probably not at all what you thought your child might create and that’s perfectly okay. In fact, it’s more than okay, it’s awesome. Celebrate it and don’t interfere with the creative thinking process. Let it happen and enjoy the silence!

Letterpress Love

In my last post I divulged my weakness for pretty much any art form and all art materials. When I discovered letterpress printing, I fell in love with yet another means to a creative end.

What is letterpress?  The short story is it’s relief printing using movable type or a custom made plate by locking it in the press, inking it and rolling or pressing against paper to form an impression. The long story can be found here.

One of the reasons I felt drawn to letterpress was my desire to get back to old school methods of communication design after having spent years and years designing digitally as an interactive designer. I love the look, the texture of the paper, and the tactile nature of the relief print. What’s particularly cool about letterpress today is the merge of old (letterpress) and new technology (designing digitally); wikipedia sites this as the renewed interest in letterpress and the rise of “digital letterpress.”

An interesting fact pointed out on wikipedia:

The goal before this revival was that you could not tell there was an impression, the type contacted the paper enough to transfer the ink but not leave an impression. However today, when speaking of letterpress, the goal is to have that impression be evident, to distinctly note that it is letterpress.

Sort of funny how goals change over time. Before the digital printing age we strived to achieve the smooth digital printing look; now we pay more for relief printed invitations, posters or the like!

My letterpress story:

My intrigue started when I had started seeing really beautiful wall art letterpress posters and this fun letterpress Tooth Fairy Certificate!  After a quick internet search, I found the perfect introductory workshop to try my hand at the process and to learn first hand what letterpress printing is all about. It was at this workshop that Tanya, of Snap + Tumble, told me about Don Black, the guy to know if you’re into any sort of linecasting or letterpress printing. I was so enamoured by the workshop that I went straight from Tanya’s home studio to Don Blacks (which happens to be only a few blocks away) to learn more.  It was during this first visit, my first exposure to the letterpress process really, that I put my name down for a press, a Craftsmen table top 5 x 8 platen press. They often have wait lists for presses than come in and need refurbishing.

 I can’t even describe what came over me at Don Black’s that day. I saw a line up of three table top presses and before I could think about what I was saying I had already asked if they were spoken for and put dibs on the black one! It was a sort of out of body experience. 😉

A few months later I took another workshop, this time at Kozo Studio, where I created the “Love at first site” poster on a Vandercook SP 15.. that was pretty cool. Thankfully Kozo Studios is not close to Don Black’s and I didn’t commit to buying a Vandercook! The photos below show how massive this press is!

Later that summer my press was ready! Made the trip back to Don Black’s.. a really amazing place!

I refrained from going nuts buying metal and wood type and vintage cuts (images) but I picked up a few cuts and took a picture of this tray so that I could remember how to set up my type in a tray at home.

I’d like to say that the rest is history but by the time I picked up my press I was pregnant with baby #2 and short on studio space, so my little but heavy press went into storage until recently. After a bit of research and a trip to Above Ground Art Supplies, I’m ready for the experimenting process to begin!

I’m just at the start of my letterpress exploration. What used to be a fairly rigid lesson in typesetting and printing, now is only limited by imagination. But I feel like the sky’s the limits with creative opportunities. Like any medium, it’s the vehicle to creation. The true art is in the idea. I have a few… I’ll be sure to share them here along my journey.