Juggling

I can only keep so many balls going at once, and lately the one I’ve been letting sit is posting here. See, there are so many things I like to do. That’s why when I decided to participate in The 100 Day Project on Instagram, I didn’t choose to make 100 of one thing alone. I decided to make time for drawing, painting, or carving every day. Because if I’m making a drawing a day, when would I have time to carve any of them? If I’m painting every day, will I still have time to run? How about sewing and knitting? (And of course any of those things have to be fit around mama duties.) Any time I’ve tried to do one thing every single day for any length of time, other things I like get squeezed out. I could look at it as a lack of focus, but I prefer to view it as the product of an interesting and interested mind instead.

At any rate, if you’re interested, I’m posting photos like these on Instagram.

linocut test print at amyhoodarts.com

Testing a tree linocut to see what still needs to be cleaned up.

Besides drawing and carving and sewing and knitting, I’ve been making sure we get outside. Oh, we are so happy for spring. We recently visited the local pond after dinner to watch the sun go down and listen to the spring peepers.

sunset at the pond at amyhoodarts.com

Photo by my husband.

We were hoping we’d see the beavers come out for a crepuscular swim, and we finally did! And then–then we realized the creatures wheeling and dipping over the pond as the sun fully set were most likely bats. How exciting! They moved too fast to get a good look at with binoculars. Their wings fairly vibrated. I’ve never seen bats outside of a zoo before.

We also have horses in our neighborhood, which is convenient, since my 10yo mentioned he wished he were better at drawing horses. Excellent–let’s go right to the source.

Drawing horses at amyhoodarts.com

After that, we crossed the street to walk the path through the meadow (not very meadowish yet) and the woods, on some open land property owned by the town. My youngest is delighted that it’s spring.

happy spring at amyhoodarts.com

She’s wearing a mama-made dress, natch.

My favorite bird, the towhee, has been singing his heart out. I heard a barred owl again last night. I feel so grateful for where I live during the spring and summer, for this patch of land we share with so many critters–birds and insects, reptiles and amphibians, mammals too. For close access to farms, ponds, seashores, meadows, and woods.

Which is why it’s so ironic we still haven’t sold this house. I’ve been cleaning again lately too. It’s been six months since I deep cleaned and decluttered, and several areas need another pass, and yes I’m a little resentful I’m still cleaning this house. Also stressed out. So many houses are for sale. My advice is never to try to sell a house in an economically depressed state that is losing population. We’re going down to Maryland in a couple of weeks to look for a rental, and most likely my husband will be down there while I’m up here with the kids as the school year finishes. This is exactly what I didn’t want, but what can I do? That’s where we are. So I will open the windows when temperatures allow and listen to the birds I love and enjoy my deck while it’s still mine–while crossing my fingers every day that the house sells soon.

Art Together in Action

I really love getting a glimpse into how families use Art Together. Anytime I’m tagged in a kids-making-art photo on Twitter or Instagram, that pretty much makes my day. Periodically I want to share some of these pictures here, too.

Making something and releasing it into the world is just part of the process. Once it’s out there, you get to see what people do with it. Kirsten and her kids have done some great things, using the information and activities in Art Together as starting points and really going deeper. I can’t quite describe how happy that makes me, that I can offer something that acts as a spark in that way. Kirsten kindly agreed to having some of her Instagram photos featured today.

color mixing from Art Together at amyhoodarts.com

Cloisonne painting from Art Together at amyhoodarts.com

Boogie Woogie music dancing from Art Together at amyhoodarts.com

The photos here are related to the first two issues of Art Together, Color and Line.

Art gallery inspiration from Art Together at amyhoodarts.com

Kirsten told me exploring Art Together has resulted in her son’s love of art in general, and they now spend hours when they visit the art gallery. She went on to say, “R is not the kind of child who is happy to take suggestions or instructions about what to do or how to do things.  He prefers to come up with his own ideas and his own projects.  But I can read Art Together, get your ideas and suggestions and then use them in a subtle way – e.g. by just sitting down and doing some of your projects myself and seeing where that takes us.  It’s an amazing leaping off point!  Especially for someone like me who knows nothing about art. In fact, I’ve found that using Art Together has made *me* really want to learn much more about art too.  So it’s become a real family activity!”

Thank you so much for sharing, Kirsten!

If you would be willing to share a photo or story of how you’ve used Art Together, I’d love to hear from  you! amyhood @ amyhoodarts.com

March Reading List

Maybe we'll get spring after all! I found these on my walk this afternoon in Providence.

Maybe we’ll get spring after all! I found these on my walk this afternoon in Providence.

Every single book I read in March was well worth it. Isn’t that great? More snow, family illness, husband travel–but the reading was terrific. I liked them all, but I marked the ones you should go read right now with a double asterisk.

Carry On, Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton
The Night of the Gun, by David Carr **
The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, by Catherynne M. Valente **
Disgruntled, by Asali Solomon **
Lillian on Life, by Alison Jean Lester
Egg and Spoon, by Gregory Maguire **
The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher (Short Stories), by Hilary Mantel
Sparrow Road, by Sheila O’Connor
Missing Reels, by Farran Smith Nehme **
Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi

Homeschooling Update

We still are. Here’s the thing: I usually just feel we’re not doing much of anything spectacular. It’s been (and still is) a long cold winter. We are not involved in any homeschool groups or classes, and while probably we should be taking field trips and such, it’s really hard to get my homeschooled kid out of the house. We spend every Wednesday in the city for two appointments, and that one long day usually feels like enough for the week. He takes rock climbing classes and karate and assisted with the after-school art program I facilitated; he’s beginning swim lessons this week along with his brother and sister. In other words, he’s socialized. But he’s also at home a lot. He’s not the type of kid who likes to leave the house just to say we did.

As for subjects, he’s continuing with math, with much bluster (he’s better at math than he thinks he is). We finished Story of the World Volume 3. My thought was to focus on American history for a while, but N isn’t as interested in US History. He requested Chinese history, so I’m waiting for a bunch of books from the library, and I’ll probably order Story of the World Volume 4, since he’s old enough for it now. We continue with his science text, but I don’t force things. We skipped over the anatomy section because it wasn’t grabbing his interest at all. He’s doing far more science than he’d be doing in school, and I don’t see the point in forcing something he’s not interested in. And of course he reads, voraciously, as we all do here.

And he draws.

drawing at amyhoodarts.com

Daily. Sometimes for hours, and always on that futon, no matter how many times I suggest the table. So far he hasn’t done anything with the drawings but create them. He doesn’t write down backstories for the characters he draws, or draw sequential scenes, or even store his drawings neatly. (“Can I get you a folder?” I ask. “A storage box? Something, so they don’t get ruined?” He prefers to leave them on the floor, and I tidy them into a pile on the bookshelf with the colored pencils so they don’t get stepped on.)

I remind myself to bite my tongue. I remind myself that he absolutely doesn’t need some adult’s idea of what he should be doing so I can say, See? He’s doing a drawing project. What else is homeschooling for if not to provide a child with time and space to do what makes him happiest? I have vivid memories of sitting in school at his age, bored, wishing I could be at home working on my latest drawing/writing/crochet project. There doesn’t seem to be much I can do to support this interest right now beyond supplying time, endless amounts of paper, and colored pencils (his preferred medium). When he shows interest in a drawing book, I buy it. He’s exposed to a variety of art, including graphic novels. There is a tendency for adults to want a THING to show as proof that the child was working towards something all along, but no, we need to back away from that impulse. He’ll get to the thing when he’s ready, or he won’t. Maybe he’s just working on 10,000 hours of drawing. He’s happy drawing. He draws daily. I know lots of adults who aspire to do that, including, at times, myself, and we don’t manage it. What he is doing is more than enough, and of his own choice, and I’m not going to do a darn thing to mess it up.

Sewing, Mostly

March has been much like February, but with family-wide sickness along with cold and snow. My main symptoms were cough and narcolepsy, so I’m glad I had the worst of it last week, because my husband left this past Tuesday and won’t be back until next Friday. When I haven’t been sick or taking care of sick people or all my other humdrum responsibilities, I’ve been sewing, mostly.

Remember my machine was in for routine service. When I got it back, I began with this custom order, then moved onto a bag for myself using Charley Harper canvas.

giraffe bag at amyhoodarts.com

Looking at it, I can’t remember why I decided to put the giraffes going from side to side rather than up and down. Maybe the dimensions fit my piece of fabric better than way? They’re up and down on the side pockets. Anyway, it’s hard to photograph an empty bag, but I don’t have anything in it, because I didn’t really need a new bag, I just needed to sew one. If you follow. The canvas was lighter weight than I thought it would be, too. I had enough brown linen left over from my pants to use as lining, too.

giraffe bag at amyhoodarts.com

They go together nicely, don’t they? When the bag was done, I was back to knits, making myself a tee shirt out of Charley Harper elephants.

elephant tee at amyhoodarts.com

It didn’t take much sewing with knits until I got good at it. This is a tee to be proud of, and it will look nice with those brown linen pants, too. (If it ever stops snowing!)

Then it was on to three spring dresses for my daughter. I tackled them assembly-line style, which I’m sure is faster in the long run, but it does seem a tiny bit tedious when you’ve been doing pockets for an entire sewing session.

knit dresses at amyhoodarts.com

These dresses are sewn so much better than the first two I made her, and those were pretty darn good, actually. They are basically this dress from Lands End, but for less money and in the exact fabrics my daughter chose. They’re comfy, she can easily move around and play in them, and they’re adorable. Oh and speaking of pockets, I’ve got those down now.

pocket! at amyhoodarts.com

That is a very neat pocket indeed. When the dresses were done, I sewed her two more pairs of leggings. Here she is, on the first day of Spring (on which it snowed!), in the dim morning light before school (thanks, DST), wearing an entirely made-by-mama outfit.

mama-made outfit at amyhoodarts.com

It’s the rare day when she goes to school without wearing at least one thing I made her. She also picked out fabric for two skirts. They’re woven cotton, straight line stitching, so she and I will be making them together. She’s got quite the spring wardrobe; now we just need spring.

Printmaking Love: Printing With Kids

printmaking love at amyhoodarts.com

One of my gelatin prints.

The theme for Monday’s after school Art Together class was printmaking, so I decided to share gelatin plate printmaking. It was glorious chaos. Eighteen kids, eight gelatin plates, brayers and sponge brushes and palettes that needed to be shared. Bits of texture and stencils for playing with were strewn about, paint on tables and dripped on the floor and on hands. Thirty-six hands that had a really, really hard time resisting the tactile temptation of thick slabs of gelatin, even though they’d been told that touching it and, even worse, picking it up would degrade or even break it. With that many kids, it’s hard to get around to everybody who might need one-on-one help. I gave a demonstration and encouraged them to experiment and remember to share, because we had about two kids to a plate. Then I tried to check in on everybody.

It was great. Printmaking almost always is. It’s magical. Best to let them experiment and discover as much as possible on their own, with a little guidance if necessary. Some kids made collaboration prints all together and worked out who would take them home. Kids helped other kids. Some felt done after just one, and others made twenty.

Sampling of kids' gelatin plate prints at amyhoodarts.com

Just a small sample of the kids’ prints.

They layered prints and colors and textures with abandon, fearlessly, fabulously. I did not sit down for hours. One parent told me that she was grateful her son–one of the kids who printed right up until we were out of time–has taken to the activities in this program. He is put off by drawing, she said, but he has found inspiration here. Oh! Oh. When you find something you love to do that also brings a spark to others–how lucky is that? I need to figure out how to make this happen more often. Right now trying to do that is a casualty of being in limbo–I can’t lay the groundwork to broaden this work here, and I don’t know exactly where we’ll be next. But when the time comes, I’ll figure it out.

paint on my hands at amyhoodarts.com

Paint-y hands are happy hands.

I cleaned and wrapped the gelatin plates to bring home and store in my cold garage. Tuesday, I picked three of the better-looking ones and G, N, and I made some prints ourselves. N and I were too busy to make our own prints on Monday afternoon, and G was home sick with a fever both days.

One of N's gelatin prints at amyhoodarts.com

One of N’s gelatin prints.

Gelatin plate printmaking is so much fun, and the plates are easy to make, too. Art Together Issue Three: Printmaking has all the instructions on how to make a gelatin plate and get started printing with it.

February Reading List

State of the snow pile next to the stairs as of this morning.

State of the snow pile next to the stairs as of this morning.

February included some very meh books, including one I gave up on after 30 pages (One Step Too Far, by Tina Seskis), but it finished strong. Again, books I especially liked are marked by **.

Real Santa, by William Hazelgrove
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
Doll Bones, by Holly Black
The Arsonist, by Sue Miller
The Solitude of Prime Numbers, by Paolo Giordano (re-read)
Dear Committee Members, by Julie Schumacher
Lisette’s List, by Susan Vreeland
Guests on Earth, by Lee Smith**
Happenstance: Two Novels in One About a Marriage in Transition, by Carol Shields**

I read books two and three of the Penderwicks series out loud to my daughter, followed by Ribsy, and we are halfway through Little House in the Big Woods. And I have a stack of library books to dive into in between shoveling. Snow last night and two more storms in the forecast for this week. Please don’t tell me March means spring. Not here.

Art Together Issue Six: Math + Art

{Click here to be taken directly to the sales page on Payhip. For UK/EU customers, VAT is added during the checkout process and isn’t reflected in the $4 USD price.}

I’ve been plugging along on the winter issue of Art Together and–thanks so much, polar vortex–even though it’s almost March, we’re still firmly in the midst of winter, so I don’t feel behind schedule at all even though I didn’t begin until I was sure I’d have a way to easily sell it no matter where you live (thanks so much, Payhip!). Introducing Issue Six: Math + Art:

Art Together Issue 6: Math + Art at amyhoodarts.com

From this issue’s Dear Reader:

Math and art are linked in so many ways. It’s not necessary to force a connection; it’s already there, and has been for centuries. This is a comforting idea for those of us who can feel intimidated or anxious by a wide-open, anything goes approach to art-making. I loved my photography classes (in the pre-digital days) precisely because of the mix of creativity and precision. Photography was part art, part science, and it provided a great balance for me. My photography notebook was, essentially, a lab notebook. What happens when you adjust the light? The ratio of chemicals? The exposure or development time? I enjoyed the experimentation and the structure. This mix satisfied both my creative and my logical sides. And while I have loosened up quite a bit over the years when it comes to art-making, I still am comforted by structure and limits at times.

I have a child who likes structure in his art-making as well, and this issue is created with kids and adults like him in mind. Here are some starting points, some guidelines, some ways in which the wonderful predictability of numbers and geometry and the science of how we see can be used to make art…

issue 6 collage copy

In this issue:

Dear Reader
Artist Spotlight: Bridget Riley
Featured Material: Colored Pencils by guest contributor Mo Awkati
Activity: Op Art—Weaving
Activity: Op Art—Distorted Shapes
Perspective
Activity: Drawing a Box in Perspective
The Fibonacci Sequence
Activity: Using Fibonacci Numbers
Activity: Mandalas
Resources
Try This: Op Art Backgrounds + Shapes

The 35-page PDF download is available for purchase through Payhip here for $4 USD. For UK/EU customers, VAT is added during the checkout process. Currently all issues of Art Together are listed for $4 USD; you can find them all right here.

Thanks for your continued support, emails, and comments when it comes to this little project of mine. I love seeing and hearing about what you and your kids are exploring and discovering together.

Coping By Sewing

I’m not doing well with this winter, with all the snow and the bitter cold and the limbo-ness of life right now. It has always been cold and snowy, it always will be, and we will never sell this house. That’s how it feels. I am cranky and resentful. Every forecast causes husband and I to swear at the TV. Are things blooming where you live? I really don’t want to see pictures. Is it above freezing? Please don’t complain. Freezing is warm to us. See? I am cranky. And to make things even better, our (now former) Realtor spends a couple-three months in Florida every winter. No, we didn’t know this before we hired her, nor did we know some other things that, sigh, don’t matter anymore because I’m sure she’s an excellent Realtor (she told me so constantly), but not for us.

And so, I sew. Last week I made myself a skirt out of thermal knit fabric.

layered thermal skirt at amyhoodarts.com

When I ordered the fabric to make the thermal knit shirt in this post, I also ordered black. Although both colors had the same description and were the same price, the black was thinner; too thin, I thought, for a shirt. But I thought I could double it over and maybe add in some of the olive grey…. and it sat as an idea for a month or three until last week.

I am still (always) learning. I continue to make skirts too big for my waist. I’m not sure if I don’t trust my measurements or I’m taking them wrong (some of both, probably). I knew enough not to follow the directions for drafting an A-line skirt in Sew What! Skirts, because that book only deals with woven fabrics. I used the measurement guidelines in this maxi-skirt tutorial instead. The errors are mine; I should have made the fold-over waistband smaller around. The skirt still works, though, because I intended to wear it over jeans. I’ve found that wearing a skirt over my jeans keeps me warmer. This black thermal knit fabric, by the way, was by far the fuzziest thing I’ve sewn with. Lint was fairly jumping out at me as I sewed.

Sunday morning I sewed my daughter the most cheerful pair of leggings ever, using this Oliver + S pattern.

cheerful leggings at amyhoodarts.com

These are for no particular reason than that I liked the fabric and recognized it needed to be turned into leggings for my color-loving girl. She wore them to school Monday with her ladybug dress. Her wardrobe palette has never been sedate.

Sunday afternoon and Monday, I sewed a pair of linen pants for myself, for when it’s linen-wearing season again.

linen pants at amyhoodarts.com

The pattern is from Simple Modern Sewing, and the fabric was a pre-Christmas on-sale purchase. It’s a nice, opaque linen, although I’m hoping a few more washings will soften it up a little more. The pattern sheets that come with the book are printed with multiple, overlapping pieces on each sheet, so it took me a while (and another cup of coffee) before I could untangle the pattern lines I was trying to trace. (Did M. C. Escher draw these pattern sheets? It seemed so.) Then I thought I’d done it wrong after all because the back pieces are wider than the fronts. This fabric, too, created much fuzz in the machine, and for the first time, I broke a needle while sewing, trying to sew a tri-fold belt loop onto a seam line of the waistband. But lo, the pants are complete, well before I’ll have any chance of wearing them.

Tuesday I dropped my machine off for a cleaning. It’s been almost three years, and I can see cushions of fuzz in places I can’t reach with my little brush. Best to get it cleaned before it’s a problem, is my thought. However, my coping method is now out of my hands for the next week. I plan to cut out lots of pattern pieces so I’m ready to start sewing again once I get it back. I shall sew spring dresses for the girl, as an offering of faith that someday–someday–the snow will melt.

A Couple of Sewn Things

I have lots of fabric waiting to be turned into sewn things, but most of them are spring sewn things and I just can’t yet. The snow, it is piled up, and it’s so cold with wind chill that I can’t in good conscience send my stir-crazy energy-filled kids outside. We all hate snow by now, even the kids.

Anyway. I sewed some things.

kindle cover at amyhoodarts.com

I finally got a Kindle, so of course I needed to make it a cover. I used this tutorial and canvas upholstery fabric from stash. I consider this my starter cover, something to keep it safe and protected until I make one with a bit more personality.

It slides into a pocket for protection in a bag:

kindle case at amyhoodarts.com

And it slips into these nifty corner tabs when I’m reading it.

kindle cover at amyhoodarts.com

Cute, huh? My husband said, “Most people buy a Kindle and then just buy a case, you know.” I said, No, most people who sew make their own. Slightly different worlds! I like my sewn Kindle case.

I also finally sewed the DNA apron I had in mind when I saw this DNA fabric, which I just had to buy, because DNA is so beautiful–not just its structure but the elegance of its construction as a solution to the problem of how to replicate itself.  Nature is a superb designer.

DNA apron at amyhoodarts.com

Kind of a fuzzy picture, taken by my 6yo, but you get the drift. I intend this for an art-work apron, especially while teaching, as I’m constantly needing more hands than I have. Pockets! Hopefully I will someday teach again. If we lose another Monday to snow I’m afraid we’ll never be able to make them all up.

My favorite part is the bias trim, I think.

DNA apron bias trim at amyhoodarts.com

I have some of each fabric left over, too, so I’m sure it’ll show up as a pouch lining or something sooner or later.

I’ll be sewing more soon. Sewing therapy!