Making + Listening::9/2014

The Making + Listening series has a new host, Jen at iHappy, and I’m definitely happy to be joining in again this week! It’s been a while. I’ll start off by sharing something 5yo G made.

5yo's 3-D picture at amyhoodarts.com

This was all her idea and completely driven by her. As is usual, she let me know when she needed certain materials or some assistance. I did suggest she glue the paper that she colored onto some mat board before proceeding to glue things onto it, since she started off with printer paper. I love how kids simply don’t care about things like scale, and how their artwork is so much more interesting for it.

Here’s a close-up of the cow (cut from a milk carton) with the flowers (carefully constructed from paper and tissue paper before gluing to the base).

amyhoodarts.com

Those flowers tower over that cow. It’s awesome.

Another close-up, of the superhero:

amyhoodarts.com

I also helped her figure out how to glue that so it stayed upright. We used a craft stick for support. One more close-up, of the chimney on the building. She told me she needed a cap from a juice carton, brown paint, and black paper so she could cut out smoke.

amyhoodarts.com

I super love the things she makes.

In comparison, I’ve been downright slothful. I have a chicken-in-progress to share…

embroidered chicken in progress at amyhoodarts.com

I’m working on some more small embroidered linen pockets–I decided to apply for a proper craft fair being held in July.

As for the listening, I’m really enjoying the birds. The weather has finally cooperated enough that we can have the windows open during the day. I hear far more birds than I see, of course. Titmice and towhees, cardinals and catbirds, phoebes, veerys, wood thrush, and a yellow warbler that I really want to get a glimpse of, but I’ve had no luck so far. Varied birdsong in the summer is one of my favorite parts of where I live.

And while I wish I had a lilac bush right in my yard, on my way home yesterday I noticed cut lilac at the on-your-honor flower stand down my road, so I made a u-turn and bought some. Now my dining room smells perfect.

cut lilacs at amyhoodarts.com

 

First Craft Fair

craft fair table at amyhoodarts.com

So Saturday I attended my first fair as a vendor. It wasn’t a craft fair, not really; it was a school fair with some vendors. People don’t necessarily attend because they’re looking to buy things. (For the kids, it’s a mandatory school day.) As you can see, the weather was beautiful, despite initial forecasts of heavy rain. I completely forgot to have my husband take a picture of me at the table, so this is the picture I have!

I looked at this event as a trial run of attending a fair, from what to bring, using the technology, setting up and breaking down, and what sold. My goal was small: I wanted to at least make back the cost of being there, and I did. I had items priced in a wide range, from $3 to $30, but all my sales, except for two cards, were of zippered pockets.

As for nuts-and-bolts details, if I’m going to make a habit of attending craft fairs, I will want a real sign and a better way to display the cards and notebooks, I think. I got a chance to use the PayPal Here card reader and learned to connect it first thing, because it took a bit–but then it did work. I enjoy talking to people whether they buy anything or not. I like what I do and like to explain what inspires my designs, and it’s a pleasure to talk to someone who’s interested. We were able to set up and break down fairly easily and quickly, but I was glad my husband was there to do most of the work with the tent.

So it was a good learning experience and my modest goals were met. And it’s fun to sell to people in person, to see someone decide that they really want to take home something I’ve made. I sold one of my favorite pouches, the one with a design inspired by Western Salsify embroidered onto Japanese cotton:

Salsify (1)

As I’ve said before, I choose the linings carefully, because I want the inside to be as pleasing as the outside.
Salsify (3)

When the customer unzipped the pouch to look inside, she exhaled, “Oooh.” Yes. That is exactly what I’m going for, and I think the ability to witness it in person is a good reason to make a point of selling at a fair every now and then.

Creating Every Day

Without really thinking about it or planning it out, I’ve been creating every day. It’s wonderful. The kids and I have been immersing ourselves in trying out ideas for the next issue of Art Together, which focuses on mixed media and collage. Here’s a sneak peek of the title.

mixed media title at amyhoodarts.com

The featured artist this issue is Joseph Cornell, and I’ve just finished reading a nearly 400-page biography on him. I suppose this is a bit more than I have to do in order to include him in the zine, but I like biographies, and going that deep certainly doesn’t hurt. The kids have enjoyed learning more about him and his artwork as well. Issue Four will be available in June, as close to June 1 as I can make it.

Along with making art with the kids, I’ve been making art for the upcoming fair.

items ready for the fair at amyhoodarts.com

This is what I have beyond the sewn pouches. I have just a few matted linocut prints, on the left. I have a half dozen stamped small Moleskine notebooks, and below those, a sampling of hand-printed or -stamped cards. The white ones are mixed media cards and work well with the linocuts; the brown ones are kraft cardstock, so I used my stamps on those. I have about ten of each. At the bottom right are large stamped Moleskines, and above those is a box of rocks.

box of painted rocks at amyhoodarts.com

I kind of just like saying “box of rocks!”

In between the making I’ve been writing–a draft of an article for Home/School/Life, and the zine too, of course. It’s a good sort of busy, with all this creating going on, and with enough variety that I can switch between different sorts of creative muscles. And of course, any day that includes art-making and creating is automatically a Very Good Day.

DIY Paper Bag Binge

A couple of days ago I realized I ought to have merchandise bags of some sort if I’m selling at a fair. There isn’t any place that I know of locally where I can buy 25 or so flat paper bags, and I decided I didn’t want to pay for shipping, which can quickly get steep because of weight. So I figured I’d just make some. Several places we ordered from for Christmas use brown kraft paper as box filler, so I cut it to size and sewed up some bags.

sewn paper bags at amyhoodarts.com

I don’t have many things that need even that large of a bag, though, so I only made six of those. I made twenty paper bags out of map pages, though.

map paper bags at amyhoodarts.com

Turns out making these is like eating popcorn. It was hard to stop. The Internet has many tutorials for these; I happened to use this one at Urban Natural History. The paper is from a road atlas that Dawn sent me when she was cleaning things out before her latest move. Its pages are the perfect size!

I’ve no idea how many bags I might need or how many sales I may make. This is a big experiment. My 9yo thinks these bags are fantastic–and I have to agree with him. A big plus is that all these bags used materials I already had in the house. Perfect!

Drawing Dragons

dragon drawings at amyhoodarts.com

Artwork by N. Hood.

Last week, my 9yo picked out a book on drawing dragons, Dragonart Evolution: How to Draw Everything Dragon, at the craft store. We got home and he began drawing. He’s barely stopped since.

dragon drawings at amyhoodarts.com

His new book and his stack of drawings–and he’s using both sides of the paper.

He began by attempting some of the drawing guidelines from the book, but he’s mainly using it for inspiration.

dragon drawings at amyhoodarts.com

artwork by N. Hood

Sometimes he focuses on a specific area, such as eyes or texture.

dragon drawings at amyhoodarts.com

artwork by N. Hood

His drawings have stories attached. Sometimes they contain text.

dragon drawings at amyhoodarts.com

artwork by N. Hood

If there’s a battle going on, he’s partial to the dragon’s side of the story.

dragon drawings at amyhoodarts.com

artwork by N. Hood

I asked if I could share some, and he said yes, but he had a hard time narrowing down the choices. In the end, I chose five out of his pile and he slipped in a couple more.

dragon drawings at amyhoodarts.com

artwork by N. Hood

I promised him we’d document all of them with photographs.

dragon drawings at amyhoodarts.com

artwork by N. Hood

He has said repeatedly that he loves the book. The book was just the starting point. He has drawn dragons before, many of them, but this book, I think, gave him some new things to think about. He’s going deeper, and he has spent hours drawing, every day, utterly absorbed and content–which makes me happy, too.

Craft Fair Announcement + Some Making

For those of you who are local, I’ll have a table at The Compass School’s Eco-Fair. Relevant info is on this flyer.

The Compass School Eco Fair flyer at amyhoodarts.com

I’ll be selling zippered pockets, of course, along with stamped Moleskines, stamped/printed blank cards, and possibly some matted prints. I sewed quite a few pockets last month, so this past week I’ve been busy with other things.

bunting + stamped notebooks at amyhoodarts.com

Up top is a portion of a bunting I stamped and sewed. It has eight of those triangles altogether, each with a different summery stamp. This is ultimately for the slider in our dining room, which right now is decorated with felt spring flowers on a crocheted vine. I like to change it up seasonally, but last year those flowers stayed up all summer. But I’m also going to use this to decorate my table at the fair.

Below are some small stamped Moleskines. I carved the house stamp a while ago but I don’t think I ever shared it, so here’s a close-up.

hand-carved house stamp at amyhoodarts.com

Finally, I’ve been painting rocks. I thought it would be nice to have some low-priced items that might appeal to kids, since it’s a school fair. These aren’t quite done yet. They’ll all get a coat of gloss acrylic varnish.

painted rocks at amyhoodarts.com

I’m not quite sure what to charge for these. Materials cost next to nothing, but of course they do take time (and very, very tiny brushes). Any ideas?

Sketchbook Skool So Far

in the style of Sendak at amyhoodarts.com

Sketching from Where the Wild Things Are to try on different styles.

We’re in Week Four (already!) of Sketchbook Skool. I signed up with the goal of using my sketchbook more and getting more out of it, and I think I am. My experiences with the instructors have been variable, but that’s to be expected, I think; different people have different styles and philosophies. I’m also at a different place in life than the instructors so far. They talk of how a sketchbook practice is easy to fit into a day, just 45 minutes to an hour! I’ve noticed that none of them are trying to draw while tending to the needs of a few kids. (To be fair, an hour of drawing would have been difficult on days I waitressed 12-hour shifts, too. These challenges aren’t confined to parents and I don’t mean to imply they are.) But as always, I work around my responsibilities and use the parts of the class that I can, as I can.

flowers sketchbook page at amyhoodarts.com

Remembering special days via the sketchbook.

The first two instructors, Danny Gregory and Koosje Koene, both suggested starting off with pen, not pencil. I completely understand that philosophy–pencil can cause you to draw small and tight, over-focused on the perfect line, erasing as you go. But I don’t like starting with pen, and I don’t draw small and tight with pencil. I’m looser, putting down multiple lines, zeroing in on the one I want. I often leave those other lines in the drawing, liking the way they add energy to it. I did my homework using only the pen, but it didn’t change my mind much. However, because of Danny’s class, I’m adding a bit more text to some of my drawings.

sneakers sketchbook page at amyhoodarts.com

Adding text to my drawing.

(An aside: One of his demonstrations was drawing breakfast before eating it. This really highlighted the different-place-in-life thing. I’ve gotten used to eating soggy cereal because morning is such a difficult time of day to sit for ten minutes straight to eat even that much. Imagine taking the time to draw your food before eating it! I’d end up with neither breakfast nor a drawing.)

fruit sketchbook page at amyhoodarts.com

Jane LaFazio’s homework assignment involved using a grid.

This week’s instructor, Jane LaFazio, uses pencil to start with. Hurrah! I really like her style. It resonates quite a bit–she also carves stamps and uses textiles and embroiders and paints. It’s probably no surprise that I enjoy her work.

sea shell study at amyhoodarts.com

I liked the homework so much I did it again with seashells.

I don’t get into the sketchbook every day, but I’m definitely having fun with it. Last night I spent several hours with those seashells, in between other tasks. We have two more weeks of Sketchbook Skool…I’m looking forward to seeing what the last two instructors have to offer.

I’m adding my sketchbook pages to a Flickr set, if you want to see more as I go on.

Fairy House Festival

You may recall that 5yo G has an interest in fairies. Yesterday we visited the Botanical Gardens at Roger Williams Park in Providence, on the last day of their “fairy house garden days.” This was something that came across my computer screen via a local homeschool email group, so it’s not a field trip planned by G (which is really how PBL field trips should go). I’m the one who heard about it, but G was in charge of the experience. We left the boys at home and went for a mama-daughter date with fairy gardens.

I didn’t tell G that the website invited visitors to dress as fairies–who needs to tell a 5yo to wear wings? She independently chose her outfit. Obviously one visits a fairy house garden wearing wings, a flower barrette, a poufy skirt, and sparkly shoes. Once there, she asked if she could take photos of her favorite houses. YES. I handed over the camera, and she took more than 70 pictures.

documenting fairy houses (PBL) at amyhoodarts.com

We weren’t just viewing, you see. This is also research, because she plans to continue building her own fairy houses (more on that in a minute). All the photos of fairy houses in this post were taken by G. This was one of her favorites, a seaside getaway for fairies who need a vacation.

seaside fairy house at amyhoodarts.com

fairy house at Roger Williams Park Botanical Gardens, Providence, RI.

She wanted to take a photo of this twisty ladder because it “looks like DNA, Mama!!”

fairy house ladder at amyhoodarts.com

Part of a fairy house at Roger Williams Park Botanical Gardens, Providence, RI.

A scavenger hunt had been set up, and while usually I’m not a fan of those at museums because they tend to cause visitors to focus just on the items on the list, that wasn’t the outcome here. It was quite well done–some fairy house displays had explanatory signs, which were clever or interesting, along with an item to look for in the display. G was looking very closely at all the displays anyway, whether it was a scavenger hunt stop or not. So this particular activity added to the experience. She took this photo at the display of hanging fairy house spheres because she was asked to find a bench and she did! (I didn’t spot it at all.)

hanging fairy house at amyhoodarts.com

Part of a fairy house display at Roger Williams Park Botanical Gardens, Providence, RI.

Part of the special activities for Sunday was making a fairy house. She picked up a bag of collected nature items and some dirt.

fairy house-making supplies at amyhoodarts.com

However, she was having a hard time figuring out how to construct walls, so I asked if she’d like to bring the items home and use them to build a house in the yard–where we have trees and rocks and shells to add to the materials. She said yes. On the way out, we were asked if we’d like to take another bag (they must have had extras), so she picked out more supplies. There are wonderful things in there, things we wouldn’t necessarily be able to easily collect on their own. The URI Master Gardeners were a big part of this event, and the Master Gardeners themselves all collected items (legally and carefully, I’ve no doubt, as the back of the scavenger hunt list had cautions on being careful collectors). I suspect that most of the effort to create this event was by volunteers.

A couple of days before Easter, G decided it was time to build a fairy house in the yard. She’d been waiting patiently all winter for spring. Easter was in two days; we were into the second part of April. Surely it was time, never mind that the temperature was in the 30s. Spring may be wavery about committing, but G was not.

5yo's fairy house at amyhoodarts.com

5yo’s G first fairy house in our backyard.

The table! Set with acorn cap bowls! With her 70-odd photos of inspiration, and her memories of all we looked at and talked about, G has lots of ideas for building more fairy houses. (She also has a new fairy wand. It goes fetchingly with the wings and sparkly shoes.)

It’s in the Details {Shop Update}

I’ve added some new pencil pockets and basic pockets to the shop, some of what I’ve been working on the past couple of months, here and there. For instance, when I bought some manic-fish fabric for my 9yo’s jammie pants, I bought an extra yard to play with. I decided to use it as embellishment, like so:

The lining is the same fish fabric. That’s one of the details I like to pay attention to–the fabric I use to line the pockets. I want it to match, to complement the outside, to be inviting in its own right. Lining this denim pocket with the fish was an obvious choice, but even when the choice isn’t obvious, I take my time with it. This green batik fabric goes nicely, I think, with this embroidered tree.

Many years ago, before I began sewing, I ordered a custom-made project bag using adorable elephant fabric. (I love elephants.) The seller never mentioned lining fabric, and I didn’t know to ask. When the bag arrived, the lining was a floral that I didn’t like at all, and it didn’t even match the outside. I have never used that bag–I just don’t like unzipping it and seeing a pattern I don’t like. All my shop photos show the lining. If you buy a bag, maybe you’ll be the only one to see the lining, but you need to like it. You should unzip your bag and smile.

In the photo above you can also see the top-stitching next to the zipper. That keeps the fabric where it belongs, instead of catching in the zipper. This is something I learned from making pockets for myself. I love a good top-stitch. Such an important detail.

I also hand-sew the opening in the lining. When I machine-stitch the bag together the right sides are facing each other, and I have to leave an opening so I can turn it right-side out. I could machine-stitch that closed, too, but it leaves a little bit of a fold line. It’s obviously different. And yes, it’s on the inside, and you won’t notice it unless you know to look, but I think it looks nicer to hand-sew it.

sewing by hand

The stitching is impossible to find when it’s complete. It’s a small, invisible detail, but it looks nicer to the only person who’s ever going to see the inside, and that’s the person using it.

My sales are still small. I have the time, while I’m creating, to think about the eventual (hoped-for) owners of what I make. Because I’m crafting by hand, it feels like creating a gift. The same care goes into it. Why? Because I think we all deserve it.

superstar at amyhoodarts.com

Because you’re a superstar (yes you are): Superstar basic pocket at amyhoodarts.etsy.com

Poem in Your Pocket Day

Today is Poem in Your Pocket Day, part of National Poetry Month, and I have a couple of poetry-related things to share with you. Firstly, we visited the Carle Museum earlier this week, and their art studio activity was, fittingly enough, illustrating a favorite poem using watercolors. This is one of my 9yo’s paintings:

butter butter butter butter at amyhoodarts.com

9yo’s illustration of Karla Kuskin‘s poem.

I love the looseness of his butter here. It’s a great illustration of butter! It’s also a favorite poem of ours and one we recite quite often, because…butter.

As for the poem I’d like to share with you…I recently finished reading E. E. Cummings: A Life, by Susan Cheever, so here is a really lovely stanza from his poem my father moved through dooms of love–but I hope you also click through to read the entire poem:

My father moved through theys of we,
singing each new leaf out of each tree
(and every child was sure that spring
danced when she heard my father sing)

Happy Poem in Your Pocket Day, everyone.