An Announcement or Two

sketching irises at amyhoodarts.com

G and I drawing and painting irises in the yard this weekend.

This is the day I’d planned to have Issue Four of Art Together available, despite spending half of March sick with a bad cold and losing a week in April to the flu. But last week I became sick again, and it turned out to be strep, and that was the last straw. So I requested a week extension from myself, and Myself listened, weighed the facts, and granted it. Mainly it’s just the tech stuff left to do, which does, in fact, require me to be conscious. I had no idea strep was more than just a bad sore throat! I could barely keep my eyes open for a while there, but antibiotics are lovely when you truly need them, aren’t they? Like magic.

Speaking of Issue Four, which focuses on mixed media + collage, if you’re interested in a review copy and/or giveaway, drop me a line at amyhood at amyhoodarts dot com and we’ll discuss.

And finally, if you’re in southern Rhode Island this summer, you can now find my pockets and cards in Thrifty Sister in Peace Dale. This is a great consignment store that also carries work by local artists. (It also happens to be an excellent source of interesting found paper for mixed media and collage.)

Making + Listening::10/2014

pockets in progress at amyhoodarts.com

This week I have been making basic pockets. That’s a stack with zippers sewn in, waiting to be top-stitched and sewn up (which took place about nine hours after I took the photo; I mostly sew at night after my youngest is in bed). Along with last week’s chicken, this stack contains more embroidery, some stamped images (you can see the bottom edge of an anchor), and some that are both stamped and embroidered (four more trees in various colors). I’m waiting until after this weekend before adding anything new–including the cards and notebooks that didn’t sell at last weekend’s fair–to the shop, because I’m meeting with a local shop owner on Saturday to see about consignment. (The store that carried items last year closed around Christmas and I figured it was time to look into doing that again.)

As for listening, like many parents of young children, I have been listening to my kids sing this. My 5yo especially belts it out, dressed in both her blue sparkly capes (this one layered under this one). “Let it Go” has been stuck in my head all week. Sometimes I belt it out too, when I just can’t hold it back anymore…

Linking up with Jen again this week.

Circles: Sketchbook Page Inspired by G

Saturday morning, while not-waking-us-up-early, my 5yo drew a page of “Thomas wheels” (as in Thomas the Tank Engine).

5yo's page of circles at amyhoodarts.com

I love them. I love the vibrant color, the repetition of a theme, the way they’re all a little different. I love the way that, because she’s five, she doesn’t stress herself out to the point of paralysis with the idea that the circles should be perfectly circular. When I got a chance, I sat down with my sketchbook and drew some circles to color in, too. I told her she had inspired me.

circle sketchbook page at amyhoodarts.com

These were so much fun to draw and color. I like the equality that goes on, artwise, in my house. Ideas and techniques don’t just flow in one direction, from adult to children. We inspire each other. It’s a fabulous, natural way to nurture confidence and a willingness to try new things.

(I’ve added a few more sketchbook pages to my flickr sketchbook set.)

Raising Readers (Or, Why I Don’t Approve of Book Logs)

Why I Don't Approve of Book Logs at amyhoodarts.com

Last week I had a little twitterrant about book logs and similar assignments that extend a teacher’s reach into reading a child does for pleasure on his or her own time. I’ve made a lot of mistakes as a parent, but one of the things I’ve got right is raising kids who love to read. I’ve been at it for over a decade now, and my methods have been proven successful, so I really bristle when school reaches in and messes with it. My oldest and only schooled child is in sixth grade. None of his teachers have bothered him with a book log since he began school in second grade; he entered reading voraciously and well beyond grade level. Earlier this spring his teacher went on maternity leave, and the sub decided he needed to fill out a book log. At parent/teacher conferences several weeks ago, I brought it up and got him excused, pointing out that he’s often read the assigned 20 minutes per day before he even gets to school, because he reads on the bus. He also frequently reads entire books in one school day because he finishes his work early and they have nothing else to offer him. Last week, he came home and told me she’d now assigned him to write a weekly summary of a book he read on his own time for fun in place of the book log. This is beyond the reading-related assignments he does for school. She told him she wanted to make sure he understood what he was reading.

He takes standardized tests that measure reading comprehension. He writes summaries and does assignments for books assigned as class reading. I know he understands what he’s reading because I talk to him about what he’s reading. A book log is a tedious exercise in time wasting, and writing a summary of a book you chose to read for pleasure just so school can check a box is odious. Both of these activities attach a chore to reading for fun, which is exactly the opposite of what we should be doing if we want to raise kids who like to read.

I’m not just against book logs for established readers. My younger son, who was schooled from K through second grade, was not reading fluently when he began second grade. It hadn’t clicked for him yet, by which I mean he hadn’t crossed that magical bridge when you cease to think about reading and find yourself simply doing it. When his teacher assigned a book log, I explained that we wouldn’t be participating. I knew my child; he has a contrary streak and requires ownership of his learning and doing. I worried that if he got a whiff of an idea that reading was something he should do because school said so, he’d decide it wasn’t for him. Also, writing down everything you read is, as I’ve said, tedious; I’ve tried it. I wanted him to come to reading in his own time, without pressure, and develop into someone with a lifelong love of books. I wanted that much more than I wanted to not be the Difficult Parent.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both teachers with whom I’ve had to discuss book log requirements have said they didn’t like to read as children. Book logs begin with the assumption that kids won’t read unless we force them to and then hold them accountable. I don’t like this assumption. To me, the fact that schools require them as a matter of course demonstrates that schools have given up on the idea that kids will read for fun and they view it as one more thing that needs to be forced down kids’ throats like medicine. That’s not the attitude my kids have towards reading. So, how did we do it?

My husband and I both read, and the kids see us reading. But setting an example isn’t enough. We hope the kids love to read, but having that hope isn’t enough. We have a family culture that values books and reading, and I feel that’s why we’ve successfully passed on our love of reading. Our words and actions are all in line with the idea that we value books and time spent reading. I’ve been taking my kids to the library since they were infants, as much for my sake as for theirs. We remain heavy library users, and librarians at all three branches of the town system we use the most know all my kids by name. I can’t even begin to estimate how many hours of my mother-life I’ve spent reading aloud: it surely must be in the thousands. And not just stories before bed; we have shelves packed with books, and I will read aloud at any time of day. Some days it was all I did, reading entire chapter books to ill little boys. (Those are good memories!) While we ask the kids to save their own money for certain purchases, they know I’m a soft touch when it comes to books. Unless we decide it’s a book they’ll finish quickly and never re-read (in which case, it’s borrowed from the library), I will hand over money for just about any book purchase.

As a result of allowing the kids to learn to read at their own pace without external pressures, valuing reading and books, taking time to read aloud every day and almost whenever asked, providing the kids with books they ask for, talking about what we’re all reading, demonstrating in word and deed that my own reading time is just as important to me—as a result of all of this, I have kids who love to read, who won’t leave the house without a book in hand (and an extra, if they think they might finish the first one en route), who don’t understand why anyone would not want to read. Sometimes my boys and I, or the boys and my husband, will read the same books and discuss them. The boys pass series back and forth. My oldest has subscriptions to two adult science magazines and chooses his library books from all sections of the library: kids, YA, adult, fiction, nonfiction. My almost-10yo will still choose picture books even as he ranges up to the YA section for chapter books. He also loves nonfiction as well as fiction. My daughter can’t wait until she can read, too; she’s already planning to re-read favorite series that we’ve read aloud together. I have never once told any of my kids they had to read at least twenty minutes per evening and then hand me a list to prove they did.

I realize teachers don’t know what happens in every household, but I was and always will be my children’s first teacher. I expect any classroom teachers they have to be my partner in this; information goes back and forth so we can both do our best. If our goal as teachers and parents is to nurture children who love to read and freely choose reading as an enjoyable leisure activity, then when my kid is doing just that, we’ve met our goal. Back off with the book logs and busywork summaries; they’ll just undermine the idea that reading can and should be fun. As for kids who aren’t there yet, introducing the idea that you read because school says so leaves no room for the idea that reading can be intrinsically fun. Rating books by level, telling kids what sorts of books they should be reading, valuing one kind of book over another, requiring a certain number of pages read in a certain time period…none of this creates a culture of reading. It creates a culture of control, and that’s no way to nurture kids who choose to read for fun.

(I never forced my kids to eat vegetables, either, and you know what? They all love them.)

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?