Thursday, May 10, 2012

Unschooling Tools: For Creativity

art supplies

I try to keep many of our supplies easily accessible, even to the littlest one in our house. Markers, colored pencils, crayons, scissors, and lots and lots of paper of different kinds are always available. Things like glue, tape, paint, and string (and yarn, of course there is plenty of yarn to go around in the home of this knitter) are easy to find as well. My biggest issue with the arts and crafts supplies is our very small house and limited storage space. I find myself tucking things away in odd corners (and trying to keep them out of the basement where they aren't likely to see much use). There are some supplies jammed into spaces on the bookshelf, and all the glitter, sequins, and plastic jewels are in one of my kitchen cupboards. There is a small rolltop desk in the playroom that holds most of the basic supplies, and it gets to be quite a mess with everyone digging through it. Someday I would like to have a bigger space with more closets or drawers or room for some kind of cabinet/armoire/dresser dedicated to supplies. But for now I am often hunting around and trying to remember where I last stashed the glue gun.


The thing about keeping these supplies accessible is that occasionally I have to go to the bathroom. This was not the first time I walked in to find a lovely wall mural, though it was the first to be made with a dry erase marker. No, it did not come off. I think we will be repainting this room before we move. And honestly, if we were in this house to stay, I'd say go for it--here is some paint, make a mural, draw on the walls! But there is part of me that is always thinking ahead to putting the house on the market and trying to make as little cleanup/repainting/repair work as possible. Then something like this happens and I think now that it is there, she might as well keep at it. We're going to have to repaint the room anyway, right? I think Lucy really likes having a big canvas before her, and a pad of paper or an easel just isn't enough. She's got something bigger in mind (once she did a very nice floor mural for me on the hardwood floors with a sharpie).

 watercolor and salt

We love watercolors, and we have played around with wet on wet watercolors with the traditional Waldorf style primary colors. We also like the typical watercolor dry paint pots, and I highly recommend the Pelikan brand (used in the photo above) if you want dark saturated watercolors. They are much easier for little ones to use than the typical watercolor sets you might pick up at the grocery store. White crayons are fun for drawing a design before painting with the watercolors, and Joshua really likes making secret messages for each other that way. Also, if you sprinkle salt over the wet paint, the salt crystals suck up the paint around them and it makes for an interesting effect (you can see it best in the painting on the right).

 painting with feet

A basement is a good place to experiment with other kinds of painting. We had fun making a family mural with all of our footprints to decorate our door for the Life Rocks conference a month ago (I neglected to get a photo of the finished product). The basement is also a good place for the last two adirondack chairs I need to paint and that dresser I need to refinish (you can see the back of it on the right, it is pretty old but looks much nicer from the front). Yep, I always have a couple of projects that need to be finished up.

 art display

Our fridge has a stainless steel front that is not magnetic, so most of the artwork gets hung up on the door to the garage or the back of our front door. I love our ever-changing and ever-cluttered display.

a doggie apartment

Joshua put together this little apartment for his stuffed doggie in one of the sections of his bookshelf.  The rugs on the floor are potholders we made with one of those cotton loop looms. There is a palm tree in the corner (from a Chicka Chicka Boom Boom themed project at the local children's museum) and a few paintings on the wall. He loves making presents and other things for his stuffed animals. He tends to claim various cardboard boxes from the mail and often tells me not to throw something away because we can use it to make something else.

 kiddo projects

One of our favorite places for creative inspiration is NEST. Marcia's home is beautiful and it is inspiring just to be in that space. She also provides the space and supplies for some kind of craft each week, like the leaf collections above. Sometimes the craft she has available inspires new crafts at home. Last fall we made owls out of toilet paper tubes (similar to these) and a few days later at home we made a whole string of bats based on that idea, just in time for Halloween.

 Lucy's button string

Sometimes our crafts are old-fashioned, like this Little House on the Prairie inspired button string. Lucy very carefully strung buttons with a tapestry needle and yarn and wears it around as a necklace. She made this last December (and Joshua made button ornaments), and then a week or so ago she came across a stash of buttons and asked if we could make a button string for Joshua as well. And of course, we did!

 magic wands

Here we have a few magic wands in progress. All you need is some rolled up paper, lots of hot glue, paint and maybe a jewel or marble or two for embellishments.

 the aftermath

Two of our neighbor friends came over while we were in the middle of this project and the kids quickly got to work on it together. They used up an entire bag of glitter hot glue sticks and had big plans to sell the wands on the street lemonade stand style. They didn't stay out long with the drizzly day and low demand for magic wands (come on people!), but I really enjoyed watching them take over this project together. Since Joshua and Lucy are so young (6 and 2), most of the crafts that take place around here have a lot of mama-involvement and direction (not that we have directions for how a project must be completed, but there is lots of me helping with the glue gun and that sort of thing). But when the 9 and 11 year old neighbor are over I get the chance to sit back and watch them go for it on their own, a group of kids creating together.

I could go on and on, especially if I stretch further back into my archive of photos. We certainly don't take pictures of every creative endeavor, but even so just as I was writing this post I kept thinking of more things and adding another picture here and another there. A lot of people wouldn't know this about me, but prior to having kids I would not have considered myself to be a crafty or artistic person at all. I always wanted to take art classes in school, but I was on the academic track and my high school counselor told me it wouldn't look good to take pottery instead of calculus so I didn't. I dabbled in photography a bit in high school, and I finally took my first photography class in college (and I loved the darkroom!). But it wasn't until Josh was around 2 years old that I got a sewing machine and really started to make things. Soon after that I started knitting and that was it, I fell down the rabbit hole of fibery crafts. I had found my thing, wool! Now I want to try everything (still want to try pottery), but wool is my constant.

As a family, I think creativity is as simple as making stuff available. I've slowly been building up supplies for various projects so we can get right to the making of a thing when something comes up, whether it is based off something I saw on Pinterest, or something we saw in a craft book, or something Josh came up with on his own (like a few days ago when he asked if we could make boats out of popsicle sticks, I was glad I had been stashing popsicle sticks away in an old oatmeal container under the kitchen sink--see what I mean about stashing craft supplies away in weird places!).

In a way this has been hard for me because I am not much of a hoarder. I like to get rid of things. I don't like to keep stuff around. I don't like clutter and I would like to be organized, but the reality of my life right now is that I'm not, and I'm just not going to be. I have two little ones with lots of ideas and a small home with not much storage space, so for now I've had to let go of my desire for order and organization and just run with it. I am choosing to be okay with the popsicle sticks under the sink and the glitter in the cupboard and the paper bag full of toilet paper tubes in my bedroom. Someday I may have a big closet full of organized and labelled supplies, but even then I suspect it won't take long for them to morph into some other configuration of stuff. Still, a centralized location would be nice.

I am getting is the thing, have stuff available. You make stuff out of stuff. You don't need expensive stuff or even lots of stuff, and not necessarily the same stuff I have. But you do need something. Then, have space available, a table, a floor, a wall, a basement floor, outside--whatever. You need a space to make stuff. Then go and make stuff. The more stuff you make, the more ideas you'll have for other stuff to make.

And don't listen when someone else tells you calculus is more important than pottery.

Stephanie's original post, Unschooling Tools: For Creativity

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