Thursday, 30 October 2014

Preschooler Play - In The Garden

Getting your children outside in the garden is fantastic. They can soak up the vitamin D, play in the dirt, and make a mess that doesn't need to be cleaned up. At our house, the children are out in the garden every day. I wrote about some of the activities that my daughter was doing in the garden this time last year. This year, being nearly four years old, she is really getting into "being a farmer".

So how to go about getting them started?

Don't be afraid of children damaging your plants. Give them their own garden bed instead, where they are free to dig and plant and play as much as they like. Miss 3.5 has just finished eating her way through her first crop of peas and carrots, and has planted a new crop of carrots and leeks. She also has plant pots full of petunias. She spends her days digging in the garden with her little spade and watering her plants with "muck gooey", which is a broth that she makes up herself full of dirt, water and a little liquid fertiliser.

Don't be afraid of them getting dirty either. Put them in special gardening clothes and remember that mud washes off in the washing machine.

Have fun!

How do your children play in the garden? What do they like to plant?

Friday, 24 October 2014

Materials and Techniques: Wildflower Innocence

I am a big fan of handmade, so each fortnight I have a chat to another artist about how they go about making their products. Today I am talking to Suzanne, who makes dolls for her store Wildflower Innocence. Suzanne is a fellow EtsyKids team member and is based in Northern California in the US.

Please tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Suzanne, and I am the owner, designer, and creator behind Wildflower Innocence. We are located in the beautiful foothills of the Sierra Mountains in Northern California, USA.

For as long as I can remember, I have been surrounded by creativity. My father is a toy maker, and the owner of Elves and Angels and my mother was always creating some beautiful doll for myself or one of my many siblings. My parents both have an amazing gift for creativity, and toys were something that we always had a great abundance of... and not the Made in China garbage that you find at Walmart and Toys R Us... most of our toys were lovingly handmade by my parents or an older sibling.

I have always loved working with my hands and making toys and clothing for my own 3 daughters. Last year however, I decided to launch Wildflower Innocence. I was driven by my love of beautiful, simple toys. There is something different about a toy made by hand and a toy that is mass produced in some far away factory... it is like meeting the farmer who grows your food... or better yet, growing your own. Being able to have something of meaning to share with future children and grandchildren links the past and their future. In today's world of tech products and over the top toys, it is my hope to bring a little simplicity and innocence back to childhood.

What materials and techniques do you like to use?

I work with felt and cotton designer fabric the most. Cotton and wool yarn are also used a lot. There is something to be said for a toy that can truly be felt... the softness of the wool felt, or the different textures and colors make creating each doll a joy. Every little wing and cap, hand cut and hand stitched... and with each step you watch someones new little playmate come to life.

What challenges have you faced in the creative process?

I would say that for me, the biggest challenge would be marketing. I was never the most tech savvy person, so in the beginning it was all a bit overwhelming. This last year I have spent a lot of time researching and learning and I can honestly say it has paid off. I now have active Etsy, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Blog pages as well as my website. Things really seem to be coming together.

What drives you to create?

My daughters, my childhood... so many things... I rarely have a hard time coming up with ideas. Most often I have to get myself to stop coming up with new dolls so that I can continue producing inventory of the dolls I already have! I also do a lot of custom orders and have received some wonderful ideas from customers.

What is coming up next?

More dolls! I am hoping to continue growing my business and adding to my line of Storybook Dolls. I'm also planing on adding dolls of different ethnic background to my dollhouse family sets, and I am hoping to add fairy houses within the next year. To me, the possibilities are endless!

Do you love reading about materials and techniques? Read more in the archive. If you'd like to share your story, just drop me a line.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

At it again...

We are at the house renovations again. This time we are re-cladding the house, adding insulation, removing the external asbestos, replacing the windows, replacing the eaves and guttering, and re-painting. Not much, eh?

Keep up with the history of our house renovations.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Caring for your kaetoo canvas

kaetoo canvases are acrylic paintings on canvas, sealed with a matte finish. The sealer protects your artwork and makes it easy to care for. There are a few additional steps that you can take to keep your artwork looking gorgeous.

Avoid humidity
Try not to hang your artwork in areas of high humidity or where water will be splashed directly above or below the canvas. Humidity will cause mould and mildew. Severe changes in humidity also cause the canvas to slacken and tighten on the stretchers, cracking the paint. The bathroom and kitchen are not great places for canvas art.

Avoid heat
 To reduce fading, do not hang your artwork in direct sunlight or over a radiator, fireplace or other source of heat. Again, changes in heat can cause expansion and contraction of the canvas and paint.

Remove dust and lint
To avoid damaging the ribbons and textures, you can use a clean, dry paintbrush to dust your artwork when required. Never use polish or chemical cleaning agents.

Store carefully
 To avoid stretch marks, always place your artwork on a level surface with nothing poking the canvas from behind. When storing your artwork, avoid environments that are excessively dry or damp, such as attics, basements and concrete floors. Use pads when stacking canvases.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Baby Play - On The Move

My son is mobile now, chasing me when I leave the room and getting into his sister's things. So, it must be baby-proofing time.

My baby-proofing strategy is perhaps a bit unorthodox. Instead of removing all of the child-dangerous things from reach, I actually leave them (within reason... sharp razor blades are usually out of reach). We do have a baby gate on the kitchen, but that's actually to keep the dogs out rather than the children.

Instead, I adopt a policy of following the baby around the house and gently dissuading them from things that they are not allowed to touch. So, for example, yesterday young Master Trouble-pants was investigating the dog water bowl. And I kept telling him that it wasn't for him and turning him away from it. The plan is that he will learn that somethings are for him to touch and play with and somethings just are not. And hopefully he learns this faster than if he were allowed free reign over a perfectly safe space. It's harder work for me, but it worked very well for Misses now-3.5 and 4, so I'm hoping that it will be just as good for him.

What is your baby-proofing strategy? What works for you?

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Child Upgrade

My daughter's lovely best friend has recently had her birthday. Happy Birthday,"Queen Elsa"! So now she is Miss 4 and my little girl is Miss 3.5.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Materials and Techniques: DeeDeeDeesigns

I'm a big fan of the handmade world and I love finding out about the different ways in which artists create. Each fortnight, I chat with a different designer about how their products come about. Today I am talking to Dawn from Ballarat in Victoria, Australia. She is a practicing artist working in ceramics who has the online store DeeDeeDeesigns

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I have been a practicing artist for about twenty years and also teach in my studio, community centres, schools and anywhere that wants me! I have travelled overseas on artist residencies and to exhibit, and have also exhibited widely in Australia. I also enjoy writing about art and have had a few articles published here and there. I am new to Madeit, though I joined a while ago, I only started the store a few months ago. The work I have listed in the store is mainly functional domestic ware, as most of my artwork would be too big and heavy to list in terms of postage costs. Having said that people can place a custom order via my shop for a sculptural or art piece and have the cost of the art absorb the postage.

What materials and techniques do you like to use?

The materials I use in my Madeit store at this stage are only clay - mostly wheelthrown, though there are a few hand built pieces listed. Within my wider art practice I use almost everything and anything. A lot of my sculpture is mixed media - I love scrounging for rusty found objects and combining them with the organic qualities of clay.

What challenges have you faced in the creative process?

Challenges can range from anything from physical to financial! It was a physical challenge, for example, that initiated me into making ceramic jewellery. I chopped off my finger a couple of years ago while preparing work for a pit firing (firing ceramics in the ground) and couldn't make any large work for a long time, so began making beads and pendants and various small trinkets. And of course financially it is always difficult being an artist, especially if you don't want to work in a conventional job at the same time - which I don't as I find you then have no energy for art. So I do a lot of teaching and workshops to supplement that side of the equation.

What drives you to create?

Most of my artwork is inspired by natural textures, colours and shapes - I live in a regional part of Australia, so finding this inspiration is easy. In term of getting started.... that is not too much of an issue for me because, as mentioned earlier, I don't work outside of my arts practice, so there is nothing else distracting me or filling my head except my art practice.

What is coming up next?

A little while ago I wrote a book titled Pit Firing Ceramics: Modern Methods, Ancient Techniques. The book has officially launched in July in Australia in the town where I live at the Gallery of Ballarat. It was being accompanied by an exhibition of pit fired works by a range of international artists. After that I was involved in a group exhibition in August and a solo show in September - both local to where I live. Apart from that I'll just keep making stuff!!

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Don't you just love finding out about how artists create? Find out more through the archive of materials and techniques interviews. If you'd like to contribute your story, leave a comment. 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Operation Christmas Child

Christmas is sneaking up on us. As you are preparing for Christmas celebrations with your family and friends, it’s worth thinking about the children around the world who aren’t going to be getting a Christmas gift this year.

Operation Christmas Child is an initiative that provides children in need with a shoebox filled with gifts for Christmas. Since 1993, more than 100 million shoeboxes have been given to kids in more than 130 countries. The goody-filled shoeboxes are donated by families, churches, schools and businesses and distributed by Samaritan’s Purse. Joining in and contributing a box is easy. We've been doing it for the last two years.

Grab a shoebox and decide if your gift is for a boy or a girl and the age of the child (2–4, 5–9 or 10–14 years old). Then fill the box with presents. Include:
  • Something to love
  • Something for school
  • Something to wear
  • Something to play with
  • Something for personal hygiene
  • Something special

Borrowed from Operation Christmas Child.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to make a child happy; we set a $20 limit for each box. This year, Miss 3 and I went shopping for presents together and then she, Miss 3.5 and another friend packed a shoe box each. They were absolutely delighted to pack presents for someone else. My sister-in-law had the shoe boxes and we covered them in Christmas wrapping paper before we packed the boxes.

We also downloaded colouring sheets for the girls to fill in as a little story about who has packed the box. Miss 3 had a lovely time taking our three boxes, plus three from my mother into the drop-off centre.

Make sure that you get your children involved in packing and dropping off the boxes; it’s great for them to experience the joy of giving. October is national collection month in Australia. Start packing now. Have fun packing and bringing a smile to a child's face.