Monday, July 26, 2010

You grab a line I'll grab a pole...let's craft a fishing game.

This morning fifty children joined me to make a fishing game craft.  I had wonderful high school helpers and the materials on hand but hadn't planned a book selection. Nothing like having the library director pitch in to help me with a search minutes before the program began. We stumbled across a great book entitled 'Piggy and Dad go Fishing'. Father and son don't want to hook smiling worms so they bait their hooks with  pieces of their sandwiches. When they do catch a fish they fall for his smiling face and release him into the water. In the end they abandon the fishing rods and begin a new tradition of feeding the fish. After this crowd pleasing tale I shared the following instructions to make the fishing game.

The fishing rod is made with a 12" length of 3/8" dowel rod, which my husband had kindly cut down from one yard lengths last night. You simply tie one end of a 15" piece of string to one end of the dowel rod. Sandwich the other end of the string between to sections of adhesive magnet. Magnetic tape is sold by the roll and is easily cut with regular scissors.

The fish, octopus, crabs, mermaids, boots, pirate treasure... are all made out of construction paper and markers. I gave a quick demo showing how the shorthand drawing for a fish doesn't work. When you cut a fish symbol the connection to the tail is too narrow and it breaks off. My next drawing featured fish complete with lips and fins to encourage my young artists to flex their drawing skills.

Halfway through the activity I suggested the older to children award their pieces point values to turn the game into a fun math exercise. Each fish needs to have a paperclip slipped over it's paper mouth, so that it can be caught by the magnetic fishing line.

While everyone was busy drawing and cutting their fish I went around the room transforming the two liter pop bottles into ponds. I cut the tops off the bottles with a sharp pair of Fiskar soft touch scissors. I suggested they keep the tops as they make a great funnel for the beach or sandbox.

We used additional paper and clear packing tape to affix drawings and wavy water to the outside of the pond, the finished fish are simply placed  inside the pond.

In my experience kids love making something that they can play with when they're finished.  Many thanks to the wonderful parents and children who let me photograph and share their creativity. I'm also grateful for the continued support of Curtis Memorial library.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Waterless Aquariums - Free Tutorial

Monday found me toting my bag of tricks to the library to make a magical project for the 'Splash into summer reading' program.  Fifty children arrived with jars and matching lids ready to create. After reading the classic story Fish out of Water by Helen Palmer, the kids were inspired to make clay fish that would never need feeding.

We spread a tarp of blue water over the center of the floor to create a protected community work surface.  The first step was to have the children form fish around a small colored paper clip. I stressed the importance of making sure the top of the paperclip emerged from the top of their finished fish. We passed each child a generous pinch of Model Magic in each of the primary colors. This was enough clay to create three fish and a few bottom dwellers. 

Crayola's model magic has a unique texture it is similar to modeling with marshmallows. It air dries in a day, the only drawback is leftovers need to be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and be used relatively quickly. I was surprised that a single 2lb tub provided enough clay for the entire group.

The children (and parents) dove right into creating, I witnessed wonderful originality, dolphins, octopus, clam shells, sharks, solid and multicolor fish instantly took shape from the blobs of clay. I wish I had remembered my camera to share images with you, I blame mom overload for this oversight.

The next step was to have the children pour an inch of aquarium gravel into the base of the jar. Next we carefully placed the bottom dwellers over the gravel. They're a little sticky if necessary use a pencil to separate and position them.

Parents helped tie a piece of fishing line to the top of each exposed paperclip.

We used packing tape to attach the end of the lines to the underside of the lid. It's important that the lines extend out in different directions and are varied in length. This will prevent the fish from clumping together. If possible it's a good idea to let the clay dry before placing the fish in the jar.

When my son Elliot was studying fish in first grade we procured giant pickle jars from a friend in food service. The kids spent several hours creating elaborate aquariums with lots of fish.

Thanks to my friend Erin for having a camera in her purse so I could take a snap of some of my favorite young artists!

It was a joy to to share this project with the kids it brought back fond memories of my days as contributing editor to Crayola Kids Magazine.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sea Monster Sandcastle

This past weekend we enjoyed two glorious beach days that make living in a place called 'Vacationland' a joy. The sun was shining, nothing but bright blue skies above. Lowtide was in the middle of the day offering a huge expanse sand. Recent erosion on Popham beach has made it practically non existent at high tide.  A constant cool breeze blew in from the Atlantic, making us forget the heat of the sun's rays and sparing us attacks from the dreaded green head flies.

I come from a line of serious sandcastle builders and now that Celia is old enough to join in the fun I'm enjoying the chance to play with sand again. While the kids were frolicking in the waves I dug up four mounds of sand. When they came out of the water I had just finished shaping the head and they all hit the sand to help smooth the mounds and form a bumpy ridge along the top. It brings me so much happiness when kids are excited to create.

My husband Jon helped by elongating the tail forming it into a curved shape. When we decided the monster should be spewing seaweed, the kids enthusiastically collected and positioned it. My only wish was that we had rocks or shells for teeth, none were to be found.

Our monster made us lots of new friends, kids from other families joined in the fun. Celia and one of her new friends kept rebuilding the head as the incoming tide carved away our creation.

Sunday we made a giant starfish the kids helped out and covered it with different varieties of seaweed. We enjoyed watching the ocean claim it, although it lacked the presence and magic of our monster.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Teens flip for flops: free tutorial!

This is the time to hit summer sales and stock up on flip flops, you can pick up a pair for a dollar or two! They're so many ways to craft them into something spectacular. I did a web search and found a plethora of ideas: from tying water balloons and fabric strips around the straps to applying rhinestones buttons and beads. I loved the inspiration but the reality is we live in Maine and one soggy downpour would completely destroy fabric or feathered footwear. I also wanted to avoid eating up my DIY workshop budget with toxic glue to attach embellishments. I had both a bucket of wood beads and roll of hemp in my studio and decided to simply try wrapping the hemp around the plastic straps to give the flip flops a natural look. I was thrilled with the results, the hemp 'grabbed' the plastic and stayed in place without needing glue.

The group of 15 teens loved the project, it took seconds to explain: provided well over an hour of entertainment, an opportunity for personal expression, and countless days of wearing enjoyment!

Assorted wood and shell beads, be sure to select beads with large enough holes to accommodate the hemp.
The flat shell beads are Natural Elegance from Blue Moon beads, the patterned wood beads are JoAnn Fabric brand.
Roll of narrow hemp, usually used to make thin macrame jewelry, if you have a group of more than ten people I'd suggest picking up a second roll.

Start by cutting a three yards length of hemp of the roll. Tie one end around the base of the strap and then begin tightly wrapping the hemp up strap, be sure to catch the end in your wraps.

String a bead onto the hemp and slide it down the cord, position it on the top side of the strap. This takes a second to check, it's easy to mistakenly position the beads on the inside especially at the strap base. Make sure you wrap the cord several times around the strap after each bead addition.

When you reach the end of the cord tie it around to the last wrap on the underside of the strap. When you add a new strand make sure to cover both the new and old hemp ends in your wraps.You can always use a darning needle to slip an end under existing wraps.

Once you hit the center of the strap you'll need to make additional wraps on either side of the toe strap.

It takes two to three strands of hemp to get around each flip flop depending on the size of the shoe, beads and tightness of the wraps. Follow the directions above to start or end new strands. Once you start your second flip flop you'll be a pro!

I loved watching how differently each of the flip flops turned out. Many thanks to the creative teens at Curtis Memorial Library that let me photograph their hands in action.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

How To: Summer Earrings!

Last week a made a fresh batch of lightweight summer earrings with a great group of teenagers. I chose ornate findings and a simple jump ring assembly.  My hope was that the girls would be successful and enthusiastic about exploring new jewelry techniques. In the past I've had trouble teaching groups how to turn and wrap headpins, I carefully chose this project avoid that problem. Earrings make great inexpensive bead projects for large groups as they use significantly less beads than bracelets and earrings. The girls were thrilled to be working with 'real' materials, and were delighted with their finished pieces. My only regret was that I couldn't scrounge up enough pliers for each girl to have two pairs.

The moms were equally excited about this project and I wouldn't be surprised if some of the earrings ended up in their jewelry boxes. In fact I ran into a librarian already wearing my sample yesterday! Please follow the directions below to whip up a pair to match your summer wardrobe.

Blue Earrings - Laser cut metal earring components with ear wires, Natural Elegance, Blue Moon Beads
Red Earrings - Elongated hoops, Natural Elegance, Blue Moon beads you'll need to purchase the earwires separately and connect them to the hoops.
6mm jump rings
Blue and red seed beads - Global nomad, Blue Moon Beads (these are actually larger than traditional seed beads I think of them as 'e' beads)
2 silver sequins
Optional - Aleene's Metal Jewelry Glue

Chain nose and bent nose pliers

The trick to opening jump rings is to hold a pair of pliers in each hand, then use them to grasp the wire end on either side of the split. Gently open the ring laterally. If you simply spread them apart the ring will loose its shape. Hook the open ring through the finding, then string on an 'e' bead before closing the ring. Use both pliers to click the ring back into place. If the wires don't connect the thin metal finding can slip through the opening. Some of the girls found it helpful to add a drop of Metal Jewelry into the bead and slide the bead over the split. Repeat the process to add a bead ring to each of the openings in the finding. For added shine string a sequin behind the bead on the ring that hangs from the center of the finding.

Repeat the process to create a second earring, slide them on and enjoy!

I'm always grateful to Blue Moon for graciously supplying me with products for my designs, these were left in my stash from working on designs for my book Simply Beaded Bliss. Hopefully these findings or a similar alternate product are still available at your local retailer.
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