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Gemma Garratt

Beads & wrestlers – anything in common?

Technically – not a lot. If you’re learning about Japan – plenty. It’s a natural segue to cultural sculptures inspired by Japan.

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Rare wild flower discovery at Glenmore Rd Public

Inspired by a book of close-up flower images, we kicked off the first after-school craft programme for Glenmore Road Public School with a paper wild flower project.

Children just love making things. I had barely finished demonstrating the projects and they were away. Choosing beads, pipe cleaners, papers, textas in seconds. They know they are good at craft and have no qualms telling me so themselves. I love that about kids.

Using simple materials – many of which you can find at home or find substitutes – they created a very exotic range of flowers and decorated a vase each with washi tapes and fancy printed duct tape.

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Bunters Anonymous

Hi my name is Betty and I’m addicted to bunting.

Well there must be bunting addicts because you can’t turn sideways without noticing that nearly every shop is selling bunting right now.

Everywhere you look all sorts of gorgeous bunting is on display – for parties, for bedrooms, for gardens, for the delightful hell of it.

Have you thought about making your own? My 14 year old niece and I spent the day recently making some for her bedroom. We used scrap fabric that we both had – as well as some blue cord I picked up at Remnant Warehouse in Botany.

We used felt for the main flag piece so we had nice clean edges that wouldn’t fray. Then with the sewing machine, using a large zig zag stitch along the edge, we attached the cotton fabric. The last step was to turn down about 1.5cm of the felt at the top of the flag and sew it down to make a tunnel for the cord to thread through. As you can see she was pretty pleased with the result.

Here’s some cute bunting I spotted at My Messy Room in Summer Hill – a gorgeous children’s wear store. It’s made from red dyed lace doillies sewn onto ribbon. A very simple project I’ve added to my ‘to-make’ list.

red lace doily bunting my messy room

Have you or your child got a ‘to-make’ list?

I suggested to my nieces they create a ‘to-make’ list for their friends’ birthday presents. Bunting should be top of the list!

No self doubt here

Children’s ability to make quick decisions – when it comes to creative projects at least – really astounds me. They know instinctively what they want and they don’t question themselves.

In the school holidays I was teaching 9-14 year old girls how to sew their own, three-tiered gypsy skirt. It was a little challenging and they were up for it. None of them expressed any doubt whether they could do the project. Some of them had sewn before.

The pattern for the top, middle and bottom tiers were all different lengths. The first step was to choose six different panels of fabric – three for the front and three for the back – and check there was enough of the fabric they wanted for each panel.

A small mountain of fabric of various shapes and sizes were turned out onto the floor. They leapt on it with gusto, extracting the fabrics that caught their eye. They laid them out to check if there was enough fabric against the pattern piece. If there wasn’t, they chose a replacement or decided to join two pieces together for the length they needed.

They didn’t procrastinate. They hurled themselves into the exercise. They were determined to do what they wanted and didn’t seek some kind of perfection. They just knew it was going to be good. They didn’t sensor themselves or question whether their choices were right or wrong. They had an innate trust in themselves.

crafty kids club – dress making

Watching them reminds me that we adults should approach any activity – particularly creative ones – in the same way.

Turn off the internal sensor and jump in.  Trust in the innate creativity we were all born with.

Screen Free Week – are you in?

From the minute you get home… All games off.  TV off.  iPad off.  Computers off. Mobile phones off.  Could your children do it?  Could you?

It was Screen Free Week in May in the US. What would happen if for just one week as soon as everyone got home – all devices were put aside, computers turned off (except for homework purposes) and there was no TV? How keen would you be to try it? How would everyone react? And more importantly – what would everyone do instead?!

My niece and nephew, 9 and 12 years old, spent the day with me during the school holidays. My niece proudly flashing her new ipad mini and my nephew with his ipod. As soon as they sat down they were on their devices. I set the alarm and said they had 15 minutes before we went screen-free for the rest of the day. There was tension in the air as they frantically wrapped up their games and YouTube viewing. We are always doing craft or art projects together so they knew something interesting was in store which probably eased the release.

The devices safely tucked away in their backpacks, we went for a walk to the park and they let off some steam running around and then back to my place for a picnic lunch outside on the rug.

I met a fantastic cartooning teacher a few years back – Brent Harpur. My nieces met him at a fundraising craft event I organised and they, like all children, just love him and his cartoons. The kids love drawing – although my nephew has got it into his head now that he is not good at it – so I pulled out the handouts from Brent’s class and shared some of his drawing tips. Brent says that if you can write the alphabet you can draw – an ‘o’ is an eye, a ‘c’ is an ear, an ‘m’ can be a pair of eyebrows… you get the picture. This really spurred my nephew on. In the end the two of them sat their experimenting with the drawing exercises, playing with different facial expressions, different body shapes, face shapes. Their devices long forgotten. I drew with them and with their input as to the hat my character should wear, the clothes, I came up with a picture that was completely different to anything I’d drawn before.

children drawing for screen free day

This is what I love about doing art with children, they inspire me as much as the things that I show them to ignite their imaginations.

My niece already knew she was a good drawer and now has some more ‘tools’ to add to her skill set. I hope my nephew has a different sense of his capability now. After all, he plans to be a film director… how cool if he can sketch out a few of his own storyboards!

What fun things could you and your children enjoy together if you had a ‘screen-free’ week?

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