I have been teaching an after school class and I am really enjoying it. I am working with a wide age range of children, making dolls. Two groups are making things that are more three dimensional and the last group is making, at least at this point, dolls that are flat, like paper dolls. The later group is a bunch of boys really only a couple girls, and I thought they would just hate paper doll making. but they seem to love it. They are little enough that they like action figures and Star Wars types of Lego dolls and so forth. Earlier this week we made clothespin dolls with fabric clothes, but then sticking with the paper theme, I decided to do popsicle stick dolls with this group. First we glued on the googley eyes and then after I had them draw faces on theirs. The next step was the hair and finally they made clothes and shoes out of scrapbooking paper. I let them choose whatever they wanted from three different books of patterned papers, showed them how to make a shirt, pants or a dress or skirt. I tried not to intervene much, wanting them to develop their own creative ideas. Sometimes they don’t just want you to make it for them, but also to tell them every single step how to go about it, as a practice I try not to guide them much, give them a problem thematically and then let them explore the materials and ideas on their own. The thing is this week some of the kids have really surprised me, the little guy who made a cowboy out of his clothespin, complete with a way cool felt hat! It was awesome, and this other guy who made a Luke Skywalker popsicle stick today, totally rocked!! I loved it! I was thinking of my daughter when I made this strawberry dress doll, but then gave it my hair. Then as I sat there I decided that I really wanted to make a pirate to go with it. Then I took a picture at the end of the day and sent it to my guy (the pirate of course). He totally liked it.
I think that teaching in the afterschool program with much smaller classes has been really good for me as a teacher. The big classes I have everyday are sometimes cumbersome, and I am unable to give children the individual attention I want to. I do circulate and sit with some kids, but not all. The messier activities are so much better served by small groupings of kids. And since I am not all that experienced with three dimensional stuff (am a painter or doodler by nature, and am only just in the last three years have I done much 3-D work) it is a safe environment for me to try out lessons and to perfect what works and doesn’t for the whole grade level. I love it. It is good money, but the best part of it, is the practical experience and freedom to step out of the confines of having to prove what a great teacher I am for the observer. The ironic thing is, I think the kids learn so much more!
The drive up is one of my favorites, I often imagine taking up illegal residence in one of the shacks along the way, but it is the stay that makes the drive worth it. She jokes to me that in the summer I should come to live here, because she wishes to acquire an artist in residence. I am not less than half actually interested, I dream of bringing my laptop and writing a novel, or a memoir, of painting watercolor paintings, trudging up the long hill to the barn with my easel and canvas tucked under with my acrylic paints in hand.
She talks of early morning paddles and wanting more culture (pronounced cull tcha). We visit with an old friend we haven’t seen in 18 years, and the friend says both that of all the people who would seek her out to friend her on Facebook, we were two that she said Oh YES! to. And she also says she is not at all surprised that after all these years we are still friends, she calls us both mellow and so put together, we both laugh. Maybe not so much. But I feel butterflies in my stomach, because she is a person I love, and her husband and her children too. Very much. I bring fabric for her son to make a zombie, and her daughter to make an owl, the son goes skiing, but the daughter who at the age of 8 is already learned to sew quite well, sits with me while we research other stuffed owls and we sit at the high table in her dining room and sew the face and wings.
Before I leave I take a photo of a painting which once may have had name but I no longer remember it, for so many years it has just been The Big Yellow Painting, and it hangs in the room where her hot tub is now, but once hung in a larger living room than she has now. I love this place, both for the quiet, the dark, and the warm hearth of her home, for the organic local foods, and home cooked and home gardened everything. For the wood heat and the solar panels and the on demand water heat. Most of all I love it for the fact that we are still friends and these days better friends than we have been for many long years, and that her home and family are part of my heart.
The Big Yellow Painting, Abstract Painting that I made 23 or 24 years ago using acrylic paint on watercolor paper. This painting is approximately 6 feet by 4 feet in size.
I hit these patches where nothing comes, days and days on end, and nothing. I pick up my knitting, I put it down. Now I am pretty sure that my new afghan will not be done until next year. I look at my spinning wheel with its grass green funky blend and ecru lambs wool and sigh. The gasket needs repair, I know just a piece of cotton string will do. But blah. I don’t really want to venture out to get it. It wouldn’t be difficult. I swear. Two roosters sit stuffing exposed, I cluck at them as I walk by. A doll idea inspired by teaching children Egyptian art (Zombie in a sarcophagus, charm girdled woman goddess which is an oxymoron imho).
Instead I dream crazy dreams, I stand at my post at school, my friend the art teacher with the bad fortune to still be a lowly TA walks by calling my name, Meg, Meg, I rattle my skull and glassy eyed look up. Hey. Where were you? Daydreaming about kissing. She laughs at me. I am hopeless I say. She laughs as she continues on her dreamy way. She understands this fallow period, she is just coming out of one.
What inspires you I ask my students as I tell them about Aborigines. They are inspired by their ancestors, their dream times, their songs and stories. I play a dirigidoo clip and they start rocking it out, they stand around me watching and laughing out loud. Play more, play more. I show them images painted by Laurel Burch and like the kuiper belt on the fringes of my mental solar system some idea is brewing. And yet I sigh. Not feeling inspired. It happens this way, and it always has. In a few days or a few weeks or maybe even a month or two. It will hit me. Like a ton of squishy fabric bricks. I will wake at 4 am and leap out of bed, I will run down and make tea because coffee takes too long and I will run upstairs and crank up Classical Indian Music, or Tom Waits, or the Bob Marley covers being sung by people around the world, or some other random thing that popped into my head in a dream and then I will sew or paint or embroider til my fingers hurt.
Meanwhile I inspire others. And daydream about that kiss, which I am not certain will ever come.
This little video is in part why I teach art. It is odd because I haven’t thought about the part of having been bullied in high school basically since I started using facebook. It is strange how it helped me to realized that there are people from high school that loved me, and I really loved them. There are people from college who remember me as a dear friend that I have no idea who they even are. Which is okay. But in high school it was art that finally put me in a place of starting to find acceptance, and this feeling is one that has been a strong force in my choice to make and to teach art. In the end it is the people that mattered that populate my thoughts, and today I am surrounded by a wonderful amazing spectacular support network of friends and family that buoys me like nothing I have ever had before. So for the art therapy blog, one of the things that is the strongest motivator for me to teach art is reaching those kids that are not really succeeding elsewhere. Like M. who has a terrible speech impediment, is so shy, is in resource for reading and math, who is barely literate but put a piece of paper in front of him and WOW. Also those kids who are struggling in their home lives who come to me crying about something that has happened to them (ironically, I am seeing much more of this since I spent the 08-09 school year basically crying until I walked into school and crying the minute I left and sometimes bursting into tears in the middle of class – don’t criticize me for not being professional some things are out of our control) I tell them to find solace in something, making art, reading, doing well in school, sports, because it will be the thing that sustains them, gets them through. They listen, bringing in poignant art work, or sometimes writing songs and playing the guitar with the band teacher who shares their raw emotional stuff with me, I feel fortunate that she knows this will have meaning to me. One young woman, whose little brother was the source of infinite difficulties for me two years ago, but somehow I let it all go and now he is not a motivated student, but not disrupting my class every day and actually stepped in a couple times this year to tell kids that were to stop it, she won a local award for a painting she did, and then she won 3rd prize in the state contest. I told her, see it is not just me telling you you are good at this, and USE it, make it your thing that gets you into a good career that is rewarding and fun. She smiles shyly, but maybe she has heard me.
But it is not just about teaching art. I was really pleased when my music teacher friend Paulie told me that a former reading coach at my school, talked about me in a recent training. She told people about the word and picture project we developed to help children recall vocabulary. I like that my work within the district is being acknowledged and recognized. I feel proud.
My usual hike but a short one because I really need to go to the meditation at the Zen Center tonight. I came across a class of teenagers drawing. Some were quite good. I just thought this was super cool.