The Kiwi Incident
Have you heard of Kiwi Crate? It’s a fun little mail-to-your-doorstep program, where every month, a cute little box comes to your mailbox, filled with all the tools and supplies you need to do a couple of art projects. (They totally don’t give us any freebies for saying so, but we think they’re pretty awesome, especially for crafty ladies like us.)
So recently, Kiwi Crate finally named their little kiwi character “Steve,” and Myla was excited.
“I’d like to make a Steve doll!” she said. Since this usually involves basically ME doing all the work, I sort of brushed it off for another time. “But I think I can make it all by myself!” she said excitedly, digging through her craft box with all the giddy anticipation of a newly hatched idea.
Allright, I thought. I’ll help her with the basic sewing. She’ll get a chance to see the sewing machine in action, and she can do the rest herself.
Carefully and meticulously, she cut shapes out of the felt that came with one of the monthly project kits, along with a few extra supplies from my sewing box. She quickly and furiously drew the shapes out herself, cut them out herself. It was HER vision, and she was so EXCITED.
And when the time came, I had her place her hand next to mine on the machine, and I had her help me guide it to sew on the little beak. I had her help me pull the little needle and thread through the button eyes. And things were going well. How cute! What a great learning experience! I thought…
Until we put the stuffing in.
As we filled up the tiny kiwi with stuffing, she excitedly said, “So when does it get bigger?”
“When does it get bigger? I wanted it to be the size of a pillow to cuddle with. Isn’t it going to get bigger?”
…Uhhhh. Oh my.
It was then that I realized that in all her furious anticipation, she had a goal in mind of exactly what she wanted this little kiwi to look like, and this tiny blue thing was NOT living up to those expectations at ALL.
As this reality hit her, she became instantly inconsolable. Those of you who have spent time with kids this age might be familiar with the complete and utter irrationality of a kid-tantrum. They’re these things that are unexpected, unexplainable, and completely bewildering. There’s no use saying, “But you cut it out! You must have KNOWN how big it was?!?” There’s no use saying, “How would it possibly get BIGGER?!?!” These things mean nothing to a small child. All they know is that Thing A was in their head, and Thing B does NOT match up.
And OOOOhhhhhhh the tears. Oh the crying. Oh, the dramatic frustration. It was safe to say that we were done with the kiwi for the day.
Later, when the tears had finally stopped flowing, we had a chance to talk. “You were upset because you thought when you stuffed it, it would get bigger?” “Yes,” she said. “Do you understand that freaking out about it doesn’t change anything?” “Yes,” she said. “Can we do something about it? Can we make a bigger one?” she asked me, hurriedly.
But to avoid the bandaid trapping of instant gratification, I insisted we would need to wait. From now on, if we were going to do this, we would take our time. We would draw out a design, pick the fabrics, take a couple of days, and make a PLAN.
And now, this is our new word for projects: PLAN.
Several days later, after many talks about calming down and using our words, we drew pictures, we picked out fabrics, and we started working on another Steve.
We drew pictures. We picked out button eyes. We talked about his beak and his wings. We chose which fabrics to use from my fabric stash. She helped me sew him. She helped me stuff him. She drew out what kind of legs she imagined he’d have.
We took our time with him and planned him out. And when we were done, Steve came out looking pretty darn good.
It’s a hard lesson, when your imagination doesn’t match up with your reality. It’s amazing to keep your imagination in the stars, but you also have to be aware of what’s actually within your reach, and when you’re totally and completely off-track.
Another thing that’s so hard for a kid to grasp is that if you take your time and plan something out, it makes for a MUCH better project with a much better plan. These days, when everything is available at the touch of a button, it’s easy to forget that there’s also legitimate value in WAITING.
Myla’s five, and I’ve only just begun to try her on a chapter book at bedtime; one of my childhood favorites: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster. “I think I’ve already seen that show,” she said, “and some of the creatures scared me.” “But that’s the great thing,” I said. “It can be totally different in your imagination.”
Every night when we read a chapter or two, she asks me, “Will we go ahead and just finish it tonight?” And every night I tell her that we just have to wait to see what happens. Of course, she’s impatient, but she accepts it with excitement. I thought her attention would dwindle, but so far she seems to be hanging on.
Later, we set the kiwis side by side, and I asked her to look at them with me.
“They’re both beautiful,” I said. We talked about how when you have a great idea, it’s great to want to get it out as quickly as possible, but that sometimes when you take your time and plan it out, you have a chance to make it better, make it stronger, make it more like what you had in mind, maybe do things you hadn’t thought of before, or do them in different ways. When you rush, you might get the idea out quickly, but planning it out helps you figure things out that you might not have done with the rushed version. Since we took time to plan out the second kiwi, we made its wings flap down, so they could lay down to his side (instead of stick out to the sides) and we were able to make his beak stick straight out, like a kiwi’s.
It’s got to be hard for kids, growing up in our new world of on-demand tv, DVR, instant downloading, live streaming, wifi, and online shopping to understand the process of having to wait for ANYTHING. I have to remind myself that that waiting is something that kids today are much less familiar with. It’s not a skill they have ever really had to use. It’s not better or worse than when I was a kid, it’s just different. There’s no use pining for the past. It’s how we live now, and there’s no use trying to completely change the world and live in a cabin somewhere….
….But I think slowing things down a little is a pretty good habit to make from time to time…
In my ongoing experiments with sculpting, molding, and resin casting (like this one), I wanted to try out a more functional use for resin casts….Could I maybe make some kind of doll with a resin-cast face?
After a few rough sketches, I got some Sculpey out on an index card, pushed marbles in for eyes, and played around to see what I could come up with. Of course, since Myla loves to be involved, I let her have a lump, with which she made the little figure on the top left, and I came up with these two monster faces on the right (people on Instagram said they looked like monster kittens):
I still have some tricky times with molding and casting, and have wasted more than my fair share of molding rubber and resin…So I let Myla have a few of the wonky ones to paint herself…
And I added some color to a few molds that actually came out well…
(Initially, I put resin on the mouth and eyes for a “wet” look, and only sealed the faces with varnish, but later ended up sealing the whole face in ModPodge Dimensional Magic for better wear & tear).
Aside from painting them, the most fun part was trying to figure out what sort of fabric to use. So many options that completely change the look of each face! And I just used scraps of things I had in my fabric bins, including fun fur, industrial felt, mismatched fabrics, and excess pieces of a patchwork quilt I once made.
I learned from talking to other artists (have I mentioned how much I love Instagram??) that the best way to affix the heads to the fabric is to use E600, and put them under a heavy object overnight. Granted, they smell like chemical warfare afterwards, but if you let them air out awhile, the smell eventually goes away.
The first creature I made was a basic doll-shape:
…And Myla loved him.
Then I made a body for the one she painted herself:
…And Myla loved him.
I tried a more “pillow-like” one, with octopus-legs…
…And Myla wasn’t crazy about that one. (Don’t worry–it’s found a good home at my friend Corrie’s house.)
I did what Myla describes as a flying fish-fairy:
And a sort of dragonfly-dragon:
But by far, my favorite was when I tried something completely different, and made a more 3-dimensional body, with three little legs on each side.
It was my first time making one that wasn’t just a flat front & back without using a pattern, so it’s a little wonky, but I quite like it.
Annnnnd, of course, Myla loved it. She calls her “Midnight” and carries her everywhere lately. I realize these things are not necessarily made to be ‘toys” (how much they hold up to the wear & tear of kid life is still being determined), but she treats her dolls pretty well, so why not?
Thankfully, the horrendous glue smell has gone away. And after repairing her chipped little resin face a couple of times, I think a good coat of the ModPodge stuff has really helped keep her shiny & new.
It’s a funny thing, though, when she takes her little monster places. Other little girls will look at Myla and smile sweetly, and Myla will smile back…then they’ll look down at her fuzzy little monster, and their face will inevitably change to a mortified “what the HECK??” When she takes Midnight anywhere, the comments she gets stem from either complete disgust, or absolute fascination. And when people ask where she got such a doll, she says, with her sweet little 5-year old voice, “my mom sculpt it and cast it in wesin.”
Listen, I know we like weird things. And I know most people won’t “get” the same things we’re into. So we could teach her to either hide what she likes to be “normal,” or take it as an opportunity to share our weirdness with someone else.
We teach her that when someone doesn’t like something, or doesn’t “get” it (like maybe her references to characters she has heard stories of and loves, like Gamora and Groot, or Storm, or Star Wars), it might be because they just don’t UNDERSTAND it, or haven’t heard about them….but that it doesn’t make it wrong. It might just mean that they don’t know, which would be a good chance to teach them something new. People don’t always like the same things, but they shouldn’t try to make someone else feel bad for liking what they like. And no matter what, you should never EVER feel bad or ashamed for liking what you like, no matter how weird, as long as you’re not hurting anyone else. If they don’t like it, that’s okay–that’s their business.
So far, she’s done pretty well with that, thankfully. She doesn’t go out LOOKING for a conflict, but so far, she handles it with grace when she does.
On a side note, people have asked if I sell these, and so far, there are many reasons I haven’t. I quite like doing them just for fun, and as much as I’d love to share them, the thought of doing them to order is quite intimidating! (Not to mention, the effort that goes into sculpting, molding, casting, painting, and sewing might be worth a bit more than people are willing to consider.)
I have trouble with that–the thought of custom work and getting rid of the things I make. It really is daunting. I worry that it might lose it’s “fun” or its spontaneity. Also, I’m not sure how well they’ll hold up. Maybe one day, when things aren’t so busy, and I’ve got this whole resin-casting thing down pat/ Maybe I’ll make a few and put them up in a shop as-is. (I keep saying I’m going to do that….)
Until then, have any of you tried resin casting? Have you tried making dolls from them? I’d love to see your creations and hear from you about your resin-adventures!
A Creative Epiphany
Oh my gosh, we just discovered a new show. And in kid-world, anything that keeps the same goshdarn show (whichever it might be) from being on repeat over and over again is definitely something to celebrate…
We have Amazon TV, and they just released a series called “Creative Galaxy,” about art and creativity for kids. I’d love to say that they gave us money to blog about them, or at least a stuffed animal or a visit from a character or something, but they didn’t, so this is all our own experience.
So Creative Galaxy is about a little alien named Arty (of course), and his sidekick Epiphany (which, I told Myla, means “a good idea”), and they go around the galaxy “solving problems with art.” Okay, it’s just as perky as any typical kid’s show, but the cool thing about Creative Galaxy is that they introduce the style of certain artists (sort of like I’ve done with Myla with our own projects in the past), and explain what the artist was trying to do with their art. They talk about Pollock and his “action painting.” And they have lots of clips of real kids showing how to do simple fun crafty projects.
The only down side to this show in OUR house is that it gives Myla a million crafty ideas that she wants to try ALL RIGHT NOW! But that’s okay. We pick and choose, and then we get crafty.
Recently, I expanded Myla’s craft area, since it had started completely taking over both the living room and kitchen tables. We used things we already had around the house, and now it’s easily accessible to her, and right next to my office area (since I work from home on my computer). She loves that there is enough space to sit on top (she REALLY gets into her artwork!) so we don’t even need space for a chair. There are office organizers for her pens and paper, as well as the bins next to it for other craft supplies like paper plates, foam, stickers, and paper bags. Perfect for all sorts of craft time!
There’s nothing more that Myla likes than a stuffed animal. I think she may actually be addicted. I may have to look for some sort of help center for wayward stuffed animal addicts, actually. So inspired by the show, Myla decided one day that she wanted to make her own “Epiphany” doll.
Epiphany is Arty the alien’s little sidekick. We’re not sure what he…or she…really is, exactly, but Myla thinks he’s cute. She started by drawing the shape onto a piece of felt. Since she wanted it to be stuffed, I showed her that she had to have a front and a back piece. Then she cut little arms & legs out. I had her help me sew a simple stitch around it on the sewing machine (I often have her put her hand on it to help guide it), and then came her favorite part: the stuffing!
When we do spontaneous projects like this, the rule is that we have to use things we already have, or we can’t do it at all. I happened to have some little pompoms on a string, which were a bit wonky, but worked well for the little puffball on his head. Thankfully (despite being a perfectionist) she seemed to like it just fine. It bothered me a little, but I always let her have the last word on when it’s “done.”
She wanted him to look a little more like the photo, so we got the paints out to color the eyes and spots.
And there he is, the final little Epiphany character! Created (almost) entirely by a 5-year old!
Sure he’s a little wonky and imperfect. But the fact that she made him (almost) all by herself is something she’s VERY proud of. There are some times that the final piece doesn’t look like how she imagined and a wailing pitiful freakout ensues (we’re working on that), but I think it’s good for her to see the outcome of her decisions, whatever they may be. Simple decisions, when she can make them, make her feel more involved, like she had some sort of say in what we’ve created, and makes her more emotionally invested in it. Sure, I could’ve made her a doll, but would she learn how it was made? No. She’d just get the benefit without the effort.
I don’t always indulge her in dollmaking–actually I often steer clear of it, or we’d end up making a dozen dolls a day. But on occasion, and with some boundaries, it’s fun to see where her creativity takes her!
Felt Top Hats and a Wonderland Party
When my daughter was nearly two, she was VERY MUCH into the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland. She also loved tea parties and hats. (See where I’m going with this?)
Since my husband was deployed, I decided to make a “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party” for my daughter’s second birthday, and have a fun time of it with some friends. Keep in mind, deployment can make you a little cuckoo. I threw myself into it, but I didn’t need any additional stress, so I planned it WELL in advance, and although it seems like a ton of work, by the time party day came around, I just sort of got everything out & laid it nicely around the room. Easy peasy.
So I had this funny sketch I had done of my daughter intensely focused on her “tea” that was perfect for the invitations.
The idea was that kids could show up in hats & have some fun. My friends surprised me, and most had not only their kids in hats but themselves as well! One thing I’ve learned from homemade kid’s parties is to have something for kids to DO right off the bat, so there’s no awkward waiting-around-for-everyone phase (kids have been known to have short attention spans). So I got some inexpensive foam visors from the craft store, a few plain stickers, lots of foam stickers, and let the kids have at it. We didn’t even have chairs–I just laid tablecloths on the floor (which fit the “tea party” theme anyway) and let the kids play with the stickers & hats while the mamas talked.
I got plain ol’ cookies (I think they were pre-made grocery store ones), and decorated them with hearts and card symbols with a simple tube of icing.
I had little paper signs that said “eat me, ” “drink me,” “we’re all a little mad around here,” and “don’t step on the mome raths.”
I had splurged a little on a local bakery’s mini-cupcakes, and put store-bought little sugar roses (from the cake decorating section of stores) in them.
My neighbor, a crafty friend, had helped me sew some little bloomers and an apron for my daughter, to pull of a sort of “Alice” look.
The fancy footwork came with the cake. I had done a full-fondant cake for our daughter’s first birthday (more for me, just to see if I COULD), and didn’t really feel like taking that route again. But I did have my mom’s awesome buttercream recipe, and a ton of food coloring. I even made the cake batter rainbow swirl, as I had seen all over online. Fondant eyes, teeth & nose, 2-layer cake, and boom–the Cheshire Cat. (I even accidentally jacked up the top layer, and calmly just cut it out and drew his ears on the bottom.)
As one of the fun parts of the party, I had a few mini felt top hats for anyone who didn’t come with a hat and didn’t want to feel left out. (Also, they decorated the place nicely.) When I was researching some party ideas early on, I had seen an awesome tutorial online that was super easy and fun to do, and basically used felt and random embellishments.
I hot-glued everything together, and mostly used plain felt sturdied with cardboard (although the pre-made sturdy felt works best). I had seen some hot-glued to headbands before, but I wanted something a little sturdier, so I decided to hot glue the top side of hair clips to the underside of the hats, and it worked REALLY well. It allowed the hat to stay on through the whole party.
They were so fun to decorate and embellish with pennies, feathers, buttons, and whatever else I had lying around, and I even invited some guests to take them home as party favors.
All in all, a “fancy” birthday party that seems like a lot of work, but when done in little steps well in advance, wasn’t so bad at all. I had a great time with friends, the kids had fun, and the best part is I wasn’t stressed at all! Seems silly for a party she’ll never remember, but as I said, during a deployment, sometimes your friends are all you have to help you make things better. I was grateful for everyone that showed up, and I’m pretty sure everyone had fun!
The felt hats were especially fun. Might be a cool kid’s project to make a couple of hats up in advance, and let the kid decorate them…