Monday, 15 December 2014

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Puppet Making with Paper and Cloth

Inspired by this simply magical post by Rima Staines of the Hermitage, the older girls and I decided that making puppets would be our Summer project.

 However, it was a far more complex undertaking than I realised it would be.

It took from August to late November to finish our puppets in the end.

The girl's each had quite definite and ambitious designs in mind.
 I wanted to be able to help them to accomplish these without too much frustration so the puppets really ended up being collaborative efforts. 

I provided, technical support when threads needed threading and untangling and re-stitching.

They engaged, with guidance only in the processes that they could manage without help such as applying glue and paper to the heads and shoulders, cutting out the hands, whittling the sticks that hold the puppet's strings and stitching the fabric squares that made up the puppet's clothing.

We worked together on  painting  the faces and on stitching around the puppet's hands.


 This little man is named Thorfinn after the enchanting fairy tale by Vivian French and Jackie Morris "Singing to the Sun"

 His hands are made of wool filled cotton interlock.

His gown and hat are made of two squares of cotton print fabric.


His head and shoulders are molded out of papier mache.

 His strings are made of hemp twine strung to two hand whittled pieces of wood, kindly donated by one of the trees in our village green.

He also  has a little bell sewn to the top of his cap of which he is very proud.

I wanted to create a puppet design that would be easy enough for the children to handle and manipulate. 

This meant the design had to be pretty simple, flexible and weightless. 

However, I also wanted them to easily express their puppet's character by manipulating it's movement.  

I think this was achieved by using large squares of flowing fabric for the puppet's gowns as they gave the arms a good reach and lots of flexibility.

Thorfinn also, actually has two strings threaded through his head. 
One comes out through the front and one pokes out of the  point of his cap.

Using two strings for the head like this, allows the puppeteer to direct the angle of the head with ease.

Thorfinn can be made to look down by pulling the thread that runs through the back of his head while slackening the the thread that pokes out from under the front of his cap.


This gives poor Thorfinn a rather melancholy air. 
But never fear! 
By tightening the front string and slackening the back one his joie de vivre soon returns.

The girls' whittled the wood and rubbed it with my homemade beeswax salve.

His hair is made of Merino wool roving and stuck into place using a non toxic craft glue. 
I used my longest, scariest doll-making needle to stitch the strings through his head and cap before gluing his cap to his hair line with more copious amounts of  craft glue.

Florence, as ever unmoved by the general chaos of her household.

 Matilda and I worked on this elegant character. Her name is Lady Elspeth Barley.

Boo's creation is simply magical. He is a Celestial Bird Boy!

Here is poor Thorfinn looking a wee bit undone. 

You can see how we shaped the head, neck and shoulders from this picture. 

To paint the faces we made up a large batch of skin tone in acrylic; One pale, one cool and one slightly warmer in tone for shading. 

We applied the skin tones and waited for them to dry thoroughly before painting the facial details and sticking on the hair.

To make the basic head and neck structure, we scrunched up a sheet of newspaper in to a ball, leaving enough to twist a sketchy neck and shoulder shape with the same sheet to avoid having to stick pieces together.

We molded the face by sticking pieces of ripped up newspaper onto the structure with PVA glue.

The  bodies were made by placing two pieces of fabric right sides together and stitching all the way around leaving gaps along the top and on the top two corners for the head and hands to fit through and be stitched in place.

On a roll of sorts I decided to use a similar process to create some cloth puppets using the Waldorf method for molding their heads. 

It was certainly easier to thread twine through a wool filled head than a paper filled one!

More inspiration

  The video above describes beautifully why puppets and puppetry helps children connect with their imaginations.

I love the simplicity of this Waldorf style Puppet play using marionette style dolls.

Friday, 12 December 2014

what is essential is invisible to the eye

I blink sleep from my eyes. It is a dark winter morning.
For a moment all is peace in the solemn, light.

A long list of tasks rise up from the mute depths of sleep to the choppy surface waters of "awake."

A series of have to, have to, have to's scatter like post-it-note confetti in my brain.

Some "have to's" are mundane and repetitive, (sort laundry pile, clean out cupboards and whatever is lurking at the back of the fridge)
 Some are urgent, (makes appointments for my Dad, make breakfast, get dressed!)

I hear children stirring and the distant clatter of kitchen utensils.
The have to's simmer to whispers as little bodies, warm as bread rolls fresh from the oven, tumble into our bed.

Older children scuffle around in the half light complaining of lost slippers.
The dog scampers into the house with muddy paws and a slipper-less child chases after with a soggy dishcloth.

I look at the clock.
All the "have to's" bury under other have to's like odd socks in the laundry pile.
My chest tightens.  How will I get everything done today?

Hands wade in warm, soapy, suds, I swill bowls and cups and stare out the kitchen window.
My tired eyes wonder over random, abandoned toys and settle on the bare, stillness of trees.

Uncomplicated and patient, they stand.

 A cross hatch of branches, dense as crows nests; a metaphor for my thoughts; tangled and straining for light.

Winter sunlight, thin as whey, seeps through brittle capillaries of leafless bough.

The light draws them into stark definition.

The light is a being; a spirit they are immersed in.

It is a spirit that shapes them, forms them, giving them life and purpose.

Here under the stairs it's soft bloom anoints dusty corners brimming with toys, suspended mid play.

And in the motion blur of clattering spoons and tasks undone I catch a tremulous scattering of photons shine on the soft down of baby hair that curls around the nape of her neck.

“Goodbye," said the fox. "And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry

{This Moment}

Joining Soulemama today for {This Moment} -
A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Seasonal Un-school Curriculum

 I have noticed the same thing happens for us around this time of year. 

We go into hibernation mode.

I used to bookmark an abundance of seasonal crafts and activities imagining all the glitter flecked memories we would make.
But often, it would feel like we were list checking not meaningfully engaging.

The wonderful thing about the internet is the amazing amount of information, ideas and inspiration you can glean from the screen at the click of a mouse.

The terrifying thing about the internet is the amazing amount of information, ideas and inspiration you can glean from the screen at the click of a mouse!

It triggers a dormant type A within that I never knew existed.

I have learnt to trust our natural cycles and rhythms. 
 Usually they are in alignment with the natural cycles and rhythms of the seasons.

Modern life leaves little space in the margins for life's messy workings out.

With ever increasing work and school hours there is barely enough time for people to recover from the flu, let alone listen to their bodies need for seasonal rest and renewal.

Though seasonal cycles don't always match up with the modern 24/7 lifestyle they are good reminders of our limitations.

If I listen close the signs of the seasons, even this gloomy, rain specked afternoon, I will learn better what my real priorities are.

If I don't heed the whispers of the wild seasons both within and without I can end up ploughing through fields that need to be left fallow if they are to ever yield.

I can find myself pushing through tasks that end up being of little importance to the bigger picture once time gives perspective and retrospective "eyes to see."

As a result I'll only feel out of sync or like I'm trying to play catch up.
 Kids will pick up on the discord and begin to squabble.

They will also pick up that downtime or introspection is meaningless.
Thus buying into a materialism that values tangible product above inner process.

But the truth is that the quality of tangible products is always dependent on the inner processes that conceive them.

So we make time for process, however messy or disorganized it may look from the outside.

“We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust.”Rumi

Learning from the source.

Leaves tumble and rustle along curbs and margins.

A small, grey hedgehog waddles beneath rambling bracken, seeking a place in the margins to curl undisturbed.

The leafless trees stand mute in distant fields and along the margins of roads.

 I find, also, my own strength (mental, physical, emotional) waning with the ebbing light of the season. Like the hedgehog, I want to find a place to curl, undisturbed.

 Taking time to reflect, and filter the extraneous from the truly necessary is so important for me.

Like the trees, I need to shed the curling brittle leaves to make room for new, tender, green ones.

Yet, in today's fast paced world, nature is given the frayed edged margins of life and so is our own human nature.

John Trudell says we are beings first, the human part comes later.
Seasons remind us to honour our being: The part that is connected to the all.

My children know their needs.

There will be a week where one child will study nothing but owls, or astronomy, or stop motion, while yet another will simply potter about, sleep and play.

I am glad they are able to trust themselves.

I am still learning to trust myself.

I still often feel as if someone is looking over my shoulder judging me for simply being me.

I still often feel as if I should be looking for some external validation or justification for my life and the choices I make.

I'm un-learning this conditioned response. I am slowly but certainly learning to trust ever-more in my own placing of my feet upon the ground.

Thankfully my children are patient teachers. They don't mind waiting for me to catch up with them.

"It is no secret. All power is one in source and end I think. 

Years and distances, stars and candles, water and wind and wizardry, the craft in a man's hand and the wisdom in a tree's root: they all arise together. 

My name, and yours, and the true name of the sun, or a spring of water, or an unborn child, all are syllables of the great word that is very slowly spoken by the shining of the stars

There is no other power. 

No other name."

Extract from "The Earthsea Quartet" Ursula Le Guin