Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A chicken update!

I've been AWOL, doing something I am excited to tell you about... but I'll tell you about it in my next blog post. Today, I want to take a momentary break and give you an update on Henrietta, the paper-mâché chicken I built for a chicken Wing Fest trophy more than a year ago in April 2015, along with a chicken wing trophy holding a bottle of hot sauce.  (Henrietta, by the way, is named after the large chicken in the zany Daniel Pinkwater children's book The Hoboken Chicken Emergency, a favorite of my son during his childhood.)  I wrote about the details of building these trophies in a blog post of April 2015.  You can find that post HERE
In May 2015, the first annual Glens Falls NY Wing Fest was held, and ironically, both trophies were won by the same local pub, who proudly displayed them in their window for the entire year.  I admit I had a hard time saying goodby to Henrietta when she left my home to embark on her new adventure.

In May, 2016, the 2nd annual Wing Fest was held and there was a tie, between that same pub, and a new local dinner-and-movie restaurant.  Barely a block apart on the same downtown street, they agreed to share the custody of the trophies over the coming year.  

Meanwhile, this past winter I was contacted by a woman in Chicago, who had seen a photo of Henrietta online, and was hoping to commission me to make a trophy for their Wing Fest, too. Ultimately, her committee decided to work with someone locally, but I was flattered by the attention.

Why am I telling you about that now?  Because a few days ago, when I was out-of-town doing the exciting thing I'll be telling you about in my next blog post, a local animal rights activist suddenly noticed the chicken trophy in one of the restaurant windows, and wrote an angry letter to the editor of the local newspaper, titled "Chicken wing award is in bad taste".  My husband shared it with me when I got home, and IAnd I've been having a good laugh about it ever since.  Here's most of the letter.

I am not heartless, but never in my wildest dreams did I think that the ridiculously goofy expression on the face of my paper-mâché chicken would be interpreted as being "in great pain", that I would be accused of "gross callousness" for my design, and that my silly chicken would incite an angry diatribe on animal rights.  I mean, this chicken is made from TOILET PAPER!  Yes, it's a papier-mâché mash of mostly shredded toilet paper, with flour, Elmer's Glue-All, and joint compound!  

Today I wrote a rebuttal letter to the editor of the paper, and I look forward to seeing it in print. With a 300 word limit, I had to restrict my thoughts, but luckily I have no word limit here on the blog. So I am able to muse over the ridiculousness of his letter, when there are so many more horrific things going on in the world than the imagined demise of a paper-mâché chicken at the hands of a papier-mâché ring of fire! And I can wonder why it took the letter-writer more than a year to notice the trophies in the window.  And I can be baffled why my chicken provoked such ire, when Disney movies, such as Bambi and The Lion King, regularly brutally kill off parents of young animals.  Or when tv shows and movies regularly depict not only animals, but children in grave peril.  

Anyhow, I just wanted to share this silliness with you.  And if I'm ever asked to make another Wing Fest trophy, I think for the next incarnation, the chicken will either be locked in stocks, or have it's head in a guillotine!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Fairy Houses and Gnome Homes

In the tiny hamlet of Shushan NY, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, you can find the Georgi on the Battenkill Community Park and Museum.  I learned that the Georgi, while currently closed for renovations, had an exhibit of fairy houses scattered throughout the park.  The display will only be there a few days longer, so I wanted to see it.  Shushan is about a 50 minute drive from my home, along winding country roads, and my friend who was going to go with me canceled, so I went alone.  Good thing!  She would NOT have been patient with me, for two hours in 90 degree heat, laying on the ground taking pictures of the fairy and gnome dwellings!  Above is my favorite of the houses.  Shortly after I took this pic above and turned off my camera, a chipmunk appeared next to it, but as soon as I got my camera back on, he scampered off into the bushes and chattered at me!

Below, one of a collection of tiny fairy mailboxes clustered at the base of a tree, all filled with tiny letters!
 There was an interesting house made from a gourd, and when you looked inside there were little benches arranged in a circle.  
And by another tree, there was an adorable arrangement with a wishing well and a pot full of "gold" wishing balls, as well as a fairy street signpost, and other little signs here and there.  I made a wish that I hope will come true!
I've never made fairy or gnome houses, but my third graders built papier-mache garden gnomes a few years ago (just before I retired), one of my absolute favorite projects.  Here's a couple from that time that I really loved.  Each gnome was unique; some had bows and arrows, baskets for gardening, fishing poles, and so much more, all out of the imagination of my third graders!
I'm hoping my DragonWing Arts students will make some more of these, this coming winter.  Maybe we'll make some homes for them too!  I'll have to figure out how to do that, inside in the winter.  Or maybe just make collages of their homes?  Using a lot of natural materials?  What do you think?  Giant fake gardens in the middle of winter?

 Back to the display at the Georgi...  There was a collection of pretty little houses all scattered around a "garden", complete with a swing, a table, and so much more.  Many of these houses had little back porches and back doors, too.
 Then there was this odd little collection of fairies, tucked all over the place.  
I mean, what is this cork thing?  A fairy-catcher?
 And there were interesting things hanging from trees, and so much more.
 There were lots of strings of lights, plus lights planted in the ground.  I wonder when they are illuminated, since the park closes at dusk.  I think it would be really pretty to visit the fairy houses at a misty dusk or dawn, all twinkling with little lights.
 Lots of little stone "owls" were tucked into trees  here and there.
 The park is located on the Battenkill River; there's a lovely little swimming hole, plus the Battenkill is a great spot for fishing.  The location of Shushan and the Battenkill is in eastern NY, just a few miles from the Vermont border, in lush rural countryside.  Here are a few shots that show the environment.  I'm including all three photos because I'm having trouble picking a favorite!!!
 Have you ever built fairy houses or gnome homes?  I'm interested in hearing about different approaches to incorporating these environmental displays in an art program.  Unfortunately, it's not always easy to bring students outside.  For example, before I retired, my classroom was on the second floor, about a 10 minute walk from the only door we were allowed to exit and enter during the school day!  It was simply impractical to take kids outside, because it didn't leave much time for actually making art.  I preferred the first floor location of a former art room, where we could simply walk outside and sit with drawing boards. 
I'd love to hear from you if you've got any fairy house experience!!