Saturday, September 29, 2012

She's doing great!! and a little Pinterest

 This image above is just one of a selection of fabulous artwork created in my (former) art room by students under the tutelage of my replacement, and posted to her blog here!  This particular image is kindergarten work.  Please hop over to Cathy's blog and look at the rest of the wonderful work she has posted.  I'm so proud of her and the kids - it appears their school year is off to a super start!  I'm sure she'd love to know that you are taking a peek!

I spent some time this summer (quite a bit, actually) sitting at my picnic table in the sunshine, making jewelry.  
This one piece was made based on a project I found on Pinterest.  Let me say this: I will never NEVER NEVER attempt to make this again!  It was definitely more challenging than I expected.  It was  originally posted as a photo of a necklace (the original pin led back to a photo but no source that I could find beyond that, so I don't know if it was from a store, or what), and a blogger at A Bit of Sunshine posted 'knock-off' instructions how to make a close version of it.  You can go to her blog to see the both her knock-off and the original necklace, plus her step-by-step instructions.  I pinned both the original and the knock-off on my Pinterest bead and jewelry board, and then I set about making it myself.  I couldn't find the right findings for the ends, so I had to invent the spiral thingy that I used to hold the strings, and I used a different sized bead and it made the pattern go kaflooey.   It was a HUGE challenge and I nearly tossed the whole thing back into my bead vials when I couldn't' figure out how to end it without the proper findings.  And after all my work matching the patterns perfectly, my knots were not perfect and the pattern slid down and isn't as even as I would like anyhow.  But I wore it to Temple for Yom Kippur services, and I got several compliments, even one from a man, so I know my problems with it are not too obvious.  Still, I don't want to tell you how many hours it took.  WAY too many.  

I'll show you some of my other recent jewelry creations another time.  Most were a lot easier than this to make!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Happy 40th Birthday, Adirondack Balloon Festival!

Look what I happened upon, in the park just a few blocks away from home yesterday!  It was the kickoff celebration of the 40th birthday of the Adirondack Balloon Festival, right in the town where I live.  That's about the biggest birthday cake I have EVER seen (below)!  

Is that man getting sucked into the bottom of the cake?
Look how big those candles are on the deflating cake!

My favorite photo - a view inside the deflating birthday cake

Imagine waking up to the sound of dragon breath (at least that's the way it always sounds to me) and looking out your window to see a hot air balloon floating down the center of your street.  When people ask me why my retired hubby and I don't move away to someplace more exciting, here's at least one good reason.
That's my house above!  Is that balloon about to land on my chimney?!
When I realized the morning winds had blown the balloons my way, (this was, by the way, an unscheduled launch to make up for the fact that yesterday's breeze kept most of the balloons on the ground), I threw some clothes on and grabbed my car keys and followed three balloons as they floated around my neighborhood, looking for a place to land.  If I was still teaching, I would have missed this early morning activity in my neighborhood.  This lovely colorful balloon landed right in the middle of a nearby street.  I think some people were going to be late for school and/or work this morning!  When the balloon crew deflated the balloon, they asked all of us who were watching to help hold it and squash it up tight to fit into its little pack, which was like a large cushy ottoman or beanbag chair when the balloon was all inside!  It was fun getting to help out.
By the way, I wrote about the balloon festival last year too, right here.  Check it out for more photos, and a little more information.

Tomorrow and Sunday morning, weather permitting, there will be major launches of over 100 balloons, with a balloon 'petting zoo' of specialty shaped animal balloons, including them a bumblebee, SpiderPig, a dinosaur, and more.  They challenge is, that to view these launches you need to be in your car to face the traffic to the local airport grounds at a ridiculously early hour - like 4:30 or 5am, as the balloons will all be off and flying before 7:00 if the winds are OK. You dress warm, wear mittens, and drink coca.  The airport is a hive of activity as the balloons begin to inflate absolutely everywhere.  It's a unique experience, just beautiful.

On another note, I am trying to figure out the new blogger format - I had refused to change and had stuck with the old easy format despite its limitations.  But yesterday I opened blogger to find that the old format had finally disappeared.  So far I find it a struggle arranging photos and text the way I want, but hopefully when I get used to it it will be better, right?

Meanwhile, it's been a few days about birthdays!  While the balloon festival celebrates it's 40th, I'm getting ready to celebrate my 60th in a grand way.  My college roomie and I celebrated our 18th birthdays together our freshman year, shortly after we met.  Ever since, she has lived on the opposite coast and we have seen each other only rarely, but have stayed friends.  We decided to celebrate the big 6-0 together and in 2 weeks the two of us will meet in Las Vegas for the first time EVER! As of two days ago, all reservations are made and plane tickets are purchased.  Now, if I could just figure out how to lose 10 pounds in as many days...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A day in the life of a retired art teacher

While you were teaching...

I spent 2 glorious days at our lakefront cottage.
The pics above are me, doing favorite things.

This morning I had a fabulous kayak sojourn. I spent a long time watching this beautiful great blue heron, and attempting to photograph spiderwebs. Not easy.

The waterlilies are gone from the marsh, but the lily pads are still there.

Later, on a walk, this guy posed for me on a tree.

But who is this, posing on these trees below?

Interesting plants in the woods...

What is the strange orange light coming through the window? A little creepy, no?

Monday, September 10, 2012

The belated Smart-Fab post

I apologize. This should have been written a while back, but like so many other things, it got set aside when I was distracted by something more immediate, especially with the spring art show and my June retirement. But I don't like to make promises I don't keep, so - here it is - better late than never, right?

This post is about Smart-Fab ( and this is a link to the official website). A while back, I was contacted by a representative for Smart-Fab, wondering if I would be willing to test the product in my art room and write about it on my blog. I would be sent some rolls to use for testing. I said YES. Time passed, and no Smart-Fab arrived, so at some point, when cleaning out my emails, I came across the initial communication. I emailed the rep and asked what had happened. He apologized and said he'd still like to get it sent to me to test. The Smart-Fab arrived at a time when I had all my lessons planned for the art show, and not much time left for experimenting. After that, it was all about getting in the 'last hurrah' before I retired.

So I did a bit of experimenting on the Smart-Fab myself, and only used it in a limited fashion with the kids, due to the unfortunate timing of its arrival. We received three rolls - one bright orange, one deep blue, and one white. The white was at my request because of something I hoped to try. Here's what we/I did with the Smart-Fab:

Like I said, I had specifically asked for white. I wanted to test out the 'toothpaste-resist imitation batik' process on it. (Here's my instructions on this process, my all-time most viewed post). No good. The paint washed right out along with the resist, so I returned to using bleached muslin or cotton sheeting for this project with the kids, and did not use the Smart-Fab. Here's a toothpaste batik from a couple of years ago:

So instead, we used some of the white for a sky. We were making a garden for the art show, and I wanted a big sky behind it. A handful of kids came in after school to paint the sky. I put two tables together, covered them with newspaper, rolled out a huge piece of the Smart-Fab, and gave the kids a variety of blue and white paints, mostly acrylics, but also some leftover latex house paint and anything else we could find. They used giant brushes and the sky looked great. BUT - here's one problem, folks - the paints went right through the Smart-Fab and absolutely soaked the newspapers, and we had a LOT of table cleanup to do. Plus we used more paint than would have been needed on paper because of the soak-through. Then, what to do with it to dry? If it had been painted on big paper or cardboard, I simply would have stretched it out in the hall, but we needed to put a drop-cloth UNDER it in the hall because there was as much paint on the back as on the front. So if you use this product for painting, make sure you plan for the soak-through factor.
On the plus side, the painted sky looked really nice, and it was great to have a sky that could be hung without tearing. We thought it was big, but it was not big enough, so we used a layer of the the dark blue for the sky above the painted sky, which you can see in the picture above. This stuff holds up well - it was attached to our bleachers and stayed up with no problem for the duration of the show. All the dragonflies were pinned to it and it worked out great.
Also for the art show, we used the dark blue Smart-Fab in utilitarian ways: we draped the base of the Chihuly tower with the dark blue, and we rolled out pieces of the orange and white for tablecloths under sculptures. It looked nice on the tables, like tablecloths, but was hard to keep in place.

My second graders each year used air dry clay to make little folded slab pockets to hang on a wall. I called these "posie pockets", and the kids made flowers with tissue paper and pipe cleaners to put in the pockets. (Sorry I can't find any photos of these.) This past spring I thought I'd substitute the Smart-Fab for the tissue paper, since I had been to the NAEA conference and had gotten small sample squares of many colors. I thought it would make the flowers much more durable. Stupidly, I didn't try it out myself first. By the 2nd class of 2nd graders, I ran for the box of the tissue scraps and gave up on the Smart-Fab. It was hard for the little guys to cut - too 'mushy' - very frustrating. Then, I always had the kids push the pipe cleaner through the center of the tissue, but they couldn't get them through the Smart-Fab. I ran around with "the pokey tool" (a punching awl intended for leather but that I used for anything that needed a hole) and pushed holes into the centers for them. Note to self: don't use Smart-Fab for tiny flowers. It should be great for big stuff.

Due to lack of time, I tested other stuff on the Smart-Fab myself but didn't use it with the kids like I hoped. I experimented with oil pastels, and I liked the way it looked particularly on the dark color, but the hard part was keeping the Smart-Fab in place while I worked.

As for paint, I've already told you about the acrylics, which looked nice. I think tempera is less suited for the material and watercolors are useless.

Gluing: If you read the info on the Smart-Fab literature, it will tell you it takes all sorts of glues, but I do not concur. I tried: Elmer's Glue-All, tacky glue, glue sticks; heck, I tried every glue I had other than hot glue, which they said not to use. One after another, I was able to peel off whatever was glued on after the glue was dry. Maybe you'll have better success than me, but I wouldn't spend any time trying to glue this stuff.

Sewing: I think this could be where the best uses are for Smart-Fab. Use it for sewing costumes, etc; it does not ravel and is very strong, and can be sewn by hand or machine. The colors are bright and do not fade. But unfortunately, it is not so great for sewing with little kids, because a blunt needle will not penetrate it. Believe me, I tried. So unless the kids are old enough for sharp pointed needles, forget it.

Do I hate the stuff? No. Do I think it has great uses? Yes, but not for my needs. I would DEFINITELY consider using it for draping, for decoration, for making costumes, etc. I could see making giant flowers, or grass hula skirts, and much more. But try it out yourself before you plan lessons with it with young kids. They will likely get frustrated trying to cut it or puncture it.

I left ample leftovers in my classroom, and hopefully the new art teacher will have some fabulous ideas for how to use it! With Halloween coming, the leftover orange could even be used to cover a bulletin board, or to drape on display shelving, or to decorate the art room!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Road Trip to Woodstock

Today, while the rest of you were busy being art teachers, hubby and I took a road trip, on a genealogical expedition for him. So some time was spent hunting down information in a town clerk's office, and exploring a cemetery, and visiting his elderly distant relative. But he also promised me that if I came along on the trip we'd stop for lunch in Woodstock (NY) and have a nice scenic drive, too. And he kept both promises.

We drove around the beautiful Ashokan Reservoir, but I somehow didn't take any pictures on the trip except for these:

Perhaps you can guess what they are?

If you haven't figured it out yet, maybe the photo on the left below will help. The photo on the right below was my had-to-have purchase in Woodstock. How could I possible pass up these fabulous shoes?!

In the entryway to the restaurant where we ate a delightful lunch, there was a full wall painted with chalkboard paint for you to fill in your bucket list ideas:

There was a great piece of art on the bathroom wall (not hanging on the wall, but PAINTED on the wall), which unfortunately I didn't photograph. It was titled: Woodstock Air Force. Near the top of the graded purple wall, there was a black silhouette of an airplane. But instead of dropping bombs, colorful flowers fell from the plane. As they fell, they turned into butterflies, which eventually turned into white doves. The doves flew back up in a line, and the leader held an olive branch in its beak. Beautiful.

But I didn't take any pictures on the streets of Woodstock, because, well, I didn't want to feel like a tourist in a place that is NOT a tourist destination. It seemed terribly invasive.

It's interesting, Woodstock Vermont is a great tourist spot - an upscale hip artsy place with vegetarian cafes and lovely shops with pricey trinkets. But Woodstock NY is the real deal. There is no upscale pretense - it is an authentic artsy community that is not designed to cater to tourists. The people on the streets are not posers; they looked like they just walked out of the Woodstock Music Festival, which, for you young 'uns out there, took place in the summer of 1969, when I was getting ready for my senior year of high school and aspiring to be cool. (However, it didn't really take place in Woodstock; it was in Bethel; but who's keeping track anyhow?)

Anyhow, if you don't know about the Woodstock Festival, watch the movie Woodstock (be aware, it is quite long and not appropriate for the kids) and get a feel for what the world was like when I headed off to college in New Paltz, just a couple of exits down the highway from Woodstock. Plus you'll get to hear some incredible music by music icons like Jimmy Hendrix, The Who, Joan Baez, Santana, Janis Joplin, and more.

Meanwhile, I promise I'll get back to some art teacher-y posts soon!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Compliments & Complements

Compliments to all my fellow art teacher-bloggers on the beautiful classrooms you have been posting to start the year. You've all done so much work getting ready, and your rooms look fabulous.

In honor of you all, I'm posting complementary colors I've found in nature, mostly of the red (or magenta) and green combo.
To my fellow New Yorkers who start school this week, have a wonderful start to a great year!