Friday, 25 March 2011

Little Light Theatre

In three weeks time I will be leading several shadow-puppet making sessions at the Geffrye Museum. In preparation for these family workshops I have been trying out a few ideas with my children.

At the museum we'll be using the shadow-puppets to retell the story of the Ca Mau shipwreck; at home I simply laid out some materials and then showed Buddy and Daisy a couple of puppets I'd made earlier. Happily that was all they needed - they came up with some great ideas for characters and the stories began to bubble up as we made them.

At the museum there might be about 50 people attending each session so everything will be on a large scale; we'll use an OHP projector and have a huge screen on which to act out the story. The puppeteers will be in view; this is a neat way of simultaneously watching the process of shadow puppetry and enjoying the performance. And we'll have some percussion instruments on hand for sound effects.

At home we simply transformed our little entrance hall into the theatre; using a floor lamp for illumination, and a small table covered with a large sheet of baking parchment* as a screen.

*Thank you to Bristol Parenting Cafe for this tip.

To make shadow puppets like ours, you will need:

thin card - any colour; remember it's the shadow of the puppet that shows in the end

thin sticks - about 20cm long (takeaway coffee stirrers are great) to attach horizontally or vertically to the puppets

Use bendy drinking straws for young children - attach the straw's short section to the puppet then bend it so it sticks out directly behind the puppet

sticky tape - to attach the sticks or straws



hole-punch - to make eyes or other cut-out detail

First, my 4 year old made an owl and I was told to make a bird. And then together we made a tree from the off-cuts.

My 6 year old was tempted to join in when he saw our brilliant puppets. He made a monster and I helped him make a man. Buddy then made a cave - all by himself.

Our puppets were about 15 cm in height.

To make a theatre like ours, you will need:

1 x small sturdy occasional table or chair - anything with stretchers to attach the screen

1 x 40 cm length of baking parchment - depending on the height of your table or chair of course

Sticky tack and masking tape - to attach the parchment without damaging your furniture

1 x small lamp

Buddy and Daisy came up with two very different stories and wanted to rehearse their shows before performing them to each other. Of course it's great to just make up the story as you go along (which is actually what happened in our rehearsals).

The Monster and the Man

There was a man who was bored.
He sailed to a far away land to find a monster he'd heard about.
The monster lived in a cave.
The monster roared, came out of his cave and they fought.
The man used his sword to defeat the monster.
Then he returned home, pleased to get back safely.
And he was never bored again.

The Owl and the Bird

There was once a poor owl who couldn't fly.
He lived in a tree and could only just sit there.
A big bird, his friend, would fly overhead again and again.
She felt sorry for the owl and the owl felt sad.
Then one day the bird had an idea.
She told the owl to climb up on her back and she gave the owl a piggy-back.
And at last the owl was flying; swooping through the sky with his best friend, the bird.

Making our Little Light Theatre at home was a hugely enjoyable experience; the atmosphere created by the darkened room, the gently glowing screen and the animated shadow-puppets was magical. The sessions at the Geffrye Museum will be fantastic.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

The sunny side of the street

What a splendid Saturday; the spring morning beckoned us outside bright and early. We had a few errands to run, so stayed local and like a favourite song of mine, we directed our feet to the sunny side of the street. My children are quite familiar with that old tune, and when they heard me singing it today they decided we should adhere to its lyrics: we were not allowed on any pavements in shadow.

We started our day with breakfast at the Trattoria Sapori in Newington Green [above]. They make great coffee, bake scrumptious cakes and make melt-in-the-mouth croissants. We chose a table in the window and yes, sunglasses were required.

Then we shopped along the very sunny side of Stoke Newington Church Street, only pausing at The Tea Rooms (on the shady side) to take this photograph of its rather lovely window display.

Shopping complete and Tinkerbell (Clissold Wine's Persian cat) much admired, our sunny stroll led us effortlessly to Clissold Park. We passed St Mary's, its steeple stunning in the sunlight, and with the surrounding trees having just burst into blossom I simply had to take a photograph here - just look at that sky. Today I feel so very fortunate to be living where we do.

Grab your coat and get your hat,
leave your worry on the doorstep.
And just direct your feet
to the sunny side of the street.

Can't you hear the pitter-pat?
And that happy tune is your step.
Life can be complete
on the sunny side of the street.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Cut and cover

Here's how a pair of scissors became the catalyst for a lovely creative activity:

1. I placed our brand new scissors-for-small-hands on top of a tempting pile of magazine and newspaper pages. Then I waited...

2. My reluctant 6 year old crafter soon spotted the new scissors and asked if they actually worked (clearly fed up with our old, very blunt pair).

3. I suggested in a casual way that if he fancied he could try them out on... say... this pile of papers.

4. He took the bait and tested the scissors by cutting out a big picture of Rango and then announced he was going to try them on something else. Apparently there were some really interesting pictures in that pile of newspapers and magazines (I wonder how that happened).

5. My 4 year old appeared and of course taking turns with the scissors was now required. This worked out well though; the picture selecting spanned the waiting time beautifully.

6. My 6 year old realised that Daddy would just love the picture of the Chinese dancers because he's in China at the moment.

7. A game evolved whereby we were now cutting out pictures for Daddy - for when he gets back from China (which is on Sunday by the way).

8. We soon covered the floor with interesting things Daddy has missed since he's been away. A horse, the new Olympic Velodrome, a cauliflower and chickpea curry recipe and a large zebra were amongst the images selected.

9. We snip-snip-snipped and chat-chat-chatted for 20 minutes and they decided these picture clippings would make a great Welcome Home Daddy banner. It was too late to start that though, so we made big pile of the pictures and got ready for bed.

10. I chuckled to myself at the thought of my reluctant crafter happily doing all that cutting and creative planning. And I looked forward to the gluey banner project to come.

[Next day... we made the banner!]

Monday, 14 March 2011

For Grandma...

Adventures At Home is One year old - Happy Birthday!

My writing here during the past 12 months has been a brilliant and important experience for me. I would like to thank my friend, textile artist and writer - Ruth Singer, who encouraged me to go for it last Spring.

Adventures At Home has given me the opportunity to reflect on my personal endeavours to be a creative mummy to my two darling children, and to share some of my experiences as a professional museum teacher and creative facilitator. It's been great to have a place to put my thoughts and ideas.

Even though I've worked in education in some shape or form for nearly twenty years - oh my goodness, that makes me o.l.d. - I don't want to use Adventures At Home to analyse or theorise. Rather the opposite in fact; I want it to reflect what I wish for my children - a kind of modern-day Milly-Molly-Mandy/Billy Blunt-type existence that cherishes and nurtures the most simple things in childhood and above all, gives them oodles of time to play.

In my professional work I am very fortunate that I, like my children, also often get to simply do lovely (as one of my oldest friends Bronwen once so eloquently and Welshly put it). I get to work on gorgeous projects in museums I absolutely love. I meet the sweetest, cleverest, most enthusiastic children and teachers, carers and parents. This work is taking up an increasing amount of my time as my little ones have grown from babies to tots to children in full time education. The busier I get, the less time I have to write. But this is a good problem to have, I suppose.

I would like to dedicate this first year of Adventures At Home to my wonderful mum who, as those of you who know me personally know, died a couple of years ago.

Adventures At Home has seen me through a year of evenings. This is when I miss my mum the most because it's when I have time to myself; the children are asleep and my husband is usually out working. It has been so comforting to write about all the lovely stuff my family has done, and then realise it's time for bed; an evening has passed with neither tears nor wine. And my mum always loved to know about the brilliant things her grandchildren said, made, did and played. So, I guess I'm just keeping her posted.

We certainly haven't run out of adventures yet and so, as I said a year ago in my very first post, this blog will [continue to] be a record of them all.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Pinning, sewing, posing...

Today my children celebrated World Book Day with a dress as your favourite book character assembly at school. Daisy chose the fabric for her costume a couple of weeks ago and she even wanted to help with the dressmaking process. She was particularly keen to use the pins, as pictured above.

Buddy on the other hand, was reluctant to choose a character. It was my last minute offer to make an axe as part of the costume that eventually helped him make his decision. This made for some rather late-night cutting, sticking and sewing yesterday. But I did it.

So off to school this morning went one cute-as-a-button Milly-Molly-Mandy...

And one ready-to-train-his-dragon Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III.

Happy World Book Day everyone.