Tie dye, anyone? When my kids were little, we had the neighbors over for tie dye parties. In the backyard, we dunked T-shirts, pillow cases, and socks into big buckets of dye. My husband Tim monitored the garden hose as we rinsed the colors out. The alley flowed with turquoise, magenta, and yellow. The clothesline sported blue pinwheels and splotches of sunshine.
Alison Sherwood is a woman after my own heart! When sharing about her, I was struck by how much we have in common.
Back in the day, I, too, enjoyed doing paper projects. I kept my baby books up to date, did scrapbooks for each child, even made personalized recipe books for my girls as adults, brimming with family recipes and traditions. I chronicled family events in both pictures and memoirs.
I’ve posted my artwork on Etsy and created many others, some on commission. My favorites are a pen-and-ink tree drawing and a “Mother Goose” landscape depicting 68 nursery rhymes.
I produced handmade gifts, too, from small quilts to framed drawings to greeting cards. Tim cut wooden animals with his jigsaw and I painted them for selling at craft fairs: pigs, geese, and roosters on a stick, back when they were popular in the 1980s.
As a mom, I went all-out with themed birthday parties and thrived on making art with my kids. We headed to the Milwaukee Art Museum for Family Sundays.
The annual tie dye parties included an Art Fair. Each year had a theme, such as oceans, stories, or multi-cultural traditions. We set up easels and paint jars, and provided piles of materials for a multitude of art and crafts, from bread dough sculptures to eggshell mosaics to pastel murals.
We invited the entire neighborhood—school and church families, too. At least 70 people attended. One year, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel even paid us a visit and featured the fair in the Neighbors section of the newspaper (1996)! At the easel (left) is my daughter Audrey (4) and friend Amy. At the other easel (right) are my 2 daughters, Kaia (6) and Audrey (4).
A favorite yearly activity was making Potato Heads. Another shout-out to Family Fun Magazine–which arrived monthly in my mailbox. We had no internet magazines back then.
My daughters and I also hosted “Camp Moore” in the summer and invited friends for craft days. Not to mention an endless array of projects the kids made year round: papier mache snakes, sock snowmen, cardboard vehicles, Lego skyscrapers, tempera portraits, woven place mats, 3-D tissue paper fish, and a tortilla chip mural, to name a few. Yes, tortilla chips! That was Kaia’s idea.
I’d like to take a moment to distinguish between art and crafts. They’re not the same. But they can also mean different things depending on the context.
For my purposes, I’m defining them this way. In general, art is something unique—created with thought, purpose, and some free reign. A craft is something that usually looks like everybody else’s work, often dictated step by step. Deemed fail-proof.
However, there can be some variety with certain crafts, such as stamping greeting cards or making scrapbooks. People can get very creative with these, even turn them into works of art. Woodworking is considered a craft, but with beautiful results in the hands of a skilled artisan.
But have you ever walked down an elementary school hallway and seen dozens of identical paper penguins on the wall? That’s a “fail-proof” craft. NOT art by any definition.
Have you ever walked into a kindergarten classroom and seen 25 identical 12” x 18” crayoned U.S. flags? That was my school. The room where imagination was squashed to death. Remember? On the back side of one, out of sight, was the flagpole and 3 service men with hands on hearts.
Even though the flags were freehand drawings, I put them in the “craft” category, since no creative thought was involved. They all looked the same.
I’m not saying crafts are all bad. I’ve done both, some with my kids. Even at the art fairs we hosted, we had both crafty and artsy projects.
But if we want to teach children to truly create, to entwine thought with skill and initiative, if we want imaginations to flourish, we should give our kids 4 things. Watch for my next post . . .
In the meantime, do you have a favorite item you made as a child? Or as an adult? Something you’re proud of?
I’ve love to hear from you!