Read Aloud #86

Read aloud #86:
“The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind”
William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer.

This is true story we all should hear.
If you have the time,
please consider reading William Kamkwamba’s book.
If you prefer to hear him tell it himself,
you can find recordings of him on youtube.

My 9th grader was assigned to read this by his science teacher.
It came to my attention when he complained of the book making no sense.
Rather than leaving him to struggle through the reading alone,
I picked the book up and read it aloud to both my boys.

The first two chapters were indeed a challenge to read.
We had no context for the world, the lives and the superstitions being described.
I could see why a 14 year old American might rebel against the assignment.
But not on my watch.
We powered through those first two chapters.
I did my best discuss why the author started the book as he did and to try to build a connection between the life in Africa he was describing versus our own lives in America.
By chapter three,
we were immersed in William Kamkwamba’s tale.

It’s powerful, humbling and inspiring.
When I think of the hardships he lived through,
I am both shamed by our own excess and inspired by his perseverance.
I am especially touched by his words in the book’s epilogue:

“I hope this story finds its way to our brothers and sisters out there who are trying to elevate themselves and their communities, but who may feel discouraged by their poor situation.
I want them to know they’re not alone. 
By working together, we can help remove this burden of bad luck form their backs, just as I did, and use it to build a better future.”

Christmas Craft Camp

Christmas Craft Camp

If you’ve been hanging out with me for a while,
You know I’m nuts about crafting.
My standard line?
I’ve never met a craft I didn’t want to try.
I also love to see what others are doing and making.
I think hand crafted anything is pretty cool.
But since I moved to Charlotte,
I’ve been especially on the lookout for crafters & makers with aesthetics in line with mine.
It took me two years to find them.
When I stumbled across Jen & Katie of Modern Craft Collective,
I knew I’d finally found my local crafting kindred spirits.

In the Small Hands Big Art Studio

Jen & Katie are a source of arts and crafts knowledge & experience.
Print making.
Wood crafts.
String crafts.
Shibori dying.
Ceramic hand building.
Alcohol inks.
I’m telling you… just name it & they have experience with it.
The best part?
…And they are darn good at it!
So when I heard they were offering a Christmas Craft Camp,
I made sure I joined the fun.

Their craft camp was a three hour extravaganza of “all you can make.”
Tables were set buffet style with six different projects to choose from.
My craft-loving heart started pounding the minute I saw all making possibilities.

Playing with Tooling Foil

I started by trying something totally new:
Tooling foil.
It was quick, easy fun with an interesting result.
Once I finished my design,
Katie tacked it into a wooden block
and even attached the picture hanger on the back.
What a treat to have her handle the mundane part of the project for me!

Never enough garland

Next I jumped over to the garland making station.
Can I just say…
There’s always room for one more garland.
(Smiley face)

Watching E set nails for string art

While I was hopping from craft to craft,
My boy tackled the most challenging project:
String art.

E and his reindeer

He drew his own design.
Set all the nails in place.
And then very carefully looped embroidery floss all around.

Struggling to set my nails straight

Once I saw E with the string art,
Of course, I had to try it too!
I plopped a Pinterest pic of  Christmas tree string art right on top of my slab of wood
and got hammering.
Handling all those little nails turned out to be a little tricky.
But I took my time and didn’t freak out over crooked nails.

My favorite take homes from MCC’s Craft Camp

And there it is.
Three hours of crafting fun.
Four completed projects to take home.
And a whole lot of new crafting inspiration.
A big thank you to Katie & Jen.
Modern Craft Collective is the best!

Santa and the Snowman

Santa and the Snowman

Here are my two most recent paintings:

“Santa” (Oil on 12×12 inch canvas)

My friend, Loretta, suggested Santa as the next subject for our oil painting class.
The class embraced the idea and dove into the project.
  We enjoyed ourselves AND learned quite a bit about portraiture.
The most important tip I want to remember:
In portraiture, it is good to do a complete underpainting in viridian.
(Viridian is gorgeous blue-green color).
I think it’s counter intuitive because we don’t look at faces and think “green.”
But that viridian underpainting helps to create depth and richness in the finished piece.

“The Snowman” (Oil on 12×12 inch canvas)

Right smack in the middle of working on Santa,
I decided he needed a buddy.
So I painted “The Snowman” to keep “Santa” company.
I’m tickled to add these two pieces to my collection of Christmas crafts and decorations.

Only a week and change to Christmas…
What shall we make next?

Simple Centerpieces

Simple Centerpieces

I’m all excited about my Christmas centerpieces.
They were SUPER easy to put together
and even better,
I can re-purpose them after the shindig I’m throwing tomorrow.

Eight potted European Cypress (purchased at Lowe’s)
Eight 2-quart paint buckets (also from Lowe’s)
and assorted wreath picks (salvaged from old holiday arrangements over the years).

It takes about 5 minutes to peel stickers off all the buckets,
jam the shrubbery into said buckets
and tuck a wreath pick under each little cypress.

For now, the greenery is hanging out all in a row on my dining table.
(Looking rather festive!)
Tomorrow, each pot will become a centerpiece on a cocktail table.
And here’s what I think is the best part…
The day after that,
I’m taking them all apart to be used for other projects.
The baby cypress will be planted in a row outside my dining room window.
When they outgrow that spot, they’ll move to the backyard.
The buckets will be the perfect containers to hold art and crafting supplies.
And the picks?
The picks get washed off and reused the next time I need a decorative holiday punch.
How’s that for reuse, reduce, recycle?

Merry Madness

Merry Madness

It’s absolute Merry Madness in my studio right now.
Well, let’s be truthful.
I’d say I’m at 65% “Merry” and 100% “Madness.”

I love, Love, LOVE Christmas.
My spirit is over-ambitiously willing to do it all.
But at some point during this holiday season,
I always end up asking myself,
“What the hec was I thinking?”

I’ve been baking like a mad woman.
Crocheting handmade gifts.
Prepping to lead two group craft activities.
Putting together center pieces.
Planning a rather large holiday party.
Not to mention tackling the regular Christmas to-do list with my kids.
Oh, and a friend asked if I wanted to enter a piece in her January textile exhibit.
I really, REALLY should have declined.
Now I’m fussing over what to make for said fiber art show.

So true to Christmas form,
I’ve bit off a whole lotta stuff.
Now I”m chewing fast and furious.
My studio is littered with almost finished Christmas paintings, gifts and tchotchkes.
Last night,
I looked up from the fiber sculpture I was playing with,
to see all my art and crafting detritus piled up around me.
I could only laugh at myself.
And snap picture.
So I could share my moment of “Merry Madness” with you.