Monday, March 21, 2016

the snow has faded

The snow has faded quite suddenly and surprisingly around here. I think I was waiting for that one big storm, the one to take the kids out in, the one that would lead to Maya's first skiing lesson, but it never came to that. The timing was never quite right.

It's that strange strung time between seasons, where one could dress as easily in snow boots as rain boots, one may or may not need mittens, and the days when it's very warm, the kiddo still wants to wear his green turtle coat, which is two sizes too big anyway.

What I love so very much are these small moments I glimpse on the playground: one girl winding another up in a swing to fly, fly, and gently come down again. The sweet miniature fort being built from twigs in the sand box. The view of the world from up, up.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

artist feature: casey depasquale ceramics

Casey DePasquale is a friend of mine; her sister is one of my dearest friends, in fact. I knew Casey was a potter, and I knew it had been put on pause for a bit while she raised two boisterous sons. Her first was born just before my daughter and her second just before my son, so I got to hear from her best practices (which are throw up your hands and dive in with both feet, more or less).

I emailed her three sets of questions that came from the heart of this blog, which is really taking a look at how passion can take root in a child and how we can help nurture and celebrate those passions.

The photographs are of the bud vase I bought a little bit ago, and it holds a special place on our mantle and in our hearts, holding some very special feathers we've collected over the years.

Welcome, Casey!

What originally sparked your interest in your art? What was your childhood relationship to art? Did you grow up around it? Any special memories to share?

I have loved art since before I can remember. But I did not grow up around it, or in a family with any strong appreciation of art. My family has a lot of teachers, and growing up I imagined myself becoming a middle school art teacher. (Now I think that's my nightmare!) It wasn't until having the ability to focus on art in college that I realized my passion is really for the creation of useful objects. Now I would actually consider myself more of an artisan or craftsperson, but my studies in Fine Art certainly inform my work.

Now that you are a mama yourself, do you practice art with your children? What role does your art form (or others) have in their lives? 

People are often surprised that I don't do a lot of art activities with my kids! But I have 2 very active little boys who are short on patience. We like to get creative with whatever physical activities we do. Sometimes that means fun with playdoh, or building fantastical lego structures and making up stories to go with them. I have a bit of a free-range parenting style, so I don't do too many led activities. But they are starting to develop an interest in my work, and as they get older I would love to involve them more and more. Currently my studio has too many fragile things for a 3 and 5 year old to playing around in there!

One thing I like to focus on is getting them to understand that making art is my job, similar to the job of any other parent. I hope this helps them to grow up with the faith to follow their own passion, and then just believe that a "livelihood" will follow that.

Any special advice to parents and educators who'd like to integrate more art in their lives and curriculum? If you would advise the teaching of one artist, who would it be and why? If you were designing a lesson, what activity would you have the students do?

I would advise parents and educators who are afraid they're not "artsy" enough to not stress about it! (And avoid pinterest!) Kids who are allowed the freedom to explore will find their own ways to be creative. But try to start noticing art in your daily life, wether it's a city mural, a cool building, or visiting a museum. Ask questions: What do you like about this? What don't you like? Talk about colors, size, shapes. Make your own observations. This can help develop a life-long appreciation for art.

One of the easiest and most fun art projects that can be done with children of any age is creating a collage with found objects. Its a great project to incorporate into another activity like a hike or spring cleanup. (Can you make something beautiful out of litter?) This project can be dressed up with a recycled frame, easy to find at thrift stores. Remove the glass and allow children to paint the frame with acrylic paints. Glueing stuff is always a favorite with young kids!

Choosing only one artist to teach is impossible. But I will take any opportunity to share one of my heroes, Eva Zeisel. She is a huge inspiration to me in her work and her life story. Originally from Hungary, she became active in the arts at a young age with the support of her family. Later on she was imprisoned in Stalin's Russia, and then had to flee Nazi occupied Austria. When she escaped to the US, she taught design and eventually became the first woman to have a solo show at the MOMA in New York! Of functional ceramics! Her work is incredibly beautiful and sensual. She lived to be 105, and I would love so much to go back in time to sit down for tea and a chat with her.

Casey's Etsy shop has been restocked and will be again soon: caseyd ceramics. Please stop by, favorite a few of her items, maybe even order a piece for yourself! I know when I have a classroom, there will be a few caseyd pots in our room. How nice to know you are supporting a working mother-artist!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

our neighbor's tree

When Maya was born, we had this beautiful neighbor my grandmother's age named Fran. She'd have us over with the baby and she sang to her: Take me out to the ball game... We loved Fran so much. We'd chat over the fence about this and that and sit on her front porch and talk about small, good things.

She passed away not long after Finn was born, and we miss her so much. My ear always cocks a bit when I step out with the dogs, thinking she'll call over the fence, but it's quiet now. Her daughter gave us Fran's piano, and the kids love pounding away on it; Ryan loves his strangely perfect noodling (he has such a good ear).

Fran had a walnut tree in her backyard--one that leans up and into the sky with a chittering squirrel who is always scolding me for something. Every early autumn, it drops nuts, and two autumns ago, I collected as many as I could to dye yarn. This last autumn, I let them be for kindness to the squirrel (after all, this was his hoard I was disrupting) and now that the snow has folded back, we're finding all of the leftover bits.

There's a lot you can do with a collection of such stones: categorize them, count them, make prints with them, sketch them, tell stories about them, plant them (well, that last should have happened in the autumn when there was still nut-meat).

Maya tells me she loves these halves the most because they are hearts. It's funny how I always thought of them as little piggy-noses and my sweet daughter sees love.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

{bookcase: not one damsel in distress}

Today is International Women's Day! And what better day than this to celebrate just one of the many fierce-female books I have in my collection?

When I found out I was having a daughter, I knew I was in for a tough road. (For the record, you can replace "daughter" with "son" easily. What follows would be different though.) I knew she might grow up in the world I grew up in, where women weren't paid equally for equal work, weren't respected the same, were told to dress the right way or else risk her safety, were given pink dolls and told they'd make wonderful mothers one day, were told boys will be boys, were called terrible names and had to accept it--need I go on? These are realities we face as mothers of young women.

I don't want her to grin and bear it.

So here's one book I hope will instill some fierce bravery in her. Will tell her that she can conquer so many things as she grows older, that she can be the change she wishes to see in the world, that she doesn't have to accept limitations.

Push boundaries, little one. Fight dragons. Fill your bookshelves with girls and women who do the same.

Replace "daughter" with "son." Because I'm going to read these stories to him too, of course.

PS: Got a book recommendation? We're always looking to fill our bookcase up with more good books!

Monday, March 7, 2016

what looks like art

It seems funny to post these snowy pictures today when outside, we wore T-shirts to play in the mud, but this is Minnesota in spring.

Wait, spring. And this is still technically late winter. Yep, this is typical of maybe April, even early May, but such an anomaly for this time of year. I remember a few of Ryan's birthdays (he's a St Patty's Day baby) where I was doing the first of winter's major pooper scooping (ah, my friend calls it "poop soup," and that is so, so horrifyingly apt), but we did it in February of this year.

Either way, Friday was a big day: a big meeting at the school and that night, the book launch for one of my press's first books. (Ventriloquy. So, so good.) My energy was all over the place--thinking about the future, thinking about being a publisher at an event for the first time, trying to get my kids to stop climbing the walls, and I realized this one thing would just help all the dust settle around me.

Clarity, breath, outdoors.

Here we are: snow etchings, trunk climbing, don't go near that ice!ing, trailing limbs to see the paths behind us'ing, paw printing.

Maya was so thrilled: "Look at the birds! The big black birds!" We'd gone to the wildlife sanctuary the weekend before and she knew them to be crows.

She also found this little blip of oil spilled onto the walkway and asked about it. In awe, she told me the splotch "looks like art."

I love her so. Have I mentioned that yet?

We saw, then, leaves encased in Friday's ice, bald eagles filtering through trees.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

wildlife sanctuary: of the non-avian variety

There seem to be three central zones of exploration at the wildlife sanctuary: there's the aviary, where one can feed ducks and geese and visit birds of prey; there's the indoor nature center full of exploratory nooks and specimen drawers and live animals in smaller containers; and there's this last area, a trail complete with mainly mammals.

It's hard for me to tell the difference between a coyote and a wolf, particularly when whipping by at higher speeds. Even fairly still, I had to squint and scrunch at the above two, and I think much of that is the thickness of the coyotes--they're wonderfully plump living in their pens, and the fierce flung antics are really play as opposed to the more natural competition.

We were lucky in our visit: the wolves began their haunting choral howl. I video'ed some of it (and some of the birds of prey having a meal) and hope to compile those three and share soon. Maya was thrilled, and she also overheard one of the workers call one wolf Luna: What are all the other names, Mama?

What I'm struck with, as a parent, is the absolute pleasure of observing your child observing. Maya was able to tell me names of many of the turtles: painted and snap, and we learned more: wood and others. She overheard someone else calling the snapping turtle a dinosaur turtle and we talked about why that might be. 

Five is such an amazing age, isn't it? The curiosity and language are explosive and are leading to actual conversations outside of the why-and-answer. Discussions and imaginings. I'm learning so much too--learning so I can answer her questions, but learning, again, how to ask questions. What that was like. Parenthood truly leads to a lot of just getting it done, but it also forces you to slow down and embrace too.

I love that this was our last look before we had to return home. Hello, world, we'll see you again sometime soon, because she's asked it already: Can we go back again? And again and again, my love.