Monday, 14 March 2016

Please, please, zhoozh me!

Last week we were so peed off about Spring's late arrival, we took matters into our hands and got busy making our own blooms. It lasted us all week long and the bigger kiddos (5 & 7) even invented their own game.

We also used the opportunity to explore flowers in art, which took us on a totally #artskicking trip from Kahlo to Van Gogh, Matisse and Monet. (Reading back that sentence makes me sound so up my own #arts, I am in fact a rather lazy mother, but when I bother my #arts to do stuff with them it just seems to spark discussions we wouldn't otherwise have.) I basically got the phone out (between taking all these pictures) and got them looking at images and talking about flowers in art. Simples.

To make your own blooms, you will need:

⚡️old plastic bags - the flimsier the better and scented nappy bags are brilliant too!
⚡️yellow napkins / tissue paper (or just use newspaper, or colour in some old paper))
⚡️clothespegs (£1 for fifty at Poundland)
⚡️darning needle and thread
⚡️crunchie (optional)
⚡️plenty of imagination

1. Cut the handles and bottoms (!) off the bags, flatten them out then cut into squares. You should get about 10 per bag.

To make circles (optional, this requires more scissors action, scrunched up square work just as well). - Take 2 squares and place on top of each other.

- Fold twice to make into a smaller square, then once more so you have a triangle shape.
- Snip the open end off the triangle, along a curved line. 
- Open up and you'll have a circle. Ta Da!

You can get really creative with your cutting - cut your triangle into a heart shape, or cut into the triangle to create a "hairy" flower. Use pinking shears for an even frillier effect.

2. Cut the tissue paper / napkins into smaller squares for the flower centres (or as per above, cut them into circles)

3. Layer up your plastic and paper, with the yellow centre on top - we used 2 plastic and one paper, the more you use the fuller your blooms.

4. SCRUNCH and ZHOOZH to create a flower, then hold it all together with a clothes peg. Zhoozhing is crucial!

Make as many flowers as you want, the more mine made, the more confident and creative they got. I had to give plenty of scissors help to both of them (they’re 5 & 7) but they loved cutting up the bags and using the pegs to hold it all together. 

5. Line up your peggy blooms on a flat surface - this may take a while and requires patience and balancing skills!

6. On the count of three, everyone shouts “Bloooow Me Down!”... You get the idea. SO much craic, we did it over and over again. It’s coming to all good kids stores soon... 

A couple of days later, we took the flowers and made a gorgeous (weatherproof) garland for our wendy house. You just remove from the pegs and thread through some string with a nice big darning needle. Simples. 

Also got to teach the Girlchild about the importance of "zhoozhing". Priceless learning right there.

They were definitely inspired and up for it in a whole new way last week, so much so that Spring showed up on Friday. Yay! As a result, there's a bit of a floral theme going on this week on on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, hope you find something to inspire you. Feel free to share ;)

The Arts Crusader

P.S. Join the crusade on  Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest and give yourself a #KickUpTheArts

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Cross that bridge when you come to it - Ben Wilson, Chewing Gum Man

Like many parents, I encourage my kids to look UP - so they don't miss out on beauty and because it's a proven mood enhancing technique. Despite my entreaties, the Boychild still spends a lot of time looking down. At his white patent leather shoes, at the ground, in kerb corners, down drains, counting dog poos, finding chewing gum splats... anything ground-level and manky fascinates him.

The first time I took him to Tate we crossed the Millennium Bridge to St. Paul's and he ran in front all the way, zigzagging and peering into the metal rails. Half way over, he pointed out tiny little pictures in the structure of the bridge. By the time we got to the St. Paul's side, we must've counted 50. An artyfarty treasure hunt for kids - "how very Tate" - I thought.

Every time I cross that bridge now, I look for the pictures and they make me smile. Little pops of colour that, once you see one, they start popping up everywhere.

Yesterday, I crossed the bridge and saw a smiling man in a high viz jacket speaking to a Japanese journalist (she had a camera and a surgical mask...). His jacket was daubed with paint and they were talking about the little pictures.

"Ben Wilson, Chewing Gum Man, pleased to meet you." I nearly toppled off my bike!

Ben Wilson is an artist who paints on chewing gum splats. His work has graced the streets of London and the pages of the New York Times. He's passionate about the environment and thinks chewing gum's disgusting. We swallow the messages of huge corporations, chewing petrochemicals laced with sugar and then we spew it out, defacing streets and bridges. So he pretties it up and makes people smile.

As he painted his latest little masterpiece, Ben filled me in on his pursuit of creating beauty from the beastly and his brushes with the law. Seriously - he beautifies our litter and he's the one who gets in trouble for it? Twisted. Turns out, he has nothing to do with Tate, although from time to time he leaves a hidden art trail in there for people to discover (Banksy, eat your heart out).

Ben softens the gum with a blowtorch, sprays it with some kind of lacquer and then applies three coats of acrylic enamel. He uses tiny brushes and his paint "muffin", quick-drying his work with a lighter as he goes along, and then seals it with clear lacquer to 'fix' it.
By the time he was done with his latest piece - a commission by me with my kids' names on - it was school pick up time and I left him amid a swarm of tourists, all eager to chat and commission his next work.

The Boychild's going to get the surprise of his life next time we cross that bridge.

The Arts Crusader

P.S. Join my crusade on  Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest and give yourself a #KickUpTheArts

P.S. You can commission Ben to create a painting for you - miniature or life size, by emailing him. Or catch him on the bridge if you can. What a gent.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

The best thing about going to see art? Definitely NOT just the coffee...

You gotta love Banksy - he says whatever he wants, no holds barred. This quote's from an interview he did with The Guardian just before the launch of Dismaland, his revival of a deserted theme park in Weston-Super-Mare. I heard from friends who managed to get tickets that it was a really fun, challenging, new experience of art, with an excellent bar. Mind you, they didn't say anything about the coffee...

Anyhoo, it got me thinking of what I like best about going to galleries and museums, particularly with smallies in tow. To be honest, I often find the gallery experience intimidating and prefer to pound the streets of Hackney with the kiddos, browsing the streetart and not worrying about them getting fingerprints on the fine prints, crumbs on the cabinets or doodoos on the dados!

Then, Zabou announced on twitter that she was working on a mural in the Saatchi Gallery, where she is currently exhibiting her work with other female streetartists. If you're a Hackney local, you'll definitely have come across her work - it's bright, funny and bold and seems never to be painted over by anyone other than herself (respect).

It's her kids in the header bar here and here are some more of my favourites...

Her announcement gave me a right good #KickUpTheArts and I immediately got the babychild all packed up and ventured west to the King's Road.

It was a pain in the #arts getting there, but all in all, it was totally ‪#‎artskicking‬ and definitely NOT intimidating. Saatchi Gallery had a very relaxed approach to the babychild and to the art in general - no barriers or ropes here, which seemed to make all the smallies behave better than they normally would in a gallery situation... Good ol' reverse psychology, works like a charm ;)

It's a beautiful space, entry is FREE, the exhibition is beeyoot and I can't believe it took me 15 years to visit. Here's what Zabou painted by the way - "In Art We Trust". It's in the gift shop, go have a looksee if you can.

So what am I trying to say here? A couple of things I suppose...

Firstly - Streetart is powerful when it comes to challenging perceptions about art:
- It's definitely not posh.
- Anyone with talent, a can of paint and a ‪#‎kickarts‬ attitude can do it.

- It's explosion into the mainstream and the demand for prints has made it possible for many streetartists to make a very decent living, so there's less pressure on "The Bank Of Mum & Dad". (Read all about the growth of the streetart industry here)

The move into galleries is hotly debated within the streetart community as a sellout, but I think it's a good thing. So long as our streets don't suffer ;)

Secondly - Galleries are great. Get over your fears and get into them. I've been collecting hints and tips about getting the most out of your visits with the kiddos - find them here.

As ever, I'd love to know what you think - comment here or join in on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. AND don't forget the streetart pic competition is now on!

Oh yeah, getting back to Banksy's point... there was NO COFFEE!!! If anyone can recommend a proper barista in the King's Road neighbourhood, please do - us Hackney folk are spoiled rotten on this front too. I'm off to Climpson's for my daily dose.  

The Arts Crusader

P.S. Join my crusade on  Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest and give yourself a #KickUpTheArts