How to Jump Start Summer Creativity

As the end of the school year draws to a close, we stand on the brink of summer – a time for renewal. Summer is the perfect time to get back in touch with your creativity and renew your passion for work and life.

What will YOU do to “recharge your batteries” over the next few months? Will you plan for time outdoors, time with family, and time alone to nourish your creativity? Will you make time to do what gives you pleasure, what thrills you, what makes you feel that all your efforts are worthwhile? Will you pay yourself back for all the time you put in?

I’d like to inspire you to GET CREATIVE this summer, and make a plan to do MORE to replenish your spiritual soul, your inner artist. When fall rolls around, you will be glad you did.

I have been immersing myself in my own creative process this year, as part of my “self renewal” now that my children are in college. This summer I am doing even more to nourish my creative spirit by enrolling in a few weekend art classes and reconnecting with girlfriends who like to visit art galleries and go to summer festivals. It’s building nicely, this effort to renew my creative side, and I’d like to encourage you to do the same. It’s working! My creative side was beginning to feel a bit dormant, but with small, consistent efforts, I’ve revived it again. So from my own recent experience, here’s what I’ll suggest:

How to Jumpstart Your Creativity – A Summer Plan:
1. Visit Local Art Galleries
There’s nothing like visiting an art gallery or museum to immerse you in the language of visual thinking. We use the principles of right brain stimulation in the classroom, so why not apply these same values to ourselves? Just this morning I passed the LA Craft and Folk Art Museum and noticed a new display in their window. Can you believe this “sculpture” is made entirely out of sponges? Now why didn’t I think of that? This is a great example of thinking outside of the box, and something that might spark some ideas for your own classroom. It certainly evokes the question, “What is art?” and may have you looking a little differently at foam package stuffing or things you see in the trash can.

2. Participate in Summer Festivals
Summer is the time for festivals, so make a plan to visit at least one for fun. As part of my commitment to jumpstart my own creativity, I attended The Brewery Art Walk, something I had been meaning to do for years. I was glad I went, and even my husband had fun in spite of going as “a favor.” All the adult art studios were open for viewing, but I also discovered a wonderful art studio for children called The Peddler of Dreams.

Check out these children’s art projects, all so creative and beautifully displayed. The paper bag fish were made from white paper bags, markers and watercolors and dangled nicely from dried tree branches so they looked like they were swimming. And how about these recycled plastic bottles made into bird feeders, aren’t they amazing! I was so impressed with the birdfeeders that I searched the internet later for “bird feeders made out of plastic bottles” and found plenty of tips for constructing them with ease. Check out how The Peddler of Dreams had children decorate their bird feeders with tissue paper and watered down white glue. So colorful, my inner artist was definitely tickled.

3. Renew an Arts & Crafts Hobby
Take a class in something creative; even one simple weekend workshop can revive your creativity and a few weekend workshops will deepen your sense of renewal. Check for low-cost classes with Parks & Recreation, Adult Schools, and local retail craft shops. It’s fun to do art in a group, and classes let you bond with like-minded spirits and you get to know other people in your community who value self-expression. Exchange phone numbers with someone new and stay in touch. Build your art friends contact list for personal renewal art outings.

I attended a bead convention last fall (another thing I’d always meant to do, and finally DID….geez, why does it take us so long to do things we WANT to do?). I had so much fun and signed up for a three hour workshop on shrink art. I found it so relaxing that I have been making little shrink art charms ever since. Here are some of my latest pieces; I love that they are so tiny!

At the Bead Convention I learned how to apply rubber stamps and pastels to the surface of Shrink-It Sheets so they look more “grown up” than children’s shrink art. I love the process of making these tiny little compositions, and then giving them away in birthday cards or as little tokens of affection. But what I love most about shrink art is that I can make them in a short amount of time because I’m always so busy. I like creative projects that don’t take too long. Which brings me to my next suggestion: find a place to leave your art supplies out so you don’t waste time setting up and putting away your supplies.

4. Create Your Own Art Area at Home
The most tedious part of an arts or crafts hobby is the set up and clean up of supplies. Find a table or corner of your home that you can dedicate as your art area, and let your family know it’s your personal studio space, and not to be disturbed. That’s what I did this year in my garage. You can see it’s nothing fancy but it has all the basics, and I put it together for less than $100 using Craigslist. It’s important to have your own wind-down place, your sanctuary, your place to revive your creative spirit. My sanctuary is my art area where I can drop in anytime, and not worry about having to set up or clean up. I can bring music or watch re-runs of Grey’s Anatomy on my laptop (haha), as I lose myself in right brain activities.

5. Keep a Digital Camera in Your Purse
Keeping a camera handy will awaken your visual thinking, and help you connect to the world of color and sensation that surrounds you. A camera helps you identify and capture “magical moments.” It also helps you remember things that you may want to try yourself later. Here’s a magical moment I caught on film recently that I definitely want to try sometime – it’s a community candlelight mandala made entirely from fresh flower petals. Wow. This reminds me that creative ideas surround me, and having my camera handy helps me “borrow” other people’s ideas and use them later with my own special twist.

If you investigate creative outlets in your community, you will be richly rewarded. Anything that gets your hands and heart working together is bound to jump start the creative process inside you – whether it be painting, photography, scrapbooking, ceramics or any other artistic activities that excite or delight you. 

Last but not least, if you want to be TRULY inspired, take time to watch this incredible video called “Happiness Revealed.” I guarantee it will make the rest of your day more meaningful. It is the most beautiful message of hope and happiness that I have ever seen. Have a great summer, and take time to listen to your dreams…those are the sounds no one else can hear.

Materials Referenced:
Shrink-It Sheets – opaque (SHRINKIE)
White Paper Bags (WHBAG)
Colorations® Liquid Watercolor™
Colorations® Premium Bleeding Tissue Paper (BBLTIS)

Video Clip: “Happiness Revealed” by Louie Schwartzberg
Thanks to TedxSF, an Independently Organized TED

* Brought to you by Discount School Supply®

* For more ideas, visit Art and Creativity in Early Childhood Education

"Shrink Art" for Valentine’s Day

I love Shrink Art and my children have a long history of making shrink art at home with friends. If you’ve never worked with “shrink art plastic” but you’re in the mood for something new, you’ll find it’s a creative, open-ended craft based on children’s original drawings. It’s also super cheap to make, full of magical properties, and it’s loads of fun for children of all ages. Valentine’s Day is coming up and it’s perfect for that or any other special occasion, especially considering the material is such a bargain at 15 cents a project.
Shrink art plastic needs adult supervision, since you need to bake it in a standard kitchen oven for 3 minutes. Classroom teachers often take the whole set of finished projects home and bake them at their convenience over the weekend, returning the finished projects the following week. Once you get into practice you can bake 8 or 10 projects at a time, so this phase should not take you long. During the baking process, the projects transform to less than half their original size and take on a nice, thick density, thus the “shrink” part. Here you see baked and unbaked samples.

Children as young as 3 can have fun with this craft, since it’s an art form based on drawing. Young adults will enjoy it too, like my friends Emily and Maya who came by my house this weekend for a visit. This craft really does span all ages and ability levels, and it’s very motivating for both children and adults to watch the process of transformation. 
Shrink-It Sheets (SHRINKIE) comes in a set of 24 opaque sheets for $14.59 with a clear, easy to follow instruction sheet. I prefer the opaque style sheets (they come in “clear” as well – CSHRINK) because colored pencils show best on the opaque version. 
You’ll prepare the plastic first by lightly sanding the surface and cutting each full size sheet into quarters (thus making 96 projects out of 24 full sized sheets). 
Now the fun part begins. Here’s what you’ll do. 
Step 1: Make a line drawing using a fine line permanent marker (SHARPULT). You can draw directly on the plastic or draw on paper first then trace your drawing onto the plastic. 
Step 2: Color your drawing with Colorations® Regular Colored Pencils (COLORP).
Step 3: Trim the edges and hole punch (OHP) the top, so you’ll have a place to hang it from.
Step 4: Bake it in the oven for 3 minutes at 300 degrees. Both Steps 3 & 4 are shown in this last photo (before and after baking). 
Here I’m putting a Valentines design into my toaster oven where I’ll leave it for 3 minutes until it shrinks. I much prefer using a standard sized oven and baking 8 or 10 projects on a cookie sheet all at once, but a toaster oven will work in a pinch.

Lastly, here’s a page of “practically professional” shrink art designs to inspire you, created by my daughter Lillie who began with shrink art at about age four and continued until she was eight. When Lillie was a little girl, she absolutely loved to draw and she drew all the time, it was her passion. I’m sure you know children like that too. Shrink Art is the perfect craft for the child who loves to draw.

If you really get carried away with this craft like we did, you’ll find other applications like mounting them in these small wooden frames with a poem or some dictations. This makes them even fancier and adds about a dollar per project. These wooden frames are painted with Colorations® Liquid Watercolor so the wood grain shows through.

I hope you’ll add Shrink Art to your repertoire of arts and crafts ideas for both classroom use and for play dates at home. It certainly added a lot of pleasure and creativity to my home as our children were growing up. Oh, and one last thing: Shrink Art “charms” stand the test of time because they don’t break or wear out so your children’screativity will essentially last forever.  Now that’s something to write home about. 

Materials You Will Need:
Shrink-It Sheets (SHRINKIE)
Sharpie® Ultra Fine Point Black Markers (SHARPULT)
Colorations® Regular Colored Pencils (COLORP)
One Hole Punch (OHP)
Wooden Standing Frames (WDFRM)
Colorations® Liquid Watercolor (13LW)

* Brought to you by Discount School Supply®