Kitty Karaoke

kitty karaokeThe roar of the audience, the flashing lights, the first strains of your big number thrumming through the arena…grab the mic…it’s time for some kitty karaoke. We made rockin’ oatmeal container cats and then hit the stage to sing our hearts out. But, given the feline nature of this rock star, you could only sing in “meow.”

We read Cats Got Talent by Ron Barrett (Simon & Schuster, 2014). Hal, Dora, and Geneva are cats. Once, they had homes and owners, but there were issues. Hal has a tendency to shred curtains and destroy furniture. Dora lived in a dress store where she admired all the pretty frocks. Until she tried to become one herself. Geneva was surrounded by love, but the starlet who owned her went broke, and out Geneva went. Now, living in an ally, the three friends decide they’re going to make a new start and form a band. Opening night arrives, and the cats give it all they’re worth! Soon, they are showered by the audience’s “avid” reactions to their singing. But those fish heads, old shoes, and wilted flowers? They’re exactly what each cat is looking for – food, fashion, and adulation. So… who’s ready for an encore?

You’ll need:

  • 1 large oatmeal container
  • A selection of construction paper
  • A selection of self-adhesive foam pieces
  • 2 pieces of twisteez wire (each approximately 5.5″ long)
  • Rock star decorating supplies (more on those below)
  • 1 small rectangle of black poster board (approximately 0.75″ x 2.5″)
  • 1 small rectangle of silver mirror board (approximately 1.25″ x 1.5″)
  • A black permanent marker
  • 1 rock star stage (more on that below)
  • Tape, scissors and glue for construction
  • Metallic markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

finished rock star catWrap a large oatmeal container with construction paper, then add an additional strip of black construction paper around the middle for a “jacket.” To make whiskers, tape 3 Twisteez wires to front of the oatmeal container:

cat whiskers step 1Then peel and stick an oval of self-adhesive foam over the tape.

cat whiskers step 2In the above photo, you’ll also notice how I used self-adhesive foam shapes to make eyes and a pair of lips (but you can also just use markers).

Use construction to make hair, feet, arms, paws, ears, and a tail for your cat. To glam up our cats, we offered rhinestones, embossed foil paper, metallic dot stickers, iridescent fabric shapes, and the the Bling Bin. We also used paper crinkle for hair, and it was WAY popular.

The final step is to make a microphone! We prepped these in advance. Taper the bottom of a rectangle of black poster board. Round, and then taper, the rectangle of silver mirror board as well. Hot glue the two pieces together. Use permanent marker to add some “mesh.” Hot glue (or tape) the microphone to the cat’s hand.

cat microphoneNow for the concert! We made our stage out of an old archive box. As you can see in the image below, we hot glued the lid to the base (and reinforced the connection with packing tape). The stage lights are toilet paper tubes wrapped in black construction paper with black masking tape wrapped around one end. The stage lights are attached with hot glue, then reinforced with a bit of packing tape.

stage from the sideWe used black and fuchsia poster board, mirror board, and a ton of metallic dot stickers to create a sparking wonderland of rock-stardom. Oh. Yeah.

stage from the frontFor the final touch, we wrapped two LED floor lights with purple and blue cellophane, and pointed them at the stage. You certainly don’t have to go this elaborate. A shoe box wrapped with tin foil, a sparkly scarf on the floor, a section of carpet with a light shining on it. Really, it all works!

For the concert potion of story time, we closed the shades, turned off most of the lights, and had the audience sit in front of the stage. Then, kids were invited up to sing with their cats. Singing was, of course, optional. Some of the shyer kids preferred to just watch, even though many of them warmed up and gave it a go in the end.

There were many performance styles. There was facing outwards to the audience…

singing 1Facing inwards to the stage…

singing 2Facing inwards to the stage with backup singer…

singing 3The power duet…

power duetYou might notice the kids are using a real microphone! I use a wireless amp for my story time programs, so I busted out a hand-held microphone and let kids experience the power of amplification. A cheaper (and less noisy) option is to make a paper and tin foil microphone. You’ll find instructions for that right here.

And what would this post be without some concert footage?

 

Here’s an awesome “Down By the Station” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” mashup:

 

Bring it home Marissa!

 

[Raises lighter] Woooooooooooooooooo!

 

Writing, Re-imagined

writing reimaginedLook closely and you’ll see that these are not handwritten pages of notes. They’re hand-stitched pages of fabric. The intricacy of the stitching, the re-imagining of lined paper as cloth, and the time it takes to produce a single page make viewing these pieces truly amazing. Also amazing is the touching and mindfully deliberate recording of life – both the extraordinary and the ordinary – through slow and careful stitchery.

page 1These pages are the works of Diana Weymar, currently the Artist-in-Residence at the Arts Council of Princeton. Diana’s also the curator of Every Fiber of My Being, a group show that explores the use of textiles as a second skin. As part of her residency, Diana has initiated Interwoven Stories, a community stitching project that invites individuals to record their own thoughts, feelings, experiences, and beliefs on fabric pages. Later, the pages will be displayed on five installations around town.

Diana WeymarPlease tell us a little about yourself!

I am 46 years-old, have four children ages 12-22, and live in the U.S. and Canada. I graduated from Princeton in 1991 after writing a creative thesis with Joyce Carol Oates. I have worked in publishing and film in NYC and the past five years have been focused on my art practice – the basis of which is using familiar materials in unfamiliar ways – and on community-based art projects.

When did you first re-imagine lined notebook paper as fabric?

When both of my maternal grandparents passed away, boxes of their belongings were sent to me. For some reason, I found their crisp white sheets – they belonged to the generation that saturated their sheets with starch – heartbreaking. At the same time, I was reviewing notes from my writing course at Princeton with John McPhee and found that his rules for writing also applied to my art practice. The continuity between the craft of writing and crafting sculptural pieces was surprising and enriching.

My notes and writing pieces from class with John were, in a way, very much like traditional samplers. Instructive. Practice-based learning. I wanted to spend more time with my notes from class and thought of rewriting them in thread. The term “thread consciousness” is often thrown around when discussing contemporary embroidery but it’s a very basic idea: the process of creation is a process of awareness and the longer you spend on a piece – written or stitched – the more aware you become. Communication is so quick now. Quickly created and quickly consumed.

page 2Can you describe the process behind creating a single sheet?

I cut 8 ½ x 11 pages out of bed sheets and then create the blue and pink lines by machine. For Interwoven Stories I created 200 fabric pages. They each take about 25 minutes from start to finish. I started to develop pain in my right hip from shifting my weight to the left to press on the pedal with my right foot. Sometimes I can still feel the vibrations of the machine coursing through my right side. Without music and podcasts to distract myself, I don’t think I would have been able to finish machine sewing the pages. Spending a concentrated amount of time with the sewing machine gave me a deep appreciation for labor-based practices. The final touch was to punch holes in the fabric sheets.

blank fabric pageIs it difficult to achieve flow when hand-stitching? I imagine it’s quite a bit slower than writing, painting, or sculpting…

It’s “slow flow” but has exactly the same language and process as painting, drawing, and sculpting. I love the mechanics of stitching, the metaphorical aspects of hand, thread, and fabric. This particular practice has the distinct advantage of being very portable. If I can sit and there is light, I can stitch. With four children and a bi-coastal lifestyle, I’ve worked on planes, while watching squash matches, and at lectures. It’s very hard to put down a piece once I’ve started it.

How do you utilize the different types of stitches in your work?

I’m asked this question frequently because the basic misconception about stitching is that it is exclusively a craft-based language and that to speak it, you must know a series of “trade stitches.” I use thread the same way I use ink or paint. Every stitch is either a line or a dot. There are some fabulous and inventive names for stitches and, at this point, I enjoy the names of technical stitches more than I enjoy them in my practice. The French Knot is essential to many of my pieces but, for now, I am focused on layering, color, and pattern while using a simple stitch.

close upIn your mind, what is the relationship between the written word and the stitched word? Are they the same? Vastly different?

When I think of the “written word” I think of the handwritten word. For me, the stitched word and the handwritten word are intimately related. The typed word is vastly different. It’s about looking and watching but not about creating a shape. Both the written and stitched word reveal so much about the author. All typed words look the same; all stitched and written words are different.

I realized recently that I have close friends whose handwriting I have never seen. My 12 year-old has not learned to write in cursive. I find all of this a little strange and disorienting. Would you rather hold a handwritten letter in your hand or read a letter on a screen? And if it’s been stitched, isn’t that almost like holding hands with someone? The next best thing? I find stitching to be very intimate. And caring. I have a friend who knit a blanket for me for Valentines Day. This still amazes me.

Though I am not making work for specific people, I am stitching as a way of sharing. What impresses me is that most people want to touch stitched words and images, to read them with their fingers. We touch screens but only to move content around. Not to read with our fingers.

page 3Please tell us about your community art project involving fabric paper.

Interwoven Stories is a version of a project that I did in Nicosia, Cyprus, Spring 2015, with Build Peace. I watched the lectures from the 2014 conference at the MIT Media Lab on video and I wanted to create a project using an “ancient technology” in a contemporary setting. Build Peace focuses on the use of cutting-edge technologies in peace building and the exploration of art as connection.

Interwoven Stories is also a community-based project in which 200 fabric pages have been handed out in Princeton to be stitched by residents of the community. I was recently at a dinner party in Princeton with someone who explained to me that UNESCO uses “cultural mapping” to promote intercultural dialogue and this resonated very strongly with me. Princeton is a very diverse community and I’m very much looking forward to collecting and curating the pages. I cannot wait to “read” them.

maria evans page

Interwoven Stories submission by Maria Evans


Images courtesy of the artist and the Arts Council of Princeton.

Why So Blue, Chicken?

blue chickenSeeing blue chickens? Do not adjust your monitor. Cerulean poultry are a perfectly normal story time occurrence.

We read Blue Chicken by Deborah Freedman (Penguin, 2011). An illustration of a barnyard sits on a drawing board. It’s almost finished – until a white chicken gets loose from the page and tips over a pot of blue ink! Now, nothing looks right. The ducks are no longer yellow, the pansies are no longer purple, and the other farm animals are totally peeved. Luckily, a dash of water will set things right!

To celebrate that adventurous blue chicken, we made some box birds, cozy nests, and then headed outside for a multi-color egg hunt!

You’ll need:

  • A long strip of white poster board (approximately 2.25″ x 22″)
  • A sturdy, 7″ paper plate
  • 1 box ( mine was 4.5″ x 4.5″ x 6″ – a small tissue box works too!)
  • Blue, white, yellow, and brown construction paper
  • A pair of wiggle eyes
  • 9-12 small feathers, blue of course!
  • 4-6 plastic eggs
  • Stapler, scissors, tape and glue for construction
  • Hot glue

We’ll begin with the nest (which is a replica of the nest from this egg beauty contest). Circle a strip of white poster board around the outside of a paper plate and staple it securely (you’ll need to remove the circle from around the plate to staple it properly).

nest step 1Slide the paper plate back inside the circle, pushing it all the way to the bottom.

nest step 2Now flip the “nest” over and use tape to reinforce the connection between the plate and the circle. I used at least 4 pieces of tape:

nest step 3I also reinforced the inside connection with a ring of hot glue.

nest step 4Finally, decorate your nest with uneven and crinkled strips of brown construction paper. Attach the strips to the nest with tape and/or glue.

finished chicken nestSet the nest aside, it’s time for the chicken!

finished blue chickenWrap a box with blue construction paper. Glue a pair of yellow paper feet on the bottom, and blue paper wings on either side. Make a red paper cone beak, and hot glue it to the front of the box. Add a pair of wiggle eyes, or simply draw the eyes on with markers. Glue or tape feathers to the wings (add tail feathers to the rear if desired). Use red paper to make a comb for your chicken’s head. Then tab it and glue or tape it to the top of the box.

chicken comb attachedWhen the chickens were done, we headed outside to the library’s plaza, where we had hidden a bunch of plastic eggs. We told the kids they needed to find 5 eggs each, then shouted “1-2-3 Go!” To insure success, we tried to make the hiding places fairly obvious (and even held a few back to drop right in front of the kids while they were hunting):

egg hunt 1egg hunt 2egg hunt 3egg hunt 4egg hunt 5egg hunt 6You might recognize that ornate door from this post. It’s actually one of the side doors of the University Chapel, which shares the plaza with my library. If you’d like to take your eggs home in style, consider adding some blue paper crinkle to the nest. Awwww…so cute…now why does this make me think of marshmallow Peeps?

nest with crinkle