Marissa Creates

My admiration for Marissa the Dyslexic Librarian is endless. Also apparently endless? Her creative energy! Recently, I learned that while finishing library school AND working full time, she crafted a children’s literary exhibit just for, you know, fun!

Intrigued, I grabbed my camera and headed to The Gallery at Chapin School, a private elementary and middle school in Princeton. The school regularly welcomes community artists to exhibit and teach students about their artwork. In her exhibit statement, Marissa’s described her inspirations for the exhibit, beginning with brainstorming and crafting story time projects at our library:

Part of my job at the Cotsen Children’s Library was to help develop story time projects. Once I started thinking about art and books in 3 dimensional ways, I couldn’t stop. I progressed from construction paper and card stock to eventually cardboard and paint as my projects became increasingly larger. I began to think about how I could turn the world into cardboard. I think there is something so charming and captivating about normal everyday objects being turned into art using unexpected materials.

Animal Talk: Mexican Folk Art Animal Sounds in English and Spanish, by Cynthia Weill, featuring wood scupltures from Oaxaca by Rubí Fuentes and Efraín Broa (Cinco Puntos Press, 2017).

These beautiful stick puppets are just toilet paper tubes, dowels, construction paper, and pen. Look at the lips on the cow!

This is the one piece in the show that was not directly related to a book. However, I am officially awarding it the “Golden X-Acto” award for the incredible detail work around the legs.

Miffy Dances by Dick Bruna (Big Tent Entertainment, 2010).

You might not be able to tell, but behind Miffy is a rack of cardboard clothes. The clothes and the figurine have little velcro dots so you can change her outfits and hats!

When Dinosaurs Came with Everything, written by Elsie Broach, illustrated by David Small (Atheneum Books, 2007).

I will use this dinosaur sculpture technique for a story time project. It will be so.

Gerald and Piggy, as seen on their 10th Anniversary poster, from the Mo Willems series (Hyperion Books).

The photo doesn’t quite capture it, but this adorable portrait is almost 6 feet tall!

Goldfish Ghost, written by Lemony Snicket, and illustrated by Lisa Brown (Roaring Brook Press, 2017).

This is my favorite piece in the show. I want to hug the upside-down ghost fish.

Characters from the Hilda series by Luke Pearson (Flying Eye Books, 2015).

Again, the scale! That’s a bench at the bottom of the photo. Marissa went big with these beloved characters.

At first glance, these might look like simple framed illustrations. But they are actually shadow story panels Marissa created for a story time. While the book was being read, she would shine a light through the various scenes.

Extra Yarn, written by Mac Barnett, and illustrated by Jon Klassen (Balzer + Bray, 2012).

Above you can see the details of one of the shadow story panels.

Niños Mask, by Jeanette Winter (Dial, 2003).

Right. Now it’s GAME ON for all those summer reading bulletin board displays!


Melissa Warren’s work was exhibited at The Gallery at Chapin School Princeton. Many thanks to the school for allowing us to visit and photograph!

Doors Within Doors

doors within doors

Art museums, science centers, parks, zoos, aquariums – these places share a common thread in that they are fully immersive environments that encourage individuals to follow his/ her/ their own path, exploring, discovering, and learning.

Then, Meow Wolf.

Take the concept of immersive learning and infuse it with powerful storytelling, artistic expression, unbound creativity, and fierce playfulness. Then crank it to eleven. THAT is Meow Wolf. Katie and her son recently discovered Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Take it away, Katie!


Meow Wolf: House of Eternal Return. Crazy name for an art exhibit, right? Turns out it’s not only crazy, it is a hands-on, completely captivating, artist inspired, mystery to be solved, fantastical world, storytelling experience that’s *really* hard to explain to someone who hasn’t been there. With that said, I’m going to try to explain it, because I was absolutely blown away by this place.

meow wolf exhibit sign

Some history about Meow Wolf: it was formed in 2008 by a group of 12 artists living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, who chose their name by literally pulling words out of a hat. Now operating as an art collective of nearly 200 people, they create unique art experiences for audiences of all ages, or as they so wonderfully describe their vision on their website: “Meow Wolf champions otherness, weirdness, challenging norms, radical inclusion, and the power of creativity to change the world.”

With support from Game of Thrones author and Santa Fe resident George R. R. Martin, who purchased a defunct bowling alley and leased it to the group, Meow Wolf turned the once forgotten building into a permanent art exhibit, House of Eternal Return, which opened in March 2016.

meow wolf sculptureEmployees working the House of Eternal Return ticket counter encourage you to touch everything, explore everywhere, and fully engage yourself within the over 20,000 square foot exhibit.

When you enter, you are immediately greeted by a massive two-story Victorian mansion owned by the fictional Selig family, who vanished after conducting forbidden experiments inside the home. If you look closely at the house, you’ll see small credits given to George R. R. Martin. Wolves and dragons appear in the scrawling woodwork. The front doormat reads “Beyond Here There Be Dragons.”

meow wolf houseYou start investigating the mystery of the Selig family disappearance by finding a mailbox and reading messages written on the cards inside. The cards provide hints and clues to search for while you wander through the maze of rooms and hallways.

meow wolf mailboxDeeper inside the exhibit, there’s a mechanical raven (another Game of Thrones nod, perhaps?), which occasionally flaps its wings and chatters at the visitors below.

meow wolf ravenMy son and I spent nearly four hours wandering through the House of Eternal Return. The exhibit has dozens of hidden doors and portals to unique and fascinating places, which through the story strangely connect in some weird way to each other. Crawling through the fireplace brings you to a cave where you can play music on the rib bones of a giant glowing mastodon.

meow wolf illunimated skeletonWalking through the open door of an ice machine takes you into a room full of lights and mirrors, where you push buttons to change the lights and play different notes of music.

meow wolf blue lightsGoing through the refrigerator leads you down a sterile white hallway into what appears to be a rocket ship, ready to take you to futuristic tropical destinations.

doors within doorsThere are also strange space monsters that blink their eyes at you when you walk by.

meow wolf furry alienWalls of fabric that reveal an ever-changing light show when you touch it (or floss dance between the wavy cloth).


You can also try stuffing yourself down the slide portal inside the dryer, which ends in a small room with walls completely covered in laundry. For those of you wondering, yes, I did manage to squeeze my way into the dryer, much to my son’s amusement. There is another door into (or out of) the laundry room, but my son and I couldn’t figure out where it was after leaving the room.

meow wolf dryer portalThe entire exhibit is a mystery you have to attempt to solve, but honestly, I don’t believe there is one definite solution. Visitors interpret art differently, so what one person thinks is the answer, another may believe something completely different.

I can’t say enough about the House of Eternal Return: it is a must-see place. This post barely scratches the surface with all there is to see and experience. Pictures really don’t do it justice because everywhere you look, there’s something distinctly different and jaw-dropping. It’s funky and fun, inspiring and incredible. If you are in Santa Fe and visit Meow Wolf, plan on spending many hours exploring and getting lost within this one-of-a-kind immersive art labyrinth.

I can’t WAIT to go back.

Projects Projects Everywhere, Redux

the project projectQ: What do I do with my kid’s art projects? They’ll be upset if I toss them out, but I’m being squeezed out of the house by an army of cardboard creations!

No, this isn’t a question from a blog reader. It’s the question I ask myself the eve of every curbside recycling pick-up. You see, our home studio overflows with art projects. Which I consider a very good thing. Bring on the creativity!  But eventually, space runs out and reality rears its ugly head. My house overflows with paper, tubes, and boxes connected with sticky webs of tape. The shelves are packed, and I haven’t seen the top of my coffee table in 7 days. Worse, we don’t have any room to make new projects!

Alas, I have a few unpleasant options to choose from:

Option 1: Toss the projects. This usually backfires because my kids routinely root through the recycling bins for building materials, resulting in “MOM! Why did you toss my 10 car tissue box train!?!?” Or they catch me carrying the stuff to the trash and plead with me to keep the 45 pieces of pipe cleaner jewelry that have been hanging on the living room doorknob for 5 weeks.

Option 2: Have the kids decide which projects they’re ready to toss. I sit the kids down and tell them how proud I am of their projects. I explain that it’s time to let the shoe box fire station go because we all need to be responsible and keep the house orderly. My kids of course understand and don’t argue with me. They dispose of the projects and even offer to tidy up their rooms as well. Um…in the spirit of full disclosure…I must admit that I’ve never actually had any success with Option 2.

Option 3: Wait until they’re not looking / asleep and sneakily dispose of the projects. This is what happens most often I’m afraid. However, it’s surprisingly difficult to turn your back on an oatmeal container cat staring dolefully at you over the rim of a recycling bin hidden in the backyard. And then there’s the inevitable “Hey, where’s the swimming pool I made for my Shopkins?” A ferocious interrogation ensues until you finally confess you tossed it because you had to clean up. Even while you’re rationally defending the tidiness of your household to the indignant artist, you secretly feel like a horrible monster for tossing your child’s creative vision. Sigh.

In 2014, I blogged about one solution to project clutter. It’s a customized project book made out of an inexpensive photo album. You can read about it here.

project bookLast weekend, however, I came up with another solution! I created an Instagram account. Now, anytime a project needs recycling, I just upload a photo of it to my Instagram.

the project project screen shotThere the project remains, forever validating my kids’ imaginative musings. It’s a fun gallery documenting their tremendous creativity AND a digital representation of one less job for Mom the Recycling Cop. Bonus! Grandma and Grandpa can follow our Instagram to see what those clever grandkids are up to.

the project project train table

The Project Project hasn’t been running very long, but I can already see and feel a difference in the house. Projects are recycled without a fuss because they’re not getting tossed out. They’re simply changing into something that can be seen and shared with others. Also, I love these projects! I honestly feel bad when they have to go. Now I can revisit them all the time.

Want to see a truly FANTASTIC Instagram art project? Check out this fashionista mother and daughter crafting team!