Category: Creativity

Narragansett Rocks

Narragansett Rocks

Several people have expressed interest in rock balancing, so I decided to do a separate post on balancing rocks in Narragansett.

My husband and I have very different styles. He is a performer (a professional musician) and doesn’t mind balancing rocks where there are lots of people around to interact with. He tends to create a lot of balances in a short amount of time…and keeps going! And he doesn’t mind working in the intense heat of the midday, summer sun.

I, on the other hand, prefer to retreat to a more private, picturesque spot and make it a meditation, thinking photographically. My balances are smaller and simpler than his, but I find beauty within the simplicity.

It’s all good.

At Scarborough Beach on our first day of vacation, I wandered off to adjacent Black Point to explore the tidal pools and found the perfect, quiet spot to balance rocks.

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By the time I returned to the beach, Jack had created more balances than I could count and was attracting a lot of attention. Most everyone who walked by stopped to take pictures. As we began to pack up at the end of the day, a boy who appeared to be about 12 years old came along with his mother, siblings (I’m guessing), and a long stick. I watched him wind up, wondering if he’d dare to follow through, and then – smack! – he knocked down one of Jack’s balances. When his mother realized the artist was close by and had witnessed the act of destruction, she apologized and promised her son would put the rocks back like they were. We had to laugh because that wasn’t possible; it takes skill and practice! We’d always wondered who was responsible for knocking down rock balances, and now we had the answer: Boys with sticks!

The next morning, I got up at dawn to experience and photograph the sunrise over the ocean. Then I headed back to Black Point and found three of my five balances still standing on the rim of a tidal pool.

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I walked back to the beach to see which of Jack’s balances lasted through the night.

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On my way back to the car, I stopped to fully savor the waves crashing against the rocks and created a few more simple balances. The sound of crickets accompanied the sound of the waves in a soothing, coastal symphony. The rhythmic sounds and aromatic ocean air, along with the feel of the wind against my skin and the rocks in my hands – all within such a magnificent landscape – was a wonderful sensory experience. To awaken so many senses simultaneously is to feel truly alive!

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Later in the day, we headed to Point Judith to balance more rocks. Here are a couple of mine:

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And here are some of Jack’s. (He created many more balances that were difficult to photograph due to their angle relative to the ocean and sun.)

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Looking toward the lighthouse, we noticed some rock balances and before leaving took a walk to check them out. We were astonished to find easily upwards of 500 rock stacks, balances, and arrangements! I couldn’t capture an image that illustrates the sheer number of balances or the vastness of the area. It was nearly overwhelming to be in the midst of it!

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The next morning, I woke up bright and early and went to the same spot as the previous morning to view the sunrise. Then I walked along the rock jetty opposite the lighthouse and was drawn to a quiet spot to balance rocks as waves crashed against the jetty and onto the beach. I can say without hyperbole that I’ve never felt more in my element than when balancing rocks at sunrise at the ocean in complete solitude (although kayaking and playing piano under the right circumstances come close). I love how simple balances look with waves crashing around them. Something about that really speaks to me of achieving balance within the “full catastrophe” of life, to borrow a phrase from Jon Kabat-Zinn. I played around with the same base rock and different combinations and angles on top.

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Meanwhile, Jack prepared to head to a beach very close to the house where he had balanced lots of rocks the previous day. He found them still standing and noticed kids approaching them to knock them down. However, older people intervened to protect the rocks and thanked him for beautifying their beach with art.

The temporary and vulnerable nature of balanced rocks is part of its appeal, in my opinion, for it mirrors the transitory nature of life. It’s much like a sand mandala that Tibetan Buddhist monks create with great patience, devotion, and attention to detail, only to have it ritualistically destroyed and the sand returned to nature.

Some friends and followers have inquired about how to get started balancing rocks. Balanced stone artist, Peter Juhl, has put together some useful resources, including his book, Center of Gravity: A Guide to the Practice of Rock Balancing, and his Temporary Sculpture website. They are excellent, inspiring starting points.

After publishing this post, I’m heading to my classroom to get set up and am bringing a basket of ocean rocks with me. This year, I intend to introduce my kindergartners to rock balancing, stacking, and arranging!

The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a “custom print” in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (susantarameyer.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Flower Parade: A Visual Meditation

The Flower Parade: A Visual Meditation

Today I would like to share a video I made over the weekend for my mom, who loves flowers.

I have started measuring time in flowers. All along, I hoped my mom would live long enough to see her flowers come up in the Spring, and many of the purple and white crocuses already have come and gone. Now the daffodils are in full bloom, and the lilac buds are getting bigger each day.

I recently showed my mom a photo I took of a tiny lilac bud to let her know they’re on the way, and we talked about how lilacs are simply the best, most fragrant flowers of all (well, tied with orange blossoms and jasmines, in my opinion). My mom used to bring lilacs to my grandmother. The gift of lilacs is something she and her mom had shared for as long as I can remember. I long to clip some lilacs from the bush in our front yard and bring them to my mom so their fragrance will fill the house and lift her spirits.

Lilac time is the next milestone I hope she will be able to experience once more. Then again, she loves her roses, too. But we’ll take it one flower at a time and not get ahead of ourselves, for each should be savored.

I love it when the light shines through!

I originally had intended to make this the first video for which I partnered with a talented local musician who produces shimmering, relaxing ambient music. However, during production, I realized I had to use a version of Pachelbel’s Canon in D from my mom’s CD collection. I think she convinced both my sister and me to have it as the processional song in our weddings, and she also wants it to be played as people arrive for her funeral service. So there was no question in my mind that my flower images needed to be paired with Pachelbel and to save the partnership debut for the next video!

It’s a very relaxing video, and I hope you will enjoy it.


E-mail subscribers, click HERE to play video.

photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (www.susantarameyer.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Camping In!

Camping In!

My friend, Chandi, is doing a link-up on her wonderful holistic education blog, Inside Out, and asked me to link up a summer activity. The first thing that came to mind is something I’ve done at the end of the school year three years in a row: a Camp-In Day, or faux indoor campfire. It’s awesome – and worth a post of its own! It’s a great activity to do if you work with kids or have kids at home and would like something new and fun to do on a rainy day. The idea is inspired by my son’s fifth grade teacher who ran a summer camp and treated his students to a modified camp experience for the final week or two of the school year. It’s all about atmosphere and imagination!

I transformed my large carpet space into a campground, complete with a small tent that the children took turns using. This is what the completed setup looks like (with enough light for a proper picture):  

Here are the steps I took to assemble the faux campfire:

  1. Mount a small box fan (I used a 10-inch red fan) on top of a few rocks (to elevate it from the floor).
  2. Surround the fan with three layers of real firewood. 
  3. Create cellophane “flames” (cut from red, yellow, and/or orange cellophane in the shape of flames up to about 15 inches high), and attach them to sticks (small tree branches). I cut the flames twice as long as I needed them, folded them in half, put a stick over the center fold, and taped the cellophane just above the stick to create two flames from each piece of cellophane. (See photo below.) I used a total of three sticks with two pieces of cellophane (making four flames) each. The sticks need to be about the same length as the diameter of the firewood structure you built so they will stay in place.
  4. Position the sticks (with flames attached) an inch or more above the fan, securing them between the top two layers of firewood. 
  5. For light, I arranged five LCD (battery operated) tea lights on the corners and very center of the box fan. 
  6. An optional and very realistic finishing touch is to surround the campfire with a circle of clean river or garden rocks.
  7. To prevent children from tripping over the fan’s electrical cord, I covered the cord with duct tape where it ran along the floor.

Here is a closer view that shows more detail:


With the lights off, shades down, and the fan turned on low, it looked so real! 

I also sprayed a touch of woodsy-scented room spray and played a CD of cricket sounds. The room spray I used was “Marshmallow Fireside” by Slatkin & Co. (from Bath and Body Works). It was a rather dense, heavy fragrance, and a little went a long way. Lanterns lit dimly with LCD tea lights would have been another nice touch.

I gave the children glow sticks to play with, and we listened to stories on CD. They especially enjoyed Bill Harley’s stories, “The Eeny Weeny Beeny Ghost” (which they asked to hear again) and “Mrs. Lunchroom Lady.” We played circle games like “telephone,” and  children took turns telling their own stories or jokes around the “fire.” My husband, who is a professional musician, came in with his guitar and sang songs with us. Any adult or child who entered our room wanted to stay!

Another idea is to play a video on the SMART Board (via YouTube) of a fireworks display or a camping-themed storybook being read aloud. 

I put carpet squares around the faux campfire so each child had a designated space. (They pretended they were sitting on top of a sleeping bag.) The first couple years, I didn’t think to make a ring of rocks and instead put down a circle of tape around the campfire as a boundary. Rule number one was that no part of their bodies was allowed to go past the tape. They ate their morning snack around the faux fire, and during play time, we kept the lights off, only raised the shades a crack, and children were invited to play with Lite-Brite or flashlights, which gave off a realistic campground glow. Some children made hand shadows on a wall. It was dark in our room all day long.

For a special camp-themed afternoon snack, we made s’mores using a pizza box solar cooker that I set up just outside of our classroom. But first, I talked about the science behind it and how the pizza box oven would trap the heat from the sun to melt the chocolate and marshmallows. The chocolate melted more quickly than the marshmallows, but it all worked out just fine. However, we did need to do this on a sunny day!


For instructions to make a pizza box solar cooker, click HERE.

Our Camp-In Day is always great, relaxed fun. The children’s energy is appropriately mellow, and many of them tell me it’s their favorite day of the entire school year!

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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Seahorses Inspired by Eric Carle

Seahorses Inspired by Eric Carle

This is another teacherly post. I want to share a tutorial of my favorite art project of the year: Eric Carle-inspired seahorse collages. I got the idea from a lesson plan I purchased from Deep Space Sparkle a few years ago and have modified over the years for implementation with my kindergarten students. 


We haven’t done much painting this year due to our switchover to the rigorous Common Core curriculum. The paint bottles have been sitting on the shelf above the cubbies calling to me. I have been waiting all year for this opportunity.

Throughout the year, we have read a number of Eric Carle picture books, and one of the children’s favorite snack time videos is a collection of Eric Carle stories that includes The Very Hungry Caterpillar; Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me; and The Very Quiet Cricket. So they are quite familiar with his work. (And I love the calming nature of the video.)

Toward the beginning of our ocean life unit, I read Mister Seahorse to the children. This book features aquatic fathers that take a primary role in carrying for or protecting the eggs and babies. Seahorse fathers, rather than mothers, are the ones who become pregnant and give birth. So this is also a Father’s Day tie-in, and we create the seahorse collages as Father’s Day gifts. (Father’s Day can be a tricky celebration to acknowledge in the classroom since some children do not have a father present in their lives. In such cases, I encourage children to give their collage to an important male figure in their life or whomever they choose.)

Click HERE for a video of the Mister Seahorse story being read aloud.



We also watch a fabulous video, Eric Carle: Picture Writer, in which Eric Carle talks about early influences (including his kindergarten teacher) that nurtured his interest in art. He also reads from some of his books and demonstrates his process of creating collages in his studio. 

Here is the complete list of supplies I have on hand for the project. You can definitely improvise; not everything is essential!

Materials:

  • Two sheets of white 12″x18″ construction paper (per child)
  • Watercolor paint (blue, green, purple)
  • Smaller and larger paintbrushes 
  • Paint cups
  • Several different colors of tempera paint
  • Scrapers (or a plastic fork)
  • Textured “stamps” (i.e. backings from carpet samples, bubble wrap, anything with a textured pattern)
  • Sea sponges
  • An old toothbrush (for splatter painting)
  • Patterned sponge rollers and/or matchbox cars
  • Plastic trays (for applying paint to the sponge rollers; I use the large rectangular lids from store-bought salad mixes)
  • Newspapers or some kind of protective covering for tables
  • Scissors
  • Glue sticks
  • Glitter glue, or glitter and Elmer’s glue, or metallic paint pens
  • Black Sharpie marker
  • Smock
  • Wiggly eyes
  • Hot glue gun or tacky glue 
  • Poster board or cardstock (to make tracers)

Procedure:

Each child needs two white sheets of 12″x18″ construction paper for the seahorse project. (I have considered using a paper size that is easier to frame but haven’t done it since all my tracers are sized for 12″x18″, and the size really seems to “work.”) The first paper will become the ocean background, and the second paper will become “pretty paper” for the seahorse. Note: If you are doing this at home with one or two children, you will want to make a few sheets of “pretty paper” for the project; one won’t be enough.

 
1.   Create the Ocean Background

I start by having each child write his/her name in pencil on what will be the back side of one sheet of white paper. Then they turn it to the front and paint squiggly “waves” all the way across using the blue, green, and purple watercolors. After making the lines, they can splatter-paint or let their wet paintbrush drip color onto the paper to suggest “bubbles.” Set aside to dry.


This step goes quickly, and I did it with one child at a time. I was fortunate this year to have one student who volunteered (without being asked) to be the cleanup person. He was ready with a wet paper towel (see top photo) to clean up any paint that got on the table surface. (I didn’t put down newspaper.) Another student took it upon herself to be the teaching assistant. She explained directions to her classmates and showed them examples of the ocean backgrounds in the Mister Seahorse book. I had the next child write his/her name on the paper and sit at the table watching the child who was painting, to see how to do it. 

 
2.   Create the Pretty Collage Paper

This step takes at least two days to complete. On the first day, children paint their second sheet of white paper the color of their choosing (after writing their names on the back in pencil). For this, I like to mix tempera paint to make interesting colors, like tangerine, indigo, turquoise, chartreuse, fuchsia, dandelion, terracotta, etc. Then I dilute the paint with water so it covers the paper more easily and lasts longer. 

One year, I asked children to choose a color ahead of time and grouped them together according to the colors they chose so they could all paint at the same time. That worked well (as long as you have enough paintbrushes and space). Other years, I’ve set up a table during play centers time and worked with two children at a time, allowing them to select from a variety of mixed colors.

The children cover their entire paper with one color of paint. They use the thickest paintbrushes I have, to make it go faster. We let the papers dry overnight.

The next day is the messiest but also the most fun. Children need to wear smocks for this! I set aside one table as the painting table and put out numerous cups of mixed, diluted tempera paints, paintbrushes, plastic trays, textured stamps, kid-sized sponge rollers, sea sponges, etc. 

Then I call one or two children at a time and guide them to:

    • Paint or roll lines or dots across their paper (straight, zigzag, or squiggly) using a contrasting color.
    • Use a patterned scraper, plastic fork, or the handle end of a paintbrush to scrape through the painted lines, to create texture and color variations.
    • Use a sea sponge and/or patterned stamp to add even more texture. 

      Finally, I take the children outdoors to finish their papers by splatter-painting a contrasting color on top. They can use either a paintbrush or a toothbrush for this. If using a paintbrush, they flick the paintbrush (held several inches above the paper) to propel the paint from the brush to the paper. If using a toothbrush, they hold the toothbrush above the paper with one hand and rub the opposite thumb along the bristles to propel the paint to the paper.

      Let the “pretty papers” dry.


      3.   Trace and Cut the Seahorse


      I made tracers from poster board in the following shapes: seahorse, coral and/or seaweed, rock, starfish, and tiny fish. You can do a Google Images search for the shapes, print them out, and trace them on poster board or cardstock, etc. to make the tracers.

      I trace the shapes on the back of the “pretty papers” because children have a tendency to put the tracer smack dab in the middle of a paper. (They do this with cookie cutters and dough, as well.) I like to save the scraps for others to use in their collages, and there are more (and larger) scraps left over if I trace the shapes strategically close to the edge of the paper. I also write the child’s name in pencil in the middle of the seahorse shape.

      The pretty paper each child painted will be the paper used for his/her seahorse, which is the largest element of the collage. I give each child his/her paper with the seahorse shape traced on the back. The children cut out their seahorses, and I save each child’s seahorse in a separate ziplock bag that will be used to store the rest of his/her collage pieces. I have them put their scraps on a table.


      4.   Trace and Cut the Other Shapes


      I sort the paper scraps into piles according to whether they would make good coral, seaweed, rocks, starfish, or tiny fish. Then I trace the shapes on the back of the scrap papers. Hopefully I can trace a few of the same shape on the scrap paper. Then I cut around the traced shapes to make smaller pieces of pretty paper that the children can cut into the shapes. I put all of the paper with coral tracings on the back into one ziplock bag, all of the seaweed tracings in another, etc. 

      Then I have the children select the papers they want to use for the rest of their collage pieces. I’ve found that this works best as a small group activity, and I definitely recommend having another adult in the room to help manage this step.

      I did this during our work stations time. Some children read independently to themselves and others used the computers, while a third group selected their collage papers. I set up piles of the different pretty papers (with a certain traced shape on the back) on a table, and an adult volunteer supervised the children as they selected a paper for each object in the collage. For instance, one pile contains paper scraps with a starfish traced on the back, another pile has paper scraps with rocks traced on the back, etc. The children put their collage papers into their plastic bag along with the seahorse they cut out previously. (Note: I let the children choose either a seaweed or a coral paper, but not both.)

      Then this group of children goes to a table, writes their name inside the traced shapes, and cuts out all the shapes, saving the scraps in a bin (that will be dumped into the “scrap paper” drawer of our art center paper organizer for future use) and putting their cut-out shapes into their plastic ziplock bag.

      5. Assembling the Collage

      Meanwhile, I have been setting up a table for them to assemble their collages. I put each child’s ocean background paper on the table along with lots of glue sticks and some Sharpie markers. I talk the children through the process of assembling their collages in the following order:

      1. First, they glue and place their coral or seaweed toward a bottom corner of the paper. (The paper should be oriented so that it is tall, rather than wide.)
      2. Next, they glue and place their rock in front of (and slightly overlapping) the coral or seaweed.
      3. Next, they glue and place their starfish in the opposite bottom corner (on the ocean floor).
      4. Next, they glue and place their seahorse somewhere in the center of the page.
      5. Finally, they glue and place their two small fish anywhere they want.

      They finish by signing their name in black Sharpie. They also could draw tiny circles on the starfish and coral to create a more textured look.


      6. Applying the Finishing Touches

      I use a hot glue gun to affix a wiggly eye to the children’s seahorses and a very small wiggly eye to their tiny fish. (You could instead use a hole punch, white paper, and a black marker to create eyes.)

      An optional final step is to allow them to accent their collages with glitter glue, metallic (gold or silver) paint pens, or glitter and glue. The children LOVE this step, so I always try to make time to include it.

      They are so proud of the art they have created! 

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      © Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

      Creating Labyrinths

      Creating Labyrinths

      In a recent post, I mentioned the labyrinth I walked while I was on retreat. The topic of labyrinths deserves a post of its own, and here I will describe different ways to make your own, even if you don’t have any land or space.

      Knowing how much I love labyrinths, my husband surprised me one day a few years ago by mowing a seven-circuit, Classical labyrinth design in our yard while I was at work. 

      Maintaining it (with a lawnmower and a weed wacker) has been a labor of love ever since. Mowing only takes about 20 minutes, but weed wacking, which needs to be done every couple weeks, takes about three hours. I think of it as our “wildflower labyrinth” because flowers grow in the “walls” between the circuits throughout the summer. We placed a “gazing ball” orb mounted on a stone pedestal at the center of the labyrinth. 

      Mowing a labyrinth seemed like the simplest way to go since we didn’t want to go through the trouble of buying and laying down rocks. It is also an easily reversible choice. 


      The Classical labyrinth (scroll down to see my turquoise and purple mini replica) is a simple design that is perhaps most easily recreated by beginning with the cross toward the bottom near the entrance and working outward from there. If I were making one, I’d measure and mark it out beforehand. My husband, on the other hand, took a more “intuitive” approach; he attached the labyrinth design to his lawnmower and started mowing at the beginning of the path, moving very slowly and only a few steps at a time as he followed the path on his “map.” To each his own!

      It’s a nice touch – though certainly not necessary –  to have a passage or threshold leading to the entrance. Ours is very simple:


      A more permanent labyrinth may be created with rocks, as in the 11-circuit design based on the Chartres Cathedral labyrinth that I walked at Light on the Hill retreat center


      or with slate, as in this seven-circuit, Neo-Medieval style labyrinth in a nearby park:


      I love the entrance to the park labyrinth (photographed while exiting the labyrinth):


      A portable alternative is to tape or paint the labyrinth design on tarp, vinyl, or cloth (such as a king-sized sheet) that can be laid on the ground or floor. I have considered doing this for my classroom but haven’t gotten around to it. I’m thinking it could be a useful tool for helping children to relax and center their energy. They would need to remove their shoes before walking it, to help it last longer.

      If time and space are issues, a finger labyrinth could be the answer! A finger labyrinth is held in your lap, placed on a table, or mounted on a wall, and the path to the center and back out is traced with a finger (preferably the pointer finger of your non-dominant hand) or stylus. A finger labyrinth is a tool for calming and centering mind-body-spirit. In its simplest form, it can be an image you find online and print on a piece of paper. However, I prefer finger labyrinths with raised “walls” so I don’t have to pay so much attention to remaining on the path (and not inadvertently crossing over to an adjacent circuit).

      Click HERE for instructions on using a finger labyrinth. 

      Here are a few different designs I have replicated for finger labyrinths:

      Classical
      Santa Rosa
      Chartres replica (sans lunations)

      Applying the non-dominant hand theory, I created the above finger labyrinths with a left entrance for right-hand dominant usage with the left hand. (Does that make sense?) The pattern could be flipped for lefties.

      To make the design, you could attempt to draw it freehand (for Classical style), trace it using an overhead projector, or affix a paper printout to a board (or stiff cardboard) of some sort. After much experimentation, here is my method for creating finger labyrinths:

      Materials needed:

      • Artist canvas panel, acrylic-primed (11″x14″ is a nice size, but you will need 14″x18″ for the Chartres design)
      • Mod Podge
      • Dimensional fabric paint
      • Printout of labyrinth design (on plain paper, watercolor paper, or scrapbook paper)
      • Scissors
      • Acrylic paints
      • Colored pencils or crayons (optional)
      • Glitter (optional)
      • Round gemstone (optional)
      • Hot glue gun

      Procedure:

      1. Print out the design, and make sure it is the right size for your canvas. You can reduce or enlarge it using a photocopier. You could bring it to a copy shop if it needs to be printed larger than you’re able to do on your own. (Variation: You could print the design on watercolor paper if you want to paint it with watercolors. Simple Variation: You could print the design on patterned scrapbook paper and skip steps 2 and 5.)
      2. Decide whether you will color the labyrinth using paint, crayons, or colored pencils. If you wish to use crayons or colored pencils, go ahead and color it at this point. (Watercolor paint is another choice but only if you printed the design on watercolor paper.)
      3. Trim around the boundary of the labyrinth using scissors so there is no excess paper around it. Or you might choose to keep a small border around the labyrinth, as I did with the Santa Rosa design, above.
      4. Attach the printout to the canvas using Mod Podge.
      5. If you are painting the labyrinth, do so now, making sure you can still see the lines. You can paint the rest of the canvas at this point if you wish, or wait until later.
      6. Very carefully, trace the “wall” lines with fabric paint. You might want to practice on a scrap paper first to get a feel for how the paint flows.
      7. Allow fabric paint to dry completely.
      8. If you haven’t yet painted the rest of the canvas, do so now.
      9. When paint has dried, cover the entire canvas with a coat of Mod Podge, and allow it to dry.
      10. If you’re using glitter, apply more Mod Podge to the center, and sprinkle on some glitter. You could even mix the glitter into the Mod Podge. Allow to dry.
      11. If you’d like, affix a gemstone at the center, using a hot glue gun.

      There are many alternative methods you could experiment with, including using glue and string, sand, or tiny pebbles (instead of fabric paint) for the walls. The possibilities are endless!

      Here is a simple finger labyrinth I printed on cardstock, colored with pencils, traced with black dimensional fabric paint, and put on the wall next to the Peace Table in my classroom. The children find it calming to trace the path to the center and back out.

      I have a vision of creating a labyrinth in a grassy or paved area around a school. Children could walk the labyrinth as an activity during recess, or it could even be used as a tool for problem solving or conflict management – as a non-punitive “time-out” or reflective activity. I imagine it would be useful for helping children focus, as well. My husband gave one of my finger labyrinths to a blind woman who works in an alternative educational setting with teenagers when they are in highly agitated states and need to cool down. Although he gave it to her for her own use, apparently the students enjoyed it, too. 

      I am now offering finger labyrinths (Classical and Santa Rosa styles) in my Etsy shop.

      Here is a larger (24″x30″) labyrinth that I painted on canvas as meditative art:

      To learn more about the uses and kinds of labyrinths, to find images for creating your own, or for more in-depth instructions for making them, here are two highly informative websites:

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      © Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

      Natural Decorations

      Natural Decorations

      We’re putting up our tree a little late this year, and I’m in the mood for natural ornaments!

      Last year, I came across the idea of apple and cinnamon stick ornaments via someone who discovered them in Europe. All you need is an apple, a cinnamon stick, and some raffia or string (such as hemp). Cut the apple into slices about 1/4″ thick, and let them dry flat on a wire rack, or hang to dry. Punch a hole at the top, tie a knot, put a cinnamon stick on top, and tie another knot to hold the cinnamon stick in place securely. If you want to get a little fancier, you can add a cranberry above and below the cinnamon stick. Eat the discarded parts of the apple, use them in an apple recipe, or dehydrate them for later use.

      This year, I tried out the same idea with orange slices.

      And then there’s cinnamon ornaments, which I have been making with the children in my life each year without fail. I still have the first batch I made with my own children more than a decade ago. They don’t go bad, although the spicy fragrance fades in time.

      You can cover one side with glitter,

      leave them plain,

      or decorate them with glitter glue or dimensional fabric paint. White fabric paint makes them look like gingerbread cookies with white frosting.

      Here is the recipe for cinnamon dough:

      Ingredients

      • 1 cup cinnamon
      • 1 teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
      • 1 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
      • 1 1/4 cup applesauce (measure then drain in a strainer for several hours, or if straining isn’t possible, use 1 cup)
      • 2 tablespoons white glue (i.e. Elmers)
      • 1 tsp. glitter (optional; fine glitter is especially nice)

      Procedure

      In a bowl, mix together the spices and glitter. Then mix in the applesauce and glue. Work the mixture with your hands for a few minutes until it’s smooth, well mixed, and can be formed into a ball. If the dough seems too dry at this point, you can add just a little more applesauce. Or if it’s too wet, add more cinnamon.

      Knead the ball on a surface dusted with cinnamon until it holds together well. Then roll out the dough to 1/4″ thickness, and use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Use a straw or toothpick to make a hole for hanging.

      Put shapes on a wire rack or cookie sheet, and allow to dry at room temperature for about two days, turning several times. (The room will smell wonderful!) Once they are dry, rough edges can be smoothed with sandpaper if need be. String with raffia, thread, or whatever you have on hand.

      *    *    *    *

      While walking in the woods to take some of the above photos, I came across a patch of nature’s own ornaments that caught my eye. I’m not sure exactly what they are (perhaps the inside of some kind of nut) but found them fascinating.

      From certain angles, they remind me of the string ornaments that are made from string dipped in glue and then wrapped around a small balloon (which gets popped and removed after the string has dried in place).

      I think we will finish our tree with a string of popcorn and cranberries, unless we decide to put the string outside as a gift for the birds!

      *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

      © Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

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