Under the Bed Kid Curated Art

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Elaborate Lego imaginative play made by my daughter.

I have been reading a fascinating book called, How Children Make Art: Lessons in Creativity from Home to School by George Szekely. There is a fascinating section in the book about pre-service teachers making home visits to document and discuss their students’ collections in their bedrooms, as a way to help future teachers balance the study of adult and child art.

The author points out that all young children start off as artists and collectors, and that their bedrooms are the home to rich and varied, yet carefully curated collections. The author argues that children lose this passion and love of art when they come to school and find no connections between their home art and school art. So, as art educators, what do we do to encourage the connections? How do we as adults honor their playful and un-adult eye for design?

I started by looking at my own two children’s rooms for ideas on what I can do to encourage their collections.

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Objects from my childhood treasures.

This book has been a timely read, as I recently helped to take apart a childhood collection site of my own – a glass case shelf where many priceless treasures were stored.  I did not photograph this lovingly curated shelf, before taking it apart.  Items had been in certain locations for so long that I can still close my eyes and see the arrangements.

My children sat with me, in absolute amazement, picking up each object one by one, treating each thing as sacred and precious.  They asked question after question, cataloging my responses as insights to my own childhood experiences, making connections that their adult mother was once just as imaginative as they are are now.  Revelations to my little humans!

My 8-year old daughter has a more elaborate system of set-ups, comprised of animal figurines, dolls, dollhouses linked together, scarves, washi tape, rocks, glass beads, shells, wrappers, and prize bin items. There are constantly items all over the floor, which at first appearance may seem random and messy, but upon closer inspection, they are set up in a deliberate and playful manner. She HATES the weekly floor clean up, in order to avoid her precious collection from being vacuumed up.

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My son’s collections are housed in old cigar boxes.

My 5-year old son, on the other hand, likes to keep his collections stored in a series of boxes, which are then in turn put inside his nightstand drawers and on his book shelf. If given the opportunity, he will pass on letting friends play in his room, because he likes the floor clean and free of items.

Enter a solution that comes from my hybrid roles of mother and art teacher – under bed platforms for each child’s room.  They can hold train tracks, cars, Legos, fairies, ponies, dolls, furniture, or whatever is being curated at the time.

We just so happened to have two nice pieces of plywood in the garage, casters in the basement, and kids who wanted to help in this process.

Eric had both kids help him to measure, mark, and screw in caster wheels to the bottom.  We left the wood natural, knowing that at some point they may paint them, tape paper on, or layer their own playful surfaces.  Now their curated collections can be safely stowed away to be returned to again and again.

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Two recent thank you notes made by my children.

This book has been an on-going source of ah-has for me and has helped me to honor the creative ideas and art making of my own two children.  My next step is to find more authentic ways to bridge the home art and school art of my students.

Dining Room Table

One of the things I had on my summer to-do list was to decide on what to do with my dining room chairs.  They are in the image below – boring light wooden chairs from Target that I bought when I first moved to Greensboro more than a decade ago.  The chair story also involves my lovely dining room table, a post that I started almost two years ago and didn’t finish.  So, here it is, finally 2 years later.  

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My family before my youngest was born, shortly after we moved in.

One of the things I love about our current house, is the open spaces we have.  Our previous house, in Greensboro, had quaint 1939 charm, but lacked openness.  This is our dining room the spring after we moved to Iowa – open, airy, and with fun built-ins.

 

With that vast openness of a house space, though, comes ideas.  Many, many, many ideas.  My brain is on a pretty constant DIY cycle – it truly is a disease, I promise.  Eric can vouch for that, as he will fairly often get messages from me with content like this.  Btw, this project was a false start and ended up becoming a curbside freebie.

 

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While I love to DIY, I am not much of a woodworker.  I get grand ideas, but my follow-through is awful.  Eric on the other hand, is fantastically talented in this field – see his live edge computer table he made.  He inherited a large stash of wood from his grandfather’s shop, when we moved back.  This is what the stash currently looks like, I promise I have a dream list of what to do with it, if time were endless.

 

Not too long after we were settled, Eric began working on plans to create my dream dining room table from some of his grandfather’s wood.  He settled on a large plank of oak.  It was thick enough that it could be butterflied into 2 pieces to fashion the table.  He found a sawmill in Boone, Iowa and took the plank there.

 

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Side note- it was around this time that Eric also made a series of beautiful cutting boards for family members.  Somehow I didn’t end up with one of these bad boys, maybe in the near future?

 

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Because this table was a project that was worked on during the 9 months before I had our second child, there are not much in the form of documentation images of the project.  This is the table shortly after it was completed.  The legs were ordered from The Legge Shop, an Etsy shop from New York.  They were custom-made and came with a plate to be bolted in the middle of the two planks, to prevent too much flexing between the two pieces of wood.

 

I kept dreaming of bright, modern chairs to go along with my table.  I finally just bit the bullet, and spent a few bucks on bright yellow, Krylon Sun Yellow, spray paint to update my existing chairs from Target.  I did end up sanding the chairs in a few spots, and using a white base-coat spray first.  This was to ensure that the yellow coat adhered stronger and with less coats.

The kids have been thrilled with the bright color and my youngest keeps requesting to sit in the “lellow” chair.  I can already tell that the chairs yellow coat will need to be updated within the calendar year, but the upside is they are easier to clean with a new coat of paint.

 

The final outcome – table and bright chairs just make me smile.  The yellow is so cheerful and fun with the live edge and industrial legs of the table.  Now if I can just get Eric to craft a bench from that excess wood…