I often find every day lamps boring, the same, with a lack of personality. When this project was born, I was very inspired by the French Artist Nicki de Saint Phalle. She inspired my both in her personal journey and her colorful and powerful sculptures. I could visualize the plain, passive lamp going through a transformation and getting born at new as colorful and meaningful personality, bringing a new story to the home. And this is what I brought to the children when we first met.
The creative process
This is a “long” term project. It is very important to explain to the children the process, to remind them during each meeting where they are, what steps they have achieved and what is left to be achieved. It helps them keep their long term motivation. Because there are steps were they lose patience, have a hard time visualizing the finished lamp. We keep the general picture in mind and we translate it in small steps that children can visualize.
Children brought from home a lamp, old or new, each one with it’s personality. Then the children met their lamp, started to communicate with the lamp, observing it, it’s shape, listening to what the lamp had to say. From this dialogue, the children started designing the lamp transformation, imagining what new personality would suit the lamp, sharing through this transformation a lot of each child interior personality. They drew their vision. It’s impressive how this step comes easily to the children, it’s clear for them that every idea is possible. They don’t censure themselves as we often do as adults. We can learn a lot from them.
From the drawing to the Three dimension lamp
With cardboard, toilet rolls, newspaper, plastic bags and a lot of masking tape, children start cutting, gluing, taping to create the three dimensional shape. It’s important for the shape to be stable with the lamp. The paper filling has to be firm, because when you start putting the papier mache paste it will tend to sink in.
This can be difficult, it might need patience. Children can get frustrated technically. The lamp at this stage is not very aesthetic, we help the children technically and translating the lamp visually.
The Paper Mache
Once the lamp is stable and the shape in place, we start the paper mache stage. Children can choose to work with paper paste or news paper strips or both. They usually have their preference. I make the past with them and usually enjoy kneading the paper. Most children like working with paper mache, it’s a friendly material and pleasant to work with, satisfying. A few children do not like to have sticky fingers, but usually it doesn’t stop them from working with paper mache, they will tend to work a little slower because of need to clean of the glue from the fingers.
Making Paper Mache Paste
Soak shredded paper in warm water for a least one hour in a bucket. Add a few drops of dish soap for the smell. To mix the paper, I use a drill with a metal paddle paint mixer easily bought in a supply store. Mix with the water still in the bucket.
Once the paper was blended in small pieces, pour the paper and water in an old bed pillow case. Squeeze the water out. The paper shreds should be as dry as possible, without being fully dry !
In a plastic bowl, slowly mix white glue in the paper shreds. Knead until you get a smooth paste not to sticky and not to dry.
You are now ready to cover the structure with the paper mache paste or paper strips dripped in white glue.
It is advised to start with on side of the sculpture and more forward from this same side on. The paper mache will hold better onto the structure. If children stop before entirely covered, you can just cover their work with a plastic bag until they start again. the paste will stay wet and the links will be invisible.
Once they finish covering their work with the paper paste it recommended to “massage” their work with white glue and fingers to smooth out the paper mache.
Let dry. It has to dry out completely before the next step.
Painting the lamp
This step is very exciting. Children see their work and start playing with the colors, they are ind pendant and are having a lot of fun.
We painted all the art work with acrylic paint.
Most time the paper mache is not white. Paint the work with white acrylic paint mixed with 1/4 of white glue to fill in all small holes in the paper mache.
For the painting of the lamp, we were inspired by the colorfulness and playfulness of Nicki de Saint Phalle art work. Children paint black lines like a puzzle all over their work. Then one by one they fill each “square” with the color they choose. Once the first coat dry, they can start decorating each puzzle in a different way, making a creative whole.
At this stage the works comes to life in surprising ways. Children are often amazed by the energy that comes out of the lamp through the color. Most at this stage fall in love at new for their lamp. You can feel the creative birth !
Children are very proud of their work, they understand the process they have been through. They build an inside understanding of the satisfactions of working step by step with patience building a bridge between the idea and it’s realization. Invite them to share there experience, their understandings, together. A first grade student, shared during the closing meeting that he had no idea he was capable of creating such a project. That he was amazed at his own possibilities !
At this point, Edna, the After school owner, had the idea of organizing an exhibition of all the lamps like in a museum. She build a beautiful exhibition. Each lamp had a name, the name of the artist with a few words about their work, the process. She designed a catalog of all the art work and the children’s sharing. Family and friends were invited to see the exhibit before the lamps where taken home, enlightening the home with the intimate friendship between the lamp and the child.
A huge thanks to the children for being part of their creative power and will. Thank-you Edna, Dana,and Maggy for taking part in the creative process. Thank-you Edna for enabling it all to happen.