Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I haven't been very good about keeping up my blog. I'm not really making excuses but I have been a little busy lately. Actually, I have been working in my studio every free chance I get so I have been avoiding the computer. I read an article in Cloth, Paper, Scissors magazine (January/February 2009) recently about clutches made from recycled plastic grocery bags. I decided to give it a try.

My first attempt was beautiful to look at if I do say so myself but it had a few problems. The paint was too thick and and once I folded it the paint began to crack. I added some paper to counteract this but I still wasn't happy.

The next three are more successful. I painted a thin coat of gesso on the surface before I applied the designs. This worked much better and I kept my paint thin, Also, for some reason that I can't fathom the plastic seems more pliable than the first one. Each one is lined with a faric that matches or enhances the design on the outside.

My pictures are not great but I think you get the idea. They have the appearance of painted leather. They are very light. They would make great evening bags or special occasion purses.I have already had requests to buy them. I want to build up a better selection before I start letting them go. What do you think?

Monday, April 13, 2009


The Children's Studio School was a daycare program for 3 to 5 year olds which used the arts as a basis for learning experiences. There were 50 students and, for at least 35 of them, English was a second language. Most were Hispanic but we had a few children from Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. My son Jeremy was the only Caucasian child. Coming from Maine, where everyone knew the only African American student in our high school, I was indeed entering a new world. (By the way, things have really changed around here since then. We now have children from all over the world in our schools. At our high schools there are more that 38 languages being used.)

The staff was composed of trained pre-school educators and artists, actors, dancers and musicians who were supplementing their incomes by participating in our school. Tom, one of our teachers, was a docent at the National Art Museum and a visual artist. Walter was a PHD candidate who also did appearances on a soap opera. Other people included a Brazilian dancer and an African dancer, a musician for a well-known singer, and several other struggling actors and artists. A very diverse group, to say the least.

The center itself was located on 15th Street, NW. The area had been devastated during the riots after Martin Luther King's assassination. The building, a church, was used by the community to help rebuild the area. There was a food program for the elderly in the basement, a health clinic on the second floor and our program on the first. We had a huge common room with a stage, three classrooms and a small office. The door to the office was always open so that I could watch what was going on (my choice). Children were always coming in to show me what they had made or to share a story. I liked this part best. There was a great deal of spontaneity!

The teachers took full advantage of the city, arranging field trips to Rock Creek Park for science lessons, the zoo, the many different playgrounds and museums and the workshops that were offered at the Kennedy Center (free to schools in the area). Transportation was the public bus which allowed 5 children to ride free for each adult or by foot. It's amazing how far a young child could walk if there is an adventure involved!

My job was to keep track of where every class was, to arrange for extra adults if they were needed for a field trip, to set up workshops for the teachers, to report all of this to the Department of Human Services as many of our children had the cost of their daycare supplemented by them, to write grants, pay bills, to cover classrooms as needed to arrange for lunch deliveries and purchasing of snack foods, and to keep parents informed and happy. Oh, yes, I also had to complete the application forms for DHS for the parents. Very often these interviews were in Spanish, hence the requirement that I be able to read and write Spanish. Occasionally, I would run into difficulty translating what the parent was saying due to dialect and idioms. Luckily, there was Mildred, 4 years old but fluent in two languages. She was a great help! More about her later.

I worked 10 hour days. I loved every minute of it!

To be continued......

Friday, April 3, 2009

Sometimes the choice isn't ours

Thirty years ago I moved to Washington D.C.. The choice to move there wasn't mine. I would be finishing my degree in art education and had been substitute teaching art in a local district in hopes of landing a job there when I was finished. So the idea of packing up and moving somewhere else was not what I had planned for myself. After all, we had a lovely two family home and a great three year old son. My family and my husband's family all lived nearby. we were comfortable if not rich.

My husband was a middle school science teacher and had been for about 7 years. He should have felt pretty secure but our local school district had had trouble passing their budgets so they had informed him every year for three years that he may not have a job in the fall. In this district he was the last science teacher hired therefore he would be the first to go. During his last year of teaching he had assigned a project for students to investigate and report about careers in science. One of his students wrote about a program at Georgetown University. This program, at no cost to the students, trained people to be ophthalmology technicians. He was very interested in this program so he wrote to Georgetown for more information. Then he applied and was accepted.

He left at the end of the school year but I still had one more course to complete so I would not be joining him until sometime in September. We were very naive about the change. We thought it would be easy to find a place to live and I would easily find a job as an art teacher since I had some experience and a degree. Because we were not sure that we wanted to stay in D.C after he completed his two year program, we rented our house in Maine and arranged for my father to pick up the rent every month. We had just enough money to last us through December if we were frugal and we were sure that I would easily find a job.

We found an apartment in Hyattsville, Maryland just outside the District. The apartment complex would allow us to have our dog and had a child care facility ( a Montesori school) on site. Perfect! Art teaching jobs were nonexistent. No problem. I had worked for the local Blue Cross and Blue Shield office in the Public Relations Department and had written some training programs that had received recognition from the National Plan. There was an office in DC. So armed with recommendations and the knowledge that I knew the person with whom I would be interviewing, I felt pretty secure. No Soap! While they thought I was qualified for the position that was available, they couldn't hire me as I did not understand how the "district" worked.

We were rapidly running out of money and I was thinking of returning home with Jeremy where at least I could find a job. Then one day I was reading the classifieds and I saw an advertisement for someone with a degree in art who could read and write Spanish and was capable of writing grants for a school that used the arts as the main focus of education. I nearly fell off my chair. This, I was sure, was the reason we had come here. I had always felt that the best way to teach a child was to use the arts. I called the school, talked to the Director and arranged for an interview. I was hired on the spot but not before I negotiated free tuition for my son as daycare in DC was very expensive and the pay was low. Thus my two year tenure at the Children's Studio School in Washington DC began.

To be continued........

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Well, it's April already and I have not been doing a great job on my blog of late. I have been really busy working on my own art work. It must be Spring fever! I just want to see a lot of color!

I promise to do better. I think what I will do next is tell you about my experiences at the Children's Studio School in Washing ton D.C. and how this influenced my thinking about the teaching of art to young children. No time today between doctor's appointments and meetings so I will write tomorrow.

Have a nice day!