Chihuly Tower Workshop

Here's a few pics from the workshop this past weekend at the San Antonio Public Library. I almost forgot to take any, so these are from the last hour, after most of the hoards had departed!

The circles are clear plastic plates collaged with tissue paper and gel layers. When dry, the tissue can be peeled off and becomes a transluscent light catcher. We also painted "sea form" underwater murals (inspired by Chihuly's work and photos of jellyfish, sharks etc.) and made lookers (that's what's around the girls' necks below) with insulation tubes and sparkles and colored cellophane. And had Chihuly's Hot Shop video running, too. 


Chihuly Tower Artarama

The Chihuly Fiesta Tower is back after being un-installed for library renovations at the Central Library in San Antonio. We're putting on a little mini-version of the citywide celebration that led up to the tower's installation. If you'd like to participate (or volunteer helping kids make some color, shape and light-related art -- no glass-blowing possible here!) please just show up -- or drop me a line on the contact form. Hope to see you there. 

Welcome back, Fiesta Tower!

 In October 2009, Dale Chihuly’s colorful glass sculpture, Fiesta Tower, was disassembled from its display location in the Central Library and placed in secure storage during roof work and replacement of the Central Library’s skylights located directly over the tower.

Now the Fiesta Tower has been reinstalled and the Central Library’s second-floor atrium will shortly reopen. To celebrate the Fiesta Tower’s homecoming, the San Antonio Public Library will host a family craft event from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 23, in the second-floor atrium at the Central Library, 600 Soledad.

During the come-and-go event, local artist Susie Monday will guide participants in creating their own Chihuly-style works of art. The event is free and open to the public. One hour of free parking is available in the library parking garage with validated ticket.

A gift of the Russell Hill Rogers Fund for the Arts through a grant to the San Antonio Public Library Foundation, the Fiesta Tower was originally installed in the Central Library in 2003 as part of the celebration of the San Antonio Public Library’s 100th anniversary.

Think Like a Pro


Skip this one (too) if you are just interested in my fiber art work. I'm on location in Connecticut working with 7-9 year olds on creative projects. Here's a link to our BREAKFAST PROJECT.


And here (I hope) is a link to our movie: "Lost in Tiger Swamp"


Lost at Tiger Swamp from Susie Monday on Vimeo.



Lost at Tiger Swamp from Susie Monday on Vimeo.


Scale and Kids

Nothing like a creative project with kids to keep you on your toes. I've been hacking my way around imovie putting some of their collaborative work together. If I figure out how to do so, I'll post the results on the blog somehow! This big project involves these 7 to 9 year olds in some projects that give them the experience of seeing their ideas become part of something larger than they could do alone -- and also puts adults in the picture as the facilitators and technical experts to help their ideas grow into projects that might -- at the moment -- be beyond the abilities of the kids to do on their own.

Why is this important? It looks like the grownups are doing all or most of the work -- but what happens is that with the kids in the driving seat --and as the initiators of the ideas -- they get to really experience the aha of seeing something little grow into something bigger than life. This kind of powerful experience early in one's creative life can be what makes that creative path worth the obstacles ahead. At least that's how it worked for me!

And the cool thing is, the kids really do feel ownership! It's "their" work, even if the matt knives have been in the grownups' hands; even if the movie editing was mostly done by me in the wee hours after the kids went home.

"Think Like a Pro" is the name of this new program, and part of the aim, too, is to help kids see how different professionals approach creative work. The program is also a trial run on what we hope will be the  next chapter for our soon to be launched afterschool curriculum in Dallas with Big Thought. Now, the challenge is how to scale it up -- how to train others to take on the commitment to making kids' ideas shine.


The Breakfast Project

What does breakfast look like around the country? The world? Your house?

I'm working/playing with a group of 7-to-9 year old creative thinkers this week at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Connecticut in the second course of our New World Kids program -- it's called "Think Like a Pro," and introduces our young alumnae of NWKs to a more indepth look at their own creative process as well as a look at how different people in different fields approach creative work.

One of our projects -- combining social media, the theme of home and an installation designed by the kids -- has to do with collecting breakfast photos.

Here's the email that the kids came up with (with a couple of additions) and your instructions. Feel free to copy the request and send it out -- we want to see the diversity of what we humans eat each morning and the more, the better. Deadline for submissions is THIS THURSDAY at noon, since our exhibit (online and inhouse) goes live on Saturday. We'll send any who contribute a link to a site with all the photos.

Hello friends!

We are collecting breakfasts from everywhere. Please email us a photo of your breakfast for our exhibition.
Email it to: We need it by noon on Thursday. (We'll send back a link to the results!)
Thank you from the "Think like a Pro" class at the Aldrich in CT, USA! (Be sure and tell us where you eat breakfast!)

Here is an example:


More about the program, for those interested (from my colleague and co-author Susan Marcus' letter to the kids' parents):

“TLAPro” is the second step on a path that we see as building a real literacy in creative thinking skills. It is designed much the same way as we teach any first learning a symbol system, in the case the Sensory Alphabet. This was “New World Kids.”

Next we start “scaffolding” thinking skills on that foundation. It’s the same way that the traditional alphabet leads to reading and numbers become the tools of arithmetic.

Also at the heart of the NWK approach is the belief that learning should be learner-centered, that the development of individual potential should be priority one. We believe that creativity is “basic.” We know that it can be nurtured in all children...and at this time is important to give kids the “creative thinking tools” to create a meaningful life and deal with an unknown future.

To get at individual styles we use the Sensory Alphabet as a lens to discern the constellation of strengths that we see in the patterns of each child’s creative work and behavior. Activities are carefully designed to bring out these patterns. We then share them with the parents. And you have all been a part of that. What we know from many years of applied research with kids is that these patterns of strengths don’t change. They are as indelible as a fingerprint. There is a great deal of research that supports this view, e.g., Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences that has now grown into “differentiated instruction” in some classrooms — and in the last decade this idea is strongly supported by neuroscience.
In TLAPro, the basic idea is to get kids working out of their individual strengths in conscious way. At about 7yrs old, this capacity for reflection begins to unfold developmentally. We are beginning to exercise and build these new capacities. We share the info we gave you all at the end of NWK with the children (in a simpler form, of course) and give them different formats and media to reflect on those ideas.

We keep the Sensory Alphabet and the creative process in mind as we work/play. This week we observed different ways that “pros” think and use the tools of their professions. We heard how they solve problems and create. The children had the opportunity to try out those ways of thinking, use media and solve problems “like a pro,” in fact, like several diverse pros. And the important part we reflect on at this time is...which one is most fitting for my their natural strengths? Which one did they resonate with? Gave them the most ideas? Now they are beginning to get a grasp of the notion that some things might be difficult and hard to imagine, while others will be easy and engrossing — and that’s OK.

There are several other “strands” that run through TLAPro:
•    We are building reflective (metacognitive) skills by playing with different ways of envisioning information through infographics. (This is what you’ve seen coming home.) It is a basic kind of visual literacy that will serve them in interpreting visual information and later, being able to create their own. This will be a needed skill in the future and is an underpinning of “digital literacy.” At this stage, we’re observing, collecting and playing.

•    We are playing with different ways of taking notes and reflecting on the experiences of the day.

•    We are expanding the array of digital media that they are using to solve problems and create. Again, in simple, playful and creative ways. We’ll demonstrate these for parents on the last day.
•    We are experiencing working both individually and consciously, as a group. This week, it was very simple and spontaneous. Next week we will go deeper.

Next week will have a different structure. We will divide children into three small, like-minded groups to work with a Pro that is most like their natural way of thinking. We’ll have a 2D group, a 3D/builders group and a group that will work with social and kinetic sensibilities. We will be working with the theme of HOME and using several of the exhibitions now on view at the Aldrich as jumping off points. There one day of collecting ideas and trying out beginning thoughts, then two days of working with the Pros to complete a real piece of creative work. After that, we will work together to design a presentation for the parents that includes all the results. We will also experience documenting our work and putting it into a digital format. It will be a full week!

At the Heart of Learning

Photo by Nan Spring, used by permission of the photographer.

Here I am with my mouth open, as usual.

All is well. The book signing on Monday night at The Twig Bookstore went really well and my appearance at a FASA meeting earlier also found Susan and I charged by an eager crowd of (mostly) grandmothers who bought New World Kids as gifts for their children and grandchildren! And it's been so much fun to see orders roll in from around the ether. Thank you to all who've taken the time, money and attention to purchase! Here's one point in our presentation that really gets to the audience:

We as grownups see the attention and money and resources being spent by folks who are trying to find their true callings, some even having made it big in the world's terms who realize that what they are spending their lives doing has little to do with what their hearts want to do. The What Color is Your Parachute series is just one of the long-running successes that help people figure out what to do next -- Julia Cameron's Artists Way books are another. So why don't we give kids the tools and means to figure this out earlier? Once children know their strengths, know something about what and how they are good at what they are, the whole focus of the educational system makes a shift. Students take charge of their own learning to a much greater degree; discipline becomes less the classroom focus; learning becomes its own motivation. Peter Drucker, the business guru, says, " The most important thing is to know what you're good at."

Learning what you're good at can push one into unexpected skill acquisition: I've spent a good amount of time setting up the NWK website with customized  Squarespace templates and then mastering the ins and outs of Paypal buttons. Valuable skills all. Next, the studio desk and work table became the site for proposal staging. I killed my share of trees sending in the paper work with proposals to teach at the 2009 International Quilt Festival, mostly in the Mixed Media classroom, but also a lecture proposal derived from NWK and the Sensory Alphabet. I hope I can teach there again as I learned so much and this time I plan to do it right.

But it seems that I've had little real art time since Thanksgiving and my soul has noticed. What I do best is make art (and teach it), and all this other folderol is just a means to that end. The little nagging ache in my heart means I've neglected the artist and spent way too much time on the support services. We have such a tightrope to walk as working artists (though I am sure this is a quandary for other sole-proprietors/one-person-offices in other fields). I teach at the Majestic Art Ranch this morning, so at least I'll get my hands into the demos and a few samples, since we're on the wind-down. And sometimes just getting my hands on a dyepot puts the momentum in action. What are you going to do today to get yourself back to the heart of things?

PS. If you'd like to see more photos of the booksigning, check the NWK blog later today.

P.s Just found a link to a nice article online about our appearance at the symposium in Dallas in January -- The Baker Idea Institute.