Friday, November 23, 2007

The biggest shopping day of the year

I've been listening to the traffic reports on our NPR station today, the day after Thanksgiving; instead of giving expressway times (something I barely pay attention to, even when I'm driving, because I don't take the highway to work....ha ha is good), the announcer has been reporting on how many parking spaces are available at the major shopping centers. My office is smack dab in between two shopping destinations--Woodfield Mall and IKEA in Schaumburg--so I was feeling very, very thankful that I didn't have to go to work today. (In case you are curious, at 4 p.m. today, the Woodfield lots were 95% full, while IKEA was over 50% full--I bet shoppers are sneaking their gas-guzzling SUVs into the lot right outside my office....). There are many stores in my area that I won't go to between about November 15 and January 3, at least not unless it's a weekday morning. Over the past ten years, some of my most miserable driving/shopping experiences have been in the parking lot of Whole Foods on *any* day in that six-week spread, so that's one place I just plain avoid.

The four of us stayed home, and, in an attempt to fend off another day of nonstop TV watching, I got Elliot and Astrid going on an art project by about 9:30 today. Astrid was a fairly easy sell (though she didn't last long), while Elliot was, well, in a mopey tweeny space. As is often the case, though, Elliot came around and worked for a long time. Astrid, to my happy astonishment, didn't demand that we all stop working when she was bored. Instead, she asked me to get out her tea set, and she had a tea party with her baby dolls (Daisy, Lucy, and the two Shellyenias). Then, as if she wanted me to faint on the floor, she quietly put all of her china tea set back into the box when she was done and put it back onto its shelf in the games cabinet. I *knew* that someday she'd show the effects of her two years in a Montessori classroom! (Just kidding--she gets a ton out of Montessori.)

During our morning work time, we focused on printmaking. Astrid produces the images she wants to print much more quickly than I can carve them; fortunately, Elliot has become more independent (we have new carving tools that take less force, and, at my insistence, he wears big safety goggles), so most of the help I give him is verbal rather than hands-on. I also bought an additional brayer so that we aren't standing around waiting for someone to finish, or, worse, arguing and fussing as the process of printing everyone's images takes longer and longer.

A few days ago, Astrid drew a wonderful rubber block of a sculpture display in "a *real* museum--not a children's museum." I can't recall if she's been to the Art Institute with her class--I haven't taken her since she was in a stroller--so I was interested to find out what she saw as the difference between "real" and "children's" museums. What stands out for her is that, in a real museum, you can't run around; it's a place for using your eyes and ears, she says, rather than your hands. I asked her if one could use one's nose in a museum, and she said yes--an answer that warmed my heart, as I am an art smeller from way back. (This is true--I am regularly approached by security guards who see me sniffing the paintings and sculpture.)

Elliot's prints focused today on Pokemon characters. Some of them came out very well, but the one he tried to do on a linoleum block really frustrated him--I think it was well carved, but he just couldn't get it to print the way he wanted it to. We spent time talking about which kinds of Pokemon figures would make good models for block printed images; he gravitates toward the Pokemon cards with airbrushed, very 3-D looking creatures, but I told him I thought he might be very dissatisfied with how he could render them in a print. He was very reasonable about the issue--much more than he might have been a year ago. He agreed with me that a couple of his favorites might be too challenging; the one he chose was also potentially difficult, but he showed me how he would simplify the image so that he could get the idea of it across without worrying too much about the details.

I was finally able to finish carving, test, and then partially recarve the linoleum block I've been working on for Christmas cards. The figures in the image are partly based on illustrations from 1930s arithmetic textbooks. I took a picture of the block before I carved it, because my husband thought it was unlikely that I'd be able to get all the detail into the carved version (I'm a pretty inexperienced printmaker), and I wanted to be able to save something from my work, in case it was a disaster. Happily, it came out pretty much as I had hoped it would. My husband was impressed, which always makes me happy.

After printmaking, the children and I took a fussy little walk around the block (Elliot wanted to be napping, or, in any case, not walking). It was cold and exhilarating, and even Elliot felt pretty cheerful when we returned. Astrid wanted to make a sock puppet (I ended up doing 90% of it, because she was nervous about using a sewing needle). Then, feeling like I'd done my best to keep the TV off, I let them go downstairs to watch Pokemon episodes on YouTube. Then I got to sew a bit....I finished two pairs of khaki pants for Elliot and two for Astrid, and then moved onto Christmas presents....I'll show a picture, but I'm not saying yet what they are.


wholeclothdesigns said...

The penny candy print looks great--the details are so clear on such a small block! That's hard to do. I hope we get one of your cards...

katy said...

Those are lovely cards! The Pokemon designs really make me smile, memories of when my son was younger, I have quite a few ceramic bowls with his pokemon designs that I have saved. My youngest, Iris, is now eight and has just joined the Pokemon world and I must say I can understand the attraction to the cards, cute characters the artwork and those Hitpoints (all that power...) The recipients of your Christmas cards will be charmed I'm sure...kt40

endlessly said...

I'm so excited to get a card -- they're awesome! (I feel a little guilty for my sneak preview.)