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CREATIVE KIDS AND COVID

By | Art, Lifestyle

It’s hard on us all being put into lockdown. Having restrictions placed on our movements, our day to day life. As adults, we can understand it, we may not like it, but we do understand the need for it. But how about your children? Especially the younger ones. Suddenly they can’t have that sleep-over they have been counting down to. They won’t be having their sixth birthday party because their friends aren’t allowed to visit. That football match is cancelled.

How do you entertain children with Covid Cabin Fever? Maybe these tips will help.

Have an online birthday party.

You could organise for the kids to catch up via zoom. If we can use it for work meetings, why not for a child’s party?

Have a family sleepover.

If a sleep-over has been canceled, perhaps you can organise a fun sleep-over just with the family. Your kids could all gather in the same room and have their own slumber party.

Play board games.

Do you have any board games or card games that the family can play together? Organise an afternoon of monopoly or scrabble. You could even organise a prize for the winner. If you have quite young children, you can organise the family into teams.

Create art from recycled materials.

Look around the house and see what materials you have that the kids can use for some creative fun. You’d be surprised what you can find and use. Old milk bottles can be cut and turned into baskets that can be decorated and used as parts of gifts for friends. Old magazines can be cut up and glued upon sheets of paper or cardboard to form a picture, a scene, whatever the creator wishes. Those partnerless old socks can be turned into hand puppets and a performance can take place. You are only limited by your imagination.

Have a story circle.

Kids don’t have to be able to read and write to make up stories. When I was a little girl, spending hours in hospital, I would make up stories to stop my little sister from being bored or scared by our surroundings. You and your children can tell each other a story. Each person would come up with a sentence and keep going around the circle, creating a story.

Order our art packs.

Art Mania has online videos and art packs you can find and buy online. Projects to be done on their own or as a family!

Happy creating all.

-Sam Ogilvie

LOCKDOWN WITH A LABRADOR

By | Uncategorized

It’s been weeks since we went into lockdown and my golden labrador and guide dog Aimee is not happy. Not only is she unhappy, she is making sure I know it!

Once a week, on a Tuesday morning, my support worker, Alichea, and I take Aimee to the dog beach. Aimee knows the routine and always knows when it’s Tuesday. Tuesday morning’s she wakes early. She dances around the house and draws her many toys into the performance. When Alichea arrives at 9, Aimee heads straight out the front door heading for the car. We are expected to follow. The trip into the beach is eternal, she sits at my feet facing the door and if we get stuck in traffic, there is a constant dialogue from the floor.

“What is going on? Hurry up? Will you just get me there already? …”

At the beach, Aimee becomes the life of the party. She performs zoomies, alone and with other dogs. She swims, even if it is freezing cold and I can’t feel my hands anymore. She has an exfoliant beauty routine, that must be followed and done frequently. It involves a quick dip in the icy water and then rolling one’s whole body in the sand. This rolling must be intense and requires the driving of one’s face into the sand and appearing to be playing the part of a beached seal, flopping about with abandon.

This trip to the beach is Aimee’s chance to sloth off all her cares and stress. Along with any dead fur and skin in her seal impersonation. She is joyous and friend to all. She welcomes every new dog that arrives and offers unconditional friendship.

Tuesday arrived, as always, after Monday and before today. Aimee leapt out of bed and into her pre-beach routine. Morning arrived and no Alichea. Aimee began to pace around the living area, her circuits growing smaller with the passage of time. Until she was pacing back and forth at the front door and then simply stood there, waiting. Every time I came near, she vocalised her impatience. Demanding to know where Alichea was and why we hadn’t left yet.

Since then, she has continued to make it perfectly clear that she is not happy. That is not ok for her to be locked up at home. Lockdown is hard on us all, but at least we understand why it’s happening. Aimee doesn’t. I’ll be counting down the days left in lockdown and you can be sure, the first thing I’ll do when it ends, is take my beautiful girl to the beach.

-Sam Ogilvie

RECIPE FOR PLAY DOUGH

By | Art, Lifestyle

If you are running out of things to do with your kids, why not try out this recipe for play dough?

It’s a cheap and easy way to make hours of fun.

Ingredients:

2 cups of flour

½ cup of salt

2 tablespoons of cream of tartar

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

1 and ½ cup of hot water

Food colours and scents of your choice

Instructions:

  1. Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a bowl
  2. Add the wet ingredients and mix well
  3. Turn the dough out onto a board and knead. If the dough is too dry add more hot water, or flour if it’s too wet
  4. If you only want one colour, add the dye before turning out the dough and mix.
  5. If you want more than one colour, divide up the dough and mix colour into each portion.
  6. If you would like to give the play-dough a scent, you can add this at the same time as the colouring

Once it’s formed into a smooth elastic dough, it’s ready to be played with. Otherwise, you can place it into sealed container for playing with later.

This will give your kids a cheap and easily manipulated dough that can be used to create anything they want. You can also supply cookie cutters and anything else that might make a shape or pattern in their dough. You could also add glitter for some sparkle.

Happy play doughing!

-Sam Ogilvie

LIFE IN LOCKDOWN

By | Art, Lifestyle

As we enter the eighth month of 2021, Newcastle and the Hunter region are now in lockdown. Sydney, the Central Coast and other areas of NSW have been in lockdown for a month or so now. The threat of COVID is real again, especially for those of us who may have become complacent. Having positive cases in Newcastle puts us all on edge, makes us a little less comfortable around others.

Just last week I was at Waratah Village. I’d just come out of Coles with my support worker when a woman walking toward me began to cough. She was less than a metre in front of me. Her cough was congested and hacking. She made no effort to cover her mouth and wasn’t wearing a mask. There are so many possible causes of that cough, but I’d wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t acknowledge the fear the sound of that cough triggered in me.

The thing that yet again helped recentre me, is my art.

I spent last week working on the creation of a mould. A mould that I will be testing out with resin when I can visit safely again. I’m looking forward to being able to turn the pictures in my head into tactile creations.

My art brings me into the present. What’s gone before, and the myriad of possibilities waiting in the future, disappear. There is only that moment and the process of creation that matter. It’s my meditation, bringing my heart rate and breathing back down. I can enjoy what I’m doing without questioning the results, the future.

Even in lockdown, I will always have my art. A way of expressing what I’m feeling and thinking. A way to be calm and in the moment.

Why don’t you give it a try?

-Sam Ogilvie

HOW ART IS MAKING ME BRAVE

By | Art, Disability, Lifestyle

I am not a particularly practical person. If something breaks or stops working around my house, I contact the real estate  so they can send someone to fix it for me. If my computer plays up, I call one of the IT techs at Guide Dogs so they can talk me through the process of fixing it.

In the last two or so years I’ve been a part of Art Mania however, there has been a shift. As part of the creative process, I’ve used drills, hammers, saws and more. Inside I was quivering as I tried each of these things for the first time.

I was elated when I successfully threw off that fear and achieved my goal.

This has made me a braver person. It does on occasion worry others, but I’m taking control and completing tasks around my home now that I never thought I could do.

Why am I writing about this today? Because for the first time ever, I fixed a blocked sink without any help. Well I did get help to know what to do and to purchase the product I needed. After that though, I was on my own, and I know I wouldn’t have done that if it wasn’t for all of the firsts and goals I’d achieved as part of the Art Mania family.

Perhaps I could try cleaning out the gutters next … only joking! … maybe …

THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF JOURNALING

By | Art, Lifestyle

Earlier this year, Art Mania ran some workshops on journaling. They were: journaling for creativity, journaling for organisation and journaling for welbeing. They were held at the Hunter Wetlands Centre and were a huge amount of fun. They also left us all with some incredibly useful skills and tools.

These workshops were also so popular, that we started a journaling club. We meet every second Saturday at the Wallsend studio and have continued to grow in numbers.

One of Sam’s journal spreads.

Why am I telling you about this now? Firstly because we have a creative journaling workshop running soon in August.

Secondly, because journaling offers a huge benefit to our mental health.

You don’t have to be super creative. It’s a journal just for you. A place, that if you chose, you can just dump all those silly, negative thoughts that are cluttering up your head and stopping you from getting anything done. It can be a place where you just play. This is one of my favourite things to do. I have a journal that is dedicated to play and nothing else. For me, it’s about just enjoying the process and not caring about the results. It’s a great way for me to be present. To stop worrying about what’s happened that day, or what might happen tomorrow.

Thinking about ourselves in a positive way.

You can also use it as a way to keep track of things. Money, dreams, steps walked or run, hours spent doing something nice for yourself. It can be anything. This is great if you feel calmer by feeling in control. This isn’t a way of controlling as such, but it is a way of tricking your mind to think it’s in control.

A collage of things that uplift you.

Journaling is a wonderful way to keep sane. Especially important in these times. So why not give it a try? All you need is a notebook. Or if you want a nice little starter pack, Art Mania has journal packs for sale. They are a brilliant way of getting started and can give you ideas too.

So if you’re feeling off balance by the world, or you aren’t getting that creative fix you need. Try journaling. Once you start, you won’t want to stop!

-Sam Olgilvie

A TASTE OF THE TERM TO COME

By | Art
One of the best things about a new term at Art Mania is getting to try something new. Not just for you, our students, but for the staff too. I’m so excited, I just couldn’t wait. I had to share this.
Starting on Tuesday, 13 July, we will be running Creative Tuesdays for all who want to try something new. Our wonderful mosaics teacher Dana, is busy making artist packs of different projects you can try. There are wind chimes, alcohol inks, mosaics with glass and more.
All you need to do is make your way to Art Mania on a Tuesday. Once there, make your choice of artist pack and start creating. All of the materials needed for your project will be in your pack. All the tools will be available at the studio. Best of all, you will have Art Mania’s dynamic duo, Dana and Jana, there to supervise and assist. What more can you wish for?
So add the date to your calendar and see you there. It’s going to be great! You can book here.

STAFF SPOTLIGHT: ANDREW

By | Art, Disability, Lifestyle

Andrew is one of our glass fusing and lead light teachers. He is also responsible for kiln maintenance firing schedule development. If anything goes wrong with the kilns, both glass and clay, it is Andrew who is comes in to save the day and keep everything running and stopping general panic amongst students wanting to know where their work is. He also works on expanding our capabilities in glass.

Andrew looks so weird without his curly hair!

Andrew sees the studio as a great place to destress and develop your creativity.

He is also an artist and manages to find time to work on his own glass work. He’s also had his work in several exibitions.

Andrew showing a young student how to cut glass.

Andrew’s background is in process engineering in heavy industry. He has “always had a fascination with the beauty of glass”. He started out as a student at Art Mania “just to give it a try”, and the rest is history!

Andrew demonstrating his glass expertise at our open night event this year.

When asked how he connects with the ethos of Art Mania and the inclusivity, he wrote:

“The highlight of my time teaching has been teaching Sam, who is blind, to cut glass and use the flat bed glass grinder by feel. I love that we encourage anyone to have a go.”

SKILLS I’VE LEARNED AT ART MANIA STUDIO

By | Art, Disability

In the last few weeks, I’ve been struggling with my inner critic,. Every time I’ve sat down here at my laptop and tried to put a post together, my inner critic has woken and started nagging at me, making me question everything I’ve tried to write. So this post is going to be a little different. Today I want to acknowledge the things I’ve learnt in the last eighteen months at Art Mania.

1. I have learnt that as a blind woman, I can paint.

I don’t need to see what’s going on upon the canvas. I don’t need to be able to see what I’m painting with my eyes. I can paint in my own unique way. By responding to music, painting the movement and sound. The emotions that the music brings up. I can also paint what my eyes, in my case my hands, observe. I learnt all of this by taking a chance on a suggestion from the woman who has been mentoring me this year, Ashlee. By trusting her and trying out the suggestions she gave me, I’ve discovered a skill I always thought was beyond me.

Sam standing in front of one of her paintings at an exhibition.

2. I’ve learnt to cut glass enabling me to create pieces for fusing.

I would never have thought I would be able to create pieces of art in glass. The first time I got to play with glass was in a one day workshop making wind chimes. I’ll be honest, I had no idea that part of the process would include me cutting and grinding all of the glass pieces I would need. If I had, I probably wouldn’t have booked my spot. By the time I realised what would be involved, it was two nights before the workshop and Fee was offering to provide the glass pre-cut. She never said I couldn’t do it, in fact, she encouraged me, wanted me to at least try to cut the pieces for myself. She was simply offering me an alternative if it proved too much for me.

Sam doing some glass work.

That’s when I had to prove to myself that I could do it. Even so, I didn’t expect to be regularly working with glass as I am now. That workshop was a turning point for me. I discovered skills I never thought I had, not just because of my blindness. It was more about the fragility of the glass and the viciousness of its bite if handled wrong. That day opened new ideas and possibilities in me. I started taking the weekly classes and felt like a clumsy idiot for most of my first six months. But Fee and Andrew and the other students around me encouraged me. Working with glass is now one of my favourite mediums to work with.

3. I’ve learnt how to paint with glass.

Again it was a wonderous day when Fee came back from a course in Melbourne and showed us all what could be done with glass powders. It’s like painting with butter icing and is as much about texture as colour. I love making textures of different types and thicknesses. Again, at first, I felt clumsy and like I had no chance of ever getting it right. And again, it was Fee who gently, but firmly pushed me to keep going and find the skills needed to create the pieces I am so proud of now.

4. I’ve learnt to how to use a grinder.

A couple of different grinders. And that was and is something I still get excited about, knowing I can do it.

5. I’ve learnt I can use a drill.

While doing a hebel carving workshop last year, I had to drill holes into the stone to be able to remove the excess. I still have the video a friend took of me drilling into my slab of stone. A very large piece of stone, because of course, I had to have the biggest piece. Again, as in all the other situations, Fee and Andrew never questioned my ability to achieve these goals. Rather, they gave me the support and assistance I need to complete the job.

Sam at a hebel carving workshop.

6. I’ve learnt that my hands can see as well as other people’s eyes.

It wasn’t until I made a sculpture of my last guide dog, that I learnt this. When people saw the sculpture, they knew it was Roscoe. I had expected them to be able to see it was a dog and even that it was a Labrador, but they saw Roscoe in the clay.

Jimmy with his Jimmy sculpture- made by Sam.

7. I’ve learnt to let go of the perfectionist who has stalked me all my life.

I’m not sure when or how, but I think it began when my mother told me, after I asked her about how I could possibly get it all right with my art. She told me that I should “embrace the imperfections”. This didn’t mean my work would be less. It just meant to I needed to work with what I have and embrace the uniqueness that I have and which is imprinted in all my work.

There are many other things I could write here, but I think I’ve proved my point. I would like to take this chance to say thank you to everyone wo makes up the Art Mania family. Thank you for all your support and help and encouragement and love. You have helped me find my creativity and myself.

Ashlee and Sam at one of Sam’s exhibitions.

I wanted to finish here by saying, if you have been following Art Mania on social media, but haven’t yet managed to make it as far as signing up and attending one of our classes. I hope this will help push you to take that chance. You won’t regret it and will discover a whole family you never knew you could be part of.

The Two Jimmys

By | Art, Disability, Lifestyle

When I started taking classes in pottery last year, I began to hand build creatures out of clay. They were initially creatures from my head. Mythical creatures that live in dreams and fantasy stories. One day, I was beginning what I expected to be another mythical creature. This piece of clay had other ideas, I sculpted my last guide dog Roscoe.

That sculpture showed me just how well my hands can see. It doesn’t just look like a dog, it looks like him.

After this, Fee suggested I could make other animals and give them disabilities. Show through sculpture the abilities of people with various disabilities. The idea was to create the animal and then write a story of their journey. This story could continue when they found new homes. Incorporating the journey of the person, or people they found homes with.

One of the first animals I made was a water dragon. I had a willing model to use as my guide. Jimmy, Fee’s water dragon who lives at the studio.

I’d never touched a lizard like him. I’d stroked the backs of a couple of blue-tongues and gone out of my way to avoid any opportunity to pat a snake. I knew that Jimmy was at the studio and was curious, but didn’t actually meet him until I decided to sculpt him.

The first time I held him was magical. He sat on my hand and I could feel him breathing. I was afraid to move. Not because I was scared of Jimmy, rather, I was afraid of disturbing him. His skin felt like rows of little bumps, His spine is smooth, as long as you stroke him down from head to tail. The most surprising and beautiful thing that day was that he let me touch his face. I moved my hand very slowly and gently from the back of his head over his face, prepared to stop at any sign he didn’t like it. He didn’t react at all.

I’ve always been told I have a very gentle and smoothing touch, but that day, I felt like I’d been given one of the greatest gifts of my life.

Slowly I started to get to know Jimmy and he began to know me. He liked to lie across my chest and tuck his little head under my chin. And for me, I loved the feel of his skin under my fingers. Slowly I realised that I was far calmer and in the present when I held Jimmy. I also got to know what he looked like with each session. All of this memory and feeling I put into my sculpture.

It’s been a long process. What with lockdown and other projects getting in the way, but Jimmy the sculpture finally came home with me. I can see little errors in the work. I haven’t gotten the texture of his skin quite right. The body isn’t narrow enough at the hips. What’s surprised me is that, I can see these errors, but I’m not beating myself up over them. I’ve been taking notes for next time. Learning more about the craft so I can improve with each piece.

Just before I brought Jimmy the sculpture home, with some help, I got a photo of the two Jimmys. Jimmy the Lizzard was quite happy to sit beside his likeness.

I finished the actual sculpting more than six months ago, but Jimmy still comes out of his tank for cuddles. Now he likes to sit on my shoulder while I work. He’ll sit on my back with his head and front feet over my shoulder. Wandering around on my back and shoulders when he wants to find a more comfortable spot.

I’ve come to care very deeply for this magical Water Dragon. Partly because I like spending time with him, but more importantly, because he’s happy to trust me.

He’s been generous enough to let me use him as a muse. So I hope you all like Jimmy the sculpture as much as I do.

 

-Sam Ogilvie