Nature Morte

Photo shoot inspired by the work of Bruce Katsiff


After a recent visit to the Delaware Museum of Art I was inspired to rummage through my house, gathering up various bones my children and I have collected over the last 20 years, and assembled a makeshift cabinet of curiosities. Remains from snapping turtles, birds, fish, a little brown bat, the list goes on and on – each a unique and oddly beautiful work of “nature morte” = dead nature.


 In Tesla’s Attic, Book One of The Accelerati Trilogy by Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman, character Caitlin Westfield has a passion for arranging parts of found objects “into a deconstructed assemblage.” She would take “charming, rustic, and sometimes rusting objects from years gone by” and smash them with a sledgehammer. “The results she would glue in aesthetically challenging patterns on canvas, turning garbage into art.  She called it garbart.” Talk about a girl after my own heart!


To create our “garbart” (click on image above right) my middle schooler and I took apart an old computer, gathered together our treasured trash, added a few steampunk gears, and printed/cut out silhouettes of various creatures we found on-line. Instead of gluing our “assemblage” onto canvas we opted to arrange horizontal still lifes on various backgrounds that we then photographed.

Thinking Cap

Fun science activity – make your own Brain Hemisphere Hat:

To make this a more kinesthetic learning activity, instead of just printing out and assembling, I decided to print out the Brain Hemisphere Hat and trace the pattern (with the help of carbon paper) onto a sheet of thick watercolor stock. By re-creating the hat in my own hand I feel I retained the names of, as well as the position of, the major lobes of the brain.

Magic StoryCube

Inside Out & Back Again

I have been wanting to make a magic folding cube for some time now and am happy to announce that Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai inspired me to do so. Please click on the image (above right)  to get a larger view.

You will find the instructions I used for creating my magic “StoryCube” at this web site:

Note: I didn’t have any spare wooden blocks when I made my magic cube so I constructed blocks out of sturdy black paper instead. The images which make up my StoryCube were painted on heavy watercolor stock then cut to fit each fold of the cube before gluing into position. I must admit, looking back wooden blocks would have been better to use as their weight is very important in creating a smooth transition between images as they fold inside out and back again. Mind you, my StoryCube still turned out pretty darn cool!

Shadow Art

Given their nature to roll around, working with spools of thread to create shadow art was a bit challenging at times but they proved to be great objects for achieving soft curved shapes. The thread itself was perfect for shaping a tuft of shadow hair.

Weaving a Chinese Finger Trap

“‘Aw,’ I howl. My fingers are trapped. I’m pulling, hard, my fingers are red, straining. I can’t use my hands. Or even wiggle my fingers. Then, I flap my arms, high and low, like a mixed-up bird. ‘Take it off. Take it off.'” – Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Click on image to see how to weave a Chinese finger trap:

Materials: half-inch wooden dowel (eight inches in length), four strips of card-stock paper (1/2 inch wide x 11 inches long), clear tape for fixing ends as well as temporarily holding strips of paper in place on dowel while you weave, scissors for cutting.

Note: If you don’t have a dowel handy a double-ended magic marker works okay.

Step 1 – Prepare your materials. Step 2 – Tape two strips of paper together at a 90 degree angle (see image above). I left a small overhang to make taping easier.  Step 3 – Cut off overhang. Step 4 – Temporarily attach strips of paper to dowel with tape as shown (if using two different colors of paper make sure colors alternate. Ex.: O, B, O, B – this makes seeing the weave easier, especially for first timers). Steps 5, 6, and 7 – Begin a herringbone weave. This takes a little time to get the feel for. As you weave hold the paper securely to the dowel and slowly turn the dowel away from the direction you are weaving. With your other hand work on weaving your strips of paper around the cylindrical shape. Step 8 – Weave until your paper almost runs out leaving enough to finish off your ends. Steps 9 and 10 – Trim and tape bottom ends to look like top ends. Remove tape you used to temporarily secure the top and slide Chinese finger trap off the dowel. Double check that all ends are secure before (Step 11) you insert your fingers and pull.

Making CAKE Boxes

What better way to take part in the “Celebrate Alumnae Knowledge Exposition (or CAKE)” then to make a slice of cake! Craft inspired by Maryrose Wood’s children’s novel The Interrupted Tale (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #4)


“‘Save room for dessert,’ Miss Mortimer said, dabbling her lips with a napkin. ‘For how could we have our first annual CAKE without a cake to celebrate the occasion?’

“Miss Lumley – I mean, Penelope – you’ll never guess. I was kidnapped by pirates!”

Needle Felting

Needle felted wool sculptures inspired by Avi’s children’s novel Poppy

“He [Lungwort] was a rather stout fellow with elegantly curled whiskers and slightly protruding front teeth. His crowning glory was an ivory thimble he had found and which, ever since, he’d worn as a cap.” – Poppy by Avi

“‘Oh yes,’ he murmured to himself, ‘mice are the most fun to catch.’ Then Mr. Ocax did that rare thing for an owl: He smiled.” – Poppy by Avi

Wire Art

Trees sculpted out of wire are an easy and fun craft project to supplement Lauren Oliver’s enchanting children’s fantasy novel Liesl and Po

     “If I could only get back to that willow tree. I’m sure then I could find my way home.”           –  Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver