I guess bikes are on the mind around here these days. How many posts can we write about bikes?
Well, to be honest, I’m actually not much of a biker. I’m a bit wobbly, I am always worried I’m going to crash, and going too fast down a hill just gives me slightly less time to imagine all of the many ways I could go skidding across the pavement. It’s that whizzing slightly above the surface of the earth that I find so unnerving. I’m not super great with heights, either. So when I came across this video (via, Rafe, thank you! And check out his link…, he does amazing work) I watched it with fascination and terror.
And also some pleasing butterflies in my throat. Maybe I just need a bike like this for some serious immersion therapy and I’ll be just fine.
As has been well documented here already, I’m a big fan of Friendship Montessori, the little school in Worton where Alden and Kato spend their days, mostly because my kids came home so happy every day.
But curiosity got the best of me, and so I decided to spend a morning observing in Alden’s classroom a few weeks ago. Robbi joined me with her camera. The result is a piece for the Chestertown Spy.
My goal was to illustrate the basic principles of Montessori education by showing how the kids learn.
It’s about the classroom and the community, the materials and the approach to teaching.
As is my style, there are lots of pictures. This is one of my favorites.
Last Thursday, I was asked to fill in for one of the usual teachers at Friendship Montessori School. I was initially reluctant. What do I know about educating tomorrow’s leaders? The stakes seemed too high, the possibility of misstep too great.
And yet, I felt compelled to say yes. It is, after all, in the Montessori philosophy to pitch in. And so I showed up at the appointed time (three minutes late, actually) and humbly requested my marching orders.
I was assigned to the art table, a huge responsibility to be sure. The children were stringing necklaces. It was my job to advise on such critical aspects as bead selection, proper threading technique, the importance of using a square knot to tie off the loose ends.
There were no major disasters, but I could not shake the feeling that I was being silently judged. The person I was subbing for, Kelly, is, after all, a seasoned professional. As minutes passed, I could feel the collective weight of inadequacy building. Fortunately, necklace stringing time was declared officially over, and I was asked to help prepare for “circle time.”
The children told me that preparations included moving this table from the circle area to another part of the room. I stood by proudly as my little charges took matters into their own hands.
It was only too late that I realized the children are not supposed to move the table themselves, that this is a job reserved for teachers. I was ready to turn in my resignation when circle time began. Suddenly, I was presented with a task I understand well.
By which I mean, jumping around like a lunatic. I thrived in this capacity and won back some of my lost confidence.
Suddenly, my ears perked up as I was reminded that…
The children were excited. Circle time behind us, it was time for the good stuff. By which I mean the exchange of Valentines. Each kid had prepared a loot bag in advance. This young lady agreed to pose with hers.
There was a pervasive enthusiasm. Many of my teaching errors were covered up by the fact that everyone’s attention was directed elsewhere.
I was asked to help keep the peace as the distribution of Valentines proceeded. I am proud to say that no children were injured and nobody cried.
I was impressed with the quality of the Valentines. James’ “I’ve Got My Eye on You” magnifying glasses were a big hit.
After the melee, it was time for the party. Anticipation was high.
I was in charge of trying to convince the children to eat carrots, broccoli, and other healthy things before the cookies and cupcakes were produced. I succeeded only slightly.
Full of sugar and good cheer, the children lined up to go outside.
We jumped and we wiggled and we ran and even shouted (just a little).
And when we were done, we lined back up to come inside again.
Just as we came back inside, Kelly returned. The children were overjoyed to see her. They seemed to understand that only by the narrowest of margins had they survived my tenure in their midst.
I was touched to be asked, as a parting gesture, to be the day’s book reader. Whether the glee in the children’s eyes was a function of my reading skills or an indication of their excitement that I would soon be departing, I may never know.
I choose to think that perhaps I didn’t do such a bad job after all.
I love Lisa Congdon’s bright graphic colors combined with her scritchy scratchy pencil drawings. Check out the video below to get a peek into her studio and life as an illustrator. I most like the thing she says about finding what you love to do. So true.
Watch other beautifully crafted videos and learn more about the “Like Knows Like” project HERE.
For those of you not in the know, Matthew and I worked on a cool project for our alma mater last fall. We designed a poster that will be handed out to freshmen that is a bucket list of sorts – a checklist of a bunch of things that alumni have said students should see or do before graduating. It’s called “Ephropology 101: The Williams Bucket List” and can be bought here. Ok. Now that I’m done shilling, I can get to the point.
We worked with Ashley on this project. Ashley has her hands in all kinds of pies, from working with the alumni office at Williams to doing her own design projects to running a photography boot camp (ooh, sign me up!) to repurposing vintage (read: cast-off) clothes from her mother’s attic . The woman is an inferno of awesomeness (she has two kids, two dogs, and chickens, too). She also blogs about it all, and in a much more timely fashion than we do (I have been meaning to write this post since January 1! Holy crap that’s a whole month ago already!! She also beat us to the posting punch about our visit to Williamstown by two days. Embarrassing – ). Anyway – at the changeover of the new year, she wanted to change up her header and asked me if I could tackle it. Her only requirements were that it showed her two dogs, some chickens and a cart wheel.
This is what I came up with (I confess, I love it):
One of her dogs, the noble Ursa, recently lost a leg to cancer, so Ashley asked that I show her in her tri-pawd state. I just hope I did the girl right.
Read all about Ashley, her brood, and her big ideas over at Blog A La Cart. She also happens to be a great writer and photographer, so prepare to be charmed.
I recently came across a link in a friend’s FB feed (thanks, Ravi!) to a post on CrookedBrains about gigantic holes in the earth. I had never heard of CrookedBrains before, but it appears to be a bunch of posts with “15 Most…” or “12 Best…” or “30 Cool…” lists. There’s lots to get lost in on there.
Anyway. To give you an idea of some of the holes we’re talking about, here’s a taste:
A little while ago I saw a post on my friend Bill’s facebook wall. He had picked up a bunch of beautiful paper at an auction for a buck. A BUCK!!!
I was envious, and made it known. Bill, being the generous sort, suggested I come by and pick some up, and relieve him and his back of the trouble of having to haul many stacks of paper up into his attic. I said “Hell’s yeah!” and headed out to see him at his home base, Bottle of Smoke Press.
Bottle of Smoke Press is a small independent press dedicated to publishing beautifully printed and designed editions of poetry. The craftsmanship is superb, and the range of work that they produce is always varied yet always excellent. If there are any book or poetry lovers out there, pay attention! Bottle of Smoke’s limited editions are exquisite – beautifully crafted, often including original art and/or letterpress. Keep your eye out, in particular, for the upcoming Jack Kerouac and Ed White letters:
Jack Kerouac & Ed White All the Wild Thoughts: The Correspondence of Jack Kerouac and Ed White 1947-1969
Letters (2012), 150pp. 7″ x 10″ (17.8 cm x 25.4 cm). Published in a hardcover fine press edition.
There are 500 hardcover trade edition copies with dust jacket priced at $130 (pre-publication price is $105). Printed via letterpress in two colors on high quality paper, the edition is fully bound in book cloth and wrapped in a dust jacket and 100 numbered hardcover deluxe edition copies in clamshell priced at $475 (pre-publication price is $415). Fully-bound in leather and housed in a custom-made clamshell case that contains an original, copper printing plate used to
print the book. Signed by Ed White and FAILE. *
Just reading the description of the deluxe edition makes me giddy. But anyway. Back to the paper.
Bottle of Smoke is located in Dover, Delaware. Home of tax-free shopping, horse-racing, and the nearest mall to Chestertown. I make this drive in my sleep. You know, to go bet on some horses and such.
Bill welcomed me, and pretty much the first thing I saw when I came in were stacks and stacks of paper.
(this is actually only half of it…)
I was quickly distracted, however, by the beautiful, elegant, long-legged letterpress machine in the corner – a 1914 Chandler & Price New Style press.
What a beauty! Bill had an old copper plate nearby, something he had printed up a while ago.
I love the fine detail you can get out of copper plates. And the rich blacks that can be pulled out of them.
I got the grand tour of the whole operation (which is basically a one-man shop). It’s always fascinating to me to see other people’s studio spaces, how they work, how they organize, what materials they have on hand, where things go, what the work process looks like, what kind of tools they use. Bill had just purchased an old perforating machine that was just the coolest piece of hardware I’ve ever seen. Of course, I was so excited about it I totally forgot to take any pictures.
Anyway. I stacked the back of the van high with a variety of papers – leaning towards the blues, with some reds and a rich chocolatey brown as well. I have no idea what I’m going to use the paper for. I did this all while Matthew was gone on a business trip. When he returned, he wondered aloud at what project I was planning for. The Exercising-Matthew’s-back-moving-these-stacks-of-paper-into-our-attic Project, of course!
I know that someday, we’ll find the perfect job for them. In the meantime, I’m happy to know I’ve got some very fine sheets of paper under my roof, anticipating their future splendor like little hibernating bulbs. Just thinking about their potential makes me happy.
Thanks, Bill! Thanks for the paper, the tour, and the peek into your space.
Someday, my paper and I hope to do you proud!
*if you’re interested in checking out great work from Bottle of Smoke Press, have a look here.
Over in Bobbledy land, we’ve been enjoying posting weekly prompts for kids and seeing the wonderful drawings they come up with.
As fun as it is to draw by oneself, it’s even more fun to draw with other people. And so we’re wondering if some of you in Idiots’World might have a hankering to put pen to drawing pad as well. Here’s what we propose: a mass group drawing effort in the year ahead.
To give us structure (and to keep us all on the same page), we’re going to use a book from our friends at Chronicle as a guide. Called 712 More Things to Draw (the book is a follow-up to an earlier book called 642 Things to Draw), it is a “guided sketchbook.”
In addition to featuring an incredibly appealing giraffe, the cover is printed on a sturdy stock with a pleasing texture. You will enjoy holding this book.
The interior is a grid of drawing prompts. Simple perhaps, but pretty helpful, I think, when it comes to actually sticking to a drawing regimen.
2) Starting January 1, Robbi, Tilly, and I are going to start filling out our books, one drawing a day, every day of the year.
3) We’ll post our favorite drawings on the blog (we promise we won’t make you suffer through each and every one of them).
4) Any of you who feels like it can send us scans or photos of your drawings to post as well.
5) And that’s that.
Let’s all spend a year drawing stuff together, shall we?
In fact, at a drawing a day, the book will last us almost two years. But something about two years of daily drawings sounds a bit more intimidating. Let’s take it one year at a time and see what happens.