Painting Creatures of the Reef

Photos of children painting and of the backdrop hung on stage
Painting a Backdrop Inspired by the Great Barrier Reef

No, say it isn’t so! The Great Barrier Reef is in trouble.

This year the kids at Carlin Springs Elementary School dove down under to visit the reef — all in their imagination. Inspired by their adventure, young actors created a play and young artists designed the backdrop. Together we admired a host of beautiful sea creatures, especially those in Here is the Coral Reef by Madeleine Dunphy and in Great Barrier Reef by David Doubilet. Ashley Hammond and Colleen Murphy of the Educational Theatre Company directed the performers, and Angel Lopez and I coached the artists.

Long live the reef!

Photo copyright Liz Macklin 2017

 

Antique Presses and Artists’ Books

Reviewing Presses
Frank Deichmeister admires the vintage presses at Tribune Showprint.

Last fall I zoomed to an era long before smart phones and social media with a visit to Tribune Showprint. It’s a workshop full of printing presses dating as far back as 1878. Known for years as the printer of the Benton County Tribune, the shop also made posters for store windows and outdoor advertising. As we admired the presses in operation, owner Kim Miller told the story of how she and her husband moved machines from Fowler, Indiana, to their current location in Muncie — all overnight to preserve the reputation as the oldest continuously operating print shop in the country.

2016_millerpress_posters
Kim Miller impresses Elaine Vidal with tales of the historic print shop.  Posters for recent events line the walls.
copy press
An antique press at the Book Arts Collaborative

At the studio of the Book Arts Collaborative next door, we admired books and letterpress cards designed by local artists and students from Ball State University.

I learned that before the invention of modern duplicating machines or carbon paper, clerks used special copy presses. The clerk placed an original document — with the ink still wet — against a sheet of thin onionskin paper. When pressed together, the papers printed a mirror image! The text on the copy could be read from the back when held up to the light from a window.

Student finishing hand sewn book
Student finishing hand sewn book

On returning home, I focused on ideas for design sessions with teens. I pulled out my copies of Creative Bookbinding by Pauline Johnson and Cover to Cover by Shereen LaPlantz and tested techniques for decorating papers and sewing hard covers. The students, under the direction of Erika Lucas, completed their projects in March. I stitched two books then and plan to sew again this week.

———————————————

On April 21 and 22, 2017, the Collaborative and Tribune Showprint will host Interrobang, a festival celebrating the craft and the art of the book.

Handsewn Books April 2017
Samples of hard cover books designed for lessons with teens | copyright Liz Macklin 2017

Dancing

Dancers
Dancers | watercolor – inverted digital image – edited January 29, 2016 | copyright Liz Macklin 2015

Dancing. In my dreams. Last month I broke my femur. Thank goodness the surgeon put it back together. Now I’m painting and thinking about dancing. Maybe in the spring.

One of my favorite fairy tales is The Twelve Dancing Princesses by Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm. I have A Little Golden Book published in 1954. The story is retold by Jane Werner with pictures by Sheilah Beckett. I love the colorful dresses, the trees studded with leaves of silver, gold and diamonds, and the mystery of it all. Where do the princesses disappear to in the night?

What is your favorite fairy tale?

A Little Golden Book: The Twelve Dancing Princesses, published by Simon and Schuster, New York, 1954
A Little Golden Book: The Twelve Dancing Princesses, published by Simon and Schuster, New York, 1954

Thanksgiving

In my family we learned to accept responsibility early in life. I was the sous chef, and I fixed the turkey. Okay, I might be padding my resume. I assisted the chef.

girl with uncooked Thanksgiving turkeyI was an enthusiastic carnivore as a child, but now I really love vegetables. My daughter tends our backyard garden, and this week she’s built a hoop structure with pipes and sheets of plastic. It will protect the  parsley, thyme, kale and other greens through the winter. I’m thankful to have children who like to grow things that I like to eat!

As we plan holiday menus, I’m reading  The Beetlebung Farm Cookbook, written by chef and farmer, Chris Fischer, in collaboration with chef and writer, Catherine Young. You might have seen the recipes and review in The New York Times food blog.  The book tells the story of a family farm on Martha’s Vineyard, complete with descriptions of mouthwatering meals and recipes for ingredients straight from the seashore, pasture and garden.The Beetlebung Farm Cookbook

Last year I wrote about recipes and books to share with children over the holidays. You’ll find several books by Virginia authors in that discussion. Many writers released new titles this year. I hope to write more about them in a future post.

Fox Tales

fox -- head in profile
watercolor | Fox | copyright Liz Macklin 2015

A fox ran past our house the other night. I spotted it under the streetlight. My neighbor saw it, too.

My favorite book from childhood, The Anthology of Children’s Literature, included “The Wonderful Tar-Baby Story” by Joel Chandler Harris. You might also remember the story from the Disney movie, Song of the South. Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox trick each other. The fox catches the rabbit with a very sticky ruse, the Tar Baby. To avoid becoming barbecue, the rabbit pleads, “Please don’t throw me into the briar patch!” Of course, the fox flings the rabbit straight into the thicket.

Virginia Hamilton retells this story in her anthology, The People Could Fly, and the rabbit cries, “Hot lettuce pie! This is where I want to be,” as he lands in the briars — free and safe.

Peter Spier’s The Fox went out on a chilly night features a roguish fox that fares better. He races through town and country and arrives home with dinner for a den full of kits. Emily Gleichenhaus sings this melody on the CD for her program, Sing Books with Emily. You can catch her performances for children at libraries in Northern Virginia.

For glimpses of foxes — I paint the taxidermy specimens, alas! — in Arlington, Virginia, visit the nature centers at Potomac Overlook Park and Long Branch Nature Center.

Note: I noticed today (May 14, 2015) that my copy of The Fox went out on a chilly night, the seventeenth printing, has only “The Fox” capitalized in the title. The other words are written underneath in lower case. As the photo on Emily’s web site shows, more recent printings capitalize using familiar rules, The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night.

Holidays

Liz Macklin singing 1956I love the holidays, the friends, the lights, the music. I can barely sing a note, but that hasn’t stopped me. And then there’s the food…

BettyCrockerCookbook_72dpiBetty Crocker’s step by step cookbook for kids taught me to make Long John Silver Sandwiches, Canned Peas Deluxe — just think of the gastronomic flair — and Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes. Of course, I had lots of on the job experience with my mom, my grandmothers, a very talented dad and generous aunts. I loved the illustrations in Betty Crocker’s 1957 edition. On the cover, the young fellow is tasting, while the girls whip up the batter by hand. Imagine my surprise when I noticed that boys do all the campfire cooking and girls do most of the serving and dishwashing.  Thank heaven for all you feminists out there, because my husband knows how to wash dishes!

Now I’m inspired by authors, who write about food and celebrations with friends and families. Here are just a few:

How to Behave at a Tea PartyFrench toast by the author of Dream Boy and How to Behave at a Tea Party, Madelyn Rosenberg

Emily and CarloRecipes for griddle cakes, turkey soup, blueberry pie and more by the author of Emily and Carlo, Marty Rhodes Figley

The Bakeshop GhostA review of The Bakeshop Ghost by Jacqueline Ogburn in Books Together by Anamaria AndersonWhat a Way to Celebrate the New Year! A Rosh Hashanah StoryWhat a Way to Start a New Year! A Rosh Hashanah Story and The Ziz and the Hanukkah Miracle by Jacqueline Jules

The Gingerbreadman Loose on the Fire TruckThis Gingerbread Man has adventures all year round. Look for him in books by Laura Murray.

—-

update December 9, 2014: For those of you who are curious, the well-known illustrator, Gloria Kamen, created the drawings for Betty Crocker’s Cookbook for Boys and Girls.