Showing posts with label crafts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label crafts. Show all posts

Friday, July 5, 2019

101 More Mixed Media Techniques by Cherril Doty, Heather Greenwood, Monica Moody, Marsh Scott


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I'm not the kind fo reviewer who gets a print version to review, which is fine, but it does mean I get some slightly-askew perspectives on a lot of books, and the thing that caught my eye immediately with this one was the table of content. It told me that this book is designed as a print book with no thought given to electronic format readers because there is no click option to go to a specific part of the book from the content nor to return to the content, unfortunately, although I guess you can always use the search function if you know what you're searching for. That aside it was well laid out and organized.

The book opens with a word or two on materials and supplies, and then quickly launches into the various sections, which cover borders and edges; embossing and casting; drips, drops, and sprays; aging and antiquing; pens, pencils and Pastels; yarn and string; fabric and fibers; using metals; resists and masking; alcohol inks; watercolor monotypes, pyrography; washi tape; alternative surfaces; spray inks; ephemera; and finally gelatos - and I'm guessing that's not desert!

As you might guess from this, I'm not a professional artist or any kind of artist really, but I love to learn, and I learned a lot from this, including some new terms/techniques I'd never encountered before despite reading a lot of art books! Each of the above sections is broken-down into actual techniques for achieving the required effects. For example, borders and edges covers such techniques as cut, torn, and colored edges; burned edges and sharp borders; colored border effects; and applied borders.

Each section is subdivided this way with a simple, but detailed path working towards the desired outcome with step-by-step instructions augmented by photographs. For example, the section on embossing covers not only embossing by hand, but also by vehicle - yes, setting up your materials in front of the vehicle tire and driving over it to create the emboss. This section also includes making your own pulp paper, creating molds and using found objects. The section on aging and antiquing employs several methods, including recycling teabags. This is something soccer player Arrogant Alex would not be able to appreciate, I suspect!

This isn't just about method and technique - it's fundamentally about art, and some of the art work including as examples here is quite remarkable regardless of what technique was used to produce it. The picture on the tea bag antiquing page is really quite outstanding, for example, as is the ocean and beach in the section on pastels, the rose in the 3D fabric effects section, the bird and the butterfly in the candy foil accents section, the chicken in the wax-resists section, the two pictures in the cling-wrap effects, the amazing image in the using yupo section (plus now I know what yupo is!). The stag and the butterfly in the pyrography section are noteworthy. I'm not a big fan of 'day of the dead' style art, but if you are, you'll no doubt love the decorated 'coffin' in the 'burn outside the box' section.

And on that score, if this book does nothing else for you, it will unquestionably get you out of any rut you might be in, inspiring you to try something new and experiment more. Washi tape, for example, is something I learned of only very recently, and the section here on it is short, but it contains four different items on the uses of this tape. Alternative surfaces is another out-of-box experience section, covering the ABC's: acrylic, burlap, clay as well as fabric, styrofoam, wood, muslin, and glass - always a fun medium to explore in art. A word about the flammability (especially in a paint environment) and non-biodegradability of styrofoam would have been appreciated. It's a nasty material.

So overall, the book is comprehensive and really helpful. It covers a lot of ground in relatively simple steps, and will no doubt make a major contribution to any artist who wants to stretch themselves or improve on techniques they may already possess. I commend it as a worthy and education read.


Play, Make, Create, A Process-Art Handbook by Meri Cherry


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

It's very rare for me to be disappointed by a crafts or arts book from Quarto Publishing Group, and this one is yet another winner, full of fun, color, adventure and exploration. And all this from simple ingredients. The book covers painting and crafts projects as well as out-and-out fun projects such as making your own play dough, and your own slime!

An author with the most amazing of names - Meri Cherry - brings over forty projects - she calls them invitations, because really that's what they are: invitations for younger children (and likely older ones as well) to indulge in process art. What is that exactly? The author explains, but in short it really means the point of these projects isn't the destination; it's the journey - the learning of self-sufficiency, the growing of confidence, the freedom of exploration, and the joy of creativity.

The projects include collage, salt painting, self portraits int he mirror, covering a picture with clear plastic and paining on top of that to augment the original image, drawing with eyes closed, creating 'artist trading cards', and oobleck. Yeah, that one caught me by surprise because I'd never heard it called that before and I'm not a fan of Dr Seuss. The technical term for it is a non-Newtonian fluid, which is how I know it, but oobleck works better with kids! The thing is this term was introduced before it was defined (with a recipe!) on page 40, so I was lost for a while on that one!

That aside, the book was amazing, fun, and inventive, with internal links to things that are referenced in the text. These links never have a link back to where you were, unfortunately, but my app has a feature which allows you to return to the original page after a jump like that. The problem is that Bluefire reader - an app I normally swear by for reading ebooks, got into trouble when I reached page forty - I think it was.

It wouldn't swipe past there for love or money (I tried both!) and even when I slid the little bar at the bottom of the screen, the image wouldn't switch to the next page. I don't know what that was all about. I was able to download the ARC to Adobe Digital Editions and finish reading it in there, fortunately. Just FYI! I'm not the kind of reviewer who merits a print book, which is fine with me, but it does occasionally lead to technical difficulties!

The book covers a large variety of projects, including ice sculpture (after a fashion - no chain saws involved!), volcanic eruptions, potions, and crazy contraptions in addition to a bunch of regular art ideas, so no matter what your charge is into, this book doubtlessly has a bunch of things that will interest them. I commend it as fun, educational, and confidence-building. The book even includes tips about clean up (or avoiding it by staying clean, which is even better), so what's not to like?!


Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Sticks and Stones by Melissa Lennig


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This is another inventive and creative book for kids which will teach them creativity and self-reliance - things which will last far longer than any toy they can make or buy. But more than this, it helps eke out a tight budget and also gets kids outdoors. Time away from that video screen is never a bad thing. On top of this, we need more engineers - especially female ones. Who knows? Working with their hands and seeing how to turn ideas into a working finish product could well lead them into a useful and rewarding career. At the very least they will have a love and appreciation of nature and the outdoors.

In this book they will learn how to use outdoor materials to build a shelter and a fort (outdoor survival and history right there!) as well as bridges, dams, and fences. There are large and small scale projects including simple things like making ochre paint from rocks and a marshmallow roasting stick. It's never a bad thing to lure them in with something offering a treat if it hooks them on learning rather more complex projects! And picking up basic manual skills will build confidence and inventiveness which will grow their mind.

The book includes a score of projects and also, most importantly, includes a wealth of safety advice. I commend this as a worthy, educational, and useful read.


100 Things to Recycle and Make by Fiona Hayes


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was a sweet and fun book with lots of easy-to-follow construction plans. It's divided into sections, so pretty much whatever suitable item you have around the house can be made into something, whether the material be cardboard boxes or tubes, egg cartons, paper plates or even items from nature. Each section has a score of items to make, so you'll never be stick for something to make although you may be spoiled for choice!

I enjoyed reading this and while my own children are a bit old for a book like this one now, they loved this kind of thing when they were younger. Working with the hands improves the brain, and allows children to think outside the box - quite literally, seeing it not as a box, but as something to be created and then played with and enjoyed.

Entertaining your kids doesn't necessarily mean trip to the store to buy something expensive and made from plastic which eventually is likely to end in some ocean somewhere, killing wildlife. This is a sane and creative alternative, and very easy on the budget! It brings not only immediate rewards to children, but also sets them up with confidence and self-reliability for their future. I commend it fully.


Friday, May 3, 2019

The Grown-Up's Guide to Making Art with Kids by Lee Foster-Wilson


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Subtitled "25+ fun and easy projects to inspire you and the little ones in your life" this book was just what it claimed to be, although I have to say this is an artist working here so she might well make many of the rest of us look less than stellar; that said, she does generously offer tips hints and shortcuts to improving our work.

The book has a clickable "Tables of Contents" but there's actually only one table. I never got 'table of Contents' although many books use it. It's really a list of contents, isn't it?! That's why I never bother with such a thing, but this one does offer an easy jump to any chosen chapter. You don't get that in a print book! LOL! There's no jump back to the content page though, in case you jump to the wrong chapter, but the slide bar at the bottom will get you into easy swiping distance.

The book charts a steady course between a drawing tutorial and then a connected project, and so on, and you don't need a professional set-up for this; just some inexpensive paints you can buy at any big store, and/or some colored markers or pencils, or even crayons, along with some paper or card stock you can get from cardboard food packaging if you want. The important thing isn't the high quality materials, but the creativity, fun, confidence-building and sense of accomplishment children will feel when you work though these projects with them. I'm behind that 100%.

The book opens with some discussion of colors and how to work with them and mix them. There's a glossary at the back which explains some terms, although I'd take issue with the comment about orientation - which merely means which way your painting surface lies - if it's wider than it is tall, then it's landscape - imagine a sweeping vista. If it's taller than it is wide, then it's portrait. You'll know this if you take pictures with your phone, and that's my point - the last sentence claims orientation has nothing to do with the subject of the painting, but I disagree with that. Perhaps children won't much care, but to me letting them see that the orientation of the finished image can contribute a lot to how that image is perceived when it's done isn't a wasted endeavor. Anyone who's tipped their phone to the side or held it straight-up to take that picture understands this. It's the same with a painting, but that's a quibble.

The book covers animals, people, flora (if you haven't met flora you have no business being an artist!), buildings, and robots! The projects are a delight, and includes pop-up image like you might find in some children's book, and a shadow puppet theater - and many more. Don't feel dissuaded when you see how easily this artist throws together a sweet image. With practice and following her instructions, you'll get there, and even if you don't your kids will be inspired to strive for the little bit better look to their own work. I commend this as a worthy read.

On a slight downer, just as an advisory, I think this was yet another book designed as a print version, but of which I only get to see the ebook version, and even on a medium-sized iPad, some of the image labels were dissociated from the image they discussed. I think this is because the label came before the image instead of after it and wasn't tied to it, so I'd read, for example, "A cow has a similar structure, with slightly different shapes" but this would appear underneath the sketch outline of the horse. I had to swipe to the next page to see a sketch of the cow. This potentially may offer some confusion when following the step-by-step instructions for some of the projects, but with diligence, you'll master them.


Thursday, May 2, 2019

Nifty Thrifty Music Crafts for Kids by Felicia Lowenstein Niven


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a great crafts book for kids because it allows them to make musical instruments (near enough!) out of household scraps. Stuff that would normally go into recycling can hereby be recycled into an instrument, and then when that's worn out, it can be recycled back to recycling!

The book gives illustrated instructions on how to make a xylophone, rhythm blocks, panpipes, finger cymbals (always fun!), a colonial drum (whatever that is! I suppose it's a drum that wants to take over and make you pay a tax on your tea imports?), American Indian clapper, tambourine, rain stick, maracas, and a rubber band ukulele! You could outfit a whole band with this book and each project gives you a double return because it offers a confidence-building activity for a child, and then a fun toy for that same child. Can't argue with that, unless you have rocks in your head instead of rock 'n' roll! Unless you have no soul! Unless you're tired of taking the rap! Unless you have a bad hip and can't hop! I commend this as an inventive and a fun book for children's activities.


51 Things to Make With Egg Cartons by Fiona Hayes


Rating: WORTHY!

When I was a young kid, my younger brother and I used to use the cut-off bottoms of egg cartons as hoards of Daleks (the menacing robotic beings from the BBC's Doctor Who TV show which I have to say has rather taken a step backwards under Chris Chibnall's leadership - not because the Doctor is now a woman by any means - I like the new Doctor - but because we get fewer episodes and only every other year, it seems. Shameful!).

This author is much more inventive than we were, and this book was a great idea. With the ideas colorfully illustrated and explained in detail - but simply! - kids can end up creating a large variety of neat little toys from animals (chicken, bee, hedgehog, tortoise, octopus, bunny, and others) to vehicles (dump truck, fire engine, pirate ship and more), to flowers, face masks, treasure chests, rockets, and on and on. This will keep a kid occupied and render you broke buying enough eggs to generate all those cartons! LOL!

But approached as a bi-weekly project, once you've used all those eggs, it can be a cheap and fun way to spend your time, especially if it's raining or cold out. They may need some supervision depending on their competency and trustworthiness with glue, paints and scissors, but it's worth it to see their joy at making something themselves - something fun and practical - boosting their self-confidence and getting double the return - time well-occupied making a toy and then more time well-occupied playing with the toy! I commend this as a worthy tool to a child's happiness.


Friday, November 2, 2018

Collage Workshop for Kids by Shannon Merenstein


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Not to be confused with College Workshop for kids (which I just made up), this is collage workshop aimed at a young audience! Kids love to do this kind of thing and it was interesting to me because I've been toying with an idea of doing a collage episode of my Little Rattuses series (which I'll then of course have to photograph since I'm not going to create a score of original collage books to sell! LOL! So while you never always know where you'll get good ideas and tips - which is why it's a good idea to read lots and keep your eyes open, you do now, because this book is full of them!

The book contains everything you need to know - the supplies you'll have to bring yourself! But once you have them, this book will tell you - and your kids - in easy, illustrated steps how to turn them into some pretty cool collages that any young child would be thrilled by and proud of. You can create anything in collage, and make it look pretty darned real by choosing the right materials, and once you get the bug, you can move on to creating your own entirely original collages. I commend this book as a fun adventure which will teach kids to be creative and leave them with some nice art skills and a wealth of confidence. Plus who knows - maybe a new hobby, too? Or even a career!


Build Your Own Chain Reaction Machines by Paul Long


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Subtitled "How to Make Crazy Contraptions Using Everyday Stuff--Creative Kid-Powered Projects!" this book is ideal for the kid who loves to tinker and invent. Using cardboard, mostly, with a few other items, some tools, a bit of glue, and the ability to measure, cut, and follow instructions closely, your boy or girl can build some amusing, entertaining and educational toys, and more than likely come up with their own future inventions using the skills learned here.

The book opens with a section on the essential tools, techniques, and mechanisms you will need or need to know in order to embark upon these projects. Three subsections cover basic tools, DIY tools, and basic techniques. This is only ten pages and filled with photographs, so no worries there. Once through that, you get to start your projects.

The first section of these is titled 'machines for your Room' such as a door knocker, a door opener, and a light-switcher. There are three more such sections covering machines for around the house (water your plants? Squeeze your toothpaste?), machines for fun and nonsense (launch a marble? make music?), and machines for food (vending machine, candy dispenser), so there's a lot of different projects you can undertake - assuming you have enough cardboard...and the determination to get it done!

I thought this was a fun, safe, and relatively cheap way to provide educational entertainment for your kid and I commend this book.


Monday, October 1, 2018

Creative Adventures in Cursive by Rachelle Doorley


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Cursive! Foiled again! This was a great idea, luring children into writing well under the guise of having them create decorative and useful items involving handwriting. There is a score of neat ideas. I found it a little disturbing that while the photographs showed a commendable diversity of children, it seemed to be only girls until the 'painting of the rocks' section showed up and then it seemed mostly boys. After that section the gender mix was more diverse. But overall, it is commendable.

So are the ideas. There is a huge variety of options - for both boys and girls together! - to make fun things that will teach elegant writing, and also make useful items such as: greeting cards, seed packets, book plates, stenciled pillow, embroidered napkins, abstract art, cake decoration, and so on.

Provided with abundant hints, tips, illustrations, and photos, the book will talk you through every detail without going into excessive detail, of how to make everything from scratch, including practice warm-up exercises before you even get started! Judged by the faces of the children it was a lot of fun and it also taught concentration and focus! There are also comments from the kids themselves distributed throughout the book about how hard or easy something was, and what experiences they had in doing this work.

I loved this idea and I commend this as a worthy read.


Sunday, July 1, 2018

Foam Crafts for Kids by Suzanne McNeil


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Subtitled: Over 100 Colorful Craft Foam Projects to Make with Your Kids, this book was a fun read. I have to say up front that i personally am not a fan of foam crafts, nor have iI ever indulged in any, but I read this book through and I looked up the details of making these things (everything you need to know is in this book!), and I have no doubt that if you follow the author's instructions, you will make these items successfully, and take a joy in doing them, especially if you're a young kid.

Some of the items have a practical use, others are decorative (which is also practical when you think about it!). There were some really fun items. I particularly found the finger puppets amusing. I'm in process of putting out a series of amateur children's books called The Little Rattuses, which is mainly done with drawings and photographs, but I can see myself putting out one of these books featuring images made purely from foam-crafted rats after reading this. I'm not kidding!

I can see kids having a ton of fun with these items (finger puppets I'm looking at you!), and with the satisfaction of knowing you can make your own toys! Working with one's hands has the advantage of somewhat rewiring one's brain and allowing you to see things differently. That's never a bad thing, and it prepares children for other challenges later in life.

I think the book is well done. It's a blaze of color, with examples and templates for cutting out shapes (not sure how those work in the ebook version, quite honestly!), as well as many tips and hints for success. This author is serious about this craft and it shows in her advice, safety tips, and hints and examples. I recommend this for anyone interested in crafting and in teaching kids a craft.



Thursday, August 24, 2017

Epic Cardboard Adventures by Leslie Manlapig


Rating: WORTHY!

This ebook was not quite ready for prime time, but it is an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

It's a book which reminds me of my own Earthquake children's book where I added a cheap and nasty way to make you own excavator out of a cereal box and some tape. This book goes way beyond that - way beyond into outer-space - almost literally! It hosts four sections, each with five sub-sections devoted to different topics, but related to the main theme:

  1. Explore the World
    1. Outer Space
    2. Deep Sea ocean
    3. Ancient Egypt
    4. Jungle Explorer
    5. Arctic Adventure
  2. Travel Through Time
    1. Prehistoric
    2. Medieval defence
    3. High Seas
    4. Ninja
    5. Wild West
  3. Put on a Show
    1. Rock Concert
    2. Puppet Theater
    3. Carnival Fun
    4. Lights, Camera, Action
    5. Magician
  4. Work a Cool Job
    1. Construction Worker
    2. Pilot
    3. Race Car Driver
    4. Shh! Secret Agent
    5. Firefighter

Fill details of how to make all of these are listed below...no, just kidding, but full details of how to make them are in the book, including a list of things you will need, the main one of which is cardboard! Cardboard boxes, toilet roll and paper towel inner tubes, construction paper, and so on.

You will also need some crafting tools if you do not already possess them, so there will be some outlay fro supplies such as scissors, a ruler, felt markers for adding detail and coloring, yarn or string, hot melt glue - or at least some sort of good strong glue - paint, if you want to add finishing touches to your creations, and what else: of course, duct tape! Or duck tape as I read in one novel I shall be reviewing soon!

The book gives step by step instructions on how to make yourself into an astronaut or a pirate, an explorer or a construction worker, a time-traveler or a deep-sea diver. The ideas are inventive and colorful, easy to make - but adult assistance will be required if your child is too young to cut cardboard or do some of the other more mature portions of the builds. There are also some safety issues if you're going to be building swords, even out of cardboard, and guns that fire, even though ti;s only projectiles using rubber bands, so be advised of that

But once you have those basic supplies, cardboard of some sort usually isn't hard to come by or to beg from a store, or a neighbor, although for the pyramid you'll need a large box if your kid is going to sit in it. Otherwise you could just make it smaller and stay outside it, using toy characters to go in and out instead!

Some of the designs are admirably elaborate (such as an airport runway with landing lights!), so be prepared to invest some time for those projects that are not especially simple, but none of these projects is so complex that your everyday parent cannot make them all.

You can always propose the idea of sharing a project with your neighbors or at school, and get several children involved, building friendships, confidence, and team spirit. There are so many ideas, well thought-out and planned, with great results from so simple beginnings. The author has put a lot of work into this and the results are awesome.

I think this is a great book which will stimulate imaginations and provide a reward of a child not only creating something, but ending up with a fine toy at the end of it which will continue to grow a child's mind. maybe it will even last longer or be treasured more than a store-ought toy because the child made it themselves. Who knows what kind of a career that might lead to when the child grows older? I recommend this book fully.