Wooden Craft Teacher’s Day Gift

So my boys have been spending their free time in front of the computer. On one hand, I reasoned to myself that they have their fair bit of outdoor time every week doing sports so I should let them continue with their screen time especially when they are doing considerably well in their studies.

On the other hand, it just can’t be good staring at the computer screen for long hours even if they are indeed learning something! It got me really upset and it struck me that I might be the one who needs to come to term with my own dilemma and manage my own expectation.

I finally sat them down one day and explained to them the importance of balance. I admit to them that it is not easy because even adults can’t get it right. Like most tools, technology is a double edged sword. They can kill or help to improve our lives if used wisely. I am glad we had the conversation, not so much because of miraculous change in their behaviour but because it helped me straighten out my thoughts and articulate my fear.

Since Teachers day is just round the corner, I decided to use the occasion to get the boys to do something useful with their screen time.

Every year, we would make something for the boys’ teachers. The boys usually aren’t particularly interested in making cards, so I was surprised by my teenager who happily announced that he had already made cards for ALL his teachers in school. I am not sure whose initiative it was but thought it was good that the school or someone reminded them to show appreciation for their teachers. This time, I tasked him to help his younger brother out and make good use of his screen time to search for ideas.

After spending some time searching and watching some YouTube videos, they hauled out their soldering iron, hot glue gun and saw. Dug out some wood scraps from our craft room and got these out.

The elder one did the more challenging job of sawing and soldering the wood pieces while his younger brother cut and hot glued the little air planes using popsicle sticks and cloth pegs.

I thought these hand-mades look pretty cute even though I am not sure what the teachers can do with them. A friend suggested using the wood burned pieces for signage, wall art, coaster or even bookmark. As for the air planes, we could actually stick a magnet  and turn them into fridge magnets.

If you ever thought of trying out wood burning, all you need is a piece of wood (we get ours from Daiso) and a soldering iron. Here’s a couple of things we learned about wood burning,

  • It is easier to solder along the grain of the wood. Maybe it might be better to get wood with smoother surface or sand down the wood before burning.
  • From our experience, a soldering iron is not the perfect tool for wood burning. It takes a long time to heat up (and cool down) and it is difficult to control the stroke because we are holding the rod further from the tip (mainly because it is too hot to hold any nearer). The tip and the temperature also weren’t ideal for wood burning thus making it harder
  • Sketch out the design on the wood before burning. You can even use a carbon paper to trace out the design you want on the wood!

There are tons of tips and tricks for wood burning on the internet. So yes, it is good to be internet savvy because ultimately, it was the internet that gave my boys the ideas and taught them how to make their Teacher’s Day gifts! 
 

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I Think I Can Paint

I have been a little bit caught up with my new pastime lately and it was my elder boy who reminded me to write something on this space! Yes, he’s my biggest fan, more so than his Dad.

After reviewing the Hello Spring Kit in my last post, I went on to play with the remaining paint that came with the kit and discovered that I could actually paint!

I’ve always been fascinated by people who could sketch, paint or draw through visualizing and imagination. It is amazing how they can store every single details of any object of interest into memory, recreate reality or create something that they have never seen before and put it on paper or a blank canvas.

I have met a couple of these people and it was simply mind blowing seeing them work. When you ask them how they did it, they usually can’t provide a very concrete answer and would probably throw you a perplexed look and answer something to the effect of ‘It’s simple, you mean you can’t?!’. These people have an innate skill, they are talented. I am lucky to have met these people but it has also discouraged me from trying because I knew I don’t have that kind of skill or talent.

So what I did the last couple of weeks was really not something I would usually do, to try something that I am totally not cut out for. It has been fun so far and I have been spending many quiet mornings mixing paint trying to get the perfect blend and attempting different kinds of pictures.

This was painted from a photo I took over the weekend. My younger boy playing with his cousin.

We were at one of those shophouses with an old back alley and these 2 boys spent a long time playing there. There were some rocks and a big bag of sand left over from some renovation work.

They set up a battlefield with little rocks as troops and played for hours. When I showed him this picture and asked him how they played their game, this was his explanation.

‘The rocks are the troops, defenders, king and queen. We are the canon. We fire striker rocks to attack the other person’s base.

To play this game, you must build a mountain with flat and smooth edges on the side. You use the rocks as troops and you stuff them into the sand to stabilize them. After you have built your army you can start the game.

Whoever’s older will strike first. You can use your troops to defend your defenders (which are big and fat rocks) who will defend your king and queen. Once the person has no more troops, defenders and king and queen, he loses’

Watching the boys play reminds me of painting. They might have played there for hours but they barely noticed how long they were there because they were having so much fun. Time flies when you are having fun.

So it doesn’t really matter even if I am not cut out to be an artist or a painter because time seems to zip by the few mornings when I sit down to paint. I guess I must be having fun and that is reason good enough to continue painting! Besides, who knows, I might be able to teach my boys a lesson or two. That even though we are short of talent, our abilities can improve if we put in enough effort.

 

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Learning Something New – Dottishop’s Hello Spring Kit

So I was lamenting to a friend that I was much more productive when my boys were younger. I remember baking cookies till the wee hours for sales when I was heavily pregnant with my elder boy and running charity project during my second pregnancy. I ran an online store selling baby stuff. I did my own product shooting, order tracking and delivery while juggling household chores, cooking and tending to a demanding baby. I had just quit my job to become a stay at home mom and felt the need to fill my time with ‘productive’ work. Work with tangible rewards that could be measured by dollars and cents unlike those that comes from scrubbing the bathroom tiles, the endless cooing to your newborn and watching him try his first food.

More than a decade on, my boys now spend most part of their days in school. I now have a big pocket of time in the morning where I can devote it to me, myself and I. Ironically, with the extra time on hand, I wasn’t half as ‘productive’ as I used to be. I realised that I might have finally figured out what it means to be a ‘lady of leisure’ but now having too much of a good thing is beginning to worry me! Such irony!

My friend and I joked that we should pick up a new skill, learn something new to get our brain active and prevent our grey matter from degenerating. Even with this study, I wasn’t totally convinced that just regular exercise will be good enough.

My friend is an avid online learner. She learned and refined many of her craft skills online. Inspired by her, I did the same and signed up for some painting classes and thought that that would be a good start. Unfortunately, there is always something more urgent to do on a weekday morning. I never find the time and discipline to go through those videos!

Then recently I found out about Dottieshop’s Hello Spring Kit, which comes with step by step instructions for painting spring blooms such as cherry blossoms and roses. I was really eager to try out the kit yet at the same time worried that I might not be up to it.

I have known Dorothea through a group of mother bloggers and have been really inspired by her works on water colour painting and brush calligraphy. She has been really encouraging even when I told her that I have never done water colour painting before and was kind enough to trust me to do a review for her kit!

One of the things that baffles me when it comes to the different kinds of painting was getting the appropriate materials to get started. From choosing the type of paint brush to figuring out what kind of paper and paint to use. The Hello Spring Kit has EVERYTHING to help me get started!

Being a total noob, I was really intrigued by the water brush that came with the kit.

A water brush has a reservoir of water that is attached to the brush. The amount of water you feed to the brush/paint can be controlled by squeezing the barrel of water. What makes a water brush really cool is that artists can paint on the go without having to carry a water container around!

I initially worried that the choice of colours that came in the palette were too dark and dull. To my surprise, each blob of dull paint changed into lovely beautiful colour once water was added.

It just so happens that a good friend was celebrating her birthday this month and I decided to paint something for her from the Hello Spring kit which illustrated some of my favourite flowers.

Dorothea’s instructions were brief and concise and I especially like the fact that she has very clear pictures of how the leaves and petals were supposed to look like. Still, it wasn’t easy to get the strokes and colours right. I fumbled with how much water to squeeze to get the right colour tone. I figured out that it was much easier to just draw the shape of each petal and fill them with colours!

After a morning of mixing colours and experimenting, I managed to churn out what looked like an amateurish mish mesh of everything.

Unlike my usual adrenaline pumping aerobic work out, a morning spent working on this kit was really calming and therapeutic. I was so engrossed and focused on what I was doing that my legs turned numb from sitting too long in the same position without shifting!

It was especially satisfying to see the different blobs of paint come together, creating a decent looking piece of work and I especially love the colours that Dorothea has chosen for the palette!

I realised that I will require many more sessions of practice before I could perfect my flowers and leaves but for now, I gonna make up to my friend with a cutesy bouquet of REAL flowers and just hope she doesn’t notice the flaws in my painting! Shhhh!

The Hello Spring kit includes instructions for painting cherry blossoms, roses and Japanese anemones, quality watercolour paint, palette, water brush, and watercolour paper. Everything comes in a pretty pink folder, so you can bring everything with you on-the-go! Each set is $46 and only available for self-collect – to order email dottieshop@gmail.com

You can follow Dottieshop on Facebook and Instagram.

 

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