16 10 / 2014
Deeper Than You Imagined, by Sachiko Akiyama (featured artist in Branching Out), click for source.
If any of you follow my museum education blog, Brain Popcorn, you’ll know I’ve been working on a show that opened just a few weeks ago called Branching Out: Trees as Art. In the course of researching for that show, I was introduced to the work of Suzanne Simard, a forester who works with tree…
16 10 / 2014
And for Throwback Thursday, a reminder that October is Archaeology Month! This Saturday in Salem, for instance, there’s a public lecture about the cool railroad-related archaeology they did while constructing the new parking garage near the commuter rail. (Details here)
Originally posted on Brain Popcorn:
The month is almost over, but I can’t let it go completely by without tipping…
15 10 / 2014
It’s time for more tree-inspired fun from the Ideabox! This week we’re looking at bark (and by extension, some logs, because it is occasionally hard to get one of these without the other). As always, the Ideabox features suggestions on how to explore an everyday material in an interdisciplinary way. Suggestions are always welcome!
Science: Close-Looking and Identification of Bark
There are still beautiful leaves on the trees to help you tell your white oak from your black oak and your sugar maple from your Norway maple, but soon enough a nature walker will need to be paying attention to bark patterns to identify winter’s sleeping trees. Enter Michael Wojtech‘s book, Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast. Wojtech is a fascinating person to talk to, and very passionate about encouraging people to simply *notice* more about their environment (especially trees). He ran a great session at our Branching Out opening day involving making tree and leaf rubbings, and also using sharpies on acetate to trace the patterns of bark from close-up photographs. People described the experience as inspirational, meditative, relaxing, and addictive, which seems like a pretty good spectrum to me!
My favorite fact I learned from Michael’s book: tree bark patterns can change as a tree ages. It makes sense, of course–our skin changes, why wouldn’t a tree’s? But it makes me look at the trees I walk by every day in a whole new way.
I’m not advocating we all carry trees in our pockets, but the journal above was too adorable not to include.
I’ve already linked to cool books about bark elsewhere in this post, so I won’t belabor the point. Bark is, however, a great source for writing prompts. Wordlists about texture, color, scars, age marks, fire damage, insect damage, human damage, intersections between human construction and tree life (growing through a fence, perhaps?)–all of those can lead to powerful and imaginative writings for your students or museum visitors.
Are you teaching a unit on trees and passing up a chance to make edible bark? If so, you’re missing a grand opportunity for punning and classic snacks (“ants on a log,” anyone? I always preferred my logs ant-less. Raisins and I have a very off-again-on-again relationship.)
Here are a few tasty-looking variations on the ‘bark’ candy idea, all featuring chocolate, my favorite tree-based food:
- Peppermint Bark (speaking of classics!)
- Halloween Bark (timely)
- Mint Oreo Bark
- Almond-Cherry Bark (points for using other tree foods!)
Were you the kind of kid that picked up a stick and ran it along fences or trees on your walk through the neighborhood? Are you a percussionist at heart? You may be looking for The Raw Log Amadinda from Elemental Designs, like the one we have in the Art & Nature Center. There are a lot of fun ways to make rhythm with sticks and downed logs and tree stumps, but the extra resonance and tuning provided by the folks at Elemental Designs make this particular interactive extremely popular!
Bark is a great option for art-making. Flakes of bark picked up off the ground (never off a living tree, please!) work fantastically as collage material to give texture. Bark rubbing or tracing (as seen in the Michael Wojtech pictures above) or drawing (as in Sallie Lowenstein‘s work also above) are classic options for the budding naturalist and the artistic sketcher. For sheer visual impact, not to mention color exploration, it’s worth checking out Cedric Pollet‘s Bark book as well.
I’ve never tried printing with bark, but I’m willing to bet that with the right kind of bark, decent paint, and patience, you could come up with some beautiful textures.
And, of course, there is birchbark etching. This works best if you know exactly what you’re doing when collecting supplies, and if you’re collecting (or purchasing from someone who collects) responsibly so as not to hurt the tree. Birchbark, when peeled in winter, has a dark innermost layer that peels off with the outer bark, that when scraped away, reveals the lighter bark of summer. Artist David Moses Bridges is particularly well known around New England for his work with this material. He uses both traditional implements, such as horseshoe crab tails, and dental tools to achieve the etching effects he wants on his baskets, plaques, and other works.
And if you’re in a photographic turn of mind, PEM’s “Trees as Art” Instagram contest is running for one more week. Tag your photos with #TreesAsArt and enter to win a very fun prize pack from the PEM shop. Details here.
Do you have an inspiring way to explore tree bark? Share it in the comments below!Ideabox: Bark It’s time for more tree-inspired fun from the Ideabox! This week we’re looking at bark (and by extension, some logs, because it is occasionally hard to get one of these without the other).
10 10 / 2014
Many thanks to Rinat Harelfor inviting me to join in on this wide-ranging blog tour! I met Rinat through our Davis Square writers’ group, and was immediately impressed by the poetic intensity of her work, even though I have only read examples of her prose pieces. They are always gripping–and generally quite eye-opening, since Rinat is often inspired by events and experiences that are far…
07 10 / 2014
Allison Elizabeth Taylor’s marquetry piece, Brooklyn Navy Yard, currently on view at the Peabody Essex Museum
I spend a lot of time noticing trees these days. It’s not just that we’re having a beautiful foliage season, or that I’ve been looking forward to Branching Outfor over a year–suddenly it seems that there are stories about trees all over the airwaves, be it TV, radio, or wi-fi. Here are…
06 10 / 2014
October is a good excuse to let the spooky side of your imagination have freer range than usual. Writing prompts at group this week offered a perfect jumping off point too–this rather creepy family portrait!
Possibly once a daguerreotype?
I’ve always found the whole Portrait of Dorian Greything rather fascinating, so here’s my attempt to play with that photos-capture-your-soul concept,…
02 10 / 2014
Muse of Poetry by Alphonse Mucha, file courtesy of wikimedia commons
A good friend informed me that it is National Poetry Day in the UK today. It’s a long time until April, so one might as well enjoy a day while waiting for the month, therefore happy National Poetry Day to you all, UK denizen or otherwise. This year’s theme is ‘Remember,’ and if you’re interested in finding out what they’ve…
29 9 / 2014
Doodles are good for the brain! Zentangle-style artist trading cards by Meg Winikates
“But I’m not an artist!”
“I haven’t drawn since, like, fourth grade.”
“I so can’t draw.”
Is this you?
“I just doodle, you know. Edges of meeting notes, that sort of thing.”
“I never show people my drawings, but I’ve got books of them.”
“My parents still hang my stuff on the fridge, but that’s about it.”
26 9 / 2014
23 9 / 2014
Tomorrow is National Punctuation Day, so here’s a fun collection of punctuation celebration from the archives!
Originally posted on Brain Popcorn:
Didn’t get enough word fun on International Literacy Day? Then get ready for September 24, which is National Punctuation Day. I kid you not.
According to the official site for National Punctuation Day, this particularly exacting holiday…