16 10 / 2014

Deeper Than You Imagined, by Sachiko Akiyama (featured artist in Branching Out), click for source.

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…

View On WordPress

16 10 / 2014

Cool and Creepy Archaeology in October

mwinikates:

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…

View On WordPress

15 10 / 2014

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).  As always, the Ideabox features suggestions on how to explore an everyday material in an interdisciplinary way.  Suggestions are always welcome!

Book of bark drawings by Sallie Lowenstein, featured artist in Branching Out, Trees as Art

Clothed in Bark, book of bark drawings by Sallie Lowenstein, featured artist in Branching Out, Trees as Art

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Literature

Pear tree journal by Tanja Sova. Click for source

Pear tree journal by Tanja Sova. Click for source

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.

Culinary

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:

Music

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!

The Log Amadinda installed in the Art & Nature Center, just before opening

The Log Amadinda installed in the Art & Nature Center, just before opening

Visual Arts

Cedric Pollet's paperback maple photograph

Cedric Pollet’s paperback maple photograph

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.

Moose on birchbark, etching by David Moses Bridges, featured artist in Branching Out

Moose on birchbark, etching by David Moses Bridges, featured artist in Branching Out

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.

 instagram trees challenge

Find more tree-related Ideabox fun here:
Ideabox: Twigs
Ideabox: Leaves

Or you might want to check out:
Weird and Wonderful Watercolors
Nature in the Neighborhood

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). 

14 10 / 2014

sammaggs:

themarysue:

Ada was born in 1815, the only legitimate child of poet/loveable whack-job Lord Byron (you know, the guy who hung out with Shelley and Keats? And wrote Don Juan and Childe Harold? And then went a bit nuts and tried to take over Greece? Yeah, that guy). Ada never met her father, since he was off being kind of nuts, and her mother was like “Ada, you are ONLY learning MATH and SCIENCE lest you become like your CRAZY FATHER by indulging in EVIL POETRY.”

But you just couldn’t hold Ada down because she did what she wanted to, you know? Ill a bunch as a child (and not like, “the illest” or whatever; like, ACTUALLY sick), Ada spent a lot of time reading (shout-out to frail, shy kids that read a lot of books) and developing her interest in the sciences. But fascinated by stories of her father, Ada wasn’t all about numbers – at 12, she decided that she wanted to fly, and used her wild imagination and scientific know-how to design a pair of mechanical wings, so basically she INVENTED Steampunk. By 18, she was having an affair with her tutor (YEAH SHE DID), but Ada’s mother covered it all up by sending her to court and marrying her off to a Baron, with whom she would have three kids but WHATEVER.

But do you think Ada let the married life slow her down HELL NAW SHE DIDN’T. She loved gambling and parties, and her chillness with dudes meant she was often followed by scandalous gossip (some things never change, amiright?). Obsessed with fairies and the “unseen worlds around us,” Ada would come to describe herself as an “Analyst (& Metaphysician),” studying “poetical science,” and publishing papers about how the brain creates thoughts and how music relates to math. Holy DAMN try to tell me that’s not kick-ass because I WON’T BELIEVE YOU.

- It’s Ada Lovelace Day, So Here’s A Brief History Of Her EXTREME RADNESS | The Mary Sue

Click through to read my whole awesome history of the incredible Ada Lovelace!!

(via geekgirlvideo)

10 10 / 2014

“My Writing Process” Blog Tour

GentJrNib_tnMany 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…

View On WordPress

07 10 / 2014

Trees in the News

Allison Elizabeth Taylor's marquetry piece, Brooklyn Navy Yard, currently on view at the Peabody Essex Museum

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…

View On WordPress

06 10 / 2014

nprbooks:

Girl geeks — and really ALL geeks — should check out Laura Sydell’s piece from today’s Morning Edition, about Walter Isaacson’s new The Innovators and the forgotten female pioneers of computer programming (well, forgotten by SOME).

Isaacson begins his book with the story of Ada Lovelace, considered the mother of computer programming.

"Ada Lovelace is Lord Byron’s child, and her mother, Lady Byron, did not want her to turn out to be like her father, a romantic poet," says Isaacson. So Lady Byron "had her tutored almost exclusively in mathematics as if that were an antidote to being poetic."

She envisioned that “a computer can do anything that can be noted logically,” explains Isaacson. “Words, pictures and music, not just numbers. She understands how you take an instruction set and load it into the machine, and she even does an example, which is programming Bernoulli numbers, an incredibly complicated sequence of numbers.”

— Petra

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?

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,…

View On WordPress

02 10 / 2014

Happy National Poetry Day

Muse of Poetry by Alphonse Mucha, file courtesy of wikimedia commons

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…

View On WordPress

30 9 / 2014

abigaillarson:

It’s that time of year! Support your local bookstores and spread the creepy cheer of neil-gaiman​’s All Hallow’s Read! 

Time to break out the book-swap cauldron again, I see…

abigaillarson:

It’s that time of year! Support your local bookstores and spread the creepy cheer of neil-gaiman

Time to break out the book-swap cauldron again, I see…

(via neil-gaiman)

30 9 / 2014

azspot:

Clay Bennett: Bombs Away!

Freedom of information, the right to an education, and the importance of public libraries FTW.

azspot:

Clay Bennett: Bombs Away!

Freedom of information, the right to an education, and the importance of public libraries FTW.

(via truth-has-a-liberal-bias)

29 9 / 2014

Inktober, the Big Draw, and why you should pick up a pencil this month

Doodles are good for the brain! Zentangle-style artist trading cards by Meg Winikates

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.”

Is…

View On WordPress

26 9 / 2014

Branching Out Opens Tomorrow

The Art & Nature Center’s new show, Branching Out: Trees as Art opens tomorrow, and it’s going to be a fun day of tagua nut scrimshaw, bonsai demonstration, maple syrup and chocolate tasting, storytelling and musical performances, and more. 

Branching Out Opens Tomorrow

The Art & Nature Center’s new show, Branching Out: Trees as Art opens tomorrow, and it’s going to be a fun day of tagua nut scrimshaw, bonsai demonstration, maple syrup and chocolate tasting, storytelling and musical performances, and more. 

24 9 / 2014

explore-blog:

Marie Curie on curiosity, wonder, and the spirit of adventure in science – a wonderful remembrance by her daughter.

The world is such a wondrous place, whether you look around and see dragons in the subways or the space between atoms.

explore-blog:

Marie Curie on curiosity, wonder, and the spirit of adventure in science – a wonderful remembrance by her daughter.

The world is such a wondrous place, whether you look around and see dragons in the subways or the space between atoms.

(via pbsdigitalstudios)

23 9 / 2014

Macaroni Commas and Two Left Feet

mwinikates:

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…

View On WordPress