Archive for the ‘Art Education’ Category

Back To School: 3 Easy Ways to Encourage Creativity Everyday

Monday, September 29th, 2014

Our mission here at Artterro is to help people tap into their natural creativity.  We believe every child is born creative, and it’s never too late to rediscover your innate artistic ability.

That mission is especially important these days; it’s a serious challenge to maintain your creativity when life gets busy, school is more demanding than ever, and kids’ schedules are so packed.  Another barrier is our own self-doubt.  We hear parents say all the time, “I’d love to help my kids do more art at home, but I’m not artistic, so I don’t know how to help them.”   Even worries about household tidiness and safety get in the way sometimes–art materials can seem like a dangerous mess in the eyes of some adults.

Some are calling the current state of affairs a crisis in creativity: “In a 2010 study of about 300,000 creativity tests going back to the 1970s, Kyung Hee Kim, a creativity researcher at the College of William and Mary, found creativity has decreased among American children in recent years. Since 1990, children have become less able to produce unique and unusual ideas.”

Of course, as parents we don’t always control how much art our kids are exposed to at school (although we can certainly do our best to support our local arts programs!), and after-school homework and extracurricular activities can dominate the family schedule.  But we also know that art is absolutely essential to kids’ healthy development and future success.  So what can we do to improve the situation?  A lot!  And it’s not even that hard.

1. Set aside a small space for art

We’ve blogged about this before, but the basic idea is that if you keep your art supplies in an accessible place, kids will be much more likely to pick them up and start their own projects.

More details here: Make Art Happen! Setting Up A Family Art Station

And another option: Mobile Art Station

2. Set aside a little time for art

  • Encourage your kids to draw or doodle while dinner prep is happening
  • Keep art journals or sketchbooks in the car or in backpacks when you’re running errands

3. Model creativity for your kids.

  • If you take a little time to be creative and relax with a fun project, your kids will notice.  Give yourself time, even if it’s just a few minutes a day, to express yourself in your chosen medium.

Would you add anything to this list?  Please share the methods that have worked for you in the comments!

This isn’t the first time we’ve felt inspired to write about this topic.  Check out Jen’s thoughts on arts in the schools from a few years ago: Nurturing Creative Thinkers With Art Education.

Starters vs. Finishers

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”

-Marianne Williamson

There are some very creative people here at the Artterro office, including a silversmith, a mixed-media artist, a graphic designer, a paper artist and several general crafting enthusiasts.  We were recently talking about how difficult it can be to get started on a new project, and one member of our team mentioned that she has a much harder time finishing a project than she does starting one.  It got us thinking about the forces that get in the way of the creative process, and what we can do to work through them.  Here’s a Q&A with some of the artists on staff at Artterro; we hope this sparks some creative thinking for you!

Q: Are you a starter or a finisher?

Anna Lee: Finisher.

Forrest: I would say that I’m a finisher and will only start a project if I know that I’m going to be able to finish it in a reasonable amount of time. Usually a few days or week.

Shari: Definitely more of a starter.  When I have no time to do anything, I get all these ideas!  And I make lists and pull materials out and start three things at a time.  Then later I get busy with other things or run into obstacles, and most of my projects I don’t finish.  But I start A LOT of projects, even if it’s only planning for them, so I still end up accomplishing a lot.

diy jewelry holder

A recent craft project by Anna Lee: Jewelry Holder made from our packaging, handmade paper and wooden rods

Q: Do you find it difficult to pick up your tools and supplies for the first time?  Why?

Forrest: I find that I need to gather all my materials and supplies first, then let them sit on my table for a few weeks, maybe even a month before I start the project. Sometimes I find it so difficult to start a project because I need time to let it stew in my head for awhile and sometimes I need lots of inspiration. So, I use the internet to find pictures, I find Pinterest especially helpful and quick.

Shari: In some ways yes, and some ways, no.  If it’s when I’m first starting something random and getting ideas, I pick up everything and pull everything out (and essentially make a giant mess).  If it’s something I’ve been hired to do/a specific thing I know I need to do, I hesitate to start it because I’m nervous about screwing it up.  Even if it’s something I know I can do.

Anna Lee: No. Gathering supplies, tools, etc and getting started is my favorite part. I enjoy the concept/ planning/designing process a lot.

diy lavendar sachets

Lavender Sachets made by Forrest

Q: Do you find it difficult to put in the work to finish it once you’ve started an exciting new project?  Why?

Shari: YES.  Even though I love crafting, I get very distracted by all the other things I need to do (like stuff around the house, running errands, cooking, etc).  And again, I’m always nervous I’m going to screw it up.  Even though I know finishing awesome things is totally worth all the work.  Especially if it’s a surprise gift for someone.

Anna Lee: Usually yes, but mostly because I enjoy the starting process too much and tend to start too many projects at one time. This also depends on if it is an art piece or a DIY or craft project. If it is an art piece it can take me years to actually finish, as there is no real planning process, it’s just worked on when I have the inspiration, and the final vision is always changing. If it is a craft or DIY project I find it difficult to put the work in to finish if I haven’t acquired all of the necessary materials/tools/etc from the beginning. If I have missing parts I tend to put it aside for “later.”

Forrest: I find once I start a project I’m able to get it done quickly and don’t mind if it starts to take a lot more time then I originally thought. I also find that I really start to get into the process of working with materials after I start the project, then it feels more like play and less like work.

Shari, at work on a Collage Jewelry project

Q: How do you get past whatever is holding you back?

Shari: I’m not really sure.  When I have a deadline and it’s down to the last minute, I know I can’t disappoint whoever the project is for, so I forge ahead; I’ve sacrificed a lot of sleep for last-minute crafting.  Getting paid is also a good motivator.  It also helps to try to get out of the house because there are so many distractions there.  If I can bring my project to a coffee shop or a friends’ house, in some ways that helps me focus on just the project at hand.  As long as I don’t let other things there distract me!

Anna Lee: This also depends if it’s an art piece or a craft/DIY project. As far as art goes, I try stepping away from it and finding inspiration in other places…I’ll go to a museum, go for a hike, look through old pictures, etc. Or I’ll try creating something in another media; if I’m stuck on a metal art piece I might start drawing something or paint something. If it is a craft or DIY project, usually a deadline motivates me, like if some one’s birthday or a holiday is coming up and I need a gift to give. Or I’ll motivate myself to finish by imaging where the end project will go in my home, garden, etc. or ways I will use or enjoy it, and then start planning for that. For example if I’m making a purse I will start planning outfits to wear with it, or if I’m building a plant stand I’ll move other furniture and make room for it in my house.

Forrest: I like to give myself a deadline or start a project a few days before I need to give it as a gift. That way I’ll have to get it done and the pressure to get it finished will help to motivate me. I believe procrastination is a useful tool.

We hope you found it helpful to hear how some of our resident artists deal with artistic road blocks.  Feel free to give your own answers to these questions in the comments!

Art Is For Everyone (part 3): Art is Social

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Summer break is here!  It’s a great time to think about how you will incorporate art into your kids’ abundant free time.  For the next couple of weeks, we’ll be sharing some thoughts on why we create art (with kids and , and why art is such an important part of our lives.  We’re calling the series “Art Is For Everyone.”  Please share your thoughts with us in the comments!

When you think of an artist, what image pops into your head?  Perhaps a solitary figure painting on a canvas, deep in thought?  That’s certainly one example, but it’s not the only way to create art!  One of the things we encourage is art projects that involve the whole family, or a bunch of friends.  Whether you collaborate on a big project together, or each create something of your own while spending quality time in a group, you find that art can be wonderfully social.

Kids Making Art Together

Social art can take many forms: family art night, kids’ birthday party, ladies’ wine & crafting event, impromptu play dates, baby shower activities, and more.  Here’s the finished art that came out of a baby shower here at the Artterro office last summer:

Onesies Decorated with Fabric Markers

For some, art might feel like a private pursuit, and creativity might feel stronger in solitude, and there’s nothing wrong with that!  But we hope you will give social art a try, and encourage kids to enjoy art with others.  Especially for kids, art provides an opportunity to learn to collaborate with others, and to appreciate different styles and gifts that each person brings to a project.

Join us in the comments to share your favorite setting or project idea for social art!  And you can always check out our Pinterest boards for lots of inspiration!

Art Is For Everyone (part 2): Art is Relaxing

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

Summer break is coming up fast!  It’s a great time to think about how you will incorporate art into your kids’ summer break.  For the next couple of weeks, we’ll be sharing some thoughts on why we create art (with kids and , and why art is such an important part of our lives.  We’re calling the series “Art Is For Everyone.”  Please share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Image from

“Art should be something like a good armchair,

in which to rest from physical fatigue.”

-Henri Matisse

Last week we talked about the healing powers of art.  This week, we want to highlight how relaxing it can be to create something with your own two hands.  It is so lovely to slow down and focus one one project, whether it’s a huge painting, a tiny doodle, a knitted scarf or anything that starts off as raw material and ends up something else.

Needle Felting Kit by Artterro

Here’s a great project idea from a licensed family therapist, to help kids and adults alike relax through art: Scribble Drawing.  From the blog’s author, :

“One of the benefits of this activity is that it helps to focus your mind on the here and now. By turning away from worries, planning, overanalyzing, negative thoughts, etc. and focusing on the drawing, you can take a break from stress and allow yourself to relax. Another benefit of the scribble, as opposed to another approach to drawing, is that it helps to remove anxiety or perfectionism in your creative process. A scribble cannot be good or bad, so you do not need to worry about the result.”

So take a few minutes to enjoy some calm and relaxation with art.  Whether you do it with your children, or alone before everyone else wakes up in the morning, it will have  a huge impact on your state of mind.

What kind of art or craft project relaxes you most?  Feel free to share in the comments!

Art Is For Everyone (Part 1): Art is Healing

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Summer break is coming up fast!  It’s a great time to think about how you will incorporate art into your kids’ summer break.  For the next couple of weeks, we’ll be sharing some thoughts on why we create art (with kids and , and why art is such an important part of our lives.  We’re calling the series “Art Is For Everyone.”  Please share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Art Journal Collage

We create art for so many reasons: to have fun, to relax, to learn, to socialize, to teach and to simply create.  But we also believe in the healing power of art.  Self-expression is a powerful thing.  Letting your emotions come out in your art can make you feel lighter, happier and more balanced.  Which is true for kids as well!  Art can be a great tool for helping kids deal with change and loss, along with just being a fun, unplugged activity.

Art Journal Face Collage

Art may also heal in a very literal, physical sense, lessening pain and speeding recovery for people with serious conditions.  According to The Greater Good Center at the University of California Berkeley, “the artistic processes restore a sense of identity and agency that hospitalization takes away. Barb Esrig, once attended by AIM artists after a car wreck broke 164 bones in her body, now interviews Shands patients for oral histories. She says AIM (the Arts in Medicine program) ‘reminds people they’re a whole lot more than just a disease process or a diagnosis. We find out who they are outside of the hospital gown.”

Art Collage Peace Love Joy

Art therapy is a powerful tool for recovery from emotional trauma as well, as explored by the National Institute for Health.  Megan Robb, a certified art therapist at NIH’s Clinical Center, says, “When traumatic memories are stored in the brain, they’re not stored as words but as images. Art therapy is uniquely suited to access these memories.”

We believe art journaling is a powerful tool for healing through art.  It combines drawing, painting, collage, poetry, journaling, sketching and more, for a one-of-a-kind creative project.

Have you ever experienced the healing power of art?  Please share in the comments!  You could inspire someone else to explore healing through art.

Make Art Happen! Setting Up a Family Art Station

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

One of our goals for this blog is to help you incorporate arts and crafts into your family’s daily rhythm, no matter how short on time, space and experience you may be.  It really can be easy!  You don’t need a gorgeous family art studio right out of Dwell Magazine, or a walk-in closet full of high-end materials.  Just a couple of shelves or drawers, a place to sit, and a few essential, affordable supplies.  Here are some simple steps to get started:

1. Stocking Up on Art Supplies for Kids

Kids really don’t need fancy art materials when they are first learning to draw, color, and create, but they do need sturdy, quality tools that work well.  Here’s a shopping list to use as a guide.

  • plain paper
  • construction paper
  • plain journals or mixed media paper pads
  • glue sticks or white paper glue
  • coloring tools (crayons for younger kids, colored pencils and markers for older kids)
  • kids scissors (with rounded edge) for younger kids and quality scissors for older kids (make sure they are the right size)
  • storage container for paper and tools
  • recycled materials from around the house (magazines, newspaper, empty plastic containers, ribbons, wrapping paper, etc.)

2. Family Art Supply Storage

Set up a small family art station at or near a large table or in the kitchen (we find that most kids like to be near adults or other family members when they create).  This could be a freestanding cabinet, some shelves in your pantry, or a desk or end table with a drawer or two.  Here’s Forrest’s art cabinet, which is fairly large because it includes homeschooling materials as well.  Note the baskets, magazine holders and cups– feel free to be creative when you look for containers.  And don’t worry too much about being perfectly organized.  They’re art supplies, not library books!

Art supply cabinet organization

3. Make Art Happen!

Have the station where your child can easily reach it, and teach him or her how to get materials and how to put stuff away. Young kids love being independent, and it’s great to build on that skill at an early age. Drawing can be a fun and relaxing thing for kids to do in the evening when they are waiting for dinner. It’s also a great time to spend together at the end of a long day. And any time you can sit down and do a family art project with an older child or tween, it’s such a great opportunity to talk.

Let us know if you have questions about what to buy or how to organize your family art station!

More resources:

Check out all the recycled containers utilized in this organized art cabinet, from The Art of Simple blog.

Last year on the blog we talked about the convenience of having a mobile art station (for kids or adults).

A fun selection of supplies to jazz up your stock of basic essentials, on the Design Mom blog.

Crafting with Four- and Five-Year-Olds

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Our kits are designed for kids age seven and up, but we have quite a few younger customers who enjoy the kits with a parent’s help.  But how much help is appropriate? Recently Forrest was talking to the mother of a five-year-old about her experience using our kits.  She mentioned being unsure of how much to physically assist her child with the process vs. encouraging her to explore on her own.

Of course, it all depends on the child’s experience and abilities.  We know some preschoolers and kindergarteners who have the patience and dexterity for all sorts of intricate art projects!  But if your child’s fingers are just not ready for some of the trickier parts of a craft like sewing or decoupage, one great way to experience our kits is to say, “You can be the designer, and I’ll be your assistant!”

A 4- to 5-year old crafter.

How to Help

- Show & Tell: While you thread a needle, tie a knot, sew a stitch, or brush on the glue, make sure your child can see what you’re doing, and try to explain how you did it.

- Ask Questions!

What would you like to make?

What color felt or paper do you want to start with?

What beads would you like to add to make it fancy?

What color thread would you like to use?

Do you want to make an ornament to hang in your room?

I can start sewing and you can watch me, then if I thread the needle, would you like to sew a few stitches?

- Step Back: Make sure that you don’t tell the child he/she is doing something wrong.  Just keep asking questions to help the child figure out how to make their idea come to life. Creativity is problem solving, and making mistakes is part of the creative process. Frustration is a normal emotion!  Help the child move through and past these feelings. Something fun can turn into something frustrating, then turn into an important life lesson. You will find that when they complete the project they will feel great pride.

Hopefully this will help you the next time you’re crafting or sewing with a four- or five-year old.  Here are a few blog posts to check out as well: The Artful Parent and Sew Mama Sew.  Can you think of other tips that would be helpful?

Mobile Art Station

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Here in Madison, WI we started out the morning at -6 degrees, and now it has warmed up to a balmy zero!  So, it feels like the perfect day to share one of our favorite ways to stay cozy inside your house and active with art projects all winter long—make yourself a mobile art station!

Often an art and craft-filled life can have a way of taking over lots of space.  Unless you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated table or room for art, you end up packing and unpacking supplies, stashing your project away every time someone wants to use the dining room table for something less important, like say eating.  The mobile art station makes it easy to keep one project together while it’s in progress, and it frees you from being stuck in one spot.

Perfect for keeping your supplies together, wherever you are

Perfect for keeping your supplies together, wherever you are

We love this simple, light bamboo tray, with a nice lip all the way around so you won’t lose anything, and convenient handles.  Its even, smooth surface is great for laying out your designs, and it’s the perfect size to balance on your lap.  If you don’t have a tray at home, head over to your local thrift store.  A shallow basket or plastic platter could also work just fine, depending on the type of project.

Of course, we are not knocking your dining room table.  Sometimes you need lots of room to spread out, especially if you are crafting with a crowd.

Valentine Crafting on a cold winter day

Valentine Crafting on a cold winter day

Wherever you create your art, we hope you have a lot of fun while staying cozy this winter!  Stay tuned for our next few blog posts; we’ll be sharing some simple, inspiring and eco-friendly Valentine’s Day projects you’ll definitely want to try!

Bringing Art into the Community

Friday, August 5th, 2011

We’ve been having lots of fun on the road this summer, offering a free art project at all sorts of community events like the Chicago Green Festival and the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair.  It’s a great opportunity to connect with our customers and see how people of all ages and backgrounds respond to our products.  Kids light up when they see all the colorful papers and beads, and dig in without needing any instructions.  Their parents often sit down and join them, with assurance from us that it’s “not just for kids!”


Bookmark Art

Our fans prove time and again that when you start with beautiful materials, like our handmade papers…

Handmade Paper

Showing off our 100% recycled, handmade paper!

…you’ll end up with something lovely!  Here’s a colorful collage bookmark complete with threaded border:

Flower Collage Bookmark

Flower Collage Bookmark

This is definitely the most beautiful, sparkly chicken we’ve ever seen on one of our bookmarks.  Look how the artist used our textured paper to make different kinds of feathers:

Artterro Chicken Bookmark

Pretty Chicken

These young ladies spent the better part of a day at our table, proving that our kits appeal to a wide range of ages:

Artterro Fans

Artterro Fans at the Energy Fair.

Check out the detailing on this artist’s tree and river collage bookmark:

Tree & River Collage Bookmark

Tree & River Collage Bookmark

Just beautiful.  Every time we pack up to leave another fun festival or fair, we leave with renewed purpose, excited to bring creativity and open-ended art to as many people as we can!

I hope you can make it to one of our frequent community events to make something beautiful yourself!  Follow us on Facebook or Twitter to find out where we’ll be next!  Our growing company relies on word of mouth to reach new customers, so your support truly helps us bring more art and creativity to the world.  Thanks for being a part of our success!

Nurturing Creative Thinkers With Art Education

Friday, May 7th, 2010

My kids go to public school. It’s a healthy, diverse urban school a block away from our house. I love that we walk there, that it’s full of dedicated, energetic staff, and that the teachers innovate in ways to bring life to their curriculum while still adhering to state standards. In order to attain all of the state required “instructional minutes,” though, the school day is pretty heavy on the academics. My kids have one hour-long art class once a week. We are lucky compared to some schools across the country to still have a full time art teacher on staff.

It is amazing to me as an artist, mother, and business woman how little regard arts education is given in the public school system at large. Especially in times of economic difficulty, when hard budget choices need to be made, art and music programs often are first on the chopping block, seen as nonessential. These are the times we need creativity the most!

Our world continues to become increasingly complex as the global community interconnect in all sorts of ways. There is much more stimulus and information to wade through than ever before. To prepare our children to thrive as adults in this challenging future, we need to teach them how to innovate, how to think for themselves, how to express themselves and their unique ideas. Logical academic skills are useful. They are tools to use when solving problems. But generating innovative solutions to complex problems requires creativity. Kids need more art in their lives to give them opportunities to practice and develop these critical skills. Art class is not a frivolous extra, it helps kids use their academic skills in unique and holistic ways.

Part of the motivation in creating Artterro was the realization that modern kids and families are lacking these creative experiences. Even in stores, our products are unique compared to typical craft kits for kids because of their open-ended nature, the educational instructions, and most of all the high quality of the materials. This generation of parents wants to have these kinds of experiences with their kids. Many feel the need to supplement what is lacking in our schools as well as develop a more hands-on relationship with our children.  We want to help re-invigorate the love of creativity in children and families. For people to experience the satisfaction you get from making something beautiful with your own hands, to participate in the often meditative process of composing an original piece of art.

Our public schools and the dedicated teachers and administrators who nurture our children do a lot of things right. Sometimes the behemoth bureaucracies get in the way, though, and we need to use our creativity to find ways to inject more innovation and value of arts education into the system.