Who has ever seen a Cat Star?

cat star

It is the first time and my great pleasure to welcome a special guest to RobertapucciLab blog. Simona Moundrouvalis is a graphic designer from Vicenza, Daniele’s mother, curious researcher.

She designed this idea during a RobertapucciLab personalized course and will present it herself. Welcome Simona and thanks for sharing one of your beautiful creative projects!

Who has ever seen a Cat Star?

By Simona Moundrouvaliss.moundrouvalis@gmail.com

This is a creative starting point you can use to invent infinite kind of stars, as there are infinite stars in the Universe and equally endless ways to imagine them. It was presented for the first time in a Public Library Library in Vicenza, a city in the northeast of Italy, and I hope now it is going to arrive in many houses, all around the world.

Many different stars will be born from and they will be unique as every human being express herself in a unique way.

How were the very first stars born in the Universe? Where they come from?

A simple and clear explanation I really like, is the following by the “Lady of the Stars”, the extraordinary scientist and astrophysicist Margherita Hack:

There are no certainties in science. We try, with experiment and observation, to discover the laws that govern the Universe. […] Studying it and observing it, we discovered that, once upon a time, the Universe was small, small, small and hot, hot, hot. Then, it began to inflate like a balloon and the temperature started to drop and stars formed. And after thousands of thousands of thousands of years it has become what we know today.

From “20 Ways to Draw a Star and 44 Other Far-out Wonders from the Sky and Galaxy” by Sally S. Swindell and Nate Padavick

How drawing a star?

As a starting point, I have borrowed an idea by the great designer Bruno Munari, from his book “Fantasia”:

A leaf can be explored to make its hidden relationships visible.

Starting from the tracing of an oak leaf, Munari has drawn its outline and got out of it a pattern made up of dots. Then he has connected these points in many different ways, creating different relationships between them.

Everyone will find their own shapes but always in relation to the leaf. (…) The variations are personal and infinite.

Picture from the book “Fantasia” by Bruno Munari

I am going to propose to you a set of dots myself, that I got starting from the expansion of a central point: that small and hot material point that has exploded into a myriad of points, through rotations around its center, with progressively greater radii… BIG BANG!

Now try to connect the dots. There are endless possibilities! For example, you can start joining some points to create a closed shape: a 4, 5, 6, 10-pointed star …

Here are some of the possible shapes, which can be traced with the help of a ruler or freehand (varying the type of line).

Starting from the same basic scheme, very different shapes will come out: small or large, symmetrical or asymmetrical, common or bizarre, straight or crooked, simple or complex, through your personal, creative exploration.

The shapes can also be combined with each other to create more complex structures. I created the following examples by choosing some dots in a symmetrical way.

To facilitate those wishing to get regular shapes, I recommend highlighting some dots from time to time.

You can play by drawing lines, simple or broken, parallel or incident, horizontal or vertical. Using transparent paper, you can overlap different shapes to create more complex ones.

You can also create compositions by combining different geometric shapes, symmetrically or randomly.

The template can be download clicking here and printed in many copies, or you can create a stencil by piercing the dots with an awl (preferably on cardboard), in order to use it several times and possibly transfer the points also on different types of paper or other supports (cardboard , cloth, tinfoil, etc.).

As far as techniques and materials, there are no limits! The lines can be traced with markers, pencils, pastels, chalks. Shapes can be filled by colors or cut and eventually joined together with a brad. You can also create a stencil with the clipped template and, for example, use it with a sponge soaked in paints.

Another way is transfering the pattern onto a wooden board and place some tacks or pins on the chosen points to create intertwining wires, thin iron wire or pipe cleaners; or you can embroider the lines with needle and thread, on cardboard or felt.

Here are the stars created with my son Daniele during a rainy weekend. My favorite is the cat-star that stands out among all for that special fantasy, typical of children, that always amazes me!

If we let a beam of light pass through the holes of the stencil in the dark… we will all meet again in the space! Enjoy your exploration!

I sincerely thank Roberta, for hosting me on RobertapucciLab and, above all, for having accompanied me with her teachings and experience in a so inspiring journey.

I would like to share a wish by Margherita Hack that impressed me for her “scientific poetry” and that, during difficult times, can bring us closer to each other:

We all have a common origin, we are all children of the evolution of the Universe, of the evolution of the stars, and therefore we are really all brothers.

We are made of matter that has been created inside the stars. All the elements, from hydrogen to uranium, have been made in the nuclear reactions that take place in supernovae: these stars, much larger than the Sun, at the end of the their lives explode and scatter in the space the result of all the nuclear reactions that took place within them. Thus, we are all really children of the stars.

Aldo’s Tiny Houses

tiny paper houses

This is a short true Christmas story. It begins with a memory and ends with a gift for whoever will read it.
Childhood memories are made of objects, materials, smells, colors. In one of my best ones, there are some tiny houses for the Nativity scene that my father built with cardboard of shoe boxes and then painted with tempera colors.
Trying to relive that feeling again, I built some similar houses my way, using materials that were familiar to me: paper, pencil, squares, colored pencils, glue stick, scissors, magazines.

Aldo’s houses had small lights inside and holes in the walls for windows and doors. This detail recalls another image: my sister and I in the back seats of the car, on Sunday evening, looking at the houses quickly sliding along the way. Each house had its own story, or rather it was a a microcosm, a container of stories. Their attraction was irresistible: it passed through the lighted windows and pressed my face against the car window glass.
All of this could not be missing in my paper houses: a thin thread of lights passed through the windows holes and, if necessary, was adjusted through the roof opening.

But also some innovations have appeared in my remake, like unexpected shadows inside when the lights turn on, plants, animals and roomers, tiny collage details in the outer walls.

There is an inside and an outside in every home:

you can come and go,
much comes out of what is inside, but not everything;

much comes in of what is outside, but not everything,
sometimes it stops at the door and stands there, but nobody opens…

I suddenly recalled this poem by my friend Giusi Quarenghi.

I found them quite nice but too light and even too pleased with the meticulous engravings: they didn’t look nothing like Aldo’s ones (maybe looking a little like “me”?). My disappointment was great: they lacked the material, the thickness, the roughness, the earth colors, the imperfect of reality.

So what to do? I looked for the original ones and found some inside a cathode ray tube television, where many years ago my father built an anti-cat Nativity scene, reusing some old stuff.

I finally refound everything was missing in my new houses: a support base, the consistency of the cardboard, a deliberately rough finishing, the naturalness of asymmetry. I discovered many details, so that I could imagine how thoughts and hands worked together in the creative process.

What should a house be like? A special building project came to my mind: a district of Correggio, a small town near Reggio Emilia, where a group of houses were designed together with children. Transparent, hard outside, soft inside, large, playful, decorated, intimate, peaceful, magical: these were the most important qualities of a home according to the opinion of the involved children.

Maybe that’s the point: we need different, even opposite qualities, which compensate each other and respond to different needs. Thus, everyone can bring their own qualities to their houses. What are yours? What kind of house will come out from your hands?
Big or small, silent or noisy, wooden or stone’s, stable or mobile, a nest, a cave, a tent, or a “terra cotta” one…

The story is over, but could go on. The opening roof can turn the house into a small box: what will it contain? If you would like to build your own one, just subscribe to the newsletter and write your request to info@robertapuccilab.com.
So good luck to all the home creators.
Many thanks to my father Aldo for his magical playhouses, to Ivan for digitizing the template, to all the home keepers, visible and invisible.

Every color-seed can blossom

Winter is a natural time of rest, silence, stillness. Underground seeds slowly absorb nourishment. No hurry, waiting for their renaissance the next spring. I would like to invite you to welcome this special time of the year. Consider it a kind of collective ritual to celebrate the rebirth and the new beginning that follows each end.

First, let’s prepare what needed. Cover the entire surface of a table with a sheet of paper (better if a 200 gram cardboard) and fix it so that it will not move. Then draw randomly scattered colored dots on the sheet. Finally, display some artistic materials on another table or support (markers, colored pencils, oil or wax crayons, watercolors, etc.). A variable number of people of all ages can participate, but it is also possible to have a more intimate and contemplative experience on your own. Of course, the size of the table will be proportional to the number of the participants.

Each colored dot is like a seed that, after resting for the whole winter, is now ready to bloom and expand into whatever shape, not necessarily the realistic shape of a flower. Color can finally release its energy and flow, occupying a space. Each partecipant can move around the table and choose a seed at a time.

How can the chosen color-seed you grow up and develop? Try to listen to it, to leisurely observe it for a moment… What is its expansion strategy? Through points, lines, areas, shapes? How and where is it going to move?

The development of any plant element depends on both the seed and the soil where it is located. Similarly, signs and shapes will be influenced by both the artistic tools used for drawing and the type of paper that covers the table. For example, on a smooth paper markers will trace a kind of line different than on a rough or wet paper.

Very different shapes will probably emerge and will gradually occupy the space of the sheet, getting closer to each other. How do they react?

Finally, the whole sheet will turn into a large flower garden. The work can be considered completed when all participants are satisfied with the result and perceive an overall harmony of the composition.

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Above all, do not rush. You cannot force any blade of grass to grow …
Enjoy the spring!

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Many thanks to Adriana, Antonella, Rita and Viviana for the garden in the picture above.

About Copying and Inventing

cardboard trees

What do you think about “copying”? Is it anti-creative making a product by following the instructions? How important is the knowledge of the technique? What is its role in the creative process? This are far from obvious questions, which can open a discussion in art and educational sphere as well, between the function of rules and free exploration, between structured and unstructured activities.

I don’t think there is a choice that is always right. I would rather like to open a reflection starting from a concrete example. Let’s consider a very simple and well-known technique, which consists of joining some pieces of cardboard (or another material) by inserting them through cuts at the ends of each piece.

It is illustrated in the image above, taken from a book I really loved in my childhood, “Così per gioco …” by Elve Fortis de Hieronymis. But there are infinite applications of this technique also on the artistic level: from the futurist flowers by Giacomo Balla (1918-1925) to the animals by Junzo Terada published by Chronicle books, just to name a few (you can see in the images below).

If you know these sources, you could decide to copy one of the models or to invent a new one, thus applying the technique in a creative way. I think neither of these two choices is absolutely “good” or “bad” at all. In fact, sometimes “copying” does not necessarily result from laziness, but from some particular emotional or cognitive need (of security, strengthening knowledge, imitation as a social strategy, etc.). Furthermore, a new creative reworking does not always correspond to a relevant objective of the context.

For example, I designed these animals for a workshop in a women’s prison. Participating women could sell the cardboard animals to earn some money: they were not interested in creating new ones, but to build the maximum number of nice animales in the limited time available. Thus, I think the question is not about copying vs inventing, but about the reasons of the choice, its accessibility and connection with the context.

Another example: for celebrations and collective events, an extemporary garden with large “futurist” plants can be a functional exhibition of great effect. In the photo above of a preschool’s opening, you can see how the original idea of ​​futurist flowers has been “copied” but in the meantime re-contextualized and, according to the new context, variated through new size, shapes, mode of use. Visitors – both children and adults – could stop and make paper flowers for the trees.

The same idea of ​​“futurist plants” can be proposed in different ways, depending on where they are placed. In the case of the “Literary Forest”, set up for the birthday of a public library, each tree was dedicated to a poet. I had inserted some sheets of paper with poems in the branches (through cuts) and the participants of the workshop could choose a poem, cut it out and use the words to decorate some special flower-pencils.
But let’s go further: of course, flowers and animals are not the only thematic application of this technique. Unexpressed potential can be explored to respond to new needs and contexts. For example… a big game with a path on the ground to be crossed by jumping (you see in the picture below), during a children festival dedicated to the movement playing.

What value does your social, cultural background assign to tradition and innovation ? Our implicit way of using the technique – following what we already know rather than exploring the unknown – is influenced by this further fundamental aspect.

If you reach a high level of a creative techique, you know that, at a certain point, you will find yourself along a continuum between adherence to the canon, on the one hand, and free experimentation, on the other, explains the psychotherapist and art therapist Estella Guerrera. When you know how to do something very well (or let’s say “well enough”) you have, at least, two perspectives: continuing to do it in the same way or breaking the pattern, using your skills to do something different. Both ways make sense, but this apparent dichotomy puts us in contact with the concept of “evolutionary change” and with the concept of risk. In the psychology of the life cycle, we are called to precisely pronounce ourselves on these issues in the various existential phases: do you stay that way (and “you know to know”) or do you change and risk of failure?

I would like to offer you a small gift which is in the same time a kind of provocation. If you ask it by e-mail to info@robertapuccilab.com, I will send you the templates of the bunny and the rocking bird, which you can copy and build with cardboard. After that, I invite you to invent a new animal or any other subject, figurative or abstract, with the same technique. Which experience did you like most? Which was simpler? Which would you propose in your educational contexts, how and why?

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You are very welcome to share your works and reflections. Enjoy!

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Details are treasures: how finding them?

Looking for details

Details are like treasures that we always have before our eyes, but which often – we adults – cannot see. Instead children find them easily, it’s their natural way of looking. They can be our teachers. Thus, the invitation is to play this “detail hunt” together with children. The starting point can be any image. However, as autumn has just begun with its wonderful colors, nature offers us excellent ideas. And it might be a good idea choosing images of familiar places, which we are not used to observe any more, also taking the pictures together with children.

Looking for details

To prepare the game, you need two prints of the same picture, preferably in big format. Cut out from a white cardboard a “window”, that will be the frame through which you will observe the image. Then cut one of the prints into many parts of the same shape of the window: these parts are the details you should look for in the entire image (using the frame).

A piece of the trunk of a tree

It could become a board game or a calendar, just as the original project created for some Italian preschools, collaborating with the photographer Marco Andreani, author of the photographs.

A calendare with pictures' details

Is “the lawn” what we see or do we see a blade of grass plus a blade of grass plus a blade of grass…? What we say “seeing the lawn” is only an effect of our rough and coarse senses; a set exists only because it is made up of distinct elements. No need to count them, the number does not matter; what matters is to grasp the individual seedlings one by one in a single glance, in their particularities and differences. And not just seeing them: thinking of them. Instead of thinking “lawn”, think of that stem with two leaves of clover, that lanceolate leaf a little hunched, that thin corymb … Italo Calvino, “Palomar”

blades of glass

Enjoy your detail hunt!

The Characters Box: a tool for inventing stories

the little hedgehog and the rainbow

Where can you begin to invent a story? There are endless possible starting points: one is this box. It contains “characters” catched from picture books for children. Here is how doing it. Look for a book with a character that appeared in different pictures, with various facial expressions and body positions. Then photocopy all these figure variations, cut them out (isolating them from the background) and put them in a small, nice box.

Characters from picture books

This special box could be placed next to the writing-drawing tools and freely used by children. However, it is better if you initially present it to children as a very special, intriguing thing. “What is going to be inside? Who will come out from it?” When the character comes out, children are usually surprised and curious. Then, you can wonder and investigate together: who is he? What is she doing? What’s his name? Where does she live?

Invite children to take cues from the various facial expressions and postures of the figures, trying to imagine what may have happened to the character: why has he become sad? Where is she running? Who’s chasing her? What is he looking for? Who is she angry with? After children defined some features and events, you can also propose to deepen these elements by seeking information through books or other sources. For example, if the character lives in the ocean, why don’t look for books or web images about marine environments?

The story will slowly begin to take shape, until it will be completely defined. At this point, you can invite children to draw it, sticking the photocopies of the character in the right places. In addition to pencils and markers, you can eventually provide some colored papers and recicled fabrics. If there is a group of children, suggest every child to draw a different sequence, in order to represent the whole story.

Finally, all the drawings can be joined into a small book, with the cover, the title and the name of the authors. Children will be very proud of it… After a first experience like this, the box could be left freely available in the classroom or at home, and periodically present a different character: every new character is a surprise!

One day, Crocolou decides to go for a swim at the lake. But as he dives, a crocodile comes out of the water and bites him on his forehead.

Lupodrillo fighting against the wolves

Crocolou calls his wolf friends to help him. The wolves arrive and fight against the crocodiles. At the end of the fight, all wolves and crocodiles are full of bites and fall to the ground from exhaustion, so no one wins.

Lupodrillo coming back home

While the wolves and the crocodiles are fighting, Crocolou managed to escape to his grandmother’s house. The grandmother has prepared an inflatable pool for him, but Crocolou is now a little afraid of diving because the crocodile comes to his mind. In the end he dives.

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Many thanks to Nadhir, Riccardo and Giuseppe, authors of Crocolou story and to the authors of the characters, Ophélie Texier for Crocolou and Vincent Bourgeau for the little imp in the book “La boite à Jules”.

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You are very welcome to share your stories!

Enjoy!

Have you ever seen a walking flower?

A paper flower-hat for children

Many years ago, while walking, I met a very special street hatter. He did not sell anything, but teached how to make flower-shaped hats. Many models and shaped pieces of paper were neatly arranged in his colorful stand, ready to be assembled. Everyone could stop and choose their favorite one, the shape of the petals, the colour combinations.

Would you like to try? A hat is a serious thing. Thus, take your time. There are endless possibilities of variations, so every flower will be unique, even if just for a detail.

Look closer, care in the choice, slow down, observe the object while it is taking shape: the creative process is a bit magical and will make the hat a special, precious object. Walking flowers will begin to spread in the streets…

As in nature, despite an infinite variety, the basic principles of construction are few and simple. The following pictures show you the three main techniques, that the street hatter showed me in exchange for one icecream and seven glass marbles.

The variations of the model n.1 and n.3 concern petals (the shape, the dimensions, the color and the sequence), while in the model n.2 you can choose the color of the dome base, the shape and the size of leaves or petals on the top.

You can also give a name to your flower and create one for each member of your family or friends.

If you like to, you are welcome to share it by e-mail or Facebook, to enrich the walking-flowers catalogue.

Enjoy!

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A special day for Dolphy, the water-dog

a water dog is swimming

A journey through sea, land and sky. Looking for what? Maybe for a friend or a place where feeling home. There are no words, everybody can tell the story in her own way.

The fish-dog is escaping from some small red fisches, then hides behind a seaweed
 The fish-dog is walking and thinking of the moon, missing it.
The FIsh-dog is reaching the solid groung, looking for the moon.
The Dog-fish finally finds the moon and admires it.
The Fish-dog meets a Cat-fish that helps him to touch the moon with his nose.
The Fish-dog's noise lit up touching the moon. The Fish-dog finds an envelope in his mailbox.
The fish-dog goes home and lights up the house with his noise.

If you would like to freely receive the high resolution pdf with Dolphy’s story (for private use only), just subscribe to the newsletter and then write your request to info@robertapuccilab.com

Enjoy!

For other commercial uses or publishing Copyright please contact me at roberta@robertapuccilab.com

Many tiny rainbows make a big one

a cardboard rainbow built in a collective workshop

I hope this idea can offer a useful metaphor in a time when physical distance is still a very present theme: we are part of something bigger and of a community, even if we created our contribution alone or together with a very small group. What is a Rainbow Construction Site? It is a workshop, a party and a celebration at the same time, with no age limit. It will be up to the organizer to optimize spaces and materials according to the number and characteristics of the participants, for example by arranging areas where the individual or a couple can work on his piece. Therefore, I suggest you to take cues flexibly from these images, considering that it was part of a pre-Covid public event several years ago.

Each participant (or small group) is given a special shaped piece of white cardboard: a small but very important piece, because finally it will be part of a large whole rainbow. Partecipants are invited to colore their pieces on both sides. As far as type and number of colors, there are endless possibilities. In this case, I chose three colors to keep in the same order (green, yellow, red). Among the available materials: various types of paper and colored surfaces, fabrics, ribbons, tapes, scissors, vinyl glue and brushes.

Now let’s see how to build the basic structure that should be ready before the workshop. Choose the dimensions of the rainbow and put on the floor a big enough sheet of paper (or more sheets joined toghether). Draw the two big arcs with an artisanal compass (a rope with a pencil attached to one hand and the other end fixed to the center of the subtended circumference). Divide the arcs in a number of equal parts with vertical lines (the rainbow in the photofraph is divided in 14 parts, the one in the picture below in 8 parts). Finally, add the vertical “legs” of the structure below the arches: the scheme is ready.
Another solution consists in hanging the big sheet of paper and tracing the outline of a projected image of the structure drawing (previously drawn smaller).

The drawing of the structure of the rainbow

Now you can cut the rainbow parts, trace them on a thick cardboard and cut them again. Finally, draw other parallel curved lines in order to divide three (or more) areas for different colors. The structure is ready for the workshop!

Finally, the organizer will join all the pieces together using transparent tape and leaving between them a distance equivalent to the thickness of the cardboard. In this way, the structure can be folded in many ways, becoming self-supporting or even “flat”, if needed.

Different shapes you can fold the rainbow

I primarily designed this workshop for a public event in a square, where people could freely stop and work for as long as they wanted. But could also be suitable for various collective contexts and celebrations, for example in schools, both with known or unknown people. So new Rainbow Construction Site could be temporarily set in many places around the world… Would you like to try? You are welcome to share your rainbow pictures sending them to info@robertapuccilab.com.
Enjoy!

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