Who has ever seen a Cat Star?

cat star

By Simona Moundrouvaliss.moundrouvalis@gmail.com


This is a creative tool 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 in Vicenza, a city in the northeast of Italy, and I hope it will reach many houses all around the world.

Many different stars will born and they will be unique as every human being.

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.

You can download the template clicking here and then print it; you can also 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 kind of surfaces (cardboard , cloth, tinfoil, etc.).

There are no limits about techniques and materials! 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 learning journey.

I would like to share with you some words 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.

P.S. Simona Moundrouvalis is a graphic designer from Vicenza, Daniele’s mother, curious researcher.

She designed this idea while taking a private class by RobertapucciLab about creative workshops. The Cat Star of the cover image is by Daniele (7 years old). Welcome Simona and thanks for sharing!


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

During the winter, seeds slowly absorb nourishment underground. No hurry, until the next spring they will be ready to sprout. I would like to invite you to celebrate this life circle with a creative activity. It can also represent a kind of collective work for celebrating the rebirth and the new beginning that follows each end.

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

Each coloured dot represents 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. Colour 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 colour-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 is it going to move and to connect to the other seeds?

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!

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

Copying or Inventing?

cardboard trees

What do you think about “copying”? Is it useful, boring, comfortable? What about learning something by following the instructions? How important is the knowledge of the technique and what is its role in the creative process? These interesting questions can open a broad discussion both in the artistic and educational context, looking for the right balance between rules and freedom, between structured activities or guided workshops and an open studio setting.

 

I don’t think one choice can be always right. Let’s consider a concrete example: a very simple, popular technique which consists of joining some pieces of cardboard or other material by inserting them through cuts (see the image below).


Image from the book “Così per gioco” by Elve Fortis de Hieronymis

This techique can be explored through endless possibilities, themes and variations, from the most basic activities of children books (like the image above) to the higher art works, like the cardboard animals by the designer Junzo Terada published by Chronicle Books or the futurist flowers by Giacomo Balla (images below).

Knowing these works, you could choose to copy one of them or to invent a new one, applying the technique in a creative way. I think no choices are definitively “good” or “bad”. In fact, “copying” does not necessarily implies laziness or lack of ideas. Sometimes it comes from a need of security, reassurance or imitation as a social strategy, from wanting to learn or strength a skill or a knowledge.

Creating something new is not necessarily related with the context and consistent with the goal of the activity, as in the following case. I designed the cardboard animals below for a workshop in a women’s prison. After the workshops, participants could sell their cardboard animals to earn some money. They were not interested in creating new ones, but to build the maximum number of nice animales in their limited time available. Thus, I think the question is not about copying vs inventing. The central core is the reason, the meaningfulness of the choice, its accessibility and connection with the context.

For example, what about the white plants of the cover image, inspired by the futurist flowers? I created them for a preschool’s opening: a celebration and collective event where an extemporary “garden” of great effect was very appropriate. I copyed the ​flowers by Giacomo Balla but also re-contextualized them according to the new context, and changed them through new variations of size, shape and function. In fact, visitors could create paper flowers in the dedicated workshop and then put them in the cardboard plants (by fixing brads in the plants’ holes).

The same idea can be offered in other ways, depending on other needs. In the case of the “Literary Forest” (see the image below), it was set up for the birthday of a public library. Each tree was dedicated to a poet and had some sheets of paper with poems in its branches. The participants of the workshop chose a poem, cut it out and use the words to decorate some special flower-pencils.

Of course, flowers and animals are not the only possible themes. The architect Francesco Bombardi used this technique for his research about wood finger-puppets. In this case, digital tools can support children’s work by allowing them to immediately cut their puppet drawing from the wood surface, so that everyone will have their puppet and will interact with others.


All these thoughts are also part of a wider picture: what value does our social, cultural background assign to tradition and innovation ? Our usual, implicit way of using techniques and examples – following what we already know rather than exploring the unknown – is influenced by this 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 Estella Guerrera. When you know very well how to do something, you have – at least – two choices: continuing the same way or breaking the pattern and using your skills to do something different. Both ways make sense, but this apparent dichotomy confronts us with the concept of risk and “evolutionary change”. In the psychology of the life cycle, we are called to precisely pronounce ourselves on these issues, during the different life stages: do you stay that way (“knowing to know”) or do you change and risk failure?

Both tradition (so repeating, copyng) and change play an important role in life: can you dance between these opposite sides without being stuck in one position? Here is how a technique can even provide us a meaningful metaphor for exploring our creative and life processes.

 

Would you like to freely receive the templates of the bunny and the rocking bird?

Subscribe to the newsletter and write your request to info@robertapuccilab.com

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!

Paper theaters for traveling workshops

I am emotionally attached to this little theatre, one of the first paper objects I designed and self-produced. It is a kit for traveling collage workshops, with both a practical and aesthetic-scenographic function. If closed, it becomes a kind of easy-to-carry folder, which contains the materials for the workshop. If opened, it becomes a theater. The side horizontally positioned becomes a “stage” where some paper are placed and made available for the activity. The vertical sides show some examples of works made with the same kind of paper. It would be optimal to have a certain number of theaters dedicated to different types of paper: for example only white paper (or black and white), colored, from smooth to rough, metallic, semi-transparent, textured, etc.

A collage-theater for black and white paper, and one for colored paper

The following drawing represents the construction scheme. The dashed lines correspond to foldings (consider the thickness of the cardboard while folding). The circles indicate the points that must be pierced and joined (using automatic push-buttons or “split pins”).

The construction-scheme of the collate-theater
The assembly steps

The photos below show how to close the theater so that it becomes a sort of folder. After having completely opened the structure, the “stage” (the horizontal side) is turned upwards; the side parts are first folded in half and then towards the center.

The closing steps

The theaters offer a panorama of the specific expressive characteristics of different types of paper with a great visual impact, stimulating curiosity and experimentation. No need for much explanation … The curtain opens and the scissors dance can begin!

Two collage-theaters

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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Collecting precious findings

a paper, scenographic binder-displey to collect and show precious findings

What is this object for? Collecting, transporting and displaying small two-dimensional findings – pieces of paper, fabrics, leaves, tickets, musical scores, precious fragments, memories. It can also be a scenographic support for telling stories, using the findings as clues that accompany the story sequences. In the pictures below you can see the “cut-and-fold” technique and the scheme used to make the structure.

A paper archive to collect and show small precious findings

Two “collectors” can be joined together by gluing the vertical sides, in order to have more findings available and to make the structure more stable. It is also preferable to glue a cardboard (with a central fold) on the two sides (that are the horizontal base), to facilitate closing and opening. The archive flattens out like a book and can be easily transported, despite its big size when opened that makes it very scenic and effecting.

Using this tool or other kinds of collectors, a tiny fragment becomes precious. It can also stimulates the theoretical reconstruction of imaginary objects that Bruno Munari describes in his book “Obvious Code”. What can arise from fragments of remains, following a random investigation method on forms, materials and structures? Not scientific reconstructions, but freely suggested by the fragment itself and scrupulously completed by the imagination, in order to make the entire imagined object visible.


And what about you? What kind of collectors do you prefer? You are welcome to explore and share!

Imaginary Identity Investigations

Playing with different identities

This workshop holds together symbolic play and creative activity, imagination and reality. Children are invited to invent a character that will gradually begin to take a concrete shape, through the transformation of a real person. It is a very powerful, almost magic process, within a protected “pretend” setting. I proposed it for the first time in a stand of a public event dedicated to women. My collegues and I arranged the stand as a theater dressing room, full of clothes and accessories. An educator and an actress supported the children along all the process. You could also try this activity at home with your children or in your classroom, using your wardrobe and becoming an actress/actor for a day. Let’s see how it works.

Children are invited to invent an imaginary character (in this case, it was a female character, for being attuned to the theme of the event): who is she? How old? What’s her name? Where does she live? How does she look like? What does she like? They can list and describe all these informations in a special identity card.

Fictional identity cards

When the character is well defined, children can start to “materialize” her. They choose every detail and give precise instructions to an adult or child previously selected for this role (in this case she was an actress).

The person starts to trasform into the character, as if she was a material to be modeled: clothing, look, facial expression, posture, make-up, accessories – carefully listening to the instructions of the child and following the informations of the identity card.

Children can choose different kind of objects, clothes, makeup, clothing accessories or create some specific stuff with the available materials (papers, cardboard, fabrics, tapes…) – for example hats, tools, nails, jewelry, etc.

imaginary driver-character
Imaginary supply teacher character
Imaginary mermaid character

The last step consists in taking some pictures of the actress after the transformation, and choosing the best for representing the personality of the character. The chosen picture should be printed and eventually put in a frame specially created by children, inspired by the photo.

An amazing gallery of portraits will take shape over time! And it will be very interesting to observe the potential endless transformations of the same person through imagination.

Many thanks to the actress Cinzia Ferri, to the pedagogista Gina Iacomucci and the educator Valentina Tonucci.


You are welcome to share your identity transformations…
Enjoy!

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