The Joys of Playing with Scrambled Dough

Ploytip Asawarachan, owner of Scrambled Art studio in Bangkok, Thailand, devotes her creative energies to helping young children (as young as two years old) fine-tune their motor skills and explore their imaginations. She and her staff mix batches of their own play dough (called Scrambled Dough), adjusting the recipes to the age of the children.

I asked Ploy to tell me more about her work at the studio. Here’s what she said.

MT: What are the things kids would like to create when they set their hands on Scrambled Dough?

PA: This definitely depends on their age, but we currently use Scrambled Dough with kids between 2 and 3.5 years old, which, in my opinion, is more interesting. Kids at this age still cannot identify or sometimes distinguish shapes and colors — so I do not expect them to make shapes with Scrambled Dough. What I expect (and what they like to do) is to smash, poke, pull, and squeeze the dough. My job is to create fun life-simulation activities that support those actions and make them stronger to develop fine-motor skills.

We like to play with farm animals by pretending the dough is a ranch, and to build fences by using real branches or sometimes straws. After that we make up a story about each animal and tell the story to the rest of the class. Kids at this age want to use everything that’s on the table.

The human brain can be manipulated by colors that are associated with different emotions and desires. For instance, Mc Donald’s uses the colors yellow and red. That is because yellow represents hunger, and red is the color of speed and excitement. These colors manipulate the human brain and change our perception of the situation we are in. Scrambled Dough actually uses the same concept. I create Scrambled Dough with natural coloring, avoiding bright colors, and that gives the children a calm feeling. I also avoid hard textures. In this way, toddlers can be less distracted and calm.

For more excitement and to appeal more to the imagination, I have created the Marble collection for the children to see the colors blending together while they play.

MT: What are some of the things the children say about being able to work/play with Scrambled Dough?

Most of them do not really ask about the dough — what it’s made of, or how to play with it. They actually get into the action and use all the tools that I provide. Their past experience might affect the willingness to play with the dough. For example, a bad experience during their play time at the beach might make them not want to play with the dough.

MT: Do kids interact with each other as they work on their projects? Do they tell each other things? Do they help each other out with their projects?

Yes. They are more likely to play with each other and to help each other to put different parts together.

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I found Ploy’s story inspiring, so I asked her to tell me a little about her background.

PA: As a child, I liked to draw all the time. My inspiration was my father. He always drew something on paper while I was doing my homework. His pencil left marks on the page underneath, and I traced them with my pencil. It was always a butterfly.

I grew up in a small town (population about eight thousand) called Ayutthaya in Thailand. Ayutthaya used to be the capital of Thailand before it changed to Bangkok. My life was not very exciting back then, but I could say it has changed when I decided to be an exchange student in Maine, USA in 2006. From a small-town girl who could not speak English, I was now traveling alone to a country I’d never been in. I adapted very well and explored so much! Then in 2008 I moved to Nottingham, UK as an exchange student again. It seems like I adapt myself very well and it becomes my strength. I get along and make new friends, and relish the new culture and the new environment around me. Finally, my degree took place in Sydney, Australia, a country so diverse in terms of culture and art.

All my life I’ve been busy making art and crafting things. When I was young, I was very into landscape and fine art, especially Georgia O’Keeffe’s work, but when I grew older I got a lot into improvisation with different materials from daily life, including many from nature.

MT: Thank you, Ploy, and good luck with your studio and your other projects!

Here’s Ploy’s blog.

Developing Photos with Light and Grass

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Artists Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey create portraits with living, growing grass. They germinate grass seeds, spread them over burlap slathered with water paste, and then manipulate the light they’re getting—they keep the canvases in a darkroom and project at them the light of negative images. The idea is simple enough, but it does make you embrace nature in a grand way, doesn’t it?

Here’s more about it.

Joy C Martindale’s Work with Textiles, and a Short Interview with the Artist

Joy C Martindale's work with textiles
Joy C Martindale, Here and Now I (photographic image, 2016)

Every time I visit a museum which reconstructs scenes of lived life, my attention is captured by the textiles on the mannequins. There’s something about fabrics, with their powerful colors or neutral tones, and their different types of fibers, patterns, and weaves, that appeals to me, to my interest in social history. And then there are the individual stories that we imagine when we shop in second hand stores or find discarded textiles somewhere. Joy C Martindale, an artist based in the UK, plays with all these elements, and more, in creating her textile pieces. I had a nice interview with her recently, which I’m happy to share on this blog.

Mira Tudor: Hi Joy, I have discovered your textile and photo art today on WordPress (https://joycmartindale.com) and it really spoke to me. First of all, the tenuous way in which all these found and assembled textiles hang from tree branches. I find in it an expression of our tenuous connection to nature, envisioned both as something that we are veering away from and something that will outlast us when we fall to the ground. I hope you’ll grant me a short interview, because I’d like to ask you a few questions about your work. First, do you always work with found textiles? Where do you go to look for them?

Joy C Martindale: One day in Autumn 2015 I was at my local beach and I decided to pick up some of the rubbish that was strewn about. My eye was drawn to a small woven scrap of fabric. I thought it was rather anonymous and lovely for that, and it seemed to contain a palpable energy, which I felt it must have gathered over time. I pocketed it and two very short lengths of white rope to take back to my studio. After that I began to head to the beach as often as I could to look for more material. I was surprised that I had never noticed all this fabric lying scattered about along the tideline before. Mainly I began to collect fabrics that I felt drawn to because of their colour, pattern or tactile qualities. Most of the pieces were small shreds but some things were still recognizably a shirt sleeve or a pocket or a section of a bra. Some things I find have obviously been in the sea for years and everything I pick up is dirty, smells awful and has to be washed, but I don’t mind and I feel that I am getting to know each piece through these processes. For a long while I didn’t know what to do with all this stuff that was beginning to amass in my studio but finally I decided to just go for it and I began to experiment with arranging the materials as I would the elements of a painting and sew them together.

From there I began to develop a new body of work. Central to this work in progress is a group of constructed textile pieces, which are made using a range of assemblage techniques including knotting, binding, and wrapping. There were two key factors which motivated me to work with found materials. Firstly, I was searching for a cheap alternative to painting: not only did my studio tenancy prohibit me from painting, but my toddler daughter was also accompanying me to the studio and I needed to find a way of working that I could pick up and put down again—this wasn’t painting, which I like to approach in an intensive all-out way over many long solitary hours. Secondly, I wanted to build a deeper connection to the town I was living in that I had moved to not long before the birth of my daughter: I was looking for purpose and wrestling with feelings of frustration and the desire to break out and move away. The cyclical and ritualistic process of walking along the shore and searching for materials and then working with them provided a way for me to feel both rooted and more free at the same time.

I have always felt a kind of intense passion for textiles and I have previously employed them in my work: whilst I was studying for my degree I experimented with tapestry and during my MA at the Slade I worked with strips of Melton cloth and a giant crochet hook to make large tubular wall hanging pieces. However, I haven’t really worked with them in a sustained way until now. I think I feel more confidently able to own my ideas and to take greater risks than I have done previously.

MT: What happened to painting? Have you tried combining it with your work on textiles?

JCM: I miss painting a lot and I often dream about painting. I am definitely looking forward to the time when I will be able to embrace painting again and I anticipate that at some point I will discover a way to incorporate it into working with textiles or vice versa. Mark making has already found a way in and sometimes I lay pieces of fabric over objects I have collected from the beach and then with coloured fabric pastels I trace their surfaces onto the fabric.

MT: In Call to Return (2014/2016) you spread out and tied a canvas to the branches of some young trees. It strikes me as a wonderful expression of a call to someone who is both a textile artist and a painter, and who was getting over a bout of depression, as you write on your blog. I absolutely love this work. What was the next work you did after this one?

JCM: The first finished work I made after Call To Return (2014/2016) was Here And Now I (2016). This piece took quite a long time come to fruition. For several months I had a vague notion of what I wanted to do: I knew the title and I knew that I wanted to bring together in a performative moment the sea-salvaged fabrics with the trees of my favourite local wood. But I did not resolve the issue of what form the fabric works would take until almost the very last moment. I was still working slowly on a number of pieces that were far from completion when, two days before the deadline I had set myself, I harked upon the idea to make the bundles. I felt that this was the right outcome for the piece and the spontaneous feel of the bundles and the way they were installed in the tree worked strongly together to convey the ideas behind the work.

MT: Thank you, Joy, for this nice interview!

If you want to learn more about Joy C Martindale’s journey, you can find more works and intriguing photographs (I love the kind of found materials she chose to photograph on grass—here) at http://joycmartindale.com.

Tea Bag Art by Dawn Gettig, and a Short Interview with the Artist

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Dawn Gettig, Little Bluebird of Happiness

I recently discovered Dawn Gettig’s tea bag art and got quite inspired, so I asked Dawn to tell me more about her art.

Mira Tudor: Hi Dawn, I came across your tea bag art at http://dawngettig.com today and really enjoyed your use of this medium—its wear made me think of some of the softer creases and stains of life. Then I read your own words about the serenity you need in your life, and realized that sometimes we achieve serenity not against a blank canvas, but, on the contrary, by falling into those creases and stains of our life softly. So I’d like to ask you to tell me more of what you see in the used tea bags you use as your canvas.

Dawn Gettig: I see images, faces or patterns that inspire the finished art. Often, I simply use my intuition and follow it as it tells me what the empty tea bag wants to become. Sometimes I see a woman’s face or a woodland bird or other creature. Other times I paint an abstract image. Often it is the color of the stained tea bag that inspires the subject matter and other times it is the shape of the stain. I use different types of tea bags . . . herbal tea, green tea, black tea. I love the variety of the different colors, shapes and sizes of the tea bags. Mostly, I just love the organic feeling and color of the tea bag.

MT: Your paintings of birds and animals come alive the backdrop of the tea bag as they would against a landscape. What media do you work with to create them, and have you tried before media that didn’t work with the tea bags?

DG: I am a mixed media artist so I use all types of media with the tea bags. Mostly watercolor and/or acrylic paint but will add in graphite, paint pens, pastels, inks, and more. Thick oil pastels don’t work as well on the tea bag substrate because it is so small.

MT: Have you worked with unconventional canvases before?

DG: Yes, I have tried many different substrates. Handmade paper, fabric, leaves, tree bark, stones. But I am especially drawn to tea bags as an unconventional canvas.

MT: What will come after the tea bags?

DG: Well, I am always working on many different art projects and learn many different techniques from other art teachers along my lifelong journey as an artist. I enjoy a wide variety of painting styles and subject matter. I love painting abstracts on large canvases because the story is different for each person viewing the art piece. I really have been enjoying the muted fresco look of painting on joint compound and hope to find the time to create more fresco-type art.

MT: Anything else you’d like to add?

DG: Thank you for the interview, Mira! Please visit me on Facebook Dawn Gettig Facebook and on my website at Dawn Gettig

MT: Thank you, Dawn, for granting me this interview!
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Dawn Gettig, The Fawn
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Dawn Gettig, Jackrabbit

Misted Trees by Emily Magone, and a Short Interview with the Artist

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Emily Magone, Misted Trees One, 24″ x 24″, Acrylic

Interview with Emily Magone

Mira Tudor: Hi Emily, I discovered your paintings in your online gallery at http://www.emilymagone.com and was quite taken with the effects you seem to get with acrylics, as in the Misted Trees One, which has a “misty” push and pull redolent of the iridescence of silk. It also has neutral tones reminiscent of Asian art. What Asian artists, and artists in general, have been important on your journey?

Emily Magone: This is a beautiful question, and something I hadn’t realized until you asked! Being self-taught and growing up in an isolated town, I didn’t have much exposure to the arts (much to my dramatic teenage chagrin). My college degrees are unrelated as well, so my knowledge of art history is rather basic. The most influential artist on my journey remains my high school art teacher, Dave Studebaker–who specialized in Western- and Native American-themed landscapes and scenes–and taught perfect rendering. The world lost him far too early and I have immense gratitude for the safe space and influence his classroom provided during those years.

I have great appreciation for the delicate and peaceful style of Asian art, and I’ve done quite a bit of painting on silk over the past few years as an exploratory medium–which has perhaps influenced my work on other surfaces. But the richness of acrylic on canvas will always have my heart. 🙂

MT: You seem to have spent quite a lot of time with trees, mist, and the sea (or ocean). Why these elements? What do you associate them most with in terms of your inner life? And what are the places that you go back to in your memory when you paint these scenes?

EM: I have indeed! I was born and raised in the northwest corner of Montana with frequent trips to the Washington coast. The trees and mist are elements that bring me the most peace and calm. The floating silence of the fog as it settles between the trees–I can go there in my mind in an instant and feel the cool mist on my face and hear the sounds of the earth minus humans.

These feelings are what I want to bring to others as well: the calm and serenity. It’s so important to maintain our connection with nature on a daily basis. It is healing in so many ways.

My childhood memories of full days spent in the woods on my bike building forts, eating honeysuckle, mushroom hunting, catching giant frogs in the creek and collecting gorgeous rocks are what fuels my woodland paintings. And I am forever returning to the Pacific Northwest in my mind. The Olympic Peninsula and the Washington coast in particular. Glacier Park, and in recent years, the Norwegian Fjords and the Croatian coast.

One of my next goals is to get some first-hand exposure to the Northern Lights to fuel a full Aurora collection of work!

MT: Thank you, Emily, for this interview. Happy journeys!

Here are two more works by Emily Magone.

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Emily Magone, Vast, Watercolor, 12″ x 9″
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Emily Magone, Lamp Post, Acrylic, 48″ x 24″

There’s much more in Emily’s Gallery