04 July, 2011

My Five Stages of Designing and Creating

Little Red Riding Hood characters

I am not an artist.

I do work towards becoming one, all the time.  I create, I am inspired, and okay, maybe what I create is art -  sometimes.  I do not however, have innate artistic talent. Therefore creating something I like, can use, or that I would consider giving away or someday maybe even selling, is a bit of a process. How do I do it?  It takes a few steps.

The Idea 

Ideas of specific items I could use in the classroom or with my own children, come to me all the time.  When I am able, I write the ideas down.  I use whatever is handy when I think of the idea be it post-its, napkins, my hand, or whatever! The trick of course, is finding those pieces of paper later.  : )


This is the "Google" and picture book stage of the process.  I google the name of something I am trying to create, and see if someone else has created anything like it.  If someone has, great!  I can look at her design, and see if it is something on which I can build.  (Please note: If I borrow ideas from another person's designs in order to create my own, I do not sell that item!  For example, this past Spring I was teaching my class about the life and works of Claude Monet.  One afternoon during this time period, I was visiting Etsy and looking at the work of one of my favorite artists on Etsy, Mamakopp.  I saw and simply fell in love with one of her designs for a little man called Crinkleroot.  I thought he would make a perfect model for Claude Monet.  I borrowed her design and created a little wooden figure of Monet to go along with a wooden bridge and felted pond with lily pads.  I used this only for my own classroom.  You can read about it and see pictures on one of my earlier blog postings, here.)  If I don't find anything similar to my idea using Google and sometimes even if I do,  I also look at children's book illustrations.  There are so many amazing children's book illustrators that provide me with fabulous inspiration!


After the idea and the research have percolated for a while, I move to the scribble stage.  This is the stage during which a "real" artist could work on design.  I scribble as I work on the design, and try to figure out how to make an image that looks at least somewhat like the idea in my head.

Case in point:  A friend asked me recently to create a set of wooden figures depicting the story of Adam and Eve.  I am still in the scribble stage, even after cutting out some first drafts.  My figure drawings have this habit of leaning the same way as my politics - precipitously to the left!  I had to throw my first Adam away.  He looked like he was fighting a very strong gale, but I didn't realize it until after I had cut him out (of wood!)  Sometimes I have to draw half a person, fold the paper in half, and then cut it out - to make sure the person is symmetrical and not too liberal (lol, left leaning) for his own good.

Below:  My Scribble stage of dragon creation

Final design

I'd like to say that once I have scribbled sufficiently, I always come up with the final design.  The truth of the matter is that sometimes designs still need quite a bit of tweaking.  Sometimes I have to work through all the steps of making a piece, and let the final project "speak to me" before I decide if it works.  I know this is sort of ridiculous, but it is the only way I have found that works for me.  A piece has to look like I made it (if that makes sense), for me to be really happy with it.

Acceptance and Use

Once I have deemed the final product useful and "looking like me" enough, I have my Consumer Product Safety Testers (my children) check it out.  If it meets with their approval, I photograph it (for archival purposes and of course the ol' blog), and put it out in the classroom.  Finally!

And the sometimes necessary Sixth Stage:  Revisiting

Of course, sometimes later I come up with a better idea, and so then I have to start the process all over again.  Ah well, such is the life of a teacher and "wannabe" artist.

What is your favorite classroom material you have made?




  1. Oh my, and you say you are no artist, I would disagree, everyone has artistic blood flowing through their veins, your drawings are wonderful, did you then make the dragon out of wood? it is so cool, well done you clever gal, cheers Marie

  2. Who are you to say one of MY FAVORITE artists ISN'T an ARTIST?! I'm insulted. Don't make me sit you down and give you a verbal thrashing 'cause you know I will.

    You are an AMAZING artist. You work in multiple mediums, you create joy, happiness, beauty from items that have life. The items you make are more than most because they are made from the hands of a woman, friend, teacher and mother. Hands that have soothed fevered brows and wiped tears, hands that have shared materials, hands that have reached out in friendship. Those hands have an energy that instills a touch of the soul and brings to life for the child a world of their own. In what way does one conclude that would not be the work of an artist?

    (So back off or I'm going to pull a Peter Rabbit on you and pop you on the head. Now, I just need to get you on twitter.... ;) )


  3. Aw, thanks friends. Honey, you are a poet! : )

  4. Hooray for Honey!!!!!!!!!!!!

    No one could say it better then Honey when she is mad :)))) So Karen - listen her very carefully, since I am there as her back-up, OK? Your art is made out of pure love, and that is that magical ingredient all of your creations have.


Thank you for your comments. They are always much appreciated. : )