Monthly Archives: October 2014

Devils, vampires, ghosts

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Holidays are always important to kids in art therapy, perhaps none more so than Halloween. It’s a chance to take part in the fun and ritual of costumes, masks, and candy. But it’s also a chance for them to express the negative feelings and experiences that impact them. Some of the Halloween images I’ve seen over the years have eloquently depicted the internal and external violence in a child’s life, the good vs. the bad self, the ghosts of lost parents, and more.

In this way, Halloween manages to be a ton of fun while simultaneously honoring the emotional process. Here are some Halloween images created by kids in art therapy.

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Halloween inspiration

A few years back, I was lucky enough to stumble onto a fantastic gallery show of photographs by Phyllis Galembo. Galembo documents traditional African and Haitian masquerade ceremonies. Her subjects use costume, body paint, and masks to create mythic characters. Galembo’s 2010 book, Maske, is a gorgeous collection of these photographs.

Cover: Akata Masquerade, Nigeria 2004

The photos in the book were taken in Zambia, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Benin, Sierra Leone, Ghana, and Haiti. Galembo includes explanations of the ceremonies and rituals documented, as well as descriptions of her experiences taking the photos. Looking at this book makes me wish that Halloween wasn’t the only masquerade day in our culture. It was difficult to pick out my favorites! Check out this beautiful book for many more.

Chileya (Wise Male Ancestor), Likishi Masquerade, Zambia 2007

Panther, Dodo Masquerade, Burkina Faso 2009

Bwa Plank Masks, Burkina Faso 2006

Children’s Dodo Masquerade, Burkina Faso 2009

Otoghe-Toghe Masquerade, Nigeria 2005

Ngar Ball Traditional Masquerade Dance, Nigeria 2004

Mango leaves, Minor Ekpe Masquerade, Nigeria 2005

Ko S’ogbon L’Ate (You Can’t Buy Wisdom at the Market), Gelede Masquerade, Benin 2006

Ologodu Masquerade, Sierra Leone 2008

Ringo (Big Deer) Masquerade, Sierra Leone 2008

Three in Fancy Dress with Wire Masks, Anchors Masquerade Group, Ghana 2010

Four Children in Fancy Dress, Nobles Masquerade Group, Ghana 2009

Three Painted Boys, Haiti 2004

Lasiren with Marie Rose (Man with Snakes), Haiti 2004

Just one more

This week I had the pleasure of going to a Trashion Show at our local Flood Brook School. The show was organized by the school’s amazing art teacher, Casey Bailey, and the designers and models were middle school students. The clothes were made from paper bags, plastic bags, newspaper, and more, and there were some pretty fabulous fashions. These kids taught me a thing or two about brown paper bags! A favorite of mine was a Mad Hatter’s hat made from a grocery bag, and I ran right home to try one myself.



If you want to make one, just start rolling up the bottom of the bag, shape it any way you want, and add decorations as you please. Thanks for the inspiration, kids! Just in time for Halloween.

Brown paper bags: It’s a wrap

To wrap up my brown paper bag week, here are some bags and wrapping.

origami bag

heart bag


IMG_8229If you haven’t discovered it yet, Pinterest has a wealth of brown paper wrapping ideas. Here is some paper decorated with white paint marker from lisa burke:

…and from be different act normal, some gift bags decorated with stamps and small binder clips and machine-stitched together.

I love wrapping gifts, and especially love gathering up whatever materials are on hand to create something unexpected. Give it a try!

Brown paper grab bag

A random,  brown paper grocery bag-related grab bag:

1. I keep a stock of cut-open, rolled up grocery bags always. I often use them for drawing paper or other things when I’m working on some kind of project. But they’re also great to protect the table while I’m working with glue, paint, etc. Sometimes a bag gets spattered with paint while I’m working on top of it and looks so great (especially if I’m using my favorite metallic Lumiere paints) that it ends up getting added to my decorative paper stash. (Note the rolled up, used paper towels. If they’re relatively clean after I use them in the kitchen, I put them in the dryer for a few minutes and save them to reuse in the studio.)


2. The folds of the bags make some great shapes when they’re cut apart, and since the paper is strong, the bags can be very sculptural (like the Ilvy Jacobs Foldbags I mentioned in a post the other day). Here’s a castle made from a cut open bag. I glued some cardboard on the back walls to give it some extra strength.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA3. There are a lot of brown bags out there that have good designs and images. I have been collecting this store’s bags for years…


…and here’s a Valentine made from a heart that was printed on an old IGA bag. I wish they still made those heart bags.

heart4. A friend who has been following all these brown paper bag posts sent me this link to an engaging little video in which Milton Glaser and Cynthia Rowley talk about the role of brown paper bags in the early development of their art.

Paper bag fabric and fiber fest

I love knitting and needle felting, but feel pretty inept with a sewing machine. Yet I love quilts, and often make them out of paper. I’m always interested in projects that use paper for processes more usually associated with fabric and fiber. Here are a few ideas that use brown paper bags as a base for textile and fiber crafts.

Child’s paper bag weaving via The Imagination Tree:

Quilt I made from a printed brown shopping bag and a purple shopping bag.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfrican mud cloth on distressed brown bag from Poppytalk (there are great directions on the blog for making these):

Tomorrow: Size doesn’t matter!

Grocery bag masquerade

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the great artist Saul Steinberg collaborated with photographer Inge Morath on a project called the Saul Steinberg Mask Series. Steinberg produced paper bag masks and Morath took portraits of friends wearing them. The photos are such great fun because the masks were so whimsical but were worn by very respectably dressed, anonymous models. The juxtaposition of Steinberg’s playful style and Morath’s straightforward reporting made for a series that is so funny, masterly, brilliant.

The photos were published in a book released in 2000 called Masquerade. Here are some photos from the series:

Artist and children’s art teacher Jean Frank Stark introduced young students to the Saul Steinberg Mask Series. The kids then created their own masks, with fantastic results. Stark then asked the young artists to make gestures to match their faces. What a great project! You can watch a slide show of their poses here.

Tomorrow: Brown paper fiber fest!

Grocery bag fashion

More brown paper grocery bag appreciation today. The strength and body of the bag paper has inspired some designers to create amazing apparel. Here are some favorites.

Artist Cynthia Jensen created a series of paper bag dresses titled Bag Lady. This is Bag Lady 1:

Here’s an origami dress made with Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s brown-paper grocery bags from Simply Defined (Green) Project. This artist also makes dresses with newspaper, garbage bags, plastic water bottles, and soda pop cans.

This paper dress found on Seemingly So wasn’t technically made from shopping bags, but it’s got an interesting story, so I thought I could cheat a little and include it. Nathalie Graafland, curator of the blog, writes, “Scott Paper Company created this paper dress in 1966, intended as a marketing tool. For one dollar, women could buy the dress and also receive coupons for Scott paper products. The paper dress wasn’t an invention meant to be taken seriously, but women surprised the company by ordering half a million of these dresses in under a year.”

And finally, for accessorizing, here are some Foldbags from designer Ilvy Jacobs. Foldbags were made by reshaping regular brown paper bags and creating a new silhouette. Jacobs says, “By transforming its usual shape I try to make it stand out and hopefully it will be cherished instead of being just thrown away.”

Tomorow: The king of paper bag art!

Brown paper grocery bag awareness week!

Today and all this week, I am celebrating one of my favorite art materials, the ubiquitous, free, and versatile brown paper grocery bag. Whether plain or printed, these sacks present endless possibilities. Today: Books!

I regularly make notebooks out of brown bags, either by sewing the bindings on my sewing machine or by stapling them. I prefer plain bags, but my local grocery store has printed bags, and I use them anyway. It’s tough paper, good for collage, and I love the color. The books are great to have on hand for children, who often like having their own books to work in. The paper is good for collage and craypas, and kids also like using them as scrapbooks to collect their drawings. The bags are large enough to make good-sized pages.


You can get much fancier, though! Here’s a lovely little book from Carolyn at homework:

This little 8-page book was made from a single sheet cut from a brown bag paper.

falg bookAnd lastly, here’s a little magazine collage book mounted on a twig frame, made, as you can see, a lot of years ago.

book1The bag paper is rugged and has retained it’s original bag creases. These photos were taken this weekend, and I think the sturdy bag paper held up pretty well all these years, with a bit of curling.







Clearly, this is not paper for fine finished work, but if you work with kids, and found materials are important to you, it’s good stuff.

Tomorrow: High fashion!