On Saturday September 16 the annual Family Arts Festival was held on the Mall in Brunswick.  The grassy Mall was teeming with children and families who came downtown to celebrate creativity and to make art under the big white tents.  The cool morning air gave way to clear skies and sunshine, with temps in the high 60’s.  There were many activities to choose from–everything from inflatable art to large group murals to a design-your-own crown workshop using craft foam and lots more.

This year I designed a printmaking workshop for the Festival called “Bubble and Stamp.”   The children were mesmerized by the process of blowing through a straw into watered down soap mixed with paint to create colorful bubble imagery.   “Look!  It’s a mountain of bubbles, a volcano!”  For these young artists, the experience was the thing.  Other children chose stamp printing, using using recycled materials such as cork stoppers, egg carton pieces, and wooden shapes as the stampers and tempera paint for “ink” to stamp a picture or a book mark.  The technique was simple–dip your stamper in the “ink”, place it on the paper, press, lift, and repeat.

My artist friends Donna Parkinson and Sarah Vosmus from Circling the Square joined me in all phases, from the planning stage, to prepping materials, to the workshop itself.  It was Sarah’s idea to pour some of the bubble paint mixture in a small paper cup rather than a tray, allowing the bubbles to cascade over the cup’s rim onto the paper below.  A parent offered the suggestion that adding glycerine to the bubble paint mixture might help form stronger bubbles.  I am grateful to my friends Donna and Sarah for doing this workshop with me.   I think we all had fun and it was so much more enjoyable to work together.

The most valuable art activities are the ones where children can bring their own ideas to the process.  Both bubble and stamp printing engaged children in a process of discovery and invention.  As an added benefit, “Bubble and Stamp” provided the parents with some inexpensive and fun ways to support their children’s creativity at home.

PS. The Family Arts Festival is sponsored by Five Rivers Arts Alliance, our local community arts non-profit.  If you aren’t already a member of Five Rivers, I encourage you to lend your financial support at whatever level you can.  Please let them know how much you value their work in bringing the arts to children and families in mid-coast Maine.

Robin Brooks, September 17, 2011