My favorite thing to do in elementary school was Art. Even when I had pink eye in second grade, and my mom sent me to school because she preferred possibly infecting my entire class to having me around for the day, and the teacher set up two long tables like the ones in the cafeteria, and I sat all alone making my collage at one table while the rest of the class crowded around the other table, I still loved Art!
I learned something from that pink eye experience, which is, making Art is a solitary thing. Even when you’re surrounded by other people making Art, you’re doing your own thing while they’re doing their own things. Which is why I love making Art with other people. You can work separately yet together. You can shoot the shit, listen to music, or gossip. Maybe it’s not so great to make Art with others all the time, like when you’re serious about producing, but working alongside others is Viagra for the creative process. Ideas! Feedback! Fun! It’s like being a kid again.
One Sunday in October I hosted a gathering of a dozen women at my place. They brought fixings for a quick and easy lunch, plus they came with unlimited enthusiasm for doing something completely new.
Ours was a resin playdate. Why resin? I’ve recently begun attending a resin night once a month with my sister and a group of her friends. Resin is so magical and fun that I wanted to turn around and share what I knew with my friends. A word of caution, however: Resin can be a messy and potentially harmful substance. Resin playdates are do-able as long as someone in the group knows what they’re doing and can assist during the process.
While resin may not be the best first playdate to host, there are plenty of creative activities that you could bring your friends together to do. This post is intended to offer ideas as to what some of those activities are and how to pull together the gathering so that everyone has fun. And, if readers are interested, I can follow this up with a later post specifically on hosting a resin playdate.
If you’ve had a child in the past 20 years, you know exactly how playdates work. You call another parent, set up a time and place, drop your kids off or stick around and talk to the adults while the kids play, and for however long the playdate lasts, you forget about all your worries. Marvelous things, playdates. They’re not like birthday parties, where surely someone’s going to cry over not getting a gift or winning the prizes.
And so it goes with Art. Often I hear people say:
“I’m not artistic.”
“I don’t have a creative bone in my body.”
“I’m amazed by people who have artistic talent. I certainly don’t have any.”
With playdates, there’s no such thing as talent. It’s not a class nor a workshop. No one’s paying money (except maybe $5 or $10 to cover supplies) and expecting to get something out of it. It’s-just-play.
Don’t Eat the Glue
When you get people together, you gotta eat. It’s what you do. But when you get people together to play with Art, you gotta keep the Eating and the Art separate.
Come up with a simple menu—say, nachos—and ask folks to sign up for the different ingredients: shredded cheese, chopped onions, chile con queso, lettuce, tomatoes, chips. Our friend Linda, who hosts the monthly resin night, does it best. Her menus are easy yet coordinated. One night it’s Frito Pie. Another night, potato-leek soup and salad. Next month: tamales, posole, and taquitos. It’s served buffet-style, and if the weather’s nice, we eat on the patio. After all, we’ve taken up most of the table space for our art.
Once you’re done eating (and we always eat fast, because we want to get to the playing) clear the dishes, and you’re ready.
Pick something you know how to do yourself. Or pick something you’ve always wanted to learn. You don’t have to be expert. There are many simple yet satisfying activities. Here are a few ideas:
- Collage: Tell your friends to bring a bunch of old magazines, scrapbook papers, doodles or watercolor dabblings that they don’t mind cutting up. It can be cheap picture books bought at garage sales, construction paper, photos that aren’t valuable. Provide a set of color markers, inks and rubber stamps, glue, and cardboard for making the collages. (TIP: ask your friends to bring scissors from home.)
- Paper products: Buy blank note cards and envelopes, a roll of white butcher paper for making homemade gift wrap, manila folders cut into gift tags. Carve shapes into Russet potatoes or sponges for stamping onto your cards and paper. Use the same basic materials as for collage. Walk away with enough items to hold you over through the holidays. Or swap with some of the others so you each go home with a wide variety.
- Decorate journals: Ask everyone to bring a composition book, and then do collage, stamping, and doodling or painting in those.
- Color mandalas.
- Decoupage something: My daughters taught me this—Mod Podge goes on white and sticky, but it dries clear and not sticky. All you have to do is glue images to, say, a small plain cardboard box like the kind you can pick up at a craft store. Once you have all the images and marker or paint decoration you want on the box, brush the entire thing in Mod Podge. Let the glue dry, brush it again. Let it dry and you’re done.
- The list is endless. You can work with recycled materials, beads, clay, Shrinky-Dinks, paper mache. Have you seen those beads that are rolled from magazine paper? Amazing.
Obviously, the amount of space you need depends on what you do, but whatever you do, make sure there’s plenty of space for each person to work. And protect the space by laying down plastic tablecloths or newspapers. If you’re using exacto knives, make sure people have surfaces to cut on.
I like the idea of putting the common supplies at one table so that everyone can access them. For example, if you’re doing collage, keep together all the paper materials.
Also, lighting is important. You may need to move lights from other parts of the house to sufficiently light up all the workspace. It doesn’t hurt to also ask your friends to bring desk lights if they have them.
This is basic stuff. I wouldn’t bother creating a post out of it if I didn’t know just how great it is to make Art with others.
When I hosted that resin playdate in October, at one point I went outside for something. I walked back into the house and the place was still. Everyone had heads down, working in quiet concentration. Some folks talked in low tones, and k.d. lang sang hymns on the stereo, but there was a calm energy in the room. I knew then that we were truly playing. Every one of us was a kid again.
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