Arts & Crafts

As you can imagine, we have a fair amount of art materials in the Oh Waily household.  Miss Oh has always been fond of creating her own art, and I have always enjoyed providing different materials for her to do this with.  The only problem being a degree of paranoia on my own part that if I left some of the messier items down at kid-level then all heck would break loose on the spillage front.  So for the most part the art supplies have lived up high or in large plastic tubs that were hard to get into by the small people.  The exceptions to this being the crayons, pencils and felt-tip pens.
This naturally leads to two problems – the lack of encouraging independent use by the kids and the storage of all the bits and pieces.  We did have an art caddy, once upon a time, but found that it simply didn’t work for us so it was barely used.  Then when we created the cot desk, the home-made (i.e. improvised) hanging tubs became something of a nightmare in that they would slide from side to side and spill their contents far too easily.  The obvious reason for this being that they were hanging from a single hook rather than firmly anchored along a railing.

It was all rather disjointed and was discouraging the kids from regular engagement in a variety of art without a lot of my time and effort to oversee, which I haven’t always had to give at short notice this past six months^.  And art in this household tends to happen at short notice.

I had been wanting to fix the cot-desk storage for ages and ages, and came across the wonderful Bygel storage solutions from IKEA.  I drooled over the idea of the rail and buckets doing their thing, but there being no IKEA in New Zealand posed a minor problem. I had intended to deal with this issue by attempting to buy through Fishpond or Amazon.  In the end, they were bought in Singapore on the last leg of Mr Oh Waily’s long overseas trip and for the princely sum of NZ$15.  A bargain in anyone’s language.

The improved crayon, pencil, pen & scissor storage then made me realise just how woeful the rest of the art supplies were and how fed up I was at seeing a huge, ugly pile of stuff languishing in boxes in the hallway and strewn across various high shelves in Master Oh’s bedroom.  So the hunt began for a way to deal with it ALL.
At this point I was reading a decluttering book (as you do) and had an epiphany.  One of the key tenets of this particular book was ‘the toothbrush principle’ – you don’t leave your toothbrush in random places before & after use… because it is stored right where it is used.  Using this very obvious notion I realised that pretty much all the art in our household occurs at the dining room table or the cot-desk.  Luckily for me, I had already relocated the cot-desk into the dining room, so that just left what to do about storage nearby.  Well, he have one of those not-bay poking out windows in the dining room – just perfect for something like a buffet or sideboard.

The hunt was on.

A buffet unit that would not break the bank, considering what it was going to be used for and by whom, but one that would not look like an eyesore in what is a shared, public space of the house.  I cannot tell you how many stores I trudged through and what horrible prices I was seeing flashing in front of my eyes (fine if it’s for decor, not so much if it’s for kids’ art supplies).  We thought we’d found the right piece, and it was a great fit, but the price was too high.  The shop wouldn’t budge below a certain discount and I couldn’t face paying the amount of money, so the the search resumed.
Revisiting one earlier piece and finding out it was ‘end-of-line’ and could be bought for pretty much half the price of the cheaper end of the buffet market was brilliant.  I was even willing to disregard my dislike of the handles, knowing at the price we were given, I would have no qualms about taking to them with a hammer if they turned out to be a cause of accidents. (They’re thin and pointy-ended, as you will see shortly.)

A flat pack was purchased at a further, small discount, and Mr Oh Waily set about construction.
The following day I set to clearing out all the art supplies and rehoming them.  I was hopeful, but not convinced that they would all fit.  I was delighted when all but the larger pads of paper and one very long tin of pencils were the only things that couldn’t be accommodated.  Here is the transformation.  I am extremely pleased with it.


That’s the new unit in white behind the dining table (which has since been turned 90 degrees).  The console table, which was my command centre, has been removed to create space and the monthly calendar replaced by a lovely piece of art that had been in storage too.  As you can see, the desk had become a dumping ground and the art supplies were scattered on shelves and in a pile of boxes in the hallway. << shudder >>


I emptied everything out on to the table and floor of the hall to see what needed to be moved & where.  My storage solutions were almost as big a problem as the art supplies.  Those plastic tubs in the hallway photograph are full of boxes stacked inside each other, rather like matryoshka dolls !!

Finally though, we got to the good bit.


The desk was cleaned up, and all the art stuff was rehomed in the buffet.  I don’t have any fancy dividers or drawer organisers, just my plastic buckets to contain the spread, so we will see how that goes for a while.

Am I happy?  Yes I am.

Not only are the art supplies available, they are also hidden from view.  And the top of the unit can be both a place to put provocations, and to display the kids’ artistic creations. (Thanks to a couple of little place mats from Japan City.)


On the far side, and barely visible in the morning sunlight, is a sketch by Master Oh.  In the middle is my attempt to introduce different ideas to the kids without shoving it down their throats.  And on the near side is Miss Oh’s giraffe family in building blocks.

I’m very hopeful that this will go a long way to encouraging Master Oh’s newfound interest in drawing and art, and continue to provide lots of opportunity for Miss Oh to do her thing.


^ I was studying for a university paper for most of the last 6 months and the best part of two of those Mr Oh Waily was overseas for work.


Learn Nothing Day



We are joining the ranks of homeschooling families who are attempting, and failing, to have a day on which we Learn Nothing.

It is a bit of a mocking of the authorities who want to know that our children are learning “as regularly” as those in school.

Like I could possibly stop them, frankly.

So, here is what Miss Oh Waily did today… and clearly I failed miserably in my efforts to discourage her from doing anything new, interesting and learning in the process.


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House 2

Miss Oh’s hinged house closed


House 1

Miss Oh’s hinged house interior


Young Master Oh Waily has also failed miserably in his attempts to learn nothing.  He has been working on the strategy required to progress on another iPad app/game, and also had to sit through a bit of geography as we watched the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games this morning.
He also ended up helping to make a lego house of his own.  The canoe was all his own work.

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M's House 1

Master Oh’s canoeist’s log cabin


M's house 2

Roast chicken on a spit


Did you and your family attempt to learn nothing today?
If so, feel free to leave a comment and a link to any posts about your non-learning activity.  😉


The Art of Maths

Last Thursday I popped around to our local HE group’s librarian and picked up a set of Cuisenaire rods to help me try to explain some mathematical ideas to Miss Oh Waily.  When I let her open the box the following day to take a look while I was finishing up some work of my own, she had a bit of fun with them.

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The Beehive and the Bees

The Beehive and the Bees


Zane with a flower

Zane with a flower


Miss Oh & Zane

Miss Oh & Zane


Zane and Ninjago have become firm favourites of the little Miss.  There will be more art created by her on that theme in the next few blog posts.  But he is definitely her main man.

I like the uses she put the rods to, and maybe we might even do some maths with them !


Interactive Art

Looking for something fun to take the kids to in Wellington?
Well, we discovered a really neat exhibition at the City Gallery this morning.

Friday is our library day and today we headed in to Central, where we picked up an assortment of items that will keep us going for months.  Right next to Central is the old library building, which houses the City Gallery.  A really big, and bright poster for an exhibition caught my eye as we headed back to the car.  I asked the Oh Waily kids if they’d like to go in and see what it was about and I received my usual mixed response.  One child said ‘yes’ while the other said ‘no’.  Do all kids do this?  Is there an automatic button that means one is for something, while the other is against it?  I do sometimes wonder.  Anyway, I digress.

I persuaded the naysayer to go in and take a look.  If it was “boring” we could always come right back out.  This seemed to mollify him enough to actually get in the building.

Once we handed over our bags for storage, we headed in to the exhibition by Seung Yul Oh and immediately the naysayer was hooked.  Most, but not all, of the exhibit is a tactile one.  Yes, hands on, interactive.  Perfect for kids, and big kids too.  On one side you get a giant balloon maze and weebly-wobbly birds and on the other random noodle sculptures with a hidden treasure beyond – a giant bean-bag-like object upon which three people may climb together.  So, shoes and socks off.  Jackets full of random items, off.  Climbing child #1 scrambles up with no bother at all, rather surprising the young woman who keeps orderliness to the activity.  Smaller, not quite so climbing child #2 scrambles up too once I get a bit of a dent in the bag for him to get traction.  And then even I manage to scramble up.  So the three of us sit and then lie cuddling in the middle of this giant beanbag looking at video art on the walls.

Do they love it?  Oh yes.  They LOVE it.  We are apparently going to go back, dragging Mr Oh Waily with us.  But I think we will wait until the school holidays are over and we can go quietly of a morning when there are less likely to be queues to try it out.

The exhibition is supposed to be on for a couple of months, so we should have plenty of opportunity to go again.  I highly recommend that you do too.  It’s not big and won’t take you long, so it’s more like a nice stop amongst other stops in the city.  I hope you enjoy it as much as the Oh Waily kids did.

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A Weebly Bird

A Weebly Bird and the Oh Waily kids


The Giant Yellow Maze

The Giant Yellow Maze & Master Oh


The Giant Yellow Maze and Miss Oh

The Giant Yellow Maze and Miss Oh




Last Friday the Oh Waily children and I had a lovely time at The Dowse Art Museum.
We were part of a home educators group who had gone along to do some mono-printing, with a theme of Matariki.

The lovely ladies who took the kids through were brilliant.  I was so impressed with the way they interacted with the group, and especially my lad, who is not all that keen on art despite being surrounded by stuff to make it.  Master Oh Waily’s prints used so little ink I was able to bring them home, but Miss Oh’s needed to stay and dry out.  I’ll post photos when they arrive.

In the meantime it seems to have sparked another round of artistry in Miss Oh.  I’m going to share this morning’s piece.

Shadow photo

Here’s a brief run down for those who may be a bit unsure of what is going on.
It is a sunset picture with the sun going down behind the mountains.  The black bits are the shadows of the mountains.  And the mirrored goat on the left is also meant to be a shadow.
In the foreground is the swimming pool in Fiji with all the people in it and the volleyball net at one end.  All the triangular items are the torches that are lit at sunset and the green circle with people jumping up and down around it is the frog races, with the green bits – well, frogs of course.  Underneath is the leaderboard for the frogs. (They’re tagged by nationality.)
Yip, a lot of thought goes in to the artistry these days.  A lot.

Art Detectives

Today’s Thursday Adventure Club* outing was to Te Papa Tongarewa, known simply as Te Papa.

I had let my fingers do the walking and found an interesting link on their site, at the bottom of the What’s on for kids page.  The Family Trails.
I mean, who could pass up he chance of becoming an Art Detective?  Not us.

So this rather soggy Wellington morning saw us in town bright and early.  We headed to the Information Desk and were kitted out with our Art Detective bag and gear.  What did we get?

  • a deerstalker hat (what self-respecting detective goes without one?)
  • a matching cape
  • a pair of Harry Potter-style spectacles
  • a magnifying glass
  • some pipe cleaners
  • a foldable box
  • pencils
  • the Art Detective guide

Once we were all dressed for the occasion, Detective G and Detective M and their guide (me) headed off to Level 5 to work our way through the different galleries and the tasks set out in the AD guide book.

Do they look cute, or do they look cute?

Detective GDetective M

The amount of double takes and smiles the costumes generated was worth it alone.  But, in the process of following the art trail they were exposed to a range of artists and artistic styles.

We started off in the Artist In Focus gallery where they did a bit of counting, writing and creating with their pipe cleaners.  Then we moved through to the Arts Studio, which we will try to visit again when there isn’t a school class in the galleries, where I helped them make their own small cardboard waka huia to store their treasures in.  Then in the same area they had to find and then work out how to use a mystery box to help them with one of the following clues.
Then it was off to the Maori & Pacific Encounters gallery to look at and answer questions about a painting done by John Webber 200 years ago while sailing with James Cook.

Next we headed to the Framing the  View gallery where we used the descriptions noted from the Mystery Box to find an art work.  We did some more counting here and also a bit of geometry.   Miss Oh Waily took over the writing duties from here on.  She also drew the geometrical shapes that were used in the art work.
We stayed here and using a set of three clues supplied in our detective bag we had to work out which painting they represented.  And Miss Oh then had to make up a story to go with that particular piece of art.  I was her secretary here or we would have struggled for space and time.

From here we headed into the gallery Emblems of Identity where we got to see a number of Rita Angus portraits including Rutu which was the subject of this section of the trail.  We learned about symbols in art – in this case a white lotus – and made one of our own for our waka huia.  Then we did several word clues to identify the next artworks including McCahon’s The Valley of Dry Bones and then the kids got to draw their version of some Angus portraits and added speech bubbles to them.  Then we moved on to the Being Modern gallery into the Modern Maori Art gallery where there was more writing and drawing to be done.

Finally we made our way through the Art & Change and Contemporary galleries.  This latter one was a bit of a toughie.  It houses a couple of interesting works by Ralph Hotere which were the subject of another project in the book.  But by this stage they were getting to the end of their attention span (almost an hour and a half of detecting by this time) and the glossy attractions of Michael Parekowhai’s amazing piano was proving a bit much for Detective G.  Clearly she is a tactile person (and curious with it) so I had a bit of trouble keeping her hands off it.

We whizzed through the remaining gallery and we were done.  A fluffy and biscuit were their rewards for being so good at detecting and keeping on the trail for almost the entire time.  They did fabulously well.  And I am most definitely going to keep an eye on the Family Trails section for any new options elsewhere in the museum.  It’s a great way to make kids this little stop and actually look at art in galleries.  It makes it interactive and fun, but not laborious.

A complete Pukeko Patch thumbs up for this activity.

But be aware that they only had four or five detective bags at the information desk.  I’d suggest going early on a weekday in order to ensure your little detectives are able to enjoy themselves.  Oh, and you do have to be interactive throughout the process (not just reading the guide book) so that they get the most out of it.  But well worth it in my opinion.

* My arbitrary name for our family field trips.  Makes it sound flashy for the small ones.

Picture Tracing

A little while ago this post from The Wonder Years crossed my feed reader.
It inspired me to try window tracing with Miss Oh Waily a couple of weeks ago.
I visited the stained glass website mentioned in the post, and printed off some nice, simple images for the purpose.  And what nice simple images for colouring in they would make too.

Naturally we could not see the elephant and not choose him, so along with a slightly more complicated unicorn and a very simple butterfly, these were the images we chose for tracing.

Pick a picture

A few pieces of sticky tape later and they were up on the windows, ready to go.   It was quite the learning curve.  I was worried that the regular paper we were going to use would not work unless the image was on the brightest window, so Miss Oh Waily needed her sunglasses to work on the elephant.  Poor chook.

Here she is in action.  As you can see she is still happily interchangeable with her hands.  The vast majority of the time she uses her left, but when things get to be too awkward she switches out to her right.  I hope she is able to keep this up, it will make for great versatility.


Here is the artist with her final result.  As you can see it got quite wobbly at points and the felt pens we used were quite thin and didn’t give a nice rounded feel to the tracing.  I also think that the elephant was too high up for her to do the entire drawing without fatigue.
Finished elephant
And here, with foot added, are the three traced images.  As you can see from butterfly, little hands wanted to take it down from the window and unfortunately managed a little tear.
Traced Pictures

The lessons learned from this first attempt were:
1.  You don’t need to blind your child with bright sunlight in order to do this.
2. Use a nice thick felt pen, or similar, to help with following the lines.
3. Make sure the height works, it is tough on the arms to have to be kept up for too long.  So a simple image, less lines to follow, and low down for a beginner or smaller child.

It would be nice to have a light-box and do this again, but in the comfort of a horizontal position.

What sort of new art are you trying in your home?