August 13, 2009

My Big Day Out: Living and Dyeing

Yesterday I went back to work. And I loved it (it was just a day)!

It's not like I haven't been working, making sure a certain little boy gets enough to eat and doesn't kill himself by careening off a chair, leaving a face-shaped dent in the wood floors. But I went back to my pre-SoJo career as an art teacher.
This is me during my high school placement of student teaching, way back in 2003, taken with the world's first digital camera.

And here I am at the museum, a few years ago.
I'm talking with kids about one of my favorite artworks there, "Hot Buttered Corn" by John Clem Clarke.

Back to my day: my morning started at the town library, where I occasionally teach art workshops. Earlier this summer, I did a felting one, which was really fun and soapy-messy with the kids. Yesterday, we dyed silk scarves, which were intended to be used as playsilks. If you're not familiar with a playsilk, it's a piece of dyed silk that can be used in imaginative ways by kids. Check out Magic Cabin for more info.

I prepped my dyes, which I get from Dharma Trading Company, and loaded them into squirt bottles.
From all the years of dyeing things myself and teaching others to do it, I've got a path-of-least-messiness system down pat. I get undyed silk scarves from Dharma Trading, as seen wrapped below
and soak them in a Soda Ash bath in a bucket for at least 15 minutes.
They dyes need the soda ash to release their "magic", hence dyeing the silk. The Fiber Reactive dyes I use only work on natural materials like wool, silk, rattan, cotton, and of course your hands.

Then I set up a table with the dyes, rubber bands (for optional tie-dyeing), latex/vinyl gloves, and trash bags to use as smocks. Cut a hole in the top and for the arms, and place it over the child.
Yep. I know. Artmaking is bad for the environment. This haunts me every time I dye. But I'm not going into that right now.

Here are the loaded guns, in your choice of colors.
I make sure each kid has a ziplock bag, so that they can put their dyed scarf in it and not make a mess on the car ride home. Since the silk needs to set overnight, this keeps everything moist and helps the dyes do their work. 24 hours later, they can be rinsed off, dried and ironed.

Without access to an outdoor sink at the workshop, I keep some buckets of water close by for rinsing off hands.
Once the kids have dyed their scarves and have gotten a little print-out of instructions on finishing the process at home, they get to wait with Santa-Claus-like anticipation for the results. At least I'm that way each time I dye.
Not bad, for a rushed artwork, made during the demo. I wish I had taken some photos of the children, but just didn't have a chance, since I was mopping up dye off the tables and assisting with the process. After all, that's teaching.

So now onto the second half of my day of freedom. I headed to the museum to help with installing the kids gallery. No photos here, but I really enjoyed being back at the job, doing adult things like making sample art projects and figuring out activities for engaging kids. Would I want to do this full time? Not at this moment, but maybe again some day.

I'm planning to work another day next week if I can find childcare, and then some Sundays in September. The museum has free Sundays with free art activities, where educators facilitate projects and assist kids in making art, so I'll be working some of those again.

I'm amazed at how rejeuvanated and happy I was when I came home yesterday. The monotony and frustration of being with SoJo all day often leaves me feeling down, but running around yesterday and engaging my mind left me feeling very much alive. It's good for all of us parents to have some child-free time, even just an afternoon. Though I'm not a doctor, and don't play one on TV, I'd prescribe it to anyone.

And how convenient, that on this theme, Nicole from Momtrends is hosting a Mommy Time Monday, where you can link up a post about something you did sans kids. Sounds like a reason to look forward to Mondays.


  1. I'm so happy for you! I think that's a perfect blend for you, a couple days a week maybe.

    I think that might be something you actually NEED, since you create. SoJo will only benefit from your renewed self.

    For a minute, I thought you meant you had gone back to full time teaching. I like it better this way too :)

  2. This is hysterical. Guess how much better I'm feeling this week too. :-D

  3. Sounds great! I know exactly how you feel....felt the same way once I finally had some piano students again!.........
    Love the scarves.....I use them for teaching eurhythmics, and my mom got a bunch of white ones and then used the dyes in the air brush and painted a bunch that way.......using anything and everything as stencils....different shapes.....they turned out very cool!

  4. Thats great that you can work at something you really enjoy doing!

  5. Ok.....ziplock.....great idea.

    I love the "way back when" photos. I pulled an old painting out of storage today that brought back a ton of memories from school. I even dedicated a post to it.

    I need to find some work like this!!

    Have a great night!

  6. Hey, no fair! I want to come and dye silk with you, too...

  7. That is fantastic. What a great feeling to be rejuvenated. It is because you get to do something you enjoy, yay for you! BTW, beautiful tie dye!

  8. I'm glad you enjoyed it!!! I need to pull out some dye and do a tie dye project! I haven't done that in YEARS!!!

  9. That looks like fun! I checked out Dharma and am going to place an order for me and my kiddos to make some.

    I definitely agree with the time away tip! I always tell my kiddos (when they whine when I go somewhere without them) that "Mommy needs to have quiet time, so I can come back and be a happy mommy". Who wants "mean mommy" right?!

    Thanks for the craft idea!


  10. What a great “mommy-time”. Since I have absolutely no artistic talent I am always in awe of those that do!
    In my area there is a dad who does dye birthday parties. He provides all the materials, instructions the kids, takes the shirts back to wash, and then delivers them back to the birthday host. It is a big hit in my little community. Maybe you can do something like that!

  11. Sounds like you had fun. Very pretty results in the dyeing silk also.

  12. You went back to work! wow. Congrats momma.

    You are so meticulous with setting up your projects. You can tell that you love what you are doing.

    Now you inspire me to want to do something sans kids before I lose the rest of me marbles.

    Now I'm thinking.....thanks....

  13. How fun...and beautiful! I think I want to be in your class! I'm sure it was nice to be doing your thing again and it sounds like you had a wonderful day!


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