Friday, May 28, 2010

Forest Stories

This post was contributed by AmeriCorps members Turenne Beauvais, Annie Blazejack and Jess Fields, creators of the new Forest Stories display in the Museum’s atrium walkway. They interviewed one another about their inspiration and process.

What materials did you use? Where did they come from?
A: We took a trip to Moonstone Beach and Trustom Pond in South County to collect natural materials; it was mid winter so we found lots of stones and dried plants.
J: Our original focus was on natural materials, but as we became immersed in our storyline we decided to craft more and more.
T: The boat in the water scene is made from bark stripped off a dead tree; the banjo in the singing scene is a carved almond.

What was your relationship to nature as a child? Do these boxes relate to your own childhood memories?
T: I grew up in an urban area but there were play spaces in my neighborhood like a park, an open lot, or the schoolyard. I also spent a lot of time at the beach and on my dad’s boat –I learned to sincerely appreciate the times when I could enjoy nature.
J: I spent a lot of time as a child stealing flowers from neighbor’s yards, making poison dirt potions, and digging intricate tunnels. The books “Children of the Forest” and “Peter in Blueberry Land” by Elsa Beskow played a large role in the way that I imagined these ramp boxes.

What is the goal of your ramp box exhibit?
A: We wanted these scenes to be open ended like everything else in the Museum. We wanted to create a beautiful space for kids to use their imaginations. The new Underland exhibit will open while the ramp boxes are on display. There, too, kids can imagine what it would be like to be super small and underground.
J: We called this series Forest Stories; while we made them, we had stories in mind, but we want children to create their own story lines. I think children exist in a world that is constantly playing with scale... I feel that children will view our ramp box characters as children like themselves.

Do you have a favorite box?

A: I love the scene in which a boy is playing his banjo and singing with two birds. I like the way they’re suspended in the box – with space all around them.
T: My favorite scene is the one with a little boy is reaching out and offering a pomegranate seed to a raccoon. He’s got red juice dripping down his face. He’s not afraid of this huge animal – he sees it as a friend, and he wants to share his treat.
J: I really love the scene in which a small boy is curled in the tail of a sleeping squirrel. They both look so peaceful and warm; it’s one of the few scenes where there’s no sense of action and time seems to stop.

How did you work together? Who made what?
T: First we built the children. We worked together, crafting them with wire and clay. I focused on landscapes for each box and very small details such as the banjo. Annie’s efforts were put into sketching our original visions and then creating the small woodland creatures from paper maché. Jess painted, worked with fabrics and textures, and drew the landscapes for the sides of each box.

What did you enjoy most about this process?

J: There was a kind of magic working with Annie to create the sketches. Even though we all worked separately on very different things, watching Annie articulate our thoughts confirmed that we all had a similar vision, and made the world that we were imagining very real.
T: I love that we didn’t ever divide up jobs– it just happened naturally. We each knew our own jobs, but we could help each other a lot because we were all in tune about what we wanted to make.
A: I love using paper maché; it’s wonderfully slimy.

How have kids talked about these stories?
T: A young girl mentioned that her favorite exhibit was Water Ways. I told her to check out the ramp boxes on her way downstairs. About an hour later, she told me that the ramp boxes were now her favorite part of the Museum!
J: A 2 year old pointed to the girl in the bee scene and say, “she’s scared.” We worked hard to make the facial expressions and posture of our characters just right, so it was nice to know it paid off.

Forest Stories will be on display into the fall – be sure to check it out next time you’re at the Museum and let us know which is your favorite box!


Unknown said...

I love the box with one of the kids under a shower of water cascading from a leaf, held up by a mouse's tail! One surprise after another, and in the late afternoon sun the saran wrap "water" glistens in the sunlight.

Lindsay Kilgore said...

I absolutely love these ramp boxes! They're so creative and at the same time they inspire creativity. They also make me want to go outside and play!

Megan Fischer, Providence Children's Museum said...

I especially love the ones in the rabbit burrow - that the burrow and bunny extend between two boxes, and how they play with scale. As Janice said, that's one big bunny!

Lindsay, we miss you!