“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
~ Maya Angelou
It is a while since I’ve written a blog post. I apologize. The truth is, that I’ve made a significant change in my life and I have been going through a process of adjustment. I have left one job for another, something I consider quite miraculous given my age. The job I left was one where I felt that my creative potential would never be fully realized, (though not for lack of trying). I did creative things outside of work – things that work could not touch or take away. These shored me up, and reminded me of what I could give to the world, given the right circumstances. The new job provides me with challenges, opportunities for learning and a chance to create something that I hope will make a difference for educators and children. Anyone who follows my blog knows that it’s as much about personal transformation as it is about what to create, or how to create. Maybe this is why I like to blog about butterflies. They represent change, beauty, and doing work that involves sharing and promoting growth. I dedicate today’s post to Eric Carle and Lois Ehlert with thanks for their story books about butterflies. They remind me that while change involves risk and uncertainty, it can teach you a lot about yourself – like knowing when to stand still and hold on, and when to let go, and fly.
In May 2021, within two days of each other, respected children’s authors Eric Carle and Lois Ehlert passed away. Over the course of many years, they each have written and illustrated numerous books, that have been well-loved, read and re-read by many children, all over the world. Their books are classics, and will no doubt be read and loved by children for years to come. Eric Carle gave us such titles as Little Cloud, Mister Seahorse, I See a Song, Draw me a Star and of course, everyone recognizes The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Some of my favourites by Lois Ehlert include Planting a Rainbow, Hands, Snowballs, Leaf Man, In My World and Waiting for Wings. Theirs are the books I often reach for when I want to read something to children that is special – not just because of the quality of the stories but because of the beautiful artwork. Each page is alive with colour and surprises, both authors using the technique of collage to show what is possible through their illustrations. Eric Carle and Lois Ehlert invite children into their creative worlds, encouraging them to look closely, to be curious and to imagine. While I am so grateful for how their lives and experiences inspired them to write such wonderful books, I can’t help but feel sad knowing there will be no others. It will be up to the next generation of children’s authors and illustrators to fill that void.
“How does one become a butterfly? You have to want to learn to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.” ~ Trina Paulus
Peggy Davison Jenkins’ book Art for the Fun of It, has a wonderful chapter about collage. Giving children opportunities to explore affixing intriguing items to interesting surfaces is a nice way to extend the experience of reading books by Carle and Ehlert and to encourage children to try their hand at creating art using those authors’ techniques. They can also be introduced to other artists who work in collage for added inspiration. Though collage for young children typically involves gluing scraps to paper, there are many more materials you can use. Jenkins suggests a variety that include nature items like pebbles, feathers, seeds; household items like buttons, popsicle sticks, bottle caps; tissue paper; fabric scraps; assorted paper including gift wrap, magazine pages and old greeting cards; assorted string including yarn, rope, embroidery floss. All of these things suggest possibilities for different shapes and textures, as children discover the magic of making something out of bits and pieces, decide how to make order out of random materials and find their own ways to express themselves. Backgrounds for collage can include wood, plastic lids, or cardboard cartons. Adhesives can include white glue, collage dough, paste or whipped soap flakes. The possibilities are endless with collage, allowing imaginations to open like delicate butterfly wings, and take flight.
“There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”
~ Erin Hanson