To Judge or not to Judge a Craft by Its Cover

January 6, 2014

If a craft looks good, does that mean it is good? In preschool the emphasis is on the experience of creating, but at what age does that change or should it? If it shouldn't, then why do elementary school teachers and art instructors carefully plan art and craft projects which have attractive results no matter what the child's ability or skill? Is that so when children bring their projects home, parents have something they want to frame instead of kindly saying "Wonderful!" before filing the craft away in the deep dark cavern of school work and projects? Does it make the children feel better about themselves if crafts turn out? Does it make the parents feel a greater sense of pride when they go to open house at their children's school and see their children's work displayed?

Okay, so these are a lot of questions, but in case you haven't noticed already, this blog isn't about perfect results. It's about creating with what we have. It's about inspiring to create instead of saying, "This is the way to do it." If one child or adult visits this blog and says to him or herself, "Well, I can do that better!" I have succeeded! If another responds, "Hmmm that idea is a little rough, so we'll do something a little different like this." I have again succeeded!

I keep reading about Edison's 10,000 tries before succeeding. I wonder what he did with his projects that didn't turn out right, didn't work, or just didn't look as good as he wanted. I wonder if he had a file for "failed projects" or if he labeled this file "creative attempts" or "birthday gifts for mom and dad"? If one of you know the answers, please share! Did Edison start with a clear goal? Or did he just like trying things out never judging whether his experiments were successes or failures?

Thanksgiving 2013 I once again attempted a gingerbread house. I say "once again" because my occasional gingerbread projects are rather infamous in my family. I love building a gingerbread house not because I want to do it right or make it come out like the pictures in books or on the internet, but for the pure ingenuity of experimenting and pretending to be an architect. The kitchen, dining room, laundry room, and family room all turn into construction sites. My daughter's craft supplies become my tools for pattern making. 

I don't know anything about building gingerbread houses besides the skimming I've done in children's books for the perfect gingerbread and frosting recipes. Altogether I have completed three houses, so you can see I'm relatively inexperienced. I get an image in my mind I want to create my own stubborn way and don't want advice about easier models like "A" frames. I want the house frame with a roof that doesn't slide off and cave in the walls. I most of all don't want egg in the frosting. Lately I've made a compromise in my frosting standards by using milk instead of orange juice which I thought was less likely to spoil. So you see my idiosyncrasies displayed in my requisites. By the way, I added cornstarch to thicken the frosting which worked fine.

My daughter was helping. I was a little nervous about this because the project is so long,--it ended up taking us three days--and if it became a disaster, I didn't know if she would become disenchanted and start urging me to do something different.

It turned out she enjoyed letting me do most of the work as long as she was able to get her hands in at precisely the moment she felt her architectural skill was better than mom's.

One of these wonderfully memorable moments was when my cracked wall broke in half, and even though I don't give up easily, I felt the house wasn't going up. I told her it was time to frost and eat, but she jumped in showing me how we could hold up the wall with miniature candy canes propped against the edges of the pan we were using to build the house in. It worked, and the next day we were both proud of our ingenuity when we added the roof. The house stood strong until the day after when our family got together for a gingerbread house feast.

If I showed you picture of the final result--which I don't have because I forgot to take one--you wouldn't be impressed. Yet, we were impressed at our working together when the task seemed impossible, we found a way. That's what made this project "Wonderful"!

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