This post was written by Carter Spurrier of Buster & Fox. Born and raised in NYC’s East Village by two artist parents Carter has understood that making and investing in handmade is essential and transformative when woven into everyday life. Buster & Fox strives to bring curiosity and wonder into life’s little moments by creating unexpected opportunities for art to exist for everyone, everyday.
All of my kids are various versions of little – my youngest is almost 1 and my oldest is 4, so tackling an art project that we can all enjoy in our humble Brooklyn apartment is a challenge. I don’t want an art project to turn into hours of clean up work for me or for it to be an exercise in self control for my kids, (“honey, I’m not trying to crush your creative spirit but paint is for paper, not your sisters hair!”).
What I do want is for my kids to enjoy exploring color, shape and material in a free but thoughtful way and my mantra for doing this has become ‘Less is More’ when it comes to family art projects.
When we paint, I only bring out one color at a time and I introduce new colors slowly and with care. If we are doing a sculpture type of project, I try to only use one or two materials. I play alongside with them and ask a lot of questions – really pushing the kids to respect and explore all aspects of what the material/ color/ object they are using can do before moving on. When I encourage my kids to do more with less I see creative problem solving and ingenuity happening in a way that wouldn’t if they were presented with a pile of art supplies. Also, I’m less stressed and can play with them instead of being on clean up duty.
One project which is a rainy day staple in our house, is paper sculptures. We usually prepare the stuff the night or day before by painting large pieces of hard paper or cardboard with colors and then we cut them into shapes with notches so that they can fit together, and holes so they can be strung or made into a chain.
The next day, or whenever we feel like doing a little project, we pull the pieces out and see what we can make. My 4-year-old is obsessed with building things so he usually goes vertical; it takes a bit of patience to get the pieces notched together and balanced, which is a fun challenge for him.
My 2-year-old will usually be consumed with sorting and making characters out of the individual shapes. I also usually give her a string because she loves to string things together. And my youngest, well let’s face it – he is one, so he mostly sits on my lap and tries to eat everything. Our projects often evolve and more supplies get thrown into the mix if the kids ask for something specific as they figure out what they are making, but I try to challenge them to come up with another solution before bringing out more tape, glue, scissors or secondary colors.
Life is full of choices and excess, and I am often as much a fan of these things as anyone else, but I hope that with these simple projects I am able to reassure my kids that they don’t need a lot to create something beautiful and there is always more than one way of doing something.