Lessons from the Art of Junk-Modelling

14 Aug 2022
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Oftentimes children are the best teachers.

Each Thursday morning in August, my organisation is hosting, “Exploring Art Together.” This is an environment in which budding artists of all ages and all abilities can have space to ‘play’ with Art. Some of our activities are led and some are self-supervised.

The biggest surprise for me has been the self-supervised activity of “Junk-Modelling.” This is exactly what you might expect it to be: a pile of rubbish with tape to stick it together! We’ve got flower pots and cardboard tubes, boxes and plastic bowls. All the items were once useful as packaging to contain something else. Now, they are no longer needed or wanted.

The sight of one of the grandmothers carrying the large ‘house’ her granddaughter had built out of our building to take safely home is a sight that will tickle me for years. I wonder where she will find space to put it!

This activity is by far one of the children’s favourites. It requires three major ingredients: supervision for safety, a pile of discarded junk (with things to stick it together), and tons of imagination!

I have that kind of brain that sees lessons in most experiences. As the children created masterpieces of Art, I thought about the junk we have in our own lives. We all have ‘containers’ that once were useful for a task or resource whose time has passed. Now those containers clutter our lives. Penny is in the process of breathing exciting new life into a dressing table she had as a child. This is good but not what I have in mind here. Instead, Penny is restoring a piece to its original intended purpose.

What if, like the children, we could take wasted resources and make good Art? What if we could take experiences that we no longer think have value and stick them together with other experiences in new ways to find new meaning and value? The children are showing me that nothing is wasted and everything has value when mixed with energy and imagination.

Perhaps you have wasted talents (I don’t think they are ‘wasted’ but I use the language to illustrate the point) that could be put to new use. Innovation is surely a ‘new’ use for existing ingredients. It is the bottle-tops that become the new bricks to build with; wasted-plastic that becomes a new bench for the park. What use could one’s ‘wasted youth’ be put to? What value could be found in and for loss? For example, the lady who is passionate about collecting our medical waste – blister packs for pills – does so because it raises funds for Marie Curie as well as keeping the waste out of landfills. She does this also because her husband died of cancer and they were cared for by Marie Curie. I would not say everything is valuable but I would say every experience can be put to good use… as the children teach us.

Lex

A Moodscope member.

A Moodscope member.

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Comments

Oli

Aug. 15, 2022, 5:20 a.m.

Being able to see the possibilities in anything, even "junk": There was a time when I judged myself harshly for the time I was unable to "stick anything together". Spending one's days doing *nothing* can certainly feel unproductive and pointless. Funnily enough a fortnight ago a neighbour was a bit unkind -- teasing about the length of time it took me to make some home improvements. I felt misunderstood and hurt, but he couldn't know what it was like for me to be able to do anything. Nor could he know about the amount of work I did elsewhere. And lastly, I looked at the issues he has in his own life and recognised how he was probably criticising himself and his own stuckness -- but throwing the self-criticism and pain onto me. It takes creativity and, for me, that ability to join the dots in new ways and see possibilities is what it is to feel alive. But for a long time I didn't have it. Or rather, didn't have as much of it as I wanted and life felt flat. Your blog reminded me of that time Lex -- in a good way. So if anyone else is feeling harsh towards themselves I'd just offer the suggestion, if you want it, that you don't gain much from harshness. I look back at my time of stuckness as being necessary. I didn't want it, I don't miss it, but it's part of me now. I learned from it. Thank you for the blog Lex. Have a lovely day sticking ideas together!

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the room above the garage

Aug. 15, 2022, 5:49 a.m.

It’s nobody’s business how long it takes someone to do something for themselves, what a nosey and unhelpful neighbour. I’m not always fast, things queue, but they always get done well in the end. I’m getting better at identifying peoples cruel statements as just that (and not receiving them on my inside) and it’s made a big difference.

Valerie

Aug. 15, 2022, 6:48 a.m.

Oli,some years ago my odd neighbour stuck her head over the fence when Spock was painting the back porch."It's about time you got round to that,I have been meaning to speak to you about it" Your take on your neighbour's attitude is a lot more charitable than mine was when Spock reported this back to me.She at least was openly rude,your bloke is passive-aggressive and I hate that.***

Bearofliddlebrain

Aug. 15, 2022, 7:59 a.m.

Oh dear Oli, I absolutely hate that your neighbour thought he should say anything to you…you are probably correct in thinking he has his own internal issues of inadequacy. How very dare he - same goes to you and Spock, Val. Nothing to do with anyone else what you are able to do to your own home! Where do people ‘get off’ on putting us down? I get it a lot and it makes me so fed up and miserable when it happens. We are taking time to do ‘stuff’ in our own home and garden and as the weather is far too hot, it’s taking a lot longer than we’d hope - if anyone dares say anything - I think they may have to duck! Bear xx

Lex

Aug. 15, 2022, 8:15 a.m.

I love the fact that you challenged the truth of your insensitive neighbour, Oli. Here's another Oli gem to be pondered... "I looked at the issues he has in his own life and recognised how he was probably criticising himself and his own stuckness -- but throwing the self-criticism and pain onto me." Projection is such an important concept to understand. You are so insightful. Lx

Sally

Aug. 15, 2022, 11:29 a.m.

Good for you, Room! Me too : “ you are not their primary target , the primary target is not available to be got at! “ so said a member of the Behaviour Support team when I worked for a parallel team some years ago… I’ve not forgotten that. It’s true, as well . When you unpack it, you begin to see where their real pain is! BUT self protection is also crucial. Wear a helmet where needed, says I!

G

Aug. 15, 2022, 4:19 p.m.

Oli and Lex, spot on! “ I looked at the issues he has in his own life and recognised how he was probably criticising himself and his own stuckness -- but throwing the self-criticism and pain onto me”. Do you think, in general, people are unaware they are doing this? I’ve seen it a lot lately. Lex, you say it is a skill to recognise this behaviour. I can add that skill to my limited list then! It’s still hurtful, but its all too common to play the blame game when we don’t always know how bad someone might be feeling inside and their way of coping. Thanks both.

Lex

Aug. 15, 2022, 4:47 p.m.

Hi G, I sincerely believe it is a dominant human behaviour! It's the only relief some people get from their own intolerance of themselves (that doesn't sound good English but I hope it makes sense.) Lx

G

Aug. 15, 2022, 5:06 p.m.

Thanks Lex, yes made sense. I will be thinking a lot more about this, this evening. Might help my tolerance levels! x

the room above the garage

Aug. 15, 2022, 5:51 a.m.

Lovely blog Lex. Children know everything and we don’t trust that enough! Junk creations make me smile…the best fun my children had was on the days something was delivered in a big box. Days of fun. Thank you for bringing that memory out.

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Lex

Aug. 15, 2022, 9:16 a.m.

Thank you, Ratg... yes, the 'box' that becomes the spaceship, the boat, the cave... happy memories! Lx

G

Aug. 15, 2022, 4:23 p.m.

My cat sleeps in a cardboard box. It’s not that I can’t afford a bed, he has two and never goes into them!

Lex

Aug. 15, 2022, 7:12 p.m.

Oh, we had cats like that!!!!

Sally

Aug. 16, 2022, 3:05 a.m.

I still remember the eiderdown delivered in a huge box. The eiderdown was unpacked from the box’s resting place in the dining room, and a splendid thing it was . Pale hues of pastel panels, thick, heavy and comforting on my parents’ bed. But the box! Square and cavernous, and easily large enough to hold a whole child of 8. What fun we had, what games we made up! 60 years ago now, but I can still remember those simple pleasures as if it was yesterday.

Orangeblossom

Aug. 15, 2022, 6:37 a.m.

Thanks very much for the blog. Read it with interest. Coming to terms with negative experiences at the moment. I like the positive aspects of your blog

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Bearofliddlebrain

Aug. 15, 2022, 7:59 a.m.

Bear hugs OB x x x

Lex

Aug. 15, 2022, 9:18 a.m.

I have confidence that you have the imagination to reinvent new meanings for those negative experiences, dear Orangeblossom... and echo Bear's hugs, Lx

Valerie

Aug. 15, 2022, 6:52 a.m.

This reminded me of a T.V show I used to love-"Ready steady cook" Professionals would make delicious meals from just 3 ingredients.The way things are going with inflation, that programme could be very popular again! ***

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Lex

Aug. 15, 2022, 9:19 a.m.

Oh, I agree, Valerie. We were thinking about a 'One Pot Cookbook' - using just one pan on one hob. I'm grateful we've got our Community to support throughout the coming months. Lxxx

Bearofliddlebrain

Aug. 15, 2022, 9:45 a.m.

Baby Bear splurged out on an air fryer over two years ago and uses it for everything - one pot magic! Bear x

Lex

Aug. 15, 2022, 10:18 a.m.

...all the excuse I was looking for! Lx

Jul

Aug. 15, 2022, 7:02 a.m.

Good morning Lex I look back at the years when I've made bad choices and would say largely I have learnt from them. However unlike junk art, my path to using that junk in my life in a positive way is not apparent for everyone to see. Only I can. The changes I have made are not dramatic but have evolved over the years. I used to make cardboard houses for the children's favourite soft toys to live in. I didn't enjoy it much but in a group setting where plays sessions are supervised and parents can get together while their children are occupied with cardboard and loo rolls, it's much more enjoyable. I shall continue to ponder on your blog Lex. Jul xx

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Lex

Aug. 15, 2022, 10:17 a.m.

Hi Jules Reading what you've shared from your heart, I 'saw' a movie of the timelapse growth of a tree. Within one timeframe, it can look as if nothing is happening, but speeded up with timelapse photography, we know the tree grows transformatively. As you say, "The changes I have made are not dramatic but have evolved over the years." Building Character is not junk art but rather Fine Art, and Fine Art takes time. I learned last week that the layers of paint van Gogh painted with were so deep they remained wet even after he passed on. That's a long commitment to making good Art. Many times, deep change takes time... and the Masterpiece you are and are becoming is worth the wait. Lx

Jul

Aug. 15, 2022, 2:43 p.m.

What a wonderful reply Lex. Thank you. Jules xx

Lex

Aug. 15, 2022, 4:47 p.m.

Always welcome! Lx

Norman

Aug. 15, 2022, 7:37 a.m.

Hi Lex, It sometimes seems that my whole life has been a waste of talent, due to my greatest talent: that is ******** things up! Finding out it was actually ADHD has not yet helped address the issue. One art class at school we were given the theme of "The Traveller." I envisaged a broad valley in panorama, with a narrow dusty pathway, a hot sun, a small, cloaked figure to the left facing the cruel road. Try as I might I couldn't get scale or perspective in the outline sketch. Draw, rub out, draw rub out...Then the teacher said "two minutes left." I desperately turned over and did a quick sketch of a spaceman and a flying saucer. My feeling of failure was multiplied many times when the teacher held up my drawing and ridiculed it to the great amusement of the class. My lesson from the experience was straight from Homer Simpson, saying to Bart after a failure: "Never Try."

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Bearofliddlebrain

Aug. 15, 2022, 8:01 a.m.

That is so cruel and so hurtful of your pathetic teacher. Why didn’t he come around the class and see how everyone was getting on? At least then he might have been able to help you. Bear x

Lex

Aug. 15, 2022, 10:23 a.m.

Oh, Norman, I think you wanted us to laugh at the Homer Simpson reference, so I won't feel bad about laughing out loud at Homer's, "Never Try!" Homer is a such a successful model of Adult Learning. How easy it is for us to give up when learning or doing something is hard work. However, you were a child and children keep going. Like Bear (and many as yet unvoiced Moodscopers reading your comment) I feel anger at your Teacher's lack of grace and insight and responsibility. If I was your teacher, I would praise you for your last minute improvisation and rapid solution under pressure. I would also have noticed your perseverance in the face of a noble attempt to articulate your artistic vision. Now, if we could only combine our skills. I have a gift for creating chaos. What could we achieve together? ;0)

Norman

Aug. 15, 2022, 6:32 p.m.

Bear... the teacher was a woman...and yes, I have always had a chip about art as a result, which is a shame as I am very creative but lack the ability to express myself with my hands.

Bearofliddlebrain

Aug. 15, 2022, 8:04 a.m.

Ah Lex - watching and listening to children make stuff up - a joy and wonderment. I loved collecting the fragments of softened coloured glass off the beach at low tide, then finding the jam jars and sticking the pieces in random patterns, to the outside of the jar…they became lanterns, with a small candle in each one. Today I see crafters at the coast doing the same - collecting glass and old bits of discarded fishing net and making jewellery - would that I lived by the coast… Thank you for an inspiring blog. Love and Bear hugs x x x

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Lex

Aug. 15, 2022, 10:25 a.m.

What magical lanterns, Bear! Each unique and with many stories of the journey behind each piece. Wonderful! L x x x

Lex

Aug. 15, 2022, 10:34 a.m.

We were at an 80th birthday celebration yesterday, and that was like making one of your lanterns. So many stories to throw new light through colouring my appreciation of the birthday boy and his companions through the years... x x x

Bearofliddlebrain

Aug. 16, 2022, 6:24 a.m.

I love that Lex - and all your artful descriptions and replies to everyone yesterday - thankees x x x

The Gardener

Aug. 15, 2022, 8:12 a.m.

When you absolutely could not get in my kids rooms I would give them 5 minutes to clear up then threaten to take the yard broom to it. Every last sweet papeer would be rescued, and we would start over. With four children, 3 grandchildren and 1 g-great grandson, who learned 'Great nanny' over week-end. They may not be able to collect so much junk as I and my children did because they will be restricted for space. Without being fogey-ish, I do hope they keep creativity and re-cycling, and not spend their lives glued to a screen. He should have been the start turn with 'The wheels on the bus go round and round'. Parents hate it. Would have been better than best man's speech

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Lex

Aug. 15, 2022, 10:32 a.m.

Hi Dear Gardener... I was delighted to look up 'fogey' as its definition didn't leap to mind. Then, of course, I recognised the phrase 'old fogeys' and this put it into context. Google says, "a very old-fashioned or conservative person." An excellent word. Last night, I learned another new word: 'sobriquet'. What a delightful word (and, in case others haven't come across it, it is a 'nickname' like 'The Big Apple' for 'New York'.) The Wheels on the Bus is one of my favourite Children's Songs to subvert! Oh, the new verses one can create with a group of mischievous children! More magnificent memories, Great Nanny! Lx

Sally

Aug. 15, 2022, 11:36 a.m.

I was testing my granddaughter , just 3 , on her colours and quite enjoying myself, extending the “ game” since she was getting them all right. She headed for the door, saying “ Grandma, you really need to start figuring out some of these colours for yourself, you know!

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Lex

Aug. 15, 2022, 11:57 a.m.

That's precious! Love it! Lx

Teg

Aug. 15, 2022, 3:49 p.m.

Sally That brought a smile to my face! Txx

Teg

Aug. 15, 2022, 3:53 p.m.

Hi Lex Thanks for the Post. Unfortunately I've had a challenging few days and my creative imagination has dried up. I can see your enjoyment with the children. To recreate our own childhood is a marvellous thing. Teg

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Lex

Aug. 15, 2022, 4:48 p.m.

...and maybe the secret to staying young, dear Teg x

G

Aug. 15, 2022, 4:53 p.m.

What came to my mind was a very old photo I came across recently. My brother is a keen photographer and very good he is too. How I smiled at this photo I found, it was him at the age of about three years old, with a camera hanging around his neck, he had made it himself from an empty cereal box and an empty toilet roll!

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Lex

Aug. 15, 2022, 7:13 p.m.

A sustainable camera!

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