Pillow Artists. (Children's Art Diary)

Article excerpt

My daughter Ilona was born weighing 12 pounds, 6 ounces. I can tell you our children's birth weight because it is inscribed on their pillows. Grandma Ruth created a wonderful pillow for each child's birth. Our history can be deciphered from treasured pillows, handed down through generations.

In the past, family members demonstrated their art on hand-crafted pillows that featured applique, petite point designs or weavings celebrating weddings, births and other occasions for which we now buy Hallmark cards. As our art class sorts through my pillows, children speak of making their own as presents and to celebrate special occasions. For children who make art as a gift for special people in their lives, and don't view art as a business, this traditional family art has great appeal.

Few objects are closer to children or possess more magical qualities than pillows. You donate your tooth, only to find a stash of cash in the morning under your pillow. This magical mailbox is also said to help absorb learning. Children insert their vocabulary words in their pillowcase to sleep on at night. Of course, pillows have wings to fly through dreams, and they are comforting and protective as we can travel. Pillows can become important canvases for children to log nighttime journeys. In our art class, we create unusual pillow dreams, and tell pillow stories that you may read about in a pillow book--or in the following article.

BUILDING WITH PILLOWS There are always more pillows on a child's bed than on anyone else's. All the pillows may not be necessary for sleeping, but they are essential for children's many construction projects erected over the bed site. Forts made of pillows may frame one bed, while towers rise from another. Pillows are children's earliest soft play blocks from which fantastic architectural ideas are created. Children stack pillows into magnificent mountains and valleys to conduct extensive army maneuvers, invite space landings, or set up a challenging terrain for off-road vehicles. Pillows are set up as cribs for bed-top nurseries or as desks for teddy bears and dolls to play school.

An art room should invite children to build and design with everything around them. To expand children's natural inclinations to build with all kinds of objects, we construct with school supplies such as erasers, pencils, rulers and books. The contents of lunch boxes are opened for construction work, and umbrellas visiting the class on rainy days are inviting to building crews. Our class steamer trunk is always overflowing with pillows available to construction workers. Soft landscapes are built for soft trains to traverse. Pillows become playhouses for fast-food toy figures, and legendary pillow cities are the combined effort of individual pillow architects displaying visionary models.

TRAVELING WITH PILLOWS It's a tradition. Trips in our family start at dawn, and we pack the night before. Packing is always supervised by the children, who make sure their seats are properly set up for the journey. Most important, besides claiming a good spot, is the selection of travel pillows. Our children have set them up for easy conversion from sleeping, to eating, to daytime activities. Travel companions such as dolls or stuffed animals get their own pillows. By the time we leave, the house is emptied of pillows, and passengers are so well padded that airbags are overkill.

In the art class, we design travel pillows with supply pockets, handles and Velcro[R] for easy assembly. Children have created pillow tables for comfortable car rides, with changeable game-board covers and compartments for snacks and art supplies. One side of the pillow table can be for sleeping, the other side for writing, complete with a stationery pocket. A young pillow-designer in our class envisions a pillow with offspring--different sizes for parents, children, pets and dolls, all inflatable and fitting into a small travel case. …