Pittsburgh “Yinz-broidery”

Embroidery is one of those crafts that I really want to be amazing at. Well, maybe that’s all crafts. I am somehow both lazy and over-ambitious with new projects, so, unfortunately, it remains a craft that I am good at, but not great at. Like knitting. And making pickles…

Anyway. Every month at the library I host an “adult maker” workshop where we bring in local artists and makers to teach a skill or craft. Past workshops have brought in ceramic artists, beekeepers, and printmakers. This month I was the local artist teaching a class on Pittsburgh-themed embroidery, or, “yinz-broidery”. Yes, I thought of that really clever name myself, thank you for asking.

For those of you who are not familiar with the word “yinz” or “yinzer”, a “yinzer” is a term for a native Pittsburgher who speaks with a Pittsburgh accent and uses words such as “yinz”, “n’at”, “nebby”. Ex. “She asked what yinz were up to n’at and I told her to stop being so nebby.” A little bit of a stretch, but you get the idea. It’s frequently a source of pride in Pittsburgh, to be considered a yinzer. 

My Yinz-broidery class wasn’t exactly well attended… I had four participants by the time the class was over, but it was a lot of fun and I think the results were pretty cute. The ladies got to take home one or two small embroidery hoops featuring designs that I created specifically for the class. Overall if felt like a success!

I think I’ll keep making these for small gifts for ex-pat Pittsburghers… Once a yinzer always a yinzer, so they say.

They All Saw A Cat

Fridays at the library are “Small Fry Fridays”. Tiny humans and their grown ups line up at the doors awaiting a morning filled with stories, maker crafts, snack and free play. It’s one of our more successful programs, as it combines several initiatives into one day full of activities for PreK kids and their families. 

With the Picture Book Maker Craft Project well underway, I am trying to make more visible connections between the book read during story time, and the hands-on activity done during Mini Makers. This week, the kids read the book “They All Saw A Cat” by Brendan Wenzel. For those of you who aren’t as familiar with picture books, this book is ah-mazing. It explores how different animals all see the same thing, a cat, in very different ways.  A child, a mouse, a dog, a bumblebee, a goldfish… all seeing a cat from different perspectives. I have plans to work with slightly older kids (k-2nd grade-ish), reading the story and exploring looking at something through different “lenses”, but with my mini maker crew, I changed the project a bit to fit my audience. 


After reading the book with our partnering librarian Ms. Jan, the kids came to a table covered in construction paper and oil/chalk pastels. I simply asked them to draw a cat, highlighting the passage of the book “the cat walked through the world, whiskers ears and paws.” I really loved seeing how the grown ups helped their kids with the project, allowing them to interact with the materials, but continuing to ask “Where are the whiskers? Where are the paws?” 


It seemed like a simple project, but I find that something really valuable happens when the hands-on exploration connects to the early literacy experience of listening to a book. 

What is the Picture Book Maker Craft Project?

I realized I never explained what this project even is! Apologies! 

Basically, I design book-based maker projects/crafts, print them on stickers, and place those stickers inside of the books in our collection. Each book containing a maker project is marked with a lime green spine sticker, allowing for perusing patrons to spot them from the shelf. This initiative is really fun to work on, and has provided lots of interesting opportunities for collaboration.

Because of the small size of the MCL, our children’s collection really dominates the space. So far all of the books with prompts inside are picture books, but I have plans to include graphic novels, YA fiction, and juvenile/adult nonfiction. My hope is that by creating a clear line between hands-on learning and literacy, “informal” educational institutions, like the Millvale Community Library, will be able to fill the voids caused by cuts to arts programming in schools. The prompts are inside of books that can be checked out and taken home, expanding the reach of my maker program. It also creates opportunities for connections book-based and maker-based learning. 

So far we have 12 titles with maker project stickers inside. The prompts vary from step-by-step instructions to open-ended explorations, and they are based on everything from the content of the story to the style of illustration. I’ve had visiting educators design projects based on books that could work in their learning environments or classrooms.

My plan is to develop the collection at the MCL and make the stickers available for purchase. I would love to see this project exist in a world outside of Millvale, and reach learners and educators in lots of different spaces.

I have a stack of project ideas created by a few awesome educators who came for the Agency by Design cohort meeting. I used this project as a design challenge, getting the educators to pick a book and create a hands-on learning prompt inspired by it in some way. Some of the ideas were really amazing, and I was so excited to see them in the books!  

Is this something you would find useful? Do you have any ideas for book-based maker projects? Let me know!  

National Poetry Month at the MCL

I’m not much of a poet, but I love getting the chance to work with other creative ladies, and April was all about poetry… and with local poet, it’s also about pizza.

This was the second year of Steph’s annual project, Pizza Poems PGH. Last year she worked with her students at Brashear High School to write poetry and make illustrations inspired by pizza. A few weeks ago we set aside an afternoon to make pizza stamps, write poetry about pizza, and of course, eat pizza. It took a little coercing to get the kids interested in poetry, but the results were really awesome. I had the kids make the stamps with craft foam hot glued to pieces of cardboard and foam core… Pizza was the perfect inspiration to get them thinking about printmaking in layers. Sauce, cheese, crust, toppings… easy ways to think about building up layers of color, and flavor!

Last week was the event, we partnered with a local food truck, Driftwood Oven. Their pizza is seriously my weakness. We set up a table next to the food tent and as people enjoyed their pies and beer, Steph and I encouraged them to make some printed pizza patches and contribute to a collaborative poem. It was a pretty great evening. 

The following day just happened to be Poem in Your Pocket Day, a national initiative where everyone is encouraged to keep a poem in their pocket to read or distribute. Another fab collaboration came about as a result of Steph’s shower realization from the week before. “What if we made poetry fortune tellers!” So, that’s exactly what we did! Steph picked the poets and poems to be featured in the cootie catcher, and I designed the actual artifact. I made about 100 copies and spent a chunk of time folding them… my 5th grade self was giddy at the thought of folding fortune tellers at work. Available at the front desk of the library and the neighboring tea shop, our funky take on Poem in Your Pocket went home with a bunch of excited poetry-lovers.

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The PDF is available here for anyone who wants to print one and make it themselves!

Building the Community Mosaic

One of the projects I’m currently working on is a mosaic to for the roof of the Millvale Community Center. There was recently a solar panel installation up there, adding another building to the list of solar powered businesses in town. Teens from the library got to learn about solar energy and help in the installation, and I’m working on a piece of community art that will sit up there with the panels, drawing attention to how amazing solar energy is!

Today was the Millvale Environment and Health Fair at the Community Center. There were tables set up offering everything from a blood pressure test to free toothbrushes and water bottles. It was a really great to see the community supporting each other in such small ways. I had the mosaic, still in it’s early stages, set up at a table inviting people to come and work on it with me for a few moments. I had my trusty sidekick, Izzy, and a few other kids from the library stopped by to help.

I love the opportunities for collaboration created in community art work. It’s so exciting to see all different types of people, kids and adults alike, working toward a common goal, even if it just requires stopping for a few seconds to place a few glass pieces. The mosaic is drying tonight, letting kids loose with a caulk gun means that there’s some serious goopage… but I can’t wait to continue working on it next week and seeing how it changes from here!

 

Teaching Artist/Maker Educator

Hi, I’m Nora!
It’s nice to virtually *meet* all you!

For my first post I would like to introduce myself and give you some kind of idea of what this whole blog is going to be about!

Right now at this very moment, I am sitting in my apartment kitchen in Millvale, PA. Millvale is a small Appalachian-esque town across the Allegheny River from Pittsburgh. My apartment is above a tea shop and next to the library where I work. The Millvale Community Library is an amazing haven of books, art, and collaboration. I was lucky enough to find it three years ago when I started working as a Maker Educator, running summer programming for the kids in town. Now, about to enter my fourth summer at the MCL, Millvale is my place of work, my place of residence, and naturally the place where I spend all of my time. All of it.

I created this blog as a way to share the work I do as Maker Program Director at the MCL, as an artist living and working in Pittsburgh (Millvale), and the point where those two intersect. I consider working with kids to be an artform of it’s own, and over the past couple of years I have collaborated with many
little monsters to create a really exciting body of work.

Ms. Nora Makes will serve as the platform for documenting basically every creative thing that I do, whether it’s a project/initiative at the library, a new skill I’m fine tuning myself, or an activity I completed/plan to complete with the kids. My hope is that someone other than myself (maybe you!) will find value in my ramblings and use it as inspiration for more creativity. Let’s spread the love, eh?

Here’s to yet another social media outlet, and another item on my list of things to remember. πŸ’πŸ»πŸŒ»