Lindsey is the relocated Brit who blogs at Filth Wizardry
mess art making and other fun things she does with her two
daughters, ages 4 and 5. She's funny to boot — I snarfed my hot coffee, laughing at Lindsey's answers!
Readers will have a chance to win one of Lindsey’s favorite art tools at the
end of this interview as well as a pair of her hand-crocheted flower hair clips.***
JEAN: The subtitle for your blog is right up my
alley—“Sharing messy art and craft fun for preschoolers, with the help of my
very own filth wizards.” Can you tell us a little about yourself and your filth
I’m originally from the UK, but moved out to California in 2004, so
although me and the bloke I’m affiliated with are Brits, both our daughters are
American, with the full on accents to prove it! My kids are very close in age,
they are four and five years old and although that was a lot of hard work when
they were babies, I think these days it’s making life easier because they are
sharing toys and are able to work together on the same projects easily. I am
well aware that I was very lucky to get all the baby proofing and nap
co-ordinating over in one burst. If our family grows in the future I know that
I’m going to have to face the same issues that you are facing now with trying
to ensure that Daphne is able to get into only the art supplies that are
appropriate for her, whilst still keeping the rest accessible to Maia.
JEAN: I love how open you are to messes and mayhem
in the pursuit of creativity and fun learning experiences! What makes you like
this? Don’t you ever think, hmm, I could set up an awesome light box for sand
art OR I could keep the house clean and just pop in a DVD?
I get a lot of people telling me that it’s really good of me to let the
kids get in a mess and not worry about the clean up while the art is going on,
but really it’s not an altruistic thing at all. I just like making a mess too.
I know I have to clean up after, but making stuff is fun and I’m a domestic
failure when it comes to keeping a tidy house anyway, so why fight it. I can’t
see the point of spending my time cleaning something if it’s not totally
filthy, so it’s probably best that we get the house utterly destroyed on a
regular basis or I’d never bring myself to clean it at all. The thought process
behind all of our nonsense is usually a case of “what can I do with the kids to
avoid chores and that isn’t going to cost us anything”.
Both me and
my husband went from living student lives in shared houses to being married
with kids and a family home almost overnight, so it’s not like we had any time
to collect new furnishings that we want to keep nice and pristine. Everything
is second hand or older. Regulars to our site have probably noticed by now that
the wood on the kitchen table is covered in Sharpie markers, and truth be told
I’ve become rather fond of it looking that way. Also we never had time to get used
to not having other people’s belongings all over the place, so having toys and
kid stuff and half finished artwork all around the house doesn’t bother us
either. It’s better than ash trays, beer cans, last night’s take out or an
totally banned TV in the house or anything like that. The kids do get a bit of
idiot box from time to time, but it’s not in the living room, because it’s too
much of a distraction to have it there as the focus of the room. A few years
back I moved our TV into our bedroom, which will probably make any relationship
expert freak out, but it keeps it out of the way during the day and the kids
find loads of fun things to involve themselves in when the cathode ray tube of
temptation isn’t right there next to them.
JEAN: What are your family’s favorite art materials
Anything that is free or cheap that we can use our imaginations with. I
guess I do have a bit of a soft spot for the low temp hot glue guns now that
the kids are a bit older. Glue is so frustrating for little kids, because it
never dries fast enough to make the 3D objects they want, but hot glue will
stick pretty much anything in your recycling bin together in no time at all,
and that’s a huge amount of creative fun whether you are five or fifty-five. Things
like our Wall-e
would have been a gigantic pain without hot glue.
pens. Once the kids are old enough to get that you don’t stick them up your
nose or in your ears or face paint yourself into a tiger with them, then they
are very useful because they will draw on pretty much anything, from plastic to
tin foil. I know neither of those things are particularly wholesome sounding,
and people often expect me to extol the virtues of water colours and naturally
dyed play dough, but we just go with whatever does the job really.
projects have to be the ones with oodles of brightly
coloured sloppy paint though. The kids love that more than anything else, especially
when the things they get to paint are unusual or really really big, like
house shanty town from a while back. I am extremely grateful for the vast
amounts of cardboard that Costco doesn’t seem to mind us stealing from between
it’s pallets of toilet roll too!
JEAN: I love how you think big! So many other
families (including mine) seem to be focused on arts and crafts they can do on
their kitchen table, while you’re out reclaiming large chunks of wood as play
blocks, building your own lightbox to use for sand art, and hanging dumbbells
from your ceiling in the name of art. What gives you this drive to pursue such
large scale experimentation?
I’m not really sure. It must be a combination of parts of my upbringing
and then maybe being in the labs of the Physics department back in Manchester
for four years. There was a lot of building apparatus involved there and that
was usually on a daunting scale until you got stuck in. I really want my kids
to have some hands on science fun early on, without getting bogged down in
mathematics and formulae. Feed the curiosity about how things work in an
environment where you can wonder about stuff without having to fulfill any
academic expectations, hence the Bernoulli effect “hair
dryer in a Frosties box” and the harmonograph
in the garage.
JEAN: Was your childhood like this? Did you create
hanging pendulum drawing apparatuses with your parents?
Mum and dad are very creative people. Mum is very good at sewing and
crochet. She used to sew a lot of clothes and toys for me and my sister when we
were growing up. Dad was a civil and structural engineer before retiring. His
influence on me was one of encouraging focus and problem solving. I can
remember him teaching me how to draw in perspective when I was a kid. That
seemed like some kind of magic until he explained it all with vanishing points.
making wine with her dad when she was about 4 years old
He also made a lot of stuff around the house, usually woodwork and DIY related,
which was empowering to see happen. They were really good about facilitating
some of my childhood obsessions too. Like when I was about seven and became
utterly absorbed in decorating paper doilies with intricate coloured patterns,
mum collected all sorts of different ones for me. Last time we went back to
visit, my older daughter got equally involved in the same thing, and mum still
had a stash of those doilies handy from 25 years ago! Mum and dad do like
things being extremely clean and tidy and really well organized though, so
their house is very different to mine in that respect.
I think I
realized in secondary school that other kids my age didn’t think the stuff I
thought was fun was actually anywhere near as fun as I thought it was. Luckily
I have a great best friend (back in the UK now) who was totally into making
things with me, like river rafts and sculptures out of trash (we even collected
scrap from a dismantled local railway station to make garden sculptures at her parent’s
house). Having a friendship like that, where open ended creativity was a
legitimate pastime, must have really reinforced it becoming part of my adult
I know right
now my kids require a lot of supervision with using tools and learning creative
processes, and I love being a part of that, but I’m excited for when they are
older and can just go have those epic, totally adult free, self directed,
creative projects that ruled my tween and teenage years. It’s fun to be in the
presence of these girls, who have the enthusiasm and drive to explore and play,
and who don’t think it’s a silly idea to make
a rocket ship out of a Costco potato box, but rather think it’s totally
cool and want to do it RIGHT NOW!
JEAN: Where do you go for inspiration? What are
your favorite books and blogs?
All sorts of things can be inspirational. The kids themselves are very
inspirational. They have what might seem like totally wacked out ideas, but
given a bit of thinking time, they often turn out to be things that we can
actually make happen, like the homemade
toy car wash , the freaky
kiddy scarecrow and the paper making
fiasco . The cool thing about helping them to make these ideas a reality is
that gradually over time their ideas get bigger as they dare to think that more
might be possible. Their enthusiasm pushes you forwards to try bigger projects
with them and before you know it you have a cardboard
metropolis in your backyard and your mate’s kids are referring to your home
as “The messy house”.
to plenty of blogs and enjoy a lot of different websites. Some are parents that
are into similar creative pastimes, some are teachers that have whole classes
to attend to and some are purely selfish craft and hacker sites for me to
expand my own skill set. Stupidly I didn’t take the opportunity to learn to
crochet from my mum, so I’ve only recently been learning via Youtube videos
because mum is so far away. I’m hoping to crochet her something decent for
Christmas this year.
hearing what you are up to over here, because you always manage to have what
seems like both creativity and a calm almost meditative environment. It feels
very serene to read about your adventures in art. I also love Kami’s blog “Get your mess on”. She seems to
have a similar truck load of crazy at her house as we do and it makes me happy
to read about someone else who is embroiled in creative chaos and loving it. I
love Teacher Tom’s attitude
and many of the other progressive preschool bloggers out there too. I like Ikatbag, because LiEr is so lovely and the
things she sews for her kids remind me of the types of things my mum would sew
for me and my sister, also she shares our fetish for crafting with cardboard
As far as
books go, I don’t really have any craft books that are aimed at kid’s stuff.
Most of the art/craft books I pick up are from thrift stores and are
instructional books for crafts that I want to learn myself, like basket weaving
and knot work, then if the kids are interested we try and figure out a way that
they can accomplish something similar. My five year old is really into knots at
the moment. Paul has some old climbing rope and she’s creating these marvelous
knots that look like some insane Celtic monk’s artwork.
JEAN: Anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you for inviting me to be interviewed! It’s extremely flattering
because I’m not qualified in early childhood education or anything like that. I
just have a blog diary of the things we make and play at and think that it’s
really cool that there are other people that find our antics interesting or
useful to their own families. It’s always a highlight to my day when I find out
that someone has tried something on our blog and enjoyed it.
like to say that it’s really fantastic having Paul as a partner in crime with
all this stuff. He’s really into making stuff with and for the kids too. Over
the last couple of years he’s got more and more into electronics and that’s
added a whole extra dimension to the type of things we can make as a family. I
persuaded him a while ago to start his own blog, which is called Fangletronics (Fangling and Ferkling
are words that my dad uses to describe subsets of tinkering) He has a quite a
few electronics and non-electronics based projects on there now. I love seeing
the kids all enthused about us making things as a family and I feel pretty
lucky to be with someone that’s as open to my usually batty suggestions as Paul
JEAN: Thank you, Lindsey! What an amazingly fun mom you are! I'd love to channel some of your energy and attitude when it comes to creating and parenting.
leave a comment by Friday, September 3rd at 12midnight EST will be
entered into a random drawing for one of Lindsey’s favorite art tools as well
as a pair of flower hair clips that she crocheted. In her words:
a few times about how much I love my little Styrofoam cutter that I got from
Daiso, and I’ve never seen such simple compact and cheap cutters like this
anywhere else. Being able to cut out shapes to use in our projects has been
very helpful, and I know that lots and lots of my readers live nowhere near a
Daiso store, so the first thing I wanted to offer as a giveaway is one of those
little Styrofoam cutters (of course with the C battery it uses, because you
don’t always have that size handy).
I also wanted
to offer something that I’d made, so seeing as I’ve mentioned my learning to
crochet, I’m giving away a little pair of crochet flower hair clips. Good for
kids or grown ups, and one of the few things I make that doesn’t involve hot
The random number generator picked #24 so Molly wins the drawing!
awesome, awesome interview. I'm so glad I have an official title for
the messes around here — domestic failure! Seriously though, I am so
excited to go and check out Lindsey's blog. Thanks to both of you.