Hello Art Therapy!

For a long time now I have been going back and forth about the concept of Art Therapy. When I first came across this form of both mental and physical treatment I thought to myself, “Drawing, coloring, painting? Something that brings excitement to children can actually be a form of medical treatment? But how?” With a coffee in my right hand, I searched the web for hours trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together to find out how effective this treatment actually is.

As I hoped it would, it turned out that art therapy is not only one of the leading treatments for children facing a diverse range of challenges, but it also helps adults suffering from stress, depression and other problems. Since Mother’s Day was around the corner and my mother is by far the MOST difficult person to buy for, I didn’t hesitate when choosing an adult coloring book.

This was perfect because about two years ago my grandmother took a fall down an escalator, leading her to end up in a wheelchair. After the accident it turned out that she needed 24-hour care, which included somebody to bath her, make her meals and so on. For the last year, that person has been my mother.

With that said, a mountain of stress had been placed upon my mother’s shoulders that was growing with each day. So, my solution was to buy her a Mother’s Day gift that would allow her to de-stress, which ended up being this adult coloring book. (I provided the picture below of the one I bought with the colored pencils too).

With a stubborn grandmother and hot-headed mother spending countless hours together, you could bet that there needed to be something to calm the water. Nevertheless, I ended up buying another book for my grandmother and truthfully, it was the best 18 dollars I have ever spent. I am not going to lie, my mother’s first response was, “Adrianna, I don’t have time for this! I have to cook the pasta, the meatballs, clean the bathroom, the shower… blah blah blah” But after just a week with the coloring books, my mother said that she hadn’t felt so peaceful in a long time.

My point is that art therapy is unlike any other form of therapy or medication. It is pure. It is healthy. And ultimately, it has the power to help children (and adults) express things that they do not have the words alone to do.

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Hello Themendous!

“Another unusual build was when we welded a 40-foot fork out of steel to be placed outside, on top of a 13-foot tall meatball at a restaurant entranceway. Oversized foods are our specialty, but a 40-foot eating utensil! That was insane!”

This week we have a special guest post by large-scale sculptors extraordinaire, Themendous! You’ve seen their work all over, but probably not realized it. Giant hotdogs, wicked witch legs, sculptures for Google: their output is creative, eye-catching and BIG. It’s in amusement parks, movies, mini-golf courses, parades – anyplace a big and fun sculpture is needed.themenedous kissThis generous company is one of the sponsors of our Artist Harvest sculpture series. By giving us a special discount on materials and creating a basic pear shape for us out of Styrofoam, we were able to then build onto it with plaster and paint it into the Pear-casso. We were thrilled to work with them, and thank them for their sponsorship.

Themendous is a very interesting place, full of talented people making amazing creations here in New Jersey. Read on for more info about the people behind this company and the history of “The King of Huge” – Themendous.

spiderHow did Themendous get started?

Themendous was started by us (Giovanni and Dena Calabrese) as a custom full-body soft foam sculptural costume company, and over the years evolved into today’s large-scale sculpture company. In college, we built silly costumes for Halloween, our first fully 3D one being this couch.  This is Giovanni.sofa chair

It all was fun, and quickly developed into much more!  Dena was an FIT grad who could sew and create anything.  Giovanni was a marketing major, but once in the corporate field, he knew he had to start pursuing his creative interests.

Together we continued to hone our craft to develop beautiful costumes from soft puppet foam and fabric.  We became very professional walk-around character costume builders.  This is how Custom Creations, our first LLC, was formed. The Macy’s Day Parade commissioned many of our early costume works.Macys Eggplants Macys Duck Costumes

Our combined skills allowed us to create beautiful, professional walk-about costumes.  Below are some of our favorites:Krazie City Nyack Costume 1 Adventure Park Costume 2

Proving that once you put your creative mind to something, you can flourish, Giovanni (without any professional art training) started to carve Styrofoam. That is when we went from a costume company to a sculpture company. Themendous DBA was born!

What is the most unusual item you have created?

We made 30 Purple Gorilla Costumes at a time in three separate orders for Zyrtec. Dena was allergic to the purple fur – and was prescribed Zyrtec in a strange twist of fate to finish sewing the costumes. She had to use a tape lint roller on her face every few seconds to remote the hair fibers from her skin.unnamed

We had purple fur balls around for years after we finished the job and we even found some in our house after we moved in, even though the costume and the fur were never in the house! Spooky!

Another unusual build was when we welded a 40-foot fork out of steel to be placed outside, on top of a 13-foot tall meatball at a restaurant entranceway.  Oversized foods are our specialty, but a 40-foot eating utensil!  That was insane!Themendous meatballWhat is the best part of running Themendous?

The best part of running Themendous is that it is different every day.  Every job is new with different requirements and features.  We are more then just sculptors: we are builders, fabricators, welders, wood workers, seamstresses, puppet builders, performers, and most importantly a team of artists.  Building so large with a solid team of various talents is something to be proud of, because at the end of the day you all get to look back and say, “Wow, we built that!”

What is the hardest part about running your business?

The hardest part of running Themendous is completing a rush job with insanely tight deadlines.  We often get calls from a client who needs something big in a very short period of time. This is when we burn the midnight oil and things get crazy.  We have worked 20-hour days to make a sculpture start to finish for unrealistic deadlines but that is why we are the King of Huge – we make the impossible, possible!

Please take us through the steps of creating a sculpture.

When we want to create a new piece, we start with a flat drawing or design. We then take them image and project it on a huge block of foam to the desired size.  We then start cutting and carving out the piece to create its full 3D form.  We then carve details, sand, and perfect the item until we have a complete sculpture.  It is then hard coated with a two part plastic spray that mixes and heats to 150 degrees and hardens almost instantly on contact.  This creates a weatherproof and extremely durable shell that can be painted as you wish.

Do you make things for fun and try to sell them, or only work on commissions?

We mainly work by commission for clients of all sizes.  Google is by far our biggest client who only uses us for all its Lawn Sculpture and Android OS Sweets.   But we also work with independent businesses and private affairs.

Every once in awhile, we get to do something fun for ourselves.  This year we built an 18-foot tall clown mouth fun house entranceway sculpture to install at Burning Man in the Nevada Desert.  This was fun!!

We creatively paired with an art camp named Kostume Kult and built this beautiful runway entrance for their costume gifting station.  The same piece will be used on their Halloween Float for the NYC Parade this month.

We like connecting with other artists and creatives when we have a moment to break away from the madness of building for our business.  We are artists at heart, just pushing to continue pursuing our dreams and make them a reality every day.

We are also very inspired by the work you have done at the Messy Artist, and would love to do more public interactive pieces that inspire young artists to pursue and keep making art. Thank you for choosing us to carve the pear!Pearcasso at town hall The Artist Harvest copyWhat plans do you have for the future of Themendous – where do you see it in 5 years?

In five years, we hope to continue to expand by working and hiring more artists and talent to really become a more fully staffed shop of artists that can offer many services to our clientele.  If we have more artists, we could expand to a full event one-stop shop.  Time and constant work are always a race to try to outrun, since currently we are only 5 full time employees. Everyone here really works hard to make Themendous flourish on the platform that Giovanni and Dena have laid out.

What was your most challenging piece?

2D version
3D Themendous Sculpture

Our most challenging project was when we decided to transform David Hartman’s “Monster Mash” 2D Illustration into a 3D fully sculpted scene.  His drawing was done in a forced perspective with all characters depicted on an angle from below. We then had to take that visual information and translate it into a fully three dimensional world viewed from all angles!  That was tricky!

Thanks again to Themendous for this guest post. Don’t forget to check out their website and Facebook page to see more of their fantastic sculptures.

Hello Kelly!

We are honored to present this guest blog post from Kelly Heinze of Music and More with Kelly. Anyone who has ever taken one of her music and dance filled classes and experienced her infectious energy and positivity will agree that her classes have a special style.

kellyheinze_1338337822_140As a fellow small business owner focusing on childrenʼs education, Kelly and Donna of The Messy Artist have a strong bond, cemented by complimentary philosophies on teaching young children. Kelly graciously took some time out from her busy teaching schedule to answer some interview questions.

What was your background before Music Together with Kelly?

Before teaching Music Together I had a career as an actress, singer dancer. I performed in many musicals across the nation and abroad.

Please tell us how you started Music Together with Kelly.

After I had my first baby, I started to contemplate retiring from professional performance to teach. I wasnʼt sure in what capacity I would teach, so I returned to college to get my Masters degree in secondary education with an emphasis in English Literature. During that time, I happened to take my child to a Music Together class in Brooklyn, NY. The teacher noticed that I was a singer and said that I should look into it. My family moved to Maplewood, NJ and I took the Music Together training and before I knew, it 2 classes turned into ten. I became a corporation and had to learn how to be a business person within one year. It was overwhelming, but so satisfying on many levels.

customLogoDo you see links between teaching kids music and other types of learning?

Kids learn music the same way they learn anything! Active participation from strong role models as well as information being imparted to encompass a variety of learning styles. In our mixed age music classes, the caregivers are the most important people in the class! Without them there would be no consistent, musical role model for the child. I always tell my caregivers two things:

  • 1. It doesnʼt matter if you are musical. Your active, enthusiastic participation is teaching the child the joy of music and this will last a lifetime.
  • 2. I am only with them one time per week for 45 minutes, you are with them 24/7 or close to it! You are their role model for every kind of learning.

MTPic47-webDo you see links between teaching kids music and other types of learning?

I believe that music learning supports all learning.

In fact, children learn better and more quickly when music is incorporated into their learning environments. I’m not talking about the passive consumption of music, rather actively incorporating music into daily lessons. I am a huge proponent of Music Together in the classrooms. Our preschool program uses the Music Together curriculum to enhance learning in the classroom by incorporating art projects to match themes in the song collections, by using the songs to work through daily transitions, and to build the rhythm and tonal skills of the children on a daily basis.

How do you see children develop throughout your classes?

What keeps me going 18 years later, is watching the effect that Music Together has on the development of the child as a whole. Not only do I marvel at the musical development I see in infants and toddlers, but also the cognitive and social gains I see every day. Children who consistently take my classes from infancy through toddlerhood learn how to keep a steady beat and sing in tune, but they also learn how to share, socialize, clean up, and be an enthusiastic learner to name a few things.

MTPic38-webWhat non-musical effects do you see on kids who have taken your classes (i.e, better self control, ability to follow directions)?

As we all know, there seems to be many issues affecting children these days from sensory integration problems to central processing disorders, autism spectrum and a variety of other physical and or cognitive delays. One of my greatest feelings of accomplishments is when I am able to work with parents to help a child who was not successful in class to become successful. Figuring out what the problems are and coming up with a plan and implementing it successfully is very satisfying for all parties involved. I have helped children to overcome fears of groups and loud noises. I have also developed behavioral plans for parents desperate to prepare their rambunctious toddlers for preschool.

What are the best parts of running your own business? The worst? The most surprising?

The best part to running my business is being in the classroom and interacting with children and their families. I am a people person and although cliché, I absolutely love children. My requisite for becoming a teacher of mine is to have the natural ability to engage children through an innate, true love of teaching. The only things I really dislike about my business is the paperwork! I donʼt like billing and even advertising. It is time consuming and just not fun! The most surprising part of my business to me is that I can say I am still in business 18 years later! This means I am doing something right!

MTPic46-webWhere do you see Music Together with Kelly in 5 years?

Music Together is an international booming program across the world! Some people donʼt even know that they can do the Triangle song collection (This Springʼs collection) right now in Tokyo or India! I donʼt see Music Together ever ending! I hope to continue offering this program well after I am unable to physically jump up and down in the classroom! There are always new lovely, vibrant teachers ready to give their all to my families! I see the program in the next five years as holding strong and steady. Would I love to see growth in my individual centers, yes of course, but I am happy that within the communities I service ( Maplewood/South Orange, Millburn, East Hanover, Springfield, Union) they are going strong.

What advice do you have for parents for their children to get the most out of enrichment classes?

The single most important thing that parents should think about with regards to getting the most out of their enrichment classes is this: ask yourself what YOU as the adult want out of the class. Are you looking for a place that is for you to socialize, and/or for you to bond with your child? Should it be educational or just fun? I have four children and when they were young, I was mostly interested in meeting other moms with kids my age as well as taking a class where my child would actually learn something. I always found that classes without educational value left me with a stinging feeling in my pocket book! I became a Music Together mom before I ever taught it. I sent every one of my children through the program from birth through age 4. (with the exception of my first who started at 1 and he finished a little earlier, well, because he was a hitter!) All of my children are incredible math students and musicians. I think there might be something to that research! I credit Music Together for their incredible musical ears and their auditory and visual/spatial skills. I have 2 sons, one of which who at the age of 17 is a professional jazz musician. My 15 year old sings and plays jazz as well as classic rock guitar. Both are on the honor roll and in advanced classes academically. My twins are 10 year old girls and they are fantastic musicians, playing clarinet and piano! “Music learning supports all learning”.

MTPic32-web-1Just for fun: your favorite food, quote and place to travel

.Personally speaking, most people know me as the Music Together lady, full of educational wisdom for babies and toddlers! Maybe some of you donʼt know that my favorite food is Five Guys and the candy, Dots. In my spare time, which is never, I just want to read trashy novels on the beach!

Thank you, Kelly, for your wonderful insights into music education and running your own business! We hope you got to spend some time this summer reading trashy novels on the beach!

hello Carla, pediatric occupational therapist !

We are thrilled to present a special guest post today from Carla Flynn, one of our favorite customers – who also happens to be a pediatric occupational therapist. Her unique insight into the way children learn (and specifically learn through art) is much appreciated. Much of occupational therapy’s philosophies are incorporated into our programs for young children here at The Messy Artist. We consciously choose activities to promote large and small motor control, as well as those that encourage social skills, such as sharing. That’s why you’ll often see one palette for every two children in our classes: we are introducing the ideas of sharing and taking turns.

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Carla with her sons at The Messy Artist

Not only did Carla take time out of her busy schedule to write this blog post, she is the mother of a newborn baby girl. We are impressed with her dedication and energy, and can’t wait til her daughter is old enough to join us for art classes!

Hello, My name is Carla Flynn and I am excited to be a guest blogger for the Messy Artist. I am a wife and mother of three amazing children, two boys and a girl, ages 5, 3, and 2 months. I am also a pediatric occupational therapist who has been practicing in the field for 13 years with experience in private practice, early intervention and school-based settings. And if my schedule wasn’t busy enough, one year ago I decided to pursue my doctorate in occupational therapy with a concentration in pediatrics.

When I was presented the opportunity through the Messy Artist to blog about the profession I love, I thought… “Hey, why not!”

Occupational therapy is deeply rooted in art. The OT profession was born out of the arts and crafts movement of the early 1900’s. Occupational therapists are trained to use arts and crafts as meaningful and purposeful activities as an intervention for rehabilitation across the lifespan. I especially find art to be useful in my treatment sessions for the many amazing benefits that it provides to the children I serve.

I’d like to give you some insight into the mind of an occupational therapist. Our training and education allows us to see every activity in a new and different way. We are constantly analyzing situations, activities and tools to fit our client’s needs. For example, during an art project, I may use an easel or another vertical surface to strengthen a child’s upper extremity muscles and to promote wrist extension, which is necessary for handwriting. Within my therapy sessions, I love making collages with students or using decoupage. I ask my students to tear paper into small pieces or tear around pictures using their fingers. This effort is great for working on fine motor skills and isolating the muscles in the hands to address endurance as well as mental focus and concentration. Most children also enjoy drawing or coloring. I never pass on an opportunity to take out a variety of markers, crayons, chalk bits, colored pencils, pens, pastels and dot markers. Each of these tools provides a different kind of resistance while using them, therefore they can build fine motor strength and endurance and require children to grade pressure while creating their masterpieces. Many of the students that I see have difficulty holding a pencil using a functional writing grasp. Teachers are constantly pointing out this difficulty in students. Within my sessions, instead of sitting down to work on pencil grasp through writing, I will encourage the use of a paintbrush to create a piece of art because in doing so the student is mimicking the grasp pattern used when holding a pencil to write.

These applications for the use of art during my therapy sessions just scratch the surface in terms of the benefits that art provides for my students. Using art as a medium during therapy also has practical applications to assist with social skills, visual motor, visual perceptual and sensory skills. Most children enjoy creating and crafting so another great benefit is it is fun and provides an outlet for leisure skills.

From the perspective of this therapist, I can use art to get children to work on just about any skill I wish to address and without much resistance. Children just think they are having fun and I’m able to achieve great therapeutic results (but that will be my little secret!) In the end, I even get the title of “the coolest teacher”…enough said!!! 😉

Carla is employed by the Livingston BOE and is also Handwriting Without Tears Level 1 certified.  She can be reach at carlamcf.ot@gmail.com

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Thank you, Carla!

Comments? Questions? Want to guest blog for us? We’d love to hear from you!