The Insider Scoop on being a Craft Vendor

Art on the Avenue happened last week, and I am a very happy crafter. The show was really well attended, like sardines-in-a-tin well attended. I was constantly busy, and selling fast. I unexpectedly sold out of some of my designs, and it looks like It’s back to the printing table for me next week. A pretty nice start to the season.
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Being a small scale designer, and vendor at craft shows has it’s ups and downs, and I’m actually beginning to get used to them. In fact, I feel ever so slightly more… together this season, I’m beginning to feel like less of a newcomer. Not quite the Craft Show Consigliere yet, but I kind of know how things work.  When me and my crew hit the streets during set up time, we have that grizzled look that says “I have extra bungee cords and a tarp, so watch out!” – a little vendor humor for you. By the way, the crew includes a whiny seven year old, and an eleven year old who’s only really there for lunch and the freebies.

But seriously, I do have a snazzy red mini-apron for small change that I wear around my waist at fairs. It totally doesn’t make me look like a dork. I can go for practically a whole day without using the bathroom, and I even recognize a few of the other vendors nowadays. I think that qualifies me as a potential advice giver to newbies. Right?

Six things to know about craft markets:

  1. You will always be surprised by what sells well. Each venue is so different, and I’m constantly kept guessing about what will be the flavor of the day. All of my dragon prints sold out at Art on the Avenue, and hardly anyone bought a panda shirt, after all the social media clamour over the pandas. What!?
  2. Always take WAY more bags and business cards than you think you will need. I ran out of both around 4pm at Art on the Avenue, and still had two hours to go!! I was seriously close to  writing my contacts down on people’s arms! Luckily, my customers tend to be understanding people with large strollers and diaper bags to store shirts in.
  3. Someone will ask you for a discount. Be proud of what you make, stand your ground and don’t under price yourself. Easier said than done for some of us. I put a lot of hard work and time into my onesies, and it has taken a lot of practice to be able to look a person in the eye and flatly refuse to discount an item. Repeat after me: hand made, small batch, precious….. not available in Walmart.
  4. You will feel that terrible, silent feeling of panic when a potential customer leans over your work while drinking a giant soda fountain drink. You will see the condensation waiting to drip onto your carefully handmade products in slow motion. Torture!!! Even worse, is when the customer actually puts the cup down next to your products, and you have to  work up the nerve to ask them to move it.
  5.  Other vendors are your friends. Be nice to them, help them out, and discover some lifelong buddies; you can even break your no discount rule with them. What you mustn’t do, however, is hover around them and talk constantly, when they are swamped with customers. Just….don’t.
  6. Wear sensible shoes and no Fitbit. Trust me on this one, being a vendor is hard on the feet, and makes you feel as though you have walked a million steps, but in reality you have walked…just twenty five. So frustrating. Not much room for movement in that tent.

Hope this has helped, whether you are planning to sell at shows, or just curious about the experience. I’m sure there is more, and much better advice I should be sharing, but nothing really comes to mind right now, because I’m hungry.

Stay posted for more pearls of Noctiluna wisdom. 😉

Design to Print. My process Revealed

Social media can be a tricky little temptress, showing you the shimmery side of everyone else’s business, and putting rosy filters on every dull moment. I’m as guilty as the next person of this, I’ve been shamelessly self-promoting since I started my little design venture, and am hopelessly hooked on Instagram now.

But I don’t want to hide all my imperfections. I want to share all the downsides of my business as well as the upsides. It can get gnarly both running a small business, and working from home, and there have been many moments when I have wondered ‘what the hell am I doing?’ and I’m sure I’m not alone there. Not everyone admits it though.

Why on earth do I want to share everything with you?

I remember clearly, asking a tutor at college about my career options, and what to expect as a new textile designer. It was the late 1990’s, I was a clueless, yet cheerfully optimistic twenty-something wearing overalls (and looking fabulous in them), and I will never forget her response…

“That’s for you to discover yourself, dear. I didn’t get this far to just give away all my secrets.”

I was appalled, and ever so slightly worried about my prospects. Rightly so, the textile/fashion design community turned out to be very guarded, difficult to crack, and not a little antagonistic to newcomers.
Today, as a visual arts teacher, I will happily go out of my way to give away ‘all my secrets’ to students who need guidance. There is enough room for everyone in this industry, and in that spirit, I give you full disclosure, warts and all, of my kidswear production process. Read these pearls of wisdom and weep.
You are welcome.

The Eight Stages of production:

  1. Researching trends

    Everything starts with ravenously consuming as much information as possible from color and trend prediction websites, and putting together a moodboard for the coming season. I do this earlier and earlier each year, and will collect ideas for the next Spring/Summer before the leaves turn for Fall. I don’t follow trends slavishly, and like to inject my own quirkiness into the mix as well, Hence a general leaning towards stripes, polka dots and dessert in my collections. You can’t go wrong with dessert.

  2. Coming up with designs

    The fun part! This actually takes up a relatively small part of my schedule. I like big, graphic, inky prints, so basically, I sit with a brush and some ink and just paint until I have images that I want to use. I want to work with more patterns and repeats in the future, so this will probably get more complex and digital in the future. This is also the time to order all the shirts, onesies and other products I need to print on. A nail biting decision making process that makes my credit card stress-smoke.

  3. Prepping Screens

    I normally scan my artwork, size it, and clean it up on my computer (pssst – learn to use Photoshop now!), and then print it out onto transparent film. During this time, my printer will probably break down about three times, and I will cry as many times. Then comes the technical part my job, coating screens, exposing screens, and taping screens, all of which is more nerve-wracking than it should be. Because, I am a klutz, and my set up is so basic (exposing lamp precariously looped around an IKEA railing, and wobbling over my screen, which is balanced on a cardboard box).  Around this time, someone in my family will complain about one of the following things: a) I washed out a screen in a bathtub, b) there is a bottle of screen emulsion in the fridge (“but it’s wrapped in a plastic bag!” I protest), c) we need an extra fridge RIGHT NOW!

  4. Printing!!

    This is my favorite time. This normally takes up to two weeks, and during those two weeks I will be in the sweetest flow state, I will post the most pretty pictures on Instagram, and look at my most productive and impressive to outsiders’ eyes. I will also probably forget to pick my kids up from the bus stop more than twice.

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  5. Ironing and Sewing

    Uggggggh. No glossy instagram gram posts this week – just misery. A week of just ironing things to heatset ink (there is a reason why most of my own clothes are either jersey or wrinkled – I DON’T IRON…unless it is for work). I’m going to invest in a heat press, so that I don’t ever have to go through this again.
    Then a week of sewing labels and appliqueing shirts . This is normally the week you want to stop by if you want to hear my most colorful curse words. I have a love-hate relationship with my sewing machine, and am looking to make friends with somebody who loves to sew. Could it be you?

  6. Bits and Bobs

    Ordering enough business cards, tags, stickers, bags etc. Late night runs to Michaels to buy safety pins in bulk, to attach tags to shirts. Bribing kids to attach said labels to shirts. Screen printing paper bags to make them extra pretty. This is all important stuff, are you taking notes?

  7. Inventory and packing

    I do not have a brain for numbers, and do not enjoy stocktaking. Inventory makes me want to cry, and spreadsheets are just mean, but unfortunately necessary.
    Luckily, Square makes inventory a little easier to do, and I drink a lot of tea, and eat stuff I shouldn’t, to help me get through this trauma. Etsy is a whole other deal though. Whoever designed their site is just…pure…evil. Entering each item on there takes up more time than a trip to the grocery store and back.

  8. Last minute panic

    Of course, after finishing my stocktake, I realize that oops, I’m missing something in a size (What? I told you I’m no good with numbers!). So I do a last minute print run (or not – screen prints need time to sit after they are done. If it’s too late, then it’s too late).  It’s hard trying to gauge how many shirts to order for a season, and I’m still working on getting better at that. I work by myself, and have kids, so things can fall by the wayside sometimes.
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I repeat this every season, and print between fairs sometimes, as well. I don’t produce a huge amount of products, but I’m happy with the quality of what I do produce. And here is the main thing: you have to genuinely like your product, and want to use it yourself. If you feel ambivalent about any of your products, then there is something wrong.  Do… your… best… work, and remember, in a year’s time it will not be your best work any more because you will have evolved. And then one day, you will be the bestest in the universe (this has not happened to me yet). So glad to have shared my pearls of wisdom with you. If you need any advice, I’m here for you.

Autumn/Winter screenprinting sneak peek!

In my last post, I wrote about the benefits of printmaking for all people. Well, as it happens, one of those benefits (being happily engaged in a flow state), has lead to me doing not much else than screen printing for the past week. That’s great news for my business, in terms of being productive, and on track for my first Fall Show. Not so exciting for this blog.

I don’t have any witty observations, exciting happenings, or deep(ish) thoughts to share, just a lot of pictures from my printing sessions!

Screen printing is an all encompassing, physically fulfilling activity; couple that with a looming deadline, and being a mum, and it doesn’t really leave space for much else. I’ve been printing rocket ships, pandas, dragons, hedgehogs and unicorns. I’m in a magical creature phase this Autumn, and accordingly, I have been using a lot of metallic inks, and broody colors. I’ve also developed an obsession with polka dots, and have been printing them in lieu of sewing patterned fabric onto my creatures (a relief for me, as I’m much better at printing than at sewing!). This has mostly worked very well, and can have a pretty cool trompe l’oeil effect. However, my eleven year old pointed out that the red polka dots on the panda’s tummies kind of look like measles (thanks for bursting the bubble, kid).

Here is a little sneak peek of what I will be selling at Art on the Avenue in Del Ray, VA on Oct 7th. Pre heat setting, pre labels, pre little cutesie finishing touches that make you sigh.
For your eyes only! 😉
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Why Printmaking Is Good for You….Yes You.

I have been busy screen printing all week, which is why you are only getting this week’s blog on a Friday. Screen printing can stop the world for me. I forget to eat, work out, make phone calls, and generally do anything that requires me to move from my printing table. It is an activity that can put me in a total flow state, where I am happily immersed in my work and take no notice of passing time.  It is like reading a really good book, or cleaning out my basement, but with more satisfying and lucrative results.
Screen printing week always means forgotten cups of tea, running to the bus stop late to pick my kids up, and last minute grocery runs at night.

And here’s the thing…

I don’t think that it’s just me. Screen printing, indeed printmaking of any sort, is inherently satisfying. It is instant, sticky, gratification. Okay, sure, preparing a good screen or plate takes time, but the actual act of printing, has a wonderful immediacy to it.

All kids love printmaking 

Every time I run a summer camp, printmaking is always a favourite activity for the students. Anyone can experience instant success with printmaking. That magical moment when you lift your screen or block up and see the image you have produced is all it takes.

And then there is the physical aspect of screen printing.

Rolling sticky ink across a plate, pressing ink through screens, peeling paper off a block, are all supremely fulfilling. If you have ever enjoyed peeling dried glue off your fingers, popping bubble wrap, peeling stickers off a jar, or rolling out dough, you will understand. It gives your body and brain all the right kinds of sensory input, and it’s fast – kids love that. It is the perfect activity for kids who are wriggly, and struggle with fine motor skills. Pulling the ink across a screen, lifting it up to see your lovely, inky image, and then doing it all over again, and again, and again is heady stuff. Trust me.

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Camp 2016

So, I think that one day, when I have the right space for it, I would like to start teaching printmaking classes – for all ages.
Yes, not enough of you have experienced the happiness that is printmaking, and I want to spread it – especially to those of you who don’t get that kinesthetic input from your work.  I just need a suitable space, that may take a little time, but stay alert.
For now, if you are in the MD,DC,VA area, I’ll be at Art on the Avenue (Oct 7th) selling my screen printed products, come and say hi, and let’s talk (maybe about printmaking).

 

 

 

 

Let’s Talk About Stats Baby!

Okay, hands up, who reads my posts? Come on all five of you, don’t be shy, shout it loud and proud.

I have always wondered who exactly my readers are. I don’t have many followers, I don’t get many comments on posts, but when I check my stats they show that actually many people have, indeed, been viewing my posts.

Who… are… you?


Parents sometimes come up to me when dropping kids off at my camps and casually remark “Oh, I love your blog, by the way“, and then saunter off, leaving me open mouthed in amazement. Are you one of them? How cloak and dagger!

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The idea that someone may possibly like what I write, and want to read more, is pretty heady, exciting stuff.  So I’m going to get a bit ahead of myself and suggest that maybe, just maybe you could … ….click ‘Follow’ or maybe ‘Like’ (but only if you genuinely do like the post).

If you do this, I promise two things will happen:

  1. I get really excited that someone real, not imagined, is actually reading my blog and the stats are not lying to me, and do a happy dance around my workroom, or the library (preferably the former, for the sake of the poor librarians).

  2. If you clicked ‘Follow’, you get every single one of my posts delivered to your inbox. If that sounds annoying to you, please don’t click follow. But they are ever so slightly better than those bi-weekly Old Navy emails you get and ignore routinely, wink, wink.  My, my, I am getting a little pushy, aren’t I?

 

Running a business does not come easily to me, unlike drawing, screenprinting, and annoying my kids. I’m trying to get the word out about my business, and find clients for new projects that I have in the pipeline. And there are so, so many of them (projects, not clients)! 

So spread the word, or maybe not. I won’t go on about it, because mostly I want to be an uplifting voice, not an annoying one (unless you are my child). Now here are some sketchbook peeks from last week:

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What Your Kids Did at Art Camp – Week 3

I am flying to England on Sunday, so I’m writing about this week’s camp before the week is even over! I also am a little thin on photos, but I’ll update this post with more pictorial evidence later today, or you can click here.
I have been very busy, and this blog post may sound a bit muddled and rushed, but I’m glad to say that, this week’s camp was not. As usual there were many impromptu moments, and kid driven projects, and much mess was generated.

In addition to the art making, there was a sweaty game of basketball, lots of tree climbing, an afternoon running through the town sprinklers, and some raucous games of musical chairs. The weather is sweltering, the kids fade quickly every day, and we have limited most of our projects to the mornings, leaving the second half of the day to play indoor games and flop in armchairs, and on my picnic blanket. I’m surprised at just how much we have managed to get done this week.

The theme is Graphic Design, and the kids were surprised that no computers were involved , but ummm sorry, I don’t actually own fifteen computers loaded up with Adobe Creative Suite! But you don’t need a computer to learn about the fundamentals of graphic design. We talked about design in general, and how it impacts everybody’s life. We looked at public transport systems in different cities, and examined Harry Beck‘s designs for the London Underground map. The kids tried their hand at designing transit systems for the Town of Vienna, and produced simple, color coded maps for them. They realized that this is a lot harder than it actually sounds!

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After that brain boggling project, I handed out rolls of colored masking tape and the kids started to make abstract compositions inspired by their transit maps. This turned out to be a stroke of genius. If you ever have a bunch of tired and resistant kids in art class, break out the colored masking tape. I believe that the best ideas come to you when you are in a state of play, and this project is the perfect example of that – it just kept going on and on and on. The more pieces the campers produced, the more they began to understand about how the elements of design work. They were exploring and playing with scale, balance, color, value, and direction without even realizing it! This led to some color paper collage work that focused on using negative space creatively, and looking at static versus dynamic compositions. Sounds complicated, but they were really into it. Also, they started wrapping rocks in masking tape for the Vienna Rock Hunt, and were pretty good at it.

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Even the littlest kid got into it!

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Around this time, some kids were also playing around with lettering in their spare time. I brought in some sumi ink, and they happily experimented with brush lettering and calligraphy. So I changed direction and started a typography project, aided by Chip Kidd’s brilliant book on graphic design for kids. We looked at different typefaces, and discussed what they could be used for, and we also talked about color symbolism. I asked the campers to draw words so that they would make people think of their opposite meaning when they looked at them. The kids are taking a while to grasp this, but I think they are getting it, and will produce some amazing work tomorrow morning.

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Tomorrow afternoon will probably end with a LOT of cleaning up, and bribes in the form of chocolate covered Oreos, and then … it’s time to pack for London, and four weeks of good tea, great art, and old friends.

I’ll be in touch with some pictures! Happy Friday!

 

 

 

What Your Kids did at Art camp – Running wild with town planning

One of the very best things about running my own summer camp is the many freedoms it involves. I write my own curriculum, and I plan things in great detail, but I don’t always stick with my plans.

I firmly believe that a child’s learning experiences and environment at camp should be distinct from school. I set the theme for the week, and I explain projects, sometimes the kids stick to the plan, sometimes they strike out in a new direction for the week. Camp is a flexible place where we ride waves of curiosity, it is a time of discovery for both myself, and my students. This week was the perfect example of this…

The theme this week was Cartography and Town Planning. We spent a morning looking at different kinds of maps, and discussing why we need maps. The kids were fascinated by the MacArthur’s Universal Corrective Map, and the idea that the world map doesn’t have to be oriented North up, and can look very different depending on the point of view of the people who make them (check out this website for interesting talking points). We discussed early ideas of the world being flat, and what that meant to navigators and explorers. Then we started planning out our first project, which was creating and mapping out a fantasy land. I expected the kids to work on these rapidly and with great enthusiasm, after a rollicking discussion about Narnia, Middle Earth, and Hogsmeade. However the project got off to a slow start with some students, who found the idea of creating a new land from scratch overwhelming.

At some point during this first project, we went on a walk along a trail, and discovered two brightly painted rocks. I found out that there was a rock hunt taking place in the Town of Vienna, and the kids were itching to take part in it. Every single break was spent feverishly searching for painted rocks. So, on Tuesday evening I drove to Home Depot and bought a large bag of stones and some varnish, and set up a rock painting table. The kids painted rocks and hid them around Vienna, which meant walking around the town a lot.

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Perfect for the next project, Rethinking Vienna, where the kids worked in groups to redesign the Town of Vienna, adding and changing features of their home town, and thinking deeply about what makes a place more pleasant to live in. I had no idea how much this project would resonate with the campers, for most of Thursday and friday they worked solidly through breaks, and drove the project independently without much help from me.

The real world topic had caught their interest more than the the fantasy world!

One team wanted Vienna to be more inclusive, put a mosque, a synagogue  and a temple next door to an already existing church, and gave them a communal relaxation/meditation space. Another group built a metro station in the town, and looked at making people use their cars less while running their daily chores. A third group came up with the simple but brilliant idea of putting water fountains along the W/OD trail for bikers to use. I was so impressed by their ideas, and by the direction this project had taken… and so was our surprise guest.

The Mayor of Vienna stopped by to look at the kids’ work and discuss their maps with them, and they were so excited to present their ideas to her. Suddenly, all my cooler than thou ten and eleven year olds were acting starstruck, and asking for autographs!

It was a lovely week, and a lot of it just happened fluidly! Here it is in pictures:

 

Summer Art Camp, What Your Kids Did – Week 1

And so, the first week of this year’s summer camp has come to pass. I should have written this on the weekend, but I was exhausted, and chose to binge read Howl’s Moving Castle instead (excellent book by the way), take long naps, and drop in on the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which is happening right now on the Mall.
This is the first time that I have left a gap between two weeks of camp, and I’ve got to say…. I like it!

Doing a camp the first week of the summer vacation was tough on both myself and the kids, they were exhausted from school, and I was bitter about having to still pack lunches. So, we took it a little easy, and followed our instincts. A lot of art making was done, but we also took very long breaks to play frisbee, nap under trees (the kids, not me – honest!), play monster games of Apples to Apples, and listen to Percy Jackson quietly. Summer is, after all, a time to decompress, and process, and I think the week was pretty well balanced.

The week’s theme was Food and Art, with a particular focus on cakes and desserts (yum!). We explored work by Joel Penkman and Wayne Thiebaud, and discussed Dutch still life and Hyperrealism. We designed cakes, block printed our designs, studied color theory, watched OK Go videos on it, and mixed delicious frosting colors with paint. We painted and and piped cakes onto canvas board, and then used our knowledge of color to paint and draw aerial landscapes (which was a bit of a detour from our theme). We drew our dream lunches with markers and pencils, and read some funny picture books about cake. On Friday, we baked mini cupcakes, and pretended that it was still all about art (well, we did use color theory for the food coloring!), but really we just wanted to eat cake! We played in the town green sprinklers, climbed trees, went for walks, and cleaned. We cleaned a lot, poor mites, that’s the downside to painting. Have a look at some pictures I took during the week:

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The inspiration for this camp: our venue, Cocoa Vienna.

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Impromptu Play-Doh baking contest

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Dream lunchbox

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Dream lunchbox in progress

Happy July 4th! I’ll be back with news of the next camp, and my birthday celebrations! Yessss!!!

A Veteran’s Guide to prepping for summer art camp

This post is being written in the midst of a flurry of pre-camp activity. You will be reading this (hopefully) on the Monday of the first week of the  2017 Noctiluna Summer Camps, woohoo!!

My house looks like a crime scene (you know, the one where someone knocks off an art store, and their local Target, and then tries to hide the goods in their living room, dining room, garage, and kitchen). My mind is on constant overdrive (Paper towels, HDMI cable, bug spray, did I remember the sunscreen? Oh, and paper towels… and bug spray… wait, did I eat today?). My kids have gotten used to my muttering and glazed expression, and the local librarians raised their eyebrows again, when I took out my requisite camp book haul today.

But here’s the thing, I actually feel calmer this year. I’ve been doing this for about five years, and I’m beginning to feel like a veteran. I have a tried and tested system when it comes to getting ready for the camps and I’m going to be nice and share it with you.
Here are some things that I do beforehand:

  1. Use checklists, many checklists
    Apart from the obvious list of art materials, running an art camp requires a host of must-haves, that make camp-life smoother, from wipes and band aids to plastic tablecloths and bug spray. I also make class lists and attendance registers for each week. IMG_6395
  2. Sorting the Art equipment
    This is invariably when I realize how lazy I was after last year’s summer camps, and repeatedly curse myself for not being a more careful and conscientious person. I take inventory of all the art materials that are strewn all over my house, and stuffed into weird places, toss damaged and and empty items, and sort them into categories (drawing, painting, printmaking etc) before the packing begins. Sometimes there is crying involved, often Beyonce helps me get through it all.
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  3. Packing the Bag of Fun
    The Bag of Fun contains all sorts of outdoor play items including chalk, frisbees, jump ropes, and bats and balls. The kids look forward to seeing what is in the bag every year, and it helps break the ice during those first few breaks.
  4. Communicate with parents
    I never leave anything to chance. I’m a parent, and I know how confusing kids’ summer schedules can be. An welcome email with pertinent information, is a must. Make sure no one is confused about pick up/drop of routines, or ways to get in touch with you during the day.  This is also a great way to gather last minute information from parents about kids with schedule changes. As the Radiohead lyrics go, no alarms and no surprises.
  5. Soundtrack
    Speaking of which, there is always a strong certainty that someone is going to want to play Freeze Dance at some point during the camps, so it’s useful to have a tween friendly playlist ready (or a handy teenage helper with an iPhone).
  6. Buy extra snacks
    Because no matter what, there is going to be a kid who finishes his/her lunch and snacks, and extra snacks, and starts to openly eye your leftover lunch.
  7.   Library run
    I always take out a variety of books to have on hand. Some to do with the week’s themes, some for the kids’  recreational reading, some to read aloud to kids when they are tired, and of course, the obligatory audiobook (normally from the Harry Potter or Percy Jackson series) to soothe beasts on savage summer afternoons.
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  8. Move into my space beforehand
    I always set my classroom up the weekend before camp, and have it looking as organised and pretty as possible, so that I can walk in with a breezy swagger (and a bag of fifteen things I had forgotten) on Monday morning.
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  9. The Talk
    My kids attend my camp, so I’m in the unique and unenviable position of being a camp teacher and a parent of campers at the same time. it’s not easy, and every year we have to have The Talk about how to behave at the camp, and about mummy being everyone’s teacher, and having to give everyone equal attention etc, etc. This leads nicely to….
  10. Obsessive Lunch planning
    When you run a summer camp, you don’t have the time or energy to stop and wonder what to pack for your brood’s lunches every day, and if you skip your own lunch, the kids WILL suffer. So I write out a detailed lunch and snack schedule ahead of time for every day of the week (for the kids and me). That way our groggy morning selves don’t have to do any serious thinking, and can get packing like robots.
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That’s it for now. I have to go test my marker collection for next week (yawn). I ‘ll be back with updates of what the kids are creating every week! Fellow camp organizers, hope you found this useful (or at least amusing).