Owls Well presents: Living Clay/Studio Asobi

So, during the June school holidays this year, I wrote about our experience at a pottery workshop with Studio Asobi. Well, our pieces have been glazed and fired by Huiwen from Studio Asobi, and they are so much prettier than we ever expected!

Here’s a little video I made of our time at the pottery wheel – and the results of our labour!

Here are some thing I learned about the glazing and firing process:

  1. Applying the glaze will add layers to your final piece, so the walls of your clay piece will appear much thicker than your original creation, and any scratches and marks made on the surface will be more shallow.
  2. The firing process dries the clay out as it hardens, and the final product will be at least one-third smaller in size. So if you want to make a dainty teacup, your original creation may have to be as big as a mug!
  3. Be brave about experimenting with glazes! As you can see from the video, different glaze combinations can have startlingly different results. I regret not taking a bigger risk with my glaze selections…but now I know that I can be braver next time around!

Studio Asobi welcomes back participants of previous workshops with a markedly reduced fee and as always, 20% of their profits are donated to The Mercy Centre’s Trolley Ministry for Singapore’s homeless population. I would love to work with them again!

 

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Living Clay: A pottery workshop with Studio Asobi

Last weekend, we joined a clay workshop with Studio Asobi, a local pottery studio run by ceramic artists, Huiwen and Kenneth.

I had been wanting to attend one of their clay workshops for a very long time, ever since some of my friends showed me some cups and bowls that their kids had made under the couple’s tutelage last year. Each piece was entirely unique to the child who made it, and with the process of glazing and firing, had been turned into beautiful and useful works of art. To me, this meant that Huiwen and Kenneth were able to engage each student individually, and guide them in bringing their imagination to life.

This is why when my own extended family expressed an interest in attending a holiday workshop together, I was very quick to volunteer to recommend and organise a session with Studio Asobi!

We were a little late arriving that home studio in Hougang, but we were just in time to hear about how Huiwen – who had no artistic training – had taken a sabbatical from her corporate job to explore Japanese ceramics at a year-long stay-in programme in the old pottery town of Taijimi. After her return, she decided to pursue pottery-making full-time, and eventually, her husband Kenneth, gave up his career in architecture to devote his time to ceramic sculpture. Together, their works are seen all over the world, from local ceramic installations to Belgian pottery expos to Australian restaurants. They also use their art to benefit social causes that work with poor and needy, as well as pledging 20% of all their profits to support the Mercy Centre’s Trolley Ministry, which works with the homeless in Singapore.

Afterwards, Kenneth and Huiwen showed us the electric kilns in the house, and demonstrated how we start off shaping and moulding the clay using our hands. We were then each given equally sized clay balls, as well as some tools and sat down to start working.

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Beginning to shape each ball of clay

As each of us slowly worked our clay, Huiwen went round and checked our work, advising us on how to smooth out cracks and even out surfaces, showing us how to use the different tools available to make patterns and create textures.

We also had a chance to have a quick tutorial on the pottery wheel. Kenneth gave us a quick demonstration and some pointers on how to use the wheel, and then he guided each of us as we tried our hand at throwing a simple ceramic cup.

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Kenneth of Studio Asobi showing us how to use the pottery wheel

Both J and Little E seemed to really enjoy using the wheel, but it was much more difficult that Kenneth made it seem.

When it was my turn, I could feel the clay moving under my hands as if it were alive. Slowly, I shaped the clay into a little saucer.

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Debs G attempts to throw a ceramic cup on the pottery wheel

It all seemed to be going very well, until a sound from inside the house broke my concentration and I looked up for a split second, losing control of the clay and turning it back into a formless lump!

Oh well!

The Barn Owl was able to manage the clay quite well and with his delicate touch, was even able to get the walls of the little cup to be thin and even. It was amazing to watch him, as I could see on the Barn Owl’s face that a serene peacefulness settled on him whilst he was shaping the clay. It is unsurprising that working with pottery is can be very therapeutic!

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The Barn Owl reaching a meditative state and making a tiny dish

After giving the potters wheel a go, all of us went back to put the final touches on our little clay creations. Huiwen and Kenneth showed us how to add little decorations, handles or feet to the outside of our handiwork. We then etched a symbol or initial on the bottom of our pieces so that they could be easily identified.

Then it was time to decide on the glaze or glaze combination would look the best on our works – Huiwen would apply the glazes for us once the clay dried fully before firing them in the electric kilns (you can see the kilns in the picture below).

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With Huiwen of Studio Asobi

In the end, Little E made a mug, J fashioned a soup bowl, the Barn Owl moulded a bud vase and I made a dish. It is so amazing the number of different objects that we each made out of the same lumps of clay!

I can hardly wait to see how our little clay pots and cups will turn out in three week’s time!

(Update: Check out our finished ceramics here!)

For more information about Studio Asobi click here

For more information about family, group or corporate workshops with Studio Asobi click here

Video Game Family Time: Overcooked

Sometimes, sitting down to play with your kids can also include playing video games together with them, especially if it’s a lazy rainy weekend afternoon!

Here at Owls Well, we don’t see video games as a way for kids to isolate themselves but as a way for families and siblings to bond with each other over a shared experience.

In this Video Game Family Time series, I’ll be talking about some video games that we like to play together as a family and some rules that we have to keep everyone playing together nicely.

Here’s another game that is a lot of fun for a rainy afternoon: Overcooked!

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Picture Source: Ghost Town Games

Overcooked is a hilariously chaotic co-operative game by the two person team over at indie game studio, Ghost Town Games. It’s a real fun game that is guaranteed to have the whole family either working together like a well oiled machine or (much more likely) rolling on the floor cackling with glee as everything goes berserk.

In this game, players control cute little chefs who have to work together fulfil as many customer orders as possible (by preparing ingredients, cooking, plating and serving), whilst dodging hazards and obstacles, all within a fixed time limit. Each level is roughly 3-5 minutes long, and it usually takes about 2-3 rounds before everyone figures out how to work together to beat the level, so it’s a good game to play if you’re trying to keep game time really short.

This game has both a co-operative mode for up to four players as well as a competitive multiplayer mode where you can divide up into two teams. The controls are very straightforward so it’s good for beginners who are still working on their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, and the graphics are crisp and cute.

 

Whilst playing, we’d often find ourselves shouting out orders and instructions to each other, laughing our heads off whilst our little chefs crash into each other, burn the soup or accidentally fall out of the kitchen! I love the way that the game emphasises the importance of close communication between players, encouraging us to work together as a family to improve efficiency in our virtual kitchen!

We also like to take turns to designate a ‘head chef’ for each round, who will assign jobs and call out the orders as they come through!

When we are playing together in Overcooked, there are certain rules that we insist the children have to observe:

  1. We are kind to each other – no intentionally sabotaging the game or being nasty with our words
  2. We are helpful – we are partners and work together towards a common goal
  3. We remember to maintain our sense of humour – this is a game that involves some yelling and giving orders, but that doesn’t mean we get angry or upset with each other!
  4. When Mummy and Daddy say that game time is over, everyone puts their controllers down immediately with no fuss or bargaining.

If there’s a video game that you think is great fun for families – share it with me in the comments!

The Happy Family Plan

As you may know, I recently hosted Christmas Dinner for the Owls Well family at my house as a response to the baking challenge that A Becky C set me in the beginning of the year.

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Challenge completed!

The most difficult thing about hosting the Christmas ‘Everything Baked’ Dinner at the my place, was not actually the cooking, but that I had to get myself to a place where I felt like I could invite people (specifically family) round to my house without feeling too upset and stressed about it.

I actually started planning for the Christmas Dinner at my place WAY back in October. I called this my “Happy Family Plan“. The goal of my plan was to be able to have the Outlaws stay at my house and invite the Aged Ps round for dinner at the same time. This was a 4 stage plan, as follows:

 Stage 1:  Reorganise/declutter children’s toys and schedules. 

This was so that we could spend more time at home and that we would also enjoy spending more time at home as the living room area would be more presentable. I felt quite stressed about being at home sometimes as I found myself getting upset with the kids and very unhappy when their toys seemed to be everywhere, even after putting the toys away.

Result: I donated many bags of toys to families who would appreciate them more than we would. Spending more time at home was relaxing too.

Stage 2: Reorganise the cupboards 

Our dining table and counter tops were overflowing with things, as was my desk area. The cupboards had been stuffed willy-nilly to keep everything away from prying eyes but it was reaching the stage where I felt bad about how ugly the cupboards were on the inside and couldn’t even bear to open them to put more things away.

Result: I reorganised the children’s clothing cupboards, our craft cupboard and two of our miscellaneous cupboards, and gave away some of the clothes that I knew I would never wear again (i.e. all my maternity and nursing gear, and my pre-pregnancy work wear). I wasn’t able to go through all the cupboards as I didn’t have enough time, this being an emergency plan, but I did manage to find space to make sure the dining table was clear and that the countertops were not overly cluttered.

Stage 3: Reclaim my bedroom space and the spare room space.

The spare room was being used as a temporary holding area (i.e. storage room) and that needed to change if I was going to put the Outlaws up in there. My bedroom space was only being used as a place to sleep and not a place to relax and that needed to change.

Result: This involved getting rid of large furniture items in my bedroom which were being used as glorified clothes horses. I also moved Thumper out of our bedroom and into the children’s room. This led to both myself and the Barn Owl experiencing better sleep and less guilt for not using furniture as intended. I also felt less upset about the state of the spare bedroom (although still a little embarrassed about the cupboards in there!)

Stage 4: Host guests in the house

Obviously, I wanted to feel proud about where we lived, proud enough to show it off to other people. I didn’t want to worry about whether the Aged Ps would leave my house feeling sad at the state of it.

If you look to the top right of the picture above, you can see that I still had laundry hanging up in my dining room – it was raining so it couldn’t go outside – and whilst I was quite embarrassed that I didn’t have anywhere else to put it, at least I felt okay enough to have people come and visit the house.

And look how happy everyone is!

Happy Family Plan Completed!

Notes on the Happy Family Plan:

I set aside Thumper’s 2 hour morning nap time to devote to the decluttering and tidying portion Happy Family Plan, which was the most time-consuming part of this whole event. I would spend only one hour diligently working, then decompress for half an hour with crisps, a cold drink and Youtube. If I felt good enough, I’d do a little bit more during the afternoon, but not more than half an hour as I didn’t want to burn myself out.

I toyed with the idea of selling all my preloved things, even to the point of opening a Carousell account, but in the end I realised that it was more important for me to get the clutter out of sight quickly. Additionally, I decided that my family is fortunate enough to be in a position where we can afford to be charitable. So, I listed everything on various Freecycle sites as I decluttered, so that these things would go to people who wanted or needed them enough to come and collect them from me. Reducing World Suck whilst accomplishing the Happy Family Plan was a huge bonus, and some days I felt a little bit like Santa Claus!

For Stage 3 of the Happy Family Plan, I had to take into account the fact that there might possibly be a difficult transition period whilst J, Little E and Thumper adjust to the new sleeping arrangements, and I didn’t want this to affect J as he was preparing for his year end exams. So I waited until J had completed his last paper before moving Thumper out of our bedroom.

It was surprisingly easy – the 3 kids did take longer to get to sleep at first as they would play with Thumper after lights out, but there was a lot less fuss from Thumper than I’d envisioned. This was because Little E instantly took over the job of comforting Thumper if he woke her up at night and she managed it a lot better than I normally do! Her secret? “I just tell him to lie down and go to sleep”, says she. I must say I was very proud of all of them, especially Little E, who really had a chance to flex her big sister muscles!

Concluding thoughts:

I’m pleased to say that I am really proud of myself for managing to complete the Happy Family Plan within a short time frame and despite the fact that I only had an hour a day to spend on it! Yay for me!

Whilst completing the Happy Family Plan, I went on my personal social media site and asked for advice for how to declutter and organise my cupboards.

This eventually led to one of my family giving me a set of Marie Kondo‘s books for Christmas! I’ll let you know how I feel about it once I finish reading them.

Video Game Family Time: Resogun

Sometimes, sitting down to play with your kids can also include playing video games together with them, especially if it’s a lazy rainy weekend afternoon!

Here at Owls Well, we don’t see video games as a way for kids to isolate themselves but as a way for families and siblings to bond with each other over a shared experience.

In this Video Game Family Time series, I’ll be talking about some video games that we like to play together as a family and some rules that we have to keep everyone playing together nicely.

This time, I’ll be talking about one of the first games we played together, Resogun.

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Picture Source: Resogun Official Webpage

Resogun is a really fun shoot ’em up game from the Finnish indie game developer, Housemarque, which brings me back to the days when I used to play Choplifter on PC.

This is a side-scrolling video game, that is, the action is viewed from a side angle and onscreen characters move left-to-right and back again to achieve their objectives. Players control little spaceships and have to shoot invading alien ships whilst rescuing humans trapped in glass cages. The game is pretty fast paced, so it’s a good one to play if you want to keep the game time really short and yet satisfying (like 15-20 minutes).

We like this game for playing in pairs (the multiplayer function only goes up to two players), and the fact that in-game resources like special weapons, extra lives and bonuses, are shared between both players. This means that the game encourages cooperative play (not competitive play), and J and Little E have to work together to defeat the game, collect bonuses and upgrades, and protect each other when carrying a people to safety.

The game is also very simple to learn as it has a straightforward control system and really smooth graphics that are sensitive and responsive to the player. The challenge in the game lies in being able to react quickly and use special weapons more strategically as the levels progress in difficulty. This means that our 5 year old Little E can still play with our 8 year old J, and both of them are engaged in the game.

The little ships and people are very cute, and the alien spaceships are not visually frightening or ugly. The game does involve shooting down evil alien spaceships, with a great deal of cartoon violence (the ships explode into colourful pixels).

Another aspect of the game that I like is that you can build and customise your own ships. J and Little E get a kick out of designing their own spaceships and seeing them rendered in 3D!

Here’s an example of a ship that Little E designed for Valentine’s Day this year.

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Little E’s ship, the “Love Butterfly”

J also drew and coloured his own spaceship, the “Rainbow Tornado”.

Then, The Barn Owl and I helped them turn their drawings into playable ships that they could use in the game!

Each of them had to choose what sort of characteristics their ships would have based on how they like to play the game. Little E’s ship was made faster but with less firepower so that she could concentrate on saving more people and collecting bonuses (you can see the “Love Butterfly” carrying a little green man who is dangling from the belly of the ship in the picture below), whilst J’s ship is less agile but has stronger shields and firepower, as well as a bigger boost engine.

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J and Little E piloting the “Love Butterfly” and “Rainbow Tornado”

When we are playing together in Resogun, there are certain rules that we insist the children have to observe:

  1. We remember to be patient – we don’t get cross with each other if the game doesn’t go the way that we want, and we are kind with our words
  2. We listen to each other – we discuss and work together to form a common game strategy
  3. We take turns to be the team leader
  4. When Mummy and Daddy say that game time is over, everyone puts their controllers down immediately with no fuss or bargaining.

Do you think family video game time is a good way for families to spend time together? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!

Video Game Family Time: Minecraft

Sometimes, sitting down to play with your kids can also include playing video games together with them, especially if it’s a lazy rainy weekend afternoon!

Here at Owls Well, we don’t see video games as a way for kids to isolate themselves but as a way for families and siblings to bond with each other over a shared experience.

Growing up, ABC and I were fortunate enough to own a PC, where we played adventure games together going from text-based games like Zork, to graphic adventure games like King’s Quest and RPGs (Role Playing Games) like Quest for Glory! The Barn Owl didn’t have a computer but he owned a video game console and would play strategy or racing games together with his sister and his parents. So it only makes sense that we would join our children as they make their first few forays into the virtual world.

There are tons of multiplayer video games that are cooperative in nature with split-screen or couch modes which mean that families can sit together and play together.

In this Video Game Family Time series, I’ll be talking about some video games that we like to play together as a family and some rules that we have to keep everyone playing together nicely.

Let’s start with one of our favourite games, the very popular Minecraft.

Minecraft is what is considered a ‘sandbox’ video game, which means that it allows the player complete freedom to make open-ended choices as to how, when and what they want to do in the game world.

The biggest feature of Minecraft is the creative building aspect of the game which allows players to build complete 3D structures out of cubes that have various properties and textures. The game also includes resource gathering and crafting, exploration and combat.

There are several gameplay modes to choose from, but we only use two of these modes at the moment:

  1. Survival Mode: Players have to acquire resources to progress in the game, fight hostile night creatures and maintain their health and hunger status.
  2. Creative Mode: Players have infinite resources to build with and can create their own world or map, or even make their own mini-game.

There are also interactive online modes where players can share maps, worlds and even mini-game adventures they have built themselves in creative mode, or be spectators in another player’s game. They can even play multiplayer games with other online gamers. As our children are still young, we don’t feel that these online multiplayer features are for them right now, so we do not log into the internet whilst playing the game.

When we are playing together as a family, we usually choose to play in Survival Mode and we turn off the ‘Player vs Player’ option to encourage cooperative play instead of competitive play. This makes the game much fun because we have to work together as a family to get through the game.

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Owls Well in Minecraft

How do we work together in the game? Well, let’s take this picture as an example.

One of the first things you have to do when you start the game is to build a shelter to hide in so that you can avoid having to fight off monsters at night or have a place to recuperate after going on a night hunt! In the picture, you can see a simple house that we built together during one of our gameplay sessions.

The wood for the house was from trees that I cut down using an axe made by the Barn Owl. The glass windows were made by J from sand blocks that he heated in a furnace. The Barn Owl lured animals like sheep, pigs and cows into a wooden pen so that we could have a steady supply of food. Little E cleared the land and planted wheat which can be used to feed our livestock or used to bake bread, then she tamed dogs to help to protect the land. So you see, we created a base from which we can explore the rest of the game map at our own leisure.

The multiplayer mode can be played using a ‘split-screen view‘, which means that we can all be in the same room at the same time sharing the same screen. This also means that every player in the game does not have to do the exact same thing at the same time (although we try to stay around the same location) – for example, J happened reading books about pyramids and monuments, so he spent time building the ziggurats that you can see in the background of the picture, whilst Little E and I went fishing in the nearby lake.

One of the aspects of Minecraft that I like is how items are constructed as part of gameplay. For example, if I want to craft an iron pickaxe, I have to mine iron ore out of the ground, smelt it in a furnace to make iron ingots, then use several ingots in combination with a wooden stick in order to make a pickaxe. This gives kids an idea of some the real world processes involved the creation of manmade objects, and is one of the reasons why J and Little E were excited about visiting an exhibition on rocks and gemstones!

When we are playing together in Minecraft, there are certain rules that we insist the children have to observe:

  1. We play nice – that means no destroying each other’s buildings or killing each other’s pets, it also means that we are kind with our words
  2. We share – all resources must be shared and no one will be excluded from any in-game activity
  3. We are respectful towards each other – we ask before taking or using resources that have been stored away, especially if those resources are difficult to obtain
  4. We look out for each other – that means nobody gets left behind, we help defend each other against hostile creatures
  5. When Mummy and Daddy say that game time is over, everyone puts their controllers down immediately with no fuss or bargaining.

Do you think family video game time is a good way for families to spend time together? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!

Deep water (or More Geography for Preschoolers)

In this portion of Little E’s school holiday project, we trace a river from the sea to its source. Along the way, we learn about how the water from a single river has been used in many different ways – in trade, industry and agriculture, in city planning, in religion.

This was a very challenging project for us, because it involved quite a bit of preparation and research, but it was a really great way for Little E to see how physical geography meets human geographyy.

Our initial plan was to follow a route that was already prepared by my sister-in-law’s teaching colleague, who took her elementary school students on a field trip to trace a large river last year. Unfortunately, this river crossed over several cities and would mean hours of driving. Additionally, the stops taken on the field trip did not have any particular meaning in terms of observing significant geographical features or landmarks – they were just the drop off points at the bus service stations!

So, we had to start from scratch and I couldn’t have done this without the help of The Outlaws, who hold quite extensive knowledge of the local terrain. We spent a few evenings discussing which river to trace with the help of Google Maps and the Outlaw’s collection of ordinance maps.

The most difficult part of creating the videos took place after piecing together all the footage from the field trips. This was when Little E recorded the narration for the video. I have to say that Little E worked REALLY very hard on this, and I recorded nearly 3 hours worth of voiceover narration for this video!

Little E was oftentimes very upset when listening to the playback of her recording, and would insist on re-recording parts of the narration that sounded too robotic or too garbled.    She’s only 5 years old, so her preschooler diction was not in her favour and she had to repeat herself many times in order to be clearly heard and understood. At times, she would get discouraged and would need a little push, but in the end she managed to do a really great job and I was really proud of her!

Great job, Little E!

Check out Part 1 of this project here