Teen Librarian Toolbox
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Book Review and Program Ideas: Playing with Surface Design by Courtney Cerruti

When The Mr. and I were in college, he was an art major. I had the distinct privilege of of learning about an array of artistic ideas while watching him take classes. Because of this experience, or perhaps just because of the moments we’ve shared and the influence he has had on me, I’ve always had a tendency to involve arts and crafts into my teen programming in the library. As someone who intensely values self expression and learning, I think it is great to offer teens an introduction to a wide variety of mediums, techniques and opportunities to explore. You never know what might just click with them.

When looking for teen program ideas, I find that it is helpful to be aware of what books are in my nonfiction area. I try to thumb through them when new one comes in, making a note of any ideas I might want to tuck away for future use. Sometimes I will find a single activity that I adore and later use at a theme program, like a Doctor Who party. Other times I might find an idea or technique that I want to build a whole program around, like t-shirt alteration.

Playing with Surface Design is a book that is all about using things like stamps, inks, paints, etc. to alter the surface of something to create a new sort of something. With just a few simple techniques, you can upcycle something you buy at a thrift store to make it uniquely your own, for example. Or you can create your own package wrapping and ribbons, giving something that homemade touch that seems to say I love you and went through this extra step of effort. Or you can take a pair of thrift store shoes and make them new and personal.

Playing with Surface Design discusses four main types of surface altering: monoprinting with gelatin, paste paper, credit card painting and mark making. Mark making is literally doing things like making random marks on a piece of paper – and yes, it can mean scribbling – and then using that paper to make cool designs. Gelatin is like doing printing but instead of using a traditional ink you use a gel based ink. Paste paper involves using various combs and tools to make patterns on paper using paste and pigments. Don’t worry, it’s all explained really well at the beginning of the book.

Here are some examples of ways that you could use this book in teen programming:

1. Paste Paper Mobile

One program that I have done multiple times is a program called Renovate Your Room. It’s all about teaching teens simple things they can do to re-decorate their room on a budget. I will usually have a local interior design person come in to discuss basic things like layout and design, color theory, and even feng shui. Another activity I sometimes do is use a stack of discarded magazines and have them create a collage of their dream room using pictures cut from the magazines. And then we might do a simple activity, like some duct tape crafts that you can add into your room to give it some flair. On page 41, Cerruti goes through the steps of creating a paste paper mobile. This would be a great hands on activity for this type of a program. Also, if you were having a thematic teen program it would be fun to create a mobile for a background decoration.

Some of the other activities that would be great for a Renovate Your Room type of program include Painted Pillow Cover (p. 47), Color Play Lampshade (p. 53) and Scribble Garland (p. 81).

2. Making Polka Dots

I can’t believe I have never thought of this myself, but in the section on Study in Circles: Tea Towels (page 43), Cerutti shares how you can use bubble wrap and ink pads to make polka dots. You could do this, for example, in a t-shirt alternation program, or in a program where you make your own journals, papers, gift wrap and more. It’s quick, simple and kind of genius.

3. Framed Photo Mats

One of my favorite things to do with my teens is to do photography types of activities using apps with a variety of filters – it involves tech!  With the right tools – a smart phone or table and access to a printer – you can do a wide variety of fun programs with teens creating pictures, whether they be selfies, photobooths, or thematic. You could combine that with a program where you make your own photo mats using the techniques in Playing with Surface Design.

4. Back to School Crafts

There are a variety of activities that would be fun to include in a back to school program including Moder Black-And-White Book Covers (p. 69) Patterned Notebooks (p. 73), Making Marks Postcards (p. 77).

5. Earth Day Printmaking

As little kids, almost all of us did crayon rubbings of leaves and twigs and liked the outcome. Bold Botanical Prints (p. 61) takes those rubbings to the next level and teaches the basics of gelatin printmaking. The prints can then be framed and displayed in your teen area, or taken home.

Some of the other activities mentioned include making personalized notecards, stamping wrapping paper, making marbled tassles, and creating stamped-envelope keepsake pouches.

Other titles in this book series include Washi Tape (which I love) and Playing with Image Transfers (which I want desperately). There are some examples of artists working in the filed in the final portion of the book and I think it helps make the art real, pairing it to names and examples of people doing this type of art in the real world.

This book excited me with all of the creative ways I thought of using it in my personal life and teen programming. I found the directions to be pretty thorough and easy to follow. I definitely recommend it.

This book was sent to me for review as part of our Quarto Week here at TLT. Later today we will be hosting a giveaway for 5 of the books we chose for you.

About Quarto Publishing Group

The Quarto Publishing Group (formerly Quayside Publishing Group) books have earned a reputation for style and quality in the fields of art, crafts, hobbies, food and drink, nature, lifestyle, reference and children’s. The children’s program just launched in 2014 with the creation of Walter Foster Jr., but expanded dramatically with the “coming home” of our Quarto UK imprints Frances Lincoln Children’s Books and QEB Publishing, now formally published through Quarto USA.  In addition, a number of our general and specialty book imprints, such as Quarry Books, Motorbooks, and Race Point, publish books on history, craft, art, and other topics of interest to teen readers.  Visit us know at www.quartous.com and beginning this June at www.QuartoKnows.com.

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