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BookSmithStudio.com | Nikki Smith Book & Visual Artist

Handmade books and various art explorations

Archive for the ‘Mailbox Treasures and Gifts’ Category

And so begins the practice…

March 6th, 2011 by Nikki Smith

The Practice by Lisa Wilson of LifeunityThis lovely painting, “The Practice” is by Lisa Wilson of Lifeunity.  This was her generous door prize in the One World One Heart blog event this year.  Lisa says:

“The Practice” is a reminder that every moment of our lives is another opportunity to practice – practice being open, mindful, and aware of everything that is going on (around us, our body, our thoughts, our breath).

I love  art that incorporates the written word — and what a great message this is!  Thank-you, Lisa!

P.S.  If you missed OWOH this year, don’t fret.  There will be a similar event next year geared specifically to artists who blog – Our World, Our Art!

Creative Work, Creative Play, Creative Learning

August 1st, 2010 by Nikki Smith

This weekend I was inspired by my 2yr old daughter to create a photo concentration/memory game to help build her vocabulary. There are some nice games for kids that we’ve found, however they weren’t quite what I was looking for.  Building our own game allows us to continually expand her vocabulary by adding new photos and themes, and eventually increasing it from the simple 16 cards to a more challenging number as her skill and confidence grows.

I started out by actually making my own “real-world” concentration cards with photos for her.  That was fun, but they also get lost, bent, and bitten.  They need to be backed by matboard or some other heavy paper to minimize the damage a 2yr old can inflict.  Plus it’s not as easy to add more photos.

So, it was back to my “day job” creative skills – crafting a digital game instead of a physical one this time.  I do enjoy this type of creative work; it’s a nice break from building eCommerce stores and great that I can apply this skill set to improving the life of my child, too!

I’ll share two resources here, in case you are interested in doing this for yourself.

  • Basic Javascript Concentration Game.  First, About.com has a simple open-source javascript Memory game with 30 tiny cards where you provide your own photos.  I used this code as a base (to not “re-invent the wheel” for the basics) and customized it extensively so that it met my criteria and was more friendly for a toddler.  (I incorporated larger photos, a smaller number of cards [16 instead of 30], a flexible and expandable library of images chosen randomly rather than a fixed number of images, longer delay before images disappear on failed matches, ability to select a photo theme for each game, and the sound of kids applauding when she wins.) However, the above game is free and a great place to start for someone who has very basic html skills (i.e. cut-and-paste into head and body) and can create/resize their own images.
  • Photo Search Engine: COMPFIGHT.   I just discovered this site and I love it!  It allows you to search for Creative Commons licensed photos on Flickr – just choose “Creative Commons ONLY” at the top.  What a great source for inspiring images that you can use guilt-free!  Most images just require attribution to the photographer if you are sharing it.  (Check the license on each photo and respect the copyright of other creative folks like yourself, please!)

So now for my creative play step – building the photo theme libraries of images.  What words would I like her to learn?  What would she enjoy?  What words that she already knows should be reinforced with more visual images to represent their variety?  I have started on the following themes, adding images both from the web (see above link) as well as my own photography:

People Theme.
people theme: jumpThis includes:

  • Head-shots of relatives (especially those who live far away) and playmates
  • Professions such as doctor, dancer and fireman
  • Facial expressions and feelings such as happy, sad and silly
  • Actions – people jumping, etc.
  • Other ideas for this category are body parts, ages, gender, etc.

Places Theme.
Places theme: cabinThis includes:

  • Types of buildings and structures: yellow house, tent, etc…
  • Nature scenery like waterfalls, forest, mountains, the beach, fields…
  • Destinations like home, school, the park, etc.
  • Cities, planet earth, landmarks, a map, etc.

Animals Theme.
Animals theme: squirrelThis includes:

  • Pets
  • Farm animals
  • Zoo animals
  • Baby animals
  • Unusual / less common animals (i.e. those that aren’t in her picture books)
  • More examples of animals she knows — the variety of colors, shapes and sizes of dogs, for example.

Numbers Theme.
Number theme: 2We’re trying to teach our toddler that “20” is “twenty” and not just “two, zero”.

This includes:



Misc things theme: robotMisc Things Theme.
This includes:

  • Anything that doesn’t fit somewhere else!
  • Random electronics like cash registers, calculators, cameras, computers, etc.
  • Robots, thermometer, teapot, fire, hammers, etc.

Other Theme Ideas:

  • Transportation Theme
  • Food Theme
  • Nature Theme
  • Characters Theme – just for fun: all of your child’s favorite cartoon or storybook characters.

Plans for the Future:

As she ages, I intend to make more complicated versions of this game to build additional skills like reading and reasoning.  For example, instead of matching two identical images she would need to match the photo and the word or first letter of the word (i.e. a picture of a house with the text “house” or the letter “h”), or match opposites (night/day, happy/sad), or two photos in the same category (i.e. two different images of horses, two different cats, etc.)  The possibilities are endless!

Creative Play and Creative Learning

The real-world test: What does my toddler think about this game?  It’s fun!
Is her vocabulary growing?  By leaps and bounds!

By the way, my daughter touches the screen to tell us which card she’d like to flip (“that one!”) and either mommy or daddy moves the mouse and clicks the square.  But it’s only a matter of time until she learns that skill, too!  (If only we had touch-screen monitors…)

She loves finding the matches and the sound of kids applauding when she wins!  When she makes a match she says “yay, two robots” (or whatever the item was.)  I’m constantly amazed at how much and how fast she learns, and this is just one more great way to foster those skills.  Way to go, kiddo!

Photo Credits for above images:
Jump, Cabin, & Squirrel: My family’s photos
Number 2: Flickr user Boklm
Robot: Flickr user Tinkerbots

Fun mail day…Artwork by Marsha Jorgensen!

November 10th, 2009 by Nikki Smith

It’s so nice to get fun stuff in the mail rather than just bills and junk! And what could be better than art?  Check out my new Tumble Fish Studio prints by Marsha Jorgensen:

Tumble Fish Studio Limited Ediiton Prints
I was introduced to Marsha’s artwork (a.k.a. Tumble Fish Studio) through a fund raiser for a mutual friend, Tina Wright.  I was the top bidder on a piece of her artwork and a gift certificate to her shop for another print and she was kind enough to send me three!  (Thank-you, I love them!!) Marsha makes these delightful collages the old-fashioned way — by hand.  You can see more at her blog or her etsy shop.

Last week I also received my order of art goodies from The Shoppe at Sommerset.  I now have a set of test tubes, some watch findings (tiny, tiny gears and parts), unusual paper flowers and a cool collage sheet.  Still no time to play with them – maybe this weekend…?  I hope so — I’m going through art withdrawl and my hands are itching to CREATE!

Beautiful augury from Andrea

May 4th, 2009 by Nikki Smith

charm-by-andreaThis beautiful augury was made by my good friend Andrea.  We haven’t had the chance to get together in quite a while.  For my birthday last week, she joined my husband, daughter and I for a delightful lunch and afternoon shopping in the art section of the local book store.  What a fun surprise!

Andrea always has such a good eye for details.  Not only did she create a fabulous augury, she presented it attached to a Magnolia leaf.  Beautiful!

Of course, the best gift of all was spending time with a good friend!

Mailbox Treasures: Goodies from Tina

September 12th, 2007 by Nikki Smith

mailbox091207_tina1Bills, junk mail, more bills, more junk mail, TREASURE!  Just look at the fabulous goodies Tina sent me today…a collaged tin, two collaged fridge magnets, and a beautiful pendant.  Wow, what fun!  Thanks, Tina!

mailbox091207_tina2