Megan Dowsett is a creative consultant working in museums, galleries and the arts, an illustrator who is finding her voice through personal and local projects, and a parent to two young beings who can't help but influence her creative journey.

Through the name Norris and the Flamingo, she shares the sense of adventure that runs through all of life, wherever we are on our journey. A sense of imagination, of possibility and discovery, for children and adults alike.

18 October 2018

Tate Faces

I stumbled across a lovely book in a charity shop a few years ago, that had been published by TateFaces.

It's like a source book of a thousand ways to spend an afternoon, whatever your age, simply on the theme of faces.

20180803_163208 I find that, whatever's in my head, the truth is Feets is much more excited about my idea if I can simply show her a picture.  So we sat down one afternoon and flicked through the book.  It didn't, in truth, last that long, before we were off, making faces of our own.  Feets made one out of duplo while I made one in the kitchen.  20180803_163156 Actually, this sparked a whole era of inventive duplo scultpures, but that's a different story.
20180803_164934 Later we went outside and built a face in the woods.  Unfortunately it made me realise that the best and simplest ideas often still have more complexity than meets the eye.  Doing one in the woods, we couldn't really find a way to make it show up against the messy background of leaves and twigs.  Feets didn't mind - we used stones, moss, a heap of cut grass, leaves and twigs. 
This leaf face was a (very) quick side project!

I keep finding that things work best with the kids when I'm excited about them for myself, too.  Those rare moments when we're all keen, and all working side by side...

11 September 2018

Mum Days

Sometimes I wonder why I post what I get up to with the kids on this blog ... it started when I was on maternity leave the first time, and trying to 'keep my hand in' the art of workshop delivery - 'workshops' with Feets were all I was doing for a time.  These days, I don't deliver so many workshops in my professional life and I'm certainly under no illusion that the mess I make with the kids is equivalent to running a conceptually inspiring creative arts workshop.  I also have far less opportunity to think through, plan and prepare for two children of different ages than I did when there was only Feets.

So ... is it to show off?  Brilliant Mum and all that?  Having spent time on the blogs of a few AMAZING creative parents who, as well as filling me with great inspiration, left me feeling rather inadequate, I wondered whether I in my small way, was ending up doing the same for other people.

The thing is, we do so much parenting utterly on our own, and the kids don't often say 'well done Mum, you're doing a great job'.  And my professional hat is noting that the activity wasn't very well anchored in real-life context, or I was a bit too controlling of the outcome, or I couldn't relax enough to let them really get messy, or ...

Sometimes you do just want to say 'well done me'.  And this is the place I do it.

But having realised that perhaps I sound like I'm trying to be a 'Super-Mum', I've had a bit of a think about what I'm doing here.  These pages are about my creative journey so, much though I've begun to mull the possibility of admitting the days when I'm distinctly NOT a Super-Mum, I don't think this is the place for that.  (But yes, I am often very impatient with the kids, I have been known to smack them, we don't make nearly as much use of the amazing cultural scene in London that you would expect of parents in heritage and education sectors, and we spend about 90% of our time with duplo.)

But also, there are parent blogs out there that do a much better, thorough and professional job of sharing ideas for creative play with the early years.

20180824_104126 I thought about stopping this strand of my blogging.  But right now it's a huge part of my creative journey and there's nowhere else to share the fun!  So, instead, I'm going to try and evaluate what we did a little more constructively - the things that worked and didn't, the things I'll remember to do next time, and how I got round having no preparation time, no outside space (and not much inside space).  Lets face it, most of the things we plan for our kids turn out completely differently to what I expected.  And most of the time, I haven't planned them at all and they'd work out a bit better with just a tiny bit more planning.

Also, since this is a large part of my blogging, if not my most professional part, I'll add a link to Mum Days on my front page.

So ... today's picture is a collaborative 'jungle' collage, made on an A2 sheet of newsprint by Feets, Bean and myself.  It was completely spontaneous and therefore lacked the focus and depth that I know Feets is capable of, but we had a lovely time doing it.  It had been in my mind for a while that as a collage artist, I haven't done much collage with the kids and it would be fun to make use of some of the magazines I've hoarded over the years.  To have Feets and Bean at opposite ends of the table was the only way, so we had to let go of ideas of 'top and bottom' of the picture.  We shared the cutting out.  And Feets' favourite picture managed to be a type of squid.  My lack of imagination for squid swimming through the jungle prompted me to suggest we turn it into a magnificent kind of plant.

And Bean in particular is loving tape at the moment, so we created some rain at what did, after all turn out to be the top of the picture.

This was huge fun in just opening up the possibilities of the medium of collage.  Thematically it might have been better if we'd talked about it more before starting - perhaps read a story to set the scene and gather ideas.  But then, that's the kind of planning I rarely achieve as a mother.  I usually end up telling myself it was better to have done it than not!

28 August 2018

Doodle Collage

Collage I saved all the bits left over from a collage, because I couldn't resist the patterns left behind. And the other day, I finally assembled them into as new world. It was fun and satisfying, and a great warm-up exercise to organise a limited collection of pieces into a quick little something.

21 August 2018

Edward Bawden at Dulwich Picture Gallery

Edward Bawden A gorgeous exhibition which tapped into my love of characters, nature and print, brought lots of posters from the Transport Museum, and generally ran me out of time long before I was finished!

14 August 2018

Gertrude Hermes at Gunnersbury Park

I recently made a brief visit to the gorgeous, new Gunnersbury Museum and Park. Came across Gertrude Hermes in the temporary exhibition space and loved her! I mean, woodcut, lino, black and white, right up my street, of course. What really stood out for me were the first two pictures, which both focused on her love of swimming and relationship with water, balancing the magical interchange of light and water with the physicality and sensuality of swimming, and bringing in something deeper, even sinister too ...

I also loved the texture of the clouds in Rooks and Rain.

7 August 2018

Blackberry Paint

20180727_152448 Having moved to a flat up lots of stairs and with a daunting commute, it's time to embrace the benefits - one of which is an abundance of blackberries. We have picked many, eaten many, stewed many, and the other day, we took some kit outside and mushed them up into paint. 20180805_120617 20180805_120636

What to say, really, beyond absolute glee over the harmless mess, joy over the richness of the colour (which sadly doesn't show so well here) and the chance, outside to try a range of messy paint activities without causing any damage at all. Bubble printing: a bit challenging to really get the bubbles going; flicking the brush: worked beautifully, though Bean mostly flicked the paint onto her face; tasting it; Bean found it tasted nicer without the washing up liquid! 20180805_120602 20180805_120646

Above, a machine for eating up the spare moons around Jupiter so there's only one left, by Feets; and, err, paint, by Bean.

3 August 2018

BP Portrait Award

I popped along to the BP Portrait Award with a friend - a perfectly sized exhibition for a Friday evening!  It's been a while since I visited a painting exhibition so it was interesting to see what's going on in the world.

This is Mrs Anna Wojcik by Monika Polak, and I was baffled by it for a long time, trying to understand her thoughts in painting the flowers on the clothes 'flat' in a painting that was otherwise so realistic and 3-dimensional; also why she chose to echo the fabric of the jacket in the background ... until I finally realised the whole painting was on floral fabric.  A bit slow on the uptake sometimes!  But it turns out Monika Polak has worked on a whole series like this and I think they are magical.

The Oolographer by J.J.Delvine was also a great conversation starter - from trying to understand how we'd go about creating a self portrait from the side (do serious artists ever work from photos?  They have me believe not but ...), to piecing together the choices made in selecting each picture around his studio.  And the questions continue - I couldn't figure out how 'real' this picture was, and how much it was a 'facade' - is Delvine actually into studying bird eggs (apparently Oology is a thing!), or is he playing with us?  Where does the play start and stop?

As Nicole and I discussed the first painting (by Jesus Maria Saez de Vicuna Ochoa), we found ourselves drawn into conversation with a man who (understandably) simply couldn't believe the picture was not a photograph.  Since I am currently reading The Participatory Museum by Nina Simon, I was amused to find myself a visitor, fulfilling one of the deeper levels of engagement that she describes!

I frequently find myself mulling what our key aims are as museums and galleries, and also within a learning team.  Something has changed in my (and I think the sector's) mindset over the last twelve years - a kind of evolution from the primary focus being the requirement to learn something, towards (at last!) allowing for a more open-ended possibility.  The idea that a gallery or museum can simply be a space, and that each visitor might respond to it and use it for different purposes.  But the greatest achievement of all is perhaps the moment when people who came to use the space for one purpose (perhaps a picnic, a place for the kids to run around, a place to sit down), find themselves connecting with someone else through an exhibit ... and perhaps discovering something something new about themselves, their tastes, their interests.  

9 July 2018

Mind the Gap

One of the most creative projects I've worked on recently, Mind the Gap is an interactive adventure which I worked with immersive theatre company Specifiq to develop for London Transport Museum.

It was an awe-inspiring journey in so many ways - absolutely amazing to bring school groups into the empty Museum Depot, and to watch their reactions as they arrive; magical to transport them on a journey of imagination that generated quotes such as 'Miss, I'm a bit scared but I think it's going to be alright' and 'do you know where she is?' as well as 'I thought it was going to be boring but it was the best day ever'; and a true adventure to me to work with Oscar and Becky, co-directors of Specifiq - to think outside the box and watch some loose ideas shape into real-life adventure, as well as to learn so much about the world of immersive theatre.

Sessions are on a 'soft launch' this term, with full operation from September.

I am now back (part-time) at the London Transport Museum as Schools and Interpretation Manager, which allows me the joy of seeing how the sessions unfold over the coming year!

5 June 2018

Playdough Fun

20180519_103124 20180519_103124 20180519_103124 Feets' playdough set has kept us happy for a long time. One of those sets I would snottily say 'we don't need to buy it, we can make it'. But then I so rarely made it, and before you realise it, time has passed and your precious children are deprived of playdough! So she gratefully received a 'cooking' playdough set, complete with pasta maker and moulds for all sorts of food. Which, this time, we joyfully subverted into faces. A collaborative effort, of course!

29 May 2018

Garden on a Plate

20180510_143751Did we all do these when we were little? It's such a funny, random, theme for all those summer shows. A flash back to the 80s - or did it continue to the present?! 20180510_145737
Anyway, since Feets decided to start collecting blossom so she could plant it in the garden, I suggested making a garden on a plate. It kept us all very happy for the best part of a day, despite the need to keep Bean away from Feets' plate, which was of course far more intriguing than her own! We went to the park to collect sticks, stones, fallen blossom and leave, and then made playdough to plant the broccoli and blossom into. 20180510_143615 The whole project came to life when we thought to bring the fairies and dinosaurs into it, and then build a bridge between the plates, and then bring out a saucepan of water to form a river under the bridge ...

(and yes, Bean tried to eat the broccoli!)

22 May 2018

Granny and Me: The first two pages

I've been working very hard on this! And we are nearly there. This book has been an amazing learning journey for me, and a beautiful story to tell. Scanned from a Xerox Multifunction Device I thought it was a story for one special child, but I realise it is a magical way for any child to explore loss, grief, missing people. Scanned from a Xerox Multifunction Device (1)

16 May 2018

a book - a gift - a memento - a puzzle

20180423_204206 I made a book for a friend's hen party. Her hen do took the form of a 'treasure hunt' across London, with clues that she had to solve to find each location. This book therefore needed a format to present each clue, with the answer to be found separately. Great chance to use pockets and tags! Every page had two pockets, with the clue on a tag in one pocket and the answer in the other. 20180423_204059 Using eccentric photos of the bride and her friends seemed a good way to make it light, humorous and bring all the group into it - always nice to have a memento from the day!

1 May 2018

Katie Morag

It's been a while since I've posted a beautiful book for children, but since we're on holiday in Scotland, I'd like to share my latest inspiring book ... well-known and well-loved, I believe, it's Mairi Hedderwick's Katie Morag.

As is so often the case, these fabulously illustrated stories of a much loved world far removed from our own London life, are familiar to Feets and me thanks to CBeebies,  but I've only ever seen the books in passing.

Take a look some time - and see how many different media she's managed to incorporate into one picture!

17 April 2018

Songs of Flight

My brother, Owen, and I spent Easter Monday at the Roald Dahl Museum, working with families to write songs about the experience of flying. 20180402_160325 It was the first time we’d worked together and, well it worked out beautifully!  I haven’t often co-delivered, but it’s a great opportunity to play to different people’s strengths, and ultimately come up with something really good.  Naturally, there were things we’d like to try differently, but in generally, with only 45 minutes with each group, we achieved a lot. 20180402_154633 Owen brings an incredible talent in singing, guitar and improvisation, along with his irresistible charm and sense of how to pitch things at just the right level.  Combined with my background in interpreting museum themes for families and enabling our youngest audiences to become creators, we involved every visitor to the workshop in the writing of a new and original song.  

In planning, it was also wonderful to read Going Solo for the first time, and to feel Roald Dahl’s experience of flight, and of Africa, and how widely it influenced his later writing.

10 April 2018

Brixton Windmill Live and Kicking!

It has been such a privilege to work with Brixton Windmill, and I'm really proud to be a part of their journey as they anticipate their new education facility, set to open later this year.
For now, the schools workshops are live on the website, the team are armed with amazing volunteers and freelancers ready to deliver, and the adventure continues!  Visit the website for a taste of the workshops.

3 April 2018

We all remember Pooh-sticks

In the last possible moment, we finally made it to the gorgeous Winnie-the-Pooh exhibition at the V&A, with the help of our friend Steph.  My illustrator self desperately wanted to pause and drool over the gorgeous pictures but I had to give in to the demands of small children, so sadly this blog entry is more about the joys of child-inspiring exhibitions than the glory of E H Shepard.

Feets is currently ensconced in the magic of Winnie-the-Pooh which we regularly read before bed.  Bean is thrilled when let out of her buggy to practise her newfound walking skills.  Both were absolutely delighted by the exhibition, which offered a glorious physical visit into the world of Winnie-the-Pooh.  20180325_163856 I hesitated in the first room, and thought our tour would be brief, as Feets is spoilt by interactive exhibitions and couldn't keep her attention on the displays, after counting how many Winnie-the-Poohs she could see.
20180325_16280320180325_170859But then the second room was a treasure trove of magic.  A door, which I would never fit through, a bell, a tent, a river across an interactive floor, which kept them occupied for house, trees with seats inside, and finally a table, where Feets sat with Steph for a good hour, concocting drawings of trees and Piglet and cups of tea.  Even ... a slide.  A slide!  20180325_171406 Happy, happy people.  Thanks, Steph!  Thanks, V&A!

27 March 2018

Granny and Me: My New Friends

I've become incredibly attached to the characters in Granny and Me - I find myself chatting to them (especially as a plasticine arm falls off - even worse, a head!).  Here are some initial sketches.
Granny at Arne Leo