Megan Dowsett is a creative consultant working with museums and galleries, and an illustrator who is finding her voice through personal and local projects.

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.

16 June 2019

Easter Decorations

I've never been keen on the abundance of egg decorations at easter, since it seems to me more absorbed by chocolate than the original 'new life' thinking.  But this year, I've been completely converted. 20190419_131901 The simplicity of the egg shape gave us a framework for a day of painterly experimentation, for Feets, Bean and a schoolfriend.  And results which made lovely bunting.  I admit, I wandered around Pinterest looking for things that would pique not only the children's interest, but mine too. 20190419_132203 We tried:
- PVA and salt painting ... MAGICAL!  What a discovery!  The colours faded a little as they dried, but the texture of the painting and magic of watching the colour run through the salt crystals was wonderful.

- Painting doilies with watercolours, and mounting them onto coloured paper.  Also wonderful in being absolutely effective for all three children, even two year old Bean.

- Wax resist.  Again, five-year old Feets and her friend were thrilled to draw 'invisible' lines with a white candle, and reveal them afterwards with paint.  Less successful for Bean, but she was so happy to be painting that she didn't even realise she was missing anything.

Four happy ladies!  

2 June 2019

Dior at the V&A

20190424_105755 It was a spontaneous visit, one in company, and at a fraught time mentally. So I didn't take my sketchbook, nor did I linger, but it was fun to explore the V&A's Dior exhibition in a social capacity - something I rarely do.

As much as the dresses were spectacular, varied, abundant and awe-inspiring, the setting reflected this luxury just as much.  And so, ironically, the strongest memory for me was one mystical room which overflowed with white, paper-cut flowers.  What a gorgeous luxury of exhibition interpretation!  Every room had a very distinct atmosphere, theatrical to say the least.
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19 May 2019

Whose Shoes: The Book

20190523_175118 I have been working on this book for about four years, beginning with Feets and finishing it just in time for Bean to enjoy.  I admit, Bean cracked her colours a month or two before I could show her the finished book, but she has hugely enjoyed having a book featuring our shoes and family, requesting it about three times a day for the first week or so.

I'm pretty happy, all in all.  There are plenty of imperfections, but I was keen to let go of some of the perfectionism that takes hold when something starts to go well.  And I was determined to finish! orange brown My biggest learning curves ... it really is time that I started making a dummy book to test the colours and space before I make the actual thing.  So much of the success of this book is down to luck, and there are a few pages that have just a bit too much space in them. More practically, I've discovered that poster paint tends to peel after a time. It's not designed to be used in enduring hand-made children's books! All Shoes And my next steps ... well, I think it's time to move on from board books - my children are growing up fast.  This is pretty daunting - I'm going to need a lot more than eight pages in my next book!

Before I do so, I plan to make three copies of the book to share with a couple of other special children.

I will share the full story soon.

5 May 2019

Food Colouring and Kitchen Roll

One of those glorious, spontaneous activities that came from nowhere and kept my children occupied for hours ... 20190210_164718 I can't even remember how it came about - I think I wanted to show that the colour from a felt pen would bleed when pressed onto kitchen roll.  It didn't work as the pen had nearly dried out, so I got a tiny amount of water and a teaspoon to demonstrate the same idea.  Then Bean wanted some too.  And then it occurred to me they'd see what was happening better if I added food colouring.

20190216_174102 Eventually I threw my hands in the air and gave them various tubs of coloured water, endless sheets of kitchen roll, refilled the tubs on demand and stopped only when dinner was ready and there was no surface space left for bits of sodden kitchen roll.

At the moment it's not so easy to find activities that occupy both children, so this was a success a thousand times over!  We went on to cut it up, punch holes and turn it into bunting.

21 April 2019

Messy Days

20180920_171529 I am a big admirer of a couple of creative parenting blogs (except when they leave me feeling utterly inadequate, but hey - that's my own headspace to sort out!), and they regularly rave about shaving foam.

20180920_170307 I finally tracked down some shaving foam to have a go at marbling with the children.

It was great to try.  Not as easy to get right as I expected - I suspect I used too much foam - but the children loved the new medium, whatever the results! 20180920_171437

We moved on to coloured, glittery ice cubes and shaving foam, which also kept Bean intrigued for hours.  It was one of those slightly chaotic, under-planned, but worth-trying sessions that made relatively minimal mess.  I'm certainly a convert to shaving foam, as I can just cart the tray off to the bathroom afterwards and shower it down!

My favourite creative parenting blogs are The Imagination Tree and The Artful Parent

7 April 2019

The other legacy of the Arty Party

20190310_091212 This morning, we were making birthday cards, when it crossed my mind to chop up one of the paper rolls that children had filled with paintstick marks at Feets' birthday party.  Somehow, this evolved into a feast of cutting, and collaging, as Feets realised she'd made a great set of teeth for a crocodile. 20190310_104631

31 March 2019

Time to say thank you

You picked my clothes up off the floor.
You brought me water, then juice, then milk.
I spilt the milk and you mopped it up.

You cooked, and cooked - meals, puddings, and more meals.
Lemon meringue pie, rice pudding, apple crumble, strawberry mousse.
I expected them.

You helped me, time and again, to say thank you.
Still, I forgot, I forget.

You loved me through my tears, my screams.
My foot-stamps, pushes, door-slams, biting - was I a biter?
I wound you up, up, up, and you wound me down.
You screamed 'one day you'll understand!'

I understand.

Thank you!

24 March 2019

Work in Progress: Whose Shoes?

When Feets was about 18 months old, she couldn't bear to get her fingers dirty. After a colleague commented that Feets surely must love painting, as a daughter of mine, I realised that something had to be done about this issue. Similarly, she was on the brink of starting to recognise colours.

I decided I needed to come up with a painting activity that I was myself invested in, that I could invite Feets to help me with - no more half-heartedly showing Feets what she could do with the paint while keeping my own hands as clean as possible; I would start painting and Feets could help me if she wanted to.

Red She also loved shoes at the time - indeed, 'shoes' was her first word. So I drew pictures of all the shoes in our house onto cereal packets and painted them with Feets ... with plans to make a book of colours and rhyming words alongside, loosely inspired by The Foot Book by Dr Seuss, which we loved.

Well, we didn't finish that project. I couldn't keep up with the speed of her learning, and she knew her colours long before I was ready.

  1 Gwen Those    1 Ailsa Those
But, roll on three years, and I found myself in exactly the same spot with Bean - after a messy play session at a gallery where I couldn't convince her to do anything, I decided to open the half-finished folder of painted shoes, draw a few new ones, and invite Bean to help with them.

Well, time is fast running out once again, but fingers crossed, the book will be finished before it's too late! I've created characters for Feets, Bean, myself and Mr Liam, and they will scramble over the shoes throughout the story. Watch this space!

17 March 2019

Legacy of the Arty Party

20190307_100406 What I didn't really expect when organising an Arty Party for 25 children, was to have materials left over. For the sake of efficiency, I expected to throw everything away, but in the end, we managed to salvage a lot of stuff, and in many ways, having the time to enjoy such a lavish set of materials has been the best part of all ...20190223_171215 ... which led to a magical monster-making session with some family friends, and ages ranging from 2 - 13. 20190223_174616 And, because I forget just how long home-made playdough lasts, Bean had a glorious time with the playdough and the pasta a few weeks later - first cutting the playdough with a knife (one favourite activity)... 20190307_095455 20190307_102217 ... and then breaking down the pasta with a pestle and mortar. By now, the playdough has merged into one big ball, but it's not yet mucky and it looks absolutely beautiful!

I will share today's magic with the paintsticks' paper next time...

10 March 2019

An Arty Party

I don't lead or deliver many activities at the moment. So when I finally decided that the best plan was to devise and carry out Feets' fifth birthday party myself, it turned out to be a fun and creative adventure - and wonderful at last to develop a workshop for the most important children in the world - my own! 20190217_152753 20190217_152140 (2) I made eight batches of playdough and got carried away with experimentation, mixing some coloured with rice for texture (didn't work so well - the colour is prone to run and the rice goes a bit soft with the moisture of the playdough) and others with glitter when the colouring wasn't so bright. I also dyed masses of pasta for children to embellish their models with, along with googly eyes and pipe cleaners. To try and prevent one child from massing all the playdough together, Feets invited each child to choose a ball of playdough as they arrived. This was a nice welcome, but actually it limited their imagination to playing only with the colour they'd been given. Otherwise, playdough was a great success!  I gatherred loads of wisdom from other blogging parents and will share this in a future post.
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Along one wall, we laid down a strip of lining paper and laid out paintsticks. I wasn't sure whether to set children in a certain direction with a given theme, but time dictated that and we left them to it. I love paintsticks! They are so bold and bright, and mess free, and again, the kids had a blast, filling two long strips with scrawls and patterns.

Finally, the age old favourite scratch masks - except this time I explored scratch glasses to avoid the need for adults helping with elastic.  Definitely better for this age group.

A load of dancing, stuck-in-the-mud, bubbles and Simon Says outside, and a few parachute games to finish off, and we were done. I ached for at least three days afterwards, but I was pretty happy and for the first time look forward positively to future birthdays! (Not sure Mr Liam would say the same ...)

25 February 2019

A different kind of autumn

20181118_174328 I've been drawing leaves. I find a kind of calm there, in the midst of mental tumult. 20181118_174335

11 February 2019

Autumn Leaves

20181103_093844         20181103_094257 I finally embraced the art of printing with my children! For some reason I've long felt overwhelmed - by the mess, the variety of different ways of trying it, by how to handle two children at once. But at last I think Bean can join in, and learns fast from watching her sister. 20181103_100101 We collected and pressed masses of autumn leaves - it was an intensely beautiful autumn last year. And we just let ourselves go with them with them - wax rubbings, relief printing, mono printing, collage ...

28 January 2019

Work in Progress: Memory Blanket

20180925_132238 Memory Blanket is a 'quilt' made from squares of card or paper - chopped up artwork, with a memory written on the back of each square. I'm stitching it together with gold thread. I like the way quilts hold memories, often made from scraps of fabric, meaningful or leftover. I think this is kind of a literal interpretation of a quilt.

20180925_132836 I began it when Feets was about 1 and I'd come to the end of the diary I had for her. Her squares are blues and greens. When Bean was about 1, her achievements joined the blanket too - they are pinks and purples. And memories for both children are white.

It's a work in progress and I don't know when I'll finish it, but the other day I decided I had enough squares to lay them out together and see how they looked. Sadly the stitching is far from finished, but one thing I look forward to seeing is how the blanket hangs, for example over a chair, in all it's angularity.

14 January 2019

Plastic bags, a child and a lampshade

20180813_192353 A little break from these pages; a little break too from the creative journey ... but still, a lot to share, if I can only find the time!

We moved house last summer, and I took the opportunity, finally, to share my love of plastic bags with Feets, as we made a lampshade for their new bedroom.  It was a brilliant project for the two of us, as we could both cut plastic bags, without rules or expectations of the shapes, and when she was weary of that, I cut and she stuck.  It's a quick, fast activity.  We ironed it together - a bit of wow, a bit of danger ... Then one evening, I finally managed to sew the thing to an old frame and voila!  She was pretty pleased. DSC_0102