A Monoprint Making Workshop

Today a group of eight girls had the opportunity to take a short trip down the road to visit the working studio of Ann Dergara, a painter and print maker living here in Brevard. Ann is a professional artist with more than 50 years of experience showing her work, writing and teaching, and she’s a great friend of Rockbrook.

monoprint roller.
monoprint painting
monoprint making
monoprint result

When we arrived, we were greeted by Ann and her small dog, Alice Cooper. The girls enjoyed Alice’s greeting and were very eager to pet her furry back. Ann and Alice then led us into their cozy basement studio where Ann stores and creates some of her work. The girls immediately began taking in the different paintings and prints displayed around the room. Ann wasted no time as she described the unique art of print making. She informed the group we would be working on monoprints. The magic in monoprints is they are original and are only printed once. Ann flipped through several of the prints she has created telling us she has made around forty thousand in her career.

Ann then lead us through a doorway into the room where the fun happens. She had a table set up with a bright assortment of colored inks, a variety of fresh brayers (used to roll out the ink), and some clean plexiglass plates. As Ann spoke, she used a plate to demonstrate how monoprints can be made. She took a brayer and began rolling thick black ink onto her plate. She then grabbed a paint brush to add a layer of grey ink filling in the rest of the white space. Ann wrapped up her demonstration by adding textures onto her plate with different types of fabric. The girls were “ooo-ing” and “ahh-ing” every step of the way.

After aprons were on, each girl found an open spot around the table. Some immediately grabbed a paint brush or a brayer while others planned in their heads what colors they would use and what they would create. Similar to all aspects of camp, each girl had their own beautiful way of approaching their print. Voices chattered ideas back and forth while also applauding and encouraging one another. Those girls who hesitated at first quickly began to feel more empowered and confident in their decisions! In no time, each girl was happily creating their print with confidence and joy.

As the girls began completing their prints, Ann had them step up to her printing press. The printing press is where the magic happens. It is the machine that finishes up the printing process. Ann would place a decorated plate on the press before covering it with a damp piece of paper. The press was then slowly rolled over the plate and the final result of the one-of-a-kind monoprint is revealed. Once again, everyone applauded each other over the work being produced. After all of the prints were complete, the girls were then ready to begin the process again by creating a second print. This time they had some experience and felt more confident stepping up to their plates.

Like monoprints, Rockbrook girls are one-of-a-kind. We travel from different corners of the world to spend a few weeks of our summer at camp. Once here, we bring our diversity together to teach, encourage, empower, and support one another. At the end of our print making session we were able to go home with beautiful prints. Similarly, all of us at Rockbrook will be able to return to our homes with bits and pieces of our summer. Girls may come home with friendship bracelets, cabin-made t-shirts, other art projects, or bend-a-back beads. They bring home all of these gifts, along with their sweet memories, which they will cherish until they can once again return to the Heart of the Wooded Mountain.

mono print workshop

Hands in the Real World

Paging through the Rockbrook photo gallery, it’s quickly obvious that our girls are extraordinarily crafty. In the Curosty Cabin, one end of the dining hall (“Hodge Podge”), Hobby Nook Cabin, the two pottery studios and several of the porches around camp, we’re being creative and making things. It might be with fibers or clay, and it might require a brush or a loom, but dozens of girls have arts and crafts projects in the works.

Camp Bracelet Girl
Kid Weaving Loom Camp
Camp Shirt Painting

Throughout every day, in other words, Rockbrook girls are working with their hands. They’re twisting (friendship bracelets), braiding (basket reeds), tying (and dying t-shirts), painting (still life compositions), rolling (coils of clay), gluing (paper collages), sewing (stuffed animals), and weaving (loom fabrics). Here, take a look:

This is great stuff for several reasons. Working creatively with different materials like this encourages kids to experiment, try unusual combinations, and “see what happens.” There’s a joyful attitude toward the process and the end result. Also, though, I think there’s a benefit from simply working with real stuff, as opposed to what modern life ordinarily requires from us, namely a daily experience built upon abstract constructions and virtual representations (think about all those screens!). Perhaps, as we’ve lost our “manual competence” (recalling Matthew Crawford’s argument), we’ve also diminished a basic satisfaction of being human, the feeling of making something useful and beautiful. If so, then camp is a welcome return, making all the arts and crafts at Rockbrook concrete opportunities for girls to be creative while recalling the deep pleasures of interacting with the real world.

Summer Camp Kayaker Girl
Girl Gaga Game

This photo shows a few girls playing Ga-ga Ball in our octagonal Ga-ga pit located near the gym. If you haven’t heard of it, this game is all the rage. It’s essentially a form of dodgeball (sometimes called “Israeli Dodgeball”) where players hit a small ball with their hands instead of catching & throwing it. Any number of girls can play, and the goal is to hit other players in the leg without being hit yourself. It’s fast paced, as the ball flies around the pit bouncing off the walls, girls jump wildly out of the way, and players who are hit hop out of the pit. Like other forms of dodgeball, the game continues until one player remains. At that point, of course, everyone hops right back in the pit to start another game. During free times at camp, before lunch and dinner, for example, you can count on a crowd down at the Ga-ga pit.

Our head kayaking instructors, Leland and Andria, have been working with lots of girls at the lake preparing them for river trips. In addition to learning about the gear, the girls are practicing basic kayaking techniques like how to “wet exit” (escape the boat when it flips), and different paddle strokes to maneuver the boats. They are very excited to master these basics and were even more so to sign up for the trip to the Tuckaseegee River today or the Green River tomorrow. These girls can kayak!

Sliding Rock Kids
Dolly's Ice Cream

Later this afternoon, for our Cabin Day activity, all the Middlers and their counselors took a ride into the Pisgah Forest for a picnic up near the Blue Ridge Parkway. We brought hot dogs (and grilled veggie dogs), pasta salad, fruit and potato chips to eat for dinner, and afterwards spent a little time digesting by playing a huge game of “I’m a Rockbrook Girl” on the grassy field. This name game was even more fun tonight with a group this size (almost 90 campers and staff members).  Our next stop took us to Sliding Rock, where the girls had a blast zipping down the 60ft, natural water slide. As you might guess the water of Looking Glass Creek that forms the slide is a “refreshing” mountain temperature (i.e. really cold!), so part of the fun is belting out a scream to match the intensity of sitting down in that water. Just about everyone was daring enough to take the plunge, and some went down 6 or 7 times in all. Very exciting fun… but there was one more stop to top things off— Dolly’s Dairy Bar. With their combination “Camp Flavors” like “Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion” and traditional ice cream flavors, Dolly’s offers a sweet treat for everyone’s taste. The girls happily lined up to select their flavor and then, after that first yummy lick, enjoyed sitting and chatting with one another on the porch or at the tables nearby. When Rockbrook arrives at Dolly’s, like tonight with our big group, it becomes quite a party with the girls singing songs, laughing and posing for photos. Now dark outside and our hair still wet, but happy and excited, we loaded up the buses and headed back to camp finishing an excellent outing.

Constantly Crafty

Camp girl smiling in yellow kayak with yellow helmet and pfd

Today at the lake several senior girls spent time working on their kayaking roll. They practiced the technique used to roll a kayak back upright after flipping upside down. As I’m sure you can imagine, these narrow whitewater kayaks, while being designed to cut through the water easily, are also prone to tipping. When a kayaker hits a river rapid and surfs over or through a wave, there’s a fine line between balancing just right and leaning so far that, in an instant, you’re upside down. At that point, there are two options: you can abandon ship and swim free of the boat by popping the grab loop on your spray skirt (doing what’s called a “wet exit”), or you can twist and snap your hips, and use your paddle to push against the water to roll back upright. Learning to roll is a tricky set of coordinated moves that requires a fair bit of practice to perfect. And practicing takes dedication and determination because it involves spending lots of time upside down in the lake. Some of these girls want to “get their roll” so badly, they will sign up for extra time practicing during their free periods (just before lunch, for example). Reports from the paddling staff are that a couple of girls have gotten it! Next week we’ll offer another kayaking trip to the Nantahala giving the girls a chance to try their new rolling skills in moving water.

If you’ve been following the photos posted each day in our photo gallery, you probably have a sense of how constantly crafty we are at Rockbrook. There are arts and crafts everywhere, and the girls are creating some really cool stuff. In the Hobby Nook cabin, for example, the campers in “Folklore” are finishing pillow dolls, each unique with different scraps of fabric sewn together, stuffed with polyester fluff, and decorated with buttons and yarn. Both ceramics studios have been phenomenally productive as well. The girls there are making bird houses, throwing mugs on the wheel, and sculpting whistles (yes, that actually work!) shaped like turtles and other animals (I think I saw a dragon too). The Hodge Podge girls have been unveiling spectacular tie-dye t-shirts, each with complex designs— hearts, spirals, stripes, and even smiley faces —and psychedelic color patterns. Over in “KIT” (“Keep in Touch”), the campers have been busy making cards, beautiful folded greeting cards from fancy ornate papers, fun stickers and stamps. And the weavers in Curosty continue to amaze. Their work is simply gorgeous.  When you see the armload of crafts your daughter has created, the products of her creativity and imagination, you will definitely be impressed.

Camp girl's cute sewing project
Clay snail made at camp
Girls holding cards made at camp

Tonight’s evening program was another surprise special event, a square dance with the boys of Camp High Rocks. After dinner, with hair and teeth thoroughly brushed, we loaded all of our seniors into 4 vans and 3 buses for the short trip up the mountain to High Rocks, while simultaneously, they transported their younger boys down to Rockbrook to hold a dance in our gym. Having two dances allows us to handle all these children! Stepping out of the van at High Rocks, one girl may have been feeling a little nervous because she turned to me and said, “I forgot what it feels like to be around boys.” It didn’t take long, though, for everyone to be smiling and having fun. With these nice girls, and the boys equally so, the whole event was lighthearted, even a little goofy as they giggled after “messing up” and grabbing the wrong arm or spinning in the wrong direction.

We took a short break after about an hour for brownies and lemonade… a chance to mingle a bit and recharge for a few more dances. On the drive home, one senior in my van said she had a great time, even enjoying the dance more than the “regular” dances we have with other camps. Bluegrass might not be their favorite genre of music, but these girls appreciated the chance to talk with the boys, and to “have something to do,” as one senior put it. For all the best reasons, it was a wonderful evening.

Square Dancing Children
Camp square dancinf kids
Summer Campers square dancing

Kids Sculpting with Clay

Camp Clay Sculpture Project

In addition to all of the clay vessels we make at camp, the cups, bowls, trays, dishes, pitchers and so forth, another fun part of the Rockbrook ceramics program is making sculpture. This means using the same hand building techniques, and even wheel-thrown pottery techniques, and combining pieces to build three-dimensional objects.

One important technique to learn for clay sculpting is using something called “slip.” Slip is a form of liquid clay, or a runny mixture of clay and water. It can be used a number of ways, but when building a clay sculpture, slip is applied to join two pieces of wet clay together. For example, you might want to connect a coil to a slab, or a dome shape to something turned on the potter’s wheel. The slip acts as a sort of glue helping the pieces stick together.

So what kinds of things can you sculpt out of clay? Anything your imagination might dream up! Recently at camp we’ve seen some great representational figures— fish, horses (of course!), turtles, snakes, and other animals. The campers have also made amazing human forms like faces and hands. Natural objects like leaves, ferns and branches make great textures to be incorporated as well. Need some other ideas? Here’s a great web site with links to amazing examples of sculptural ceramics.

Seeing what the Rockbrook girls are sculpting in our pottery classes, it’s easy to be amazed, and to understand why this arts and crafts activity is so popular at camp.