We had a fantoosh October week during the school holidays this year with numerous weans and their family members joining us for Halloween themed Cantrip Crafts. We also had a Haunted Horror Hunt on offer that was site wide meaning families were encouraged to explore not only our Museum but our play-park, Burns Monument, Brig o’ Doon, Alloway Auld Kirk, Poet’s Path and Burns Cottage to hunt for clues!
We had seven different crafts on from Monday 14th – Sunday 20th October. They were:
- a pumpkin wreath
- a warlock/witch hat
- creepy sun-catchers
- jam jar lanterns
- toilet roll characters
- a thaumatrope toy
- frichtfu’ finger puppet pals
These crafts were very popular with the weans (and their parents, siblings, carers and grandparents! Our Learning Officer joked that it was inter-generational family-fun, just as much for the adults as the weans, but it seriously is) and so, we thought we’d share some of these crafts instructions with you in case you’d like to try them at home as a family. You don’t need a lot of specialist equipment – most of this you’ll most likely have already or be able to buy out of budget stores like Pound Land, Wilko or large supermarkets. Also, these can easily be tweaked to make them themed around another holiday other than Halloween. Happy crafting!!
Jam Jar Lanterns: this is a creative craft that looks great when finished and you put your candle in it in the dark! It uses up jars that would be going into the recycling bin anyway so it doesn’t require you to buy anything made of glass in especially for it.
What you need:
- A selection of old jars
- Different coloured tissue paper
- Black card, scissors, pen/pencils
- PVA glue, pot & brush
- Googly eyes
- LED or wax candles
- Choose which design you want to do: a pumpkin, haunted house, spooky forest, spiders and their webs, Frankenstein, a mummy?
- Tear up small strips of tissue paper in your chosen colour and paste them onto the glass jar with PVA glue. Apply enough to cover the jar but not so that the light will not be able to shine through.*
- Next, use scissors to cut a spooky design out of black card i.e. pumpkin face shapes, Frankenstein face shapes or owls and trees.
- Then stick it to your jam jar with PVA glue; applying an extra layer of glue over the whole thing to give it a nice finish.
- Leave it to dry – ideally overnight or at least for a few hours.
- Finally, pop in a candle and watch your lanterns glow! Just remember to never leave an open flame unattended.
*Do not put tissue paper inside the lantern – just on the outside – as that is a dangerous fire hazard!
Thaumatrope Toy: this is a 19th century scientific toy that is an optical illusion. You put two separate images on either side of your circles and when you spin it, it combines them together! Cool, huh?
What you need:
- Paper and card
- Glue or Sello-tape
- Cut out two identical circles on plain white paper (using something to draw around is easiest).
- Cut out two identical circles on card.
- On your paper, draw something to put on either side, for example: a spider’s web and a spider hanging down, a cage and a bird, a house then the moon and stars.
- Draw them onto your circles as if they were to be combined they’d match up to each other i.e. draw the moon around the house.
- Glue your paper circles onto your card circles.
- Get a straw and glue them securely to either side of it – now spin it and see if your optical illusion toy works!
Creepy Sun-catcher Decoration: this requires a bit of planning and develops problem-solving skills in the weans as they need to map out where their going to cut and size their “windows” appropriately.
What you need:
- Black card
- Glue or Sello-tape
- Various colours of tissue paper
- Take an A4 piece of black card and draw a window outline then draw shapes inside the window like smaller window panes. You can try to draw a pumpkin, spider, bat or ghost if your up for the challenge.
- Double up your lines up leaving a decent amount of space and make sure you can see your pen marks clearly as you’ll need to cut along these.
- Using your scissors, very carefully pierce a hole in the middle of the parts you’ll need to cut out i.e. where the “glass” will go in the windows.
- Once you’ve cut all of them out, pick different colours of tissue paper and arrange where they’ll go, then cut them to size.
- When you are ready to glue, flip the card over and glue the back of it and then place your tissue into the right place.
- Continue to do this until all gaps are filled.
- Stick it up on a window and watch as the sunlight shines through you creepy sun-catcher!
Scots words used in this blog:
- Fantoosh = flashy, ultra-fashionable
- Weans = children
- Cantrip = magic
- Auld = old
- Kirk = church
- Frichtfu’ = frightful
For Volunteers Week, we asked our volunteers to write a blog post about their volunteering experience. Here’s Myra McLanaghan sharing some of her thoughts.
I didn’t really volunteer for the Trust – it sort of found me. I was a regular at the Wednesday Highlight talks at the RBBM and the Volunteer Co-ordinator approached me, thinking I would be interested. Of course, you always believe that you have nothing to offer and need qualifications etc.; but the thing is, you suddenly find that you have life experiences of qualifications and so I took the plunge of becoming a Volunteer.
I started off doing craft work, making rag rugs. So, with other volunteers, I commenced making a rag rug for Burns Cottage, where we would sit on a Monday afternoon cutting up fabric and creating our masterpiece. As people came through we found that nostalgia was a big part in discussion and visitors would discuss the rag rug, who made it in their family and what it was even called in different parts of the country. Overseas visitors were most intrigued, and children even tried their hand at putting a piece of material into the rug. The group are now on their third rug and we are now expanding into learning about weaving and dyeing of fabrics on the 18th century. From little acorns large oaks grow.
I have also become involved in a performance team who dress in 18th-century costume and perform the works of Burns. Our overseas visitors really appreciate us in costume and they feel part of what we are trying to tell them about life in Scotland during Burns’ time. Being a volunteer expands your experiences and confidence. I have a natural love for Scotland and volunteering has added a new dimension of meeting new people and making new friends and sharing a common love of Scotland and Robert Burns in the area where not only did I grow up, but he did too.
Myra (second from right) with some more rag ruggers, and their finished product, in Burns Cottage
Friends on Baith Sides is an intergenerational outreach project. We are seeking to teach people new skills and make new connections to the museum through a series of creative workshops. Saturday was our first week and we got off to a flying start by making some beautiful handmade willow baskets.
Our teacher, Geoff Forrest, chose a basket for the day’s project as it is an object that may have been familiar and useful in the 18th century when Burns was living in Alloway. We started with a circle of willow that Geoff had already constructed for us. The next step was to add in ‘spines’ using a thick section of willow and then tie it with strands of willow to the circle in a cross stitch. We then simply started weaving the reed between the spines and the circle.
The process sounds fairly simple but the material frays and snaps quite easily and can be tricky to manipulate the way you want it. One trick Geoff showed us was to wind the willow around a stick to start with so it had a curve already as one of our participants demonstrates below:
It was lovely to see everyone pitching in to help each other with the trickier bits and several people commented on how therapeutic it became once they got the hang of the technique.
Feedback on the workshop has been very positive. One person said, ‘Great class, great teacher, great fun. Thank you very much’ while another said ‘what a fabulous day’.
We are pleased to offer these workshops free of charge thanks to funding from Austin Hope Pilkington Trust and The Craigie Development Trust. Next Saturday, 10th September, we have a song writing workshop and there are still a few places left if you would like to take part. A photography workshop will take place on 17th September as well. Contact 01292 430 316 if you would like to book a place.
Recent visitors to Burns cottage may have noticed something new. Our volunteers have been spending time demonstrating different 18th Century crafts inside the cottage. These crafts are all skills women in the 18th century would have been very familiar with and it is easy to imagine Agnes Burnes (Robert Burns’ mother) toiling away at these chores over the course of the day in the cottage.
One of the crafts underway is a project to make new rag rugs for the cottage. A group of volunteers have been busy starting this process over the winter and have just begun to demonstrate their new skills to visitors.
Rag rugs were popular because they were easy to make and materials were cheap. All you need to make your own is some hessian and lots of scrap material. Our volunteers started with a large hessian lining which would make up the back of the rug. Their first task was to draw a border which they wanted to fill with black material. Using old clothes kindly donated to us, our volunteers cut the material into strips to add to the rug.
The process is very simple: the material is simply pushed through the hessian using wooden pegs and because the material is tightly packed together it will stay in place.
The volunteers have now finished the black border and have been adding the colourful material to the centre of the rug. The material used for the rugs needs to be quite hard wearing and wool cloth is best; this makes the rugs heavy and warm.
The rag rug team will be demonstrating their crafts on Monday afternoon and we recommend popping in to watch them in action!
For this blog I thought I would look at the Ayrshire Gifts an’ a’ That shop that is run by some of the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum’s volunteers.
Ayr has recently been named one of the healthiest high streets in Britain, through a piece of research conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health. This is based on the proportion of businesses found in their main retail area that support the public’s health. While Ayrshire Gifts an’ a’ That does’t on the face of it support public health, having spoken to volunteers and spent time in the shop it is clear that their are regulars who enjoy coming in to buy beautiful crafted items and have a wee chat with the volunteers in the shop. The shop has become popular with local residents of Ayr coming to browse and buy unique things.
Ayrshire Gifts started as a pop up shop in 2014, it proved very popular for Christmas gifts and has now continued on into 2015. The shop is located in Ayr town centre, opposite the Arran Mall.
The shop stocks items made by local crafters, these range from handmade wooden ornaments, a wide range a beautiful jewellery, cards, artwork … I could go on!
The volunteers have over 60 crafters on the books! Some of the crafters provide demo’s of how to make items of jewellery. (The next one in Wednesday 6th May 2-3pm! By Helen Beck who makes stunning necklaces, bracelets, earrings!)
For this blog I thought I would pick out some of my (and a few of our volunteers) shop highlights.
Currently the central display in the shop is the Teddy Bears Tea Party, the teddy bears are fully jointed handmade bears. These are made by a company called Logi Bear, with other fully jointed cuddly animals by KooKies. It is hard to resist cuddling them as you walk through the door!
Another favourite is Handmade Ayrshire, with regular customers coming in to buy their candles which prove popular. They are beautifully packaged and make great gifts… or just nice to buy for yourself.
The jewellery, scarfs and headbands in the shop are handmade and unique, it makes nice additions to wedding outfits for adults and children! There is jewellery to suit every taste and style.
If you are in Ayr swing by the shop for a good browse! The volunteers are knowledgeable about the stock and are wonderful at helping you pick out just the right gift, especially if you cant pick from the wide range!
By Catriona, Learning and Volunteer Intern, RBBM.
For more information on the report by the Royal Society of Public Health see: https://www.rsph.org.uk/en/about-us/latest-news/press-releases/press-release1.cfm/pid/792B0BEF-F0FF-4349-B34BB5E5041A2D17
The week before last, we at Robert Burns Birthplace Museum got into the romantic spirit by hosting a ‘Week of Luve’ in honour of Valentine’s Day. Our Bard is known to have written the occasional love poem, including those little known works ‘My Luve is like a Red, Red, Rose’ and ‘Ae Fond Kiss’, and we thought it would only be fitting to tap into the Valentine’s mood ourselves!
After a diligent Friday of decorating the museum foyer with heart shaped balloons and cards, the week began on Saturday 8th, with children’s craft activities at the museum. The opportunity to make pop-up Valentine’s Day cards and ‘Luve bugs’ with heartfelt messages inside appealed to many and we were soon running out of felt and sticky letters. Alongside this, our luve jewellery market was in full swing, and we set up several stalls of very colourful items for our visitors to browse through. On Sunday, our jewellery market was replaced by a chocolate one, and many treats and goodies were available for sale. We were also selling roses and other plants all weekend to round off the romantic feel.
Throughout the week, we held several luve themed talks and concerts in the lead up to Valentine’s Day. On Monday, we welcomed Linda Somerville to the museum, performing a selection of classical and Scottish luve songs, and on Thursday local Ayrshire singer Roger Paterson treated us all to a session of ‘Live Luve Music’ in the museum cafe. Our curator Rebecca held an in depth talk at the museum on Tuesday exploring Burns’s manuscripts and luve letters, and at our weekly Highlight Talk on Wednesday afternoon, our volunteer co-ordinator Alison Wilson gave a detailed discussion of one of Burns’s most romantic poems ‘My Luve is like a Red, Red, Rose’. All in all, by the time the big day arrived we were already feeling very luved up!
On the 14th itself, our wonderful volunteers held a ‘Red Red Rose’ plant sale at the museum selling plants, along with scrolls of Burns’s famous poem, which went like hot cakes throughout the day. No doubt all those last minute Valentine’s shoppers were out in force!
And that rounded our Week of Luve off nicely. We would like to say a massive thank you to all of our staff and volunteers who worked hard to make each event a success, and to you for joining in! We hope you enjoyed Valentine’s Day as much as we did!