Monday, 26 September 2011

Monday Makery - Illustrations and Illusions: The Magic of Thaumatropes

Roll up! Roll up! Come see the bird land in the tree!

I think all children like to believe in magic. The magic shows in our house are brilliant attempts at making objects disappear and reappear within the 15-20 seconds we have our eyes closed! Trying to make a rabbit appear from a hat is quite a difficult feat for a five year old and there aren't many rabbits who understand the idea of staying still and out of sight.
Sophia is convinced she has magic powers ever since she changed the colour of her watery potion with petals leaves and twigs from yellow, to orange, to red and then finally to black. It seemed that every time she turned around to reach for something the potion in the bowl would take some of the colour from what she was wearing, her yellow mac, her orange scarf, and her red jumper, until the potion was as black as the night sky. We still to this day have no idea of how it happened, only that it did!
Oona has a slightly confused idea of what magic is, having watched her big sister attempt it on many occasions and not doing as she should have and kept her eyes closed, she now thinks a magic trick is simply throwing something over your shoulder, hiding it under a cushion whilst shouting 'abracadabra', to which of course she gets roars of laughter and grand applause!
I am no magician, I'm far too clumsy for any magic tricks but I do remember being shown an optical illusion when I was young and thought it the most magical thing I'd ever seen.
Perhaps the most delightful thing about this is that its something young children can grasp an understanding of and delight everyone with.
Thaumatropes are easier to make then they are to pronounce and once your child understands the concept the images they can create are brilliant. Sophia came up with so many different ideas that we spent hours making them all!

A thaumatrope meaning 'wonder turner' is a mechanical toy that uses persistence of vision. Made using two images it merges the two together by spinning the pictures to create one new image. Our eyes hold an image for roughly 1/20 of a second after an object or picture has left our view, so by spinning the two pictures rapidly the images seen in quick flashes are then perceived as one united image. The most popular images seen on thaumatropes show a bird and a cage which when spun creates an image of the bird inside the cage, though there are thousands of images you can create by merging two separate images together.

here's what you'll need:
  • card
  • pencil
  • colouring pens, pencils or crayons
  • scissors
  • sticky tape or PVA glue
  • skewers - we chose to swivel the sticks as they were easier for little hands than winding and twisting string, however traditionally these are made with string either side of the disc.

Here's how:
  1. Begin with your imagination. Imagine a scene you would like to create, a bird sitting on a branch or in a cage, a big puddle and some falling rain. Then undo the picture; separate how it happened. The bird and then the cage, the puddle and then the rain-cloud with its falling raindrops.
  2. Now draw 2 circles, one for each part of the picture. You can draw around an eggcup, or teacup or a cookie cutter.
  3. Then draw the parts of your picture one on one circle and the other part on the other.
  4. Cut them out.
  5. Using PVA glue or double sided sticky tape stick the two circles to either side of the top of your stick so the pictures are showing on both sides.
  6. You now have a picture divided into two separate images. 
  7. Now with a quick motion swivel the stick between your hands and see what happens!
Its magic!

from left to right: a rabbit in a hat, flowers in a vase, a bear in a cave

You can even create stories with the pictures too. Sophia naturally started to tell stories about the images turning the thaumatrope slowly at first then building up to a quicker speed.  Each thaumatrope became a short animated story and took on a world of their own; Once upon a time there was a little bird. She flew high up into the sky looking down for the branch she called home. She began to realise she was lost and thought she would never find her way home. Then, there it was the beautiful blue flowers she remembered. See her now perched on her branch happily singing with the spring. Aha! Now she has flown away again, perhaps in search of a worm. Shall we call her back to her branch?

from left to right: raindrops falling on an umbrella, bird on a branch, bird in cage

Oona although too young, at 2, to be able to understand the concept of the illusion loved this toy. When we stopped the twirling she would shout with glee "It's gone. The bird's gone! Say Abracadabra mummy 1.2.3." 
When Sophia saw her rabbit inside the hat she hugged me with such excitement and said "You really ARE magic mummy." "No" I said 'YOU made it Sessi. YOU are the one with the magic!"

These really are such fun to make and so worthwhile. They are great for teaching the art of animation in its first stages and great for story-telling too. The magician in the child will love the deception of it and those who are older will enjoy the trickery of our eyes and the wonder of their remembering.

This is part of our Monday Makery series, where each week we bring craft and recipe ideas and inspiration.

Each week we bring new ideas to our blog through different blog series; Tuesday has previously brought the 'story behind our collections' and now brings 'tell us its tuesday' a fun interview with our favourite creators, designers, bloggers and imaginative extraordinaire's. Wednesday we woo you with new treats in the collection of our boutique. Thursday will leave you inspired through the 'art of living' and Friday we finish with 'once upon a week' where you can see what's happening in the lives of the sisters of Sisters Guild.
For more behind the scenes photos of Sisters Guild we have the gallery of the A-Z of Sisters Guild here.

If you would like to share some ideas as a guest blogger on the Monday Makery we would be very excited to hear from you. Use the contact form on our main website here.

1 comment:

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