I attended Judy Woodworth’s Artfelt Workshop at the MCL (main branch) this afternoon. Judy’s Artfelt puppets are adorable, and she gave an enthusiastic presentation. Her passion for early childhood literacy, warmth and creativity were apparent from the start, and her memory and recall of rhymes is phenomenal.
(Photo: Judy performing Surprise Butterfly)
Attendees received copies of rhymes (all of which are available free of charge via the website), and were coached in puppetry technique. Judy demonstrated a number of ways to incorporate puppets into library and classroom storytimes, and proposed storytellers utilize different fingers and hand positions when using finger puppets. Overall, it was liberating to be told there are “no rules” and given permission to develop our “own style.”
In many ways its liberating to witness other storytellers perform. During graduate school, I was trained by a gifted, retired children’s librarian and current, professional storyteller. I was taught to never break character…the idea being that the performance is everything. To break character would immediately remove the viewer from the story. I agree with this theory when it comes to performing for school age children or telling oral stories. It is much harder to live up to this expectation when conducing storytimes for preschoolers and babies that incorporate the 6 early literacy skills. In many ways I strive to live up to my mentor’s expectations, but I need to be able to adapt my storyteller technique for the situation at hand. I thank Judy for her advice.
Overall, I appreciate the fact Judy advised the audience to economize by reusing or triple using puppets (i.e. Brown Bear Brown Bear, What Do You See? finger puppets can be used in the Old MacDonald rhyme or for the Open Up the Barn Door fingerplay). At this point, I lack the funds to purchase Artfelt products, but would recommend them for non-art-&-craft individuals or storytellers who possess the funds to purchase commercial felt board pieces (based on quality alone!). Budget aside, Judy’s right. Oftentimes, the people who buy felt board pieces are not the same people who make their own. I need art, so I enjoy the challenge of making or modifying my own props. Felt is a frustrating medium to work with. In the meantime, I’ll focus on creating non-felt flannelboard props (i.e. laminated paper props that have sticky felt stuck to the back).
Of the many rhymes and stories Judy and her daughter performed, Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh was my absolute favorite. Make a Rainbow was a close second. I cannot wait to create my own props and use them for my storytime audiences!
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