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ARTplay: Birds That Catch The Sun

By Marianne Ruggiero
Coordinator of Family Programs at The RISD Museum

Risdm 2004.27-2Sun-Catcher on Kid o Info

April brings showers, flowers, and birds back into our gardens. Bring a piece of nature inside your home by creating a sun catcher in the shape of a bird in flight. Here’s an easy sun catcher project you can make with your kids. It was developed by Zehra Ahmed, a RISD Architecture student originally from Karachi, Pakistan. Sun catchers, first developed by Native Americans in the Southwest, are often made of glass or other types of reflective materials. Zehra’s sun catcher, based on an English porcelain syrup jug in the Museum’s decorative-arts collection, uses transparent cellophane wrap and other materials that you may already have in your home.

This lovely jug (above) created to hold syrup is from the Coalport China Company’s “Japanese Grove” pattern. It features a scene inspired by Japanese art of bamboo and flying birds resembling swallows against a gilded background. This and other beautiful examples of American and European ceramics featuring birds and flowers may be found on The RISD Museum’s 6th-floor bridge to Pendleton House as part of an ongoing exhibition titled The birds & the bees & the flowers & the trees.

Zehra-Teaches-FFASMake a Bird Sun Catcher

– Bird template (Download PDF)
– Scissors
– Exacto Knife (optional – for adult use only)
– Colored cardboard (your choice of color)
– Colored cellophane wrap (available at Michael’s Craft Store)
– Glue stick
– Paper punch
– Ribbon

How To:
1. Print two copies of the bird template and carefully cut them out. Adults should help children cut out the inner areas of bird wings and body.Bird Pattern
2. Trace the templates onto the colored cardboard and cut them out. Adults should help children cut out the inner areas of bird wings and body. (An exacto knife works well for the inner area.)
3. Lay pieces of cellophane wrap over the bird frames. Use two colors if you like, one for the wings and the other for the body. Cut pieces of cellophane to fit over the inside spaces of the bird frames, but not to extend beyond the outside edge.
4. Put the two cardboard frames together so that you know which sides to glue; then put glue (not too much) all along the inner sides of the bird frames.
5. Lay cut cellophane wrap over the glue and seal the frame shut. Hold in place for a couple of minutes to make sure glue sets.
6. Punch a hole through the two glued frames in the area that corresponds to the place marked “X” on the print-out.
7. Put a colorful string or thin ribbon through the hole and tie a knot at the other end.
8. Your bird sun catcher is completed. Hang in front of a sunny window in your home so that it catches the light.

Celebrate the Earth with Us!
On April 26, from 11 am — 4 pm at The RISD Museum, kids and families pay tribute to Earth Day by making sun catchers, peace flags, finding nature-related art on a special gallery quest, and enjoying a live concert by the Community MusicWorks Players. (Two performances in the museum at 12 pm and 1pm). Free-For-All Saturday at the museum means admission, refreshments, and all activities are free!
Location: The RISD Museum – 224 Benefit Street, Providence, RI

Photo: Zehra Ahmed (RISD 2009) teaches children a project at a RISD Museum Free-For-All Saturday workshop. Photograph by Carole deGroat.
Coalport China Company
England, Coalport, 1780-present
Syrup Pitcher (“Japanese Grove” pattern), ca. 1880
Porcelain, cobalt and gilt decoration
Helen M. Danforth Acquisition Fund 2004.27.1

All additional inquires or requests should be directed to: Melody Ennis, Coordinator of Photographic Services, The RISD Museum, 224 Benefit Street, Providence, RI 02903. 401 454-6535. E-mail inquires to: mennis@risd.edu

ARTplay is a monthly column written by Marianne Ruggiero from The RISD Museum in which various themes and activities will introduce kids and parents to the museum’s collection both online and off. Each month Kidoinfo will help spark your children’s interest in art – they can learn about different works at the museum and download a related activity to create offline. Be sure to visit the museum and explore the art in person. On Free-for-All Saturdays (the last Saturday of every month), kids may continue their exploration through a variety of hands-on workshops, performances, videos, and special gallery quests throughout the day.

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1 comment
  • This project is really fun. I made it with my kids tonight, and our barn swallows are hanging in front of the kitchen window. They can’t wait to see them with the sun shining through tomorrow. The only part where they needed help was positioning the cellophane because it’s slippery.