Friday, 16 October 2015

The Nature Table

Just a thought here, did you ever have a 'Nature Table' at Primary School? Now I don't have small ones myself, but I have heard a rumour that due to health and safety, school nature tables are no longer around. As a child I loved our school nature table, and I am sure that it was here that my love of nature really grew. For me there really was nothing nicer than foraging around the hedgerows and trees on the edge of our school field looking for berries, leaves, acorns and other stuff. If you were lucky you might spot a squirrel and there were always the birds singing above us in the trees. As an inner city secondary school teacher that sort of thing really wasn't the done thing, but why deny children the joy of being amongst nature, wherever it is.     

Hidden in the hedgerows

Not quite a nature table but I applaud the achievement

I see I'm not alone in a desire to bring nature to our more urban lives

Now I don't think I ever thought of this as a use for my old hard hat.

Just now my favourite word would seem to be 'ephemera', playing on the theme from my post 'Needful Things' and for the whimsical reflections of my childhood. For a little while I have again been collecting bits and bobs from around the garden, creating my grown up version of the nature table. Feathers, snail shells, seed heads and small pebbles have all made it into one of my many useful 'Ferrero Rocher' boxes. Also, whenever I head out, I tend to look downwards or upwards, searching the hedgerows and pavements for any interesting objects. There's a particularly nice oak tree just up the road from where I live and every time the acorns drop, I pick a couple up. Well, you never know when they might come in handy.    

I got the 'Nature Table' bug early 

An early school piece

Worked in mixed media on A2 paper

Rather reflecting my love of the nature table

Poppy seed head, thorny branch, pink shell, crispy fallen leaf, nutmeg and a piece of charcoal

Still foraging

Some collected seed heads from the garden.

Pine cone, acorn cups, snail shells, feathers and pieces of coral
from a far away beach.

Anyway, back to that sketchbook. For this one I used the little dahlia study I started as a demonstration for my last workshop class. The flower was already heading in the right direction, and my palette still had the mixes ready to go, so I just carried on to finish it.

Looking in the collection box, I spotted a pigeon feather with the soft grey colours that blended well with the rest of the page. With the feather I concentrated a little more on the shadows going on underneath to 'lift' the feather off the page. That, along with the berberis leaves brought a softer touch to the page with the dahlia. Of course I couldn't leave out some lettering, and painted these in lilacs and muted russet tones.

The eclectic mix of finds and garden treasures. Something for all the senses, even smell and touch in the scent of the dried lavender flowers.

A mixed page of autumn tones

Dahlia, berberis leaves, pigeon feather, poppy seedhead, smoke bush leaf

Hand painted lettering and a small bag of garden lavender flowers complete the page

And just a hint of my collection box 

If you fancy creating a Nature Table for your own small ones, there are some lovely ideas from Anna Ranson, an ex-primary school teacher who started her website, The Imagination Tree as a way to 'channel some of my frustrated creativity'. There are some lovely ideas for her take on the 'Nature Exploration Table'.

Image care of Anna Ranson, The Imagination Tree
Oh and don't get me started on Ladybird books 


Vicki Lee Johnston said...

Just the words 'nature table' brought a flood of memories back - I almost forgot about it, our wonderful tiny little primary school where we collected all sorts of bits and pieces which surely did fuel the fire for my fascination with nature. No wonder I have little nature tables all around my house, shells, feathers, seed pods, nests, - can't bear to 'tidy up' and always get sidetracked by them! Thanks for the reminder Jarnie :)

shevaun said...

Delightful page... again I am drooling over your fantastic calligraphy! nature tables are fantastic, and so are Ferrero Rocher chocolates ;)

Louise Vaan said...

I teach five year olds and we have a nature table. I wouldn't be without. Had a particularly exciting moment this week when our bullrush exploded, filling the classroom with seeds. It was hilarious.

Anonymous said...

If such dreams came true, I'd get a bundle that contains the beautiful leaves I have never seen before, all the seeds/seed pods, and the pinecones, acorn cups, snail shells, feathers and pieces of coral! I'd love to paint all those, or simply draw them. Wouldn't it be lovely to be able to do nature swaps? (sigh)

We never had nature tables when I was growing up across the US. My dad was in the army, so we moved a lot, but many summers and overseas deployments were spent in our parents' hometown in the country. I do have nature collections that might make a nature table, but we also have cats. :)

Thanks for your posts and art.

Sketchbook Squirrel said...

Really happy to hear about your lovely memories Vicki and that you are still keenly collecting. I imagine your house filled with exquisite objects, all precious and carefully placed :) x

Sketchbook Squirrel said...

Thanks Shevaun. Yes we have been having fun collecting bits and storing in boxes. Like an Edwardian library I like to think x

Sketchbook Squirrel said...

ha ha ha, I would have loved to see that Bullrush go for it Louise, although I have been around when Cranesbill seeds pop. That can be quite violent :) x

Hi Limner,even picking bits up wherever you travel can be fun. it needn't be big or unusual just interesting. Nature swaps would be a great idea to introduce new things from far off lands. One to think about. :) x