Saturday, 13 February 2010

Decorating your homemade shekere

I'm probably more a function-over-form, content-over-style person. It isn't that I don't appreciate beautiful objects but if the object has a function then I prefer something ugly but effective to something beautiful but unable to serve its purpose.

I recently visited a school where I had been making shekeres with the children in the manner described in a recent post. My sole purpose had been to make the instruments so the children could use them in performance and my plan for that day was to complete them. My lesson plan needed some quick revision, however, because I was met by the class teacher who took me into the art room and showed me how the children had been decorating the shekeres they had spent so much time on the previous week. This had involved coating the outsides of the plastic jars and bottles with papier mache and poster paint. I assume it had not been possible to remove the beads and netting and these had become tangled and gummed up with paint and glue.

The shekeres are still languishing in the art room awaiting completion. I don't have enough time in the school to get them into a state in which they can be finished and I have steered the workshops in another direction. Of course it didn't occur to me that they should look good. And it obviously didn't occur to the class teacher that I would make these instruments without some thought as to their visual impact. And after all, in most making projects the decoration comes at the end. Obviously we should have talked things through in more detail at the outset but we had no reason to suppose our expectations were any different.

I hope it is not a mistake I will make again, and I'm sure it is one most others would have avoided in the first place. On a practical note: decorate your shekeres, if that's what you mean to do, before you put the things together. For what its worth, the teacher talked of putting rice into the bottles and jars to make them louder. Given that the beads no longer rattle against the outside that is a very practical plan. But then they will be just so many shakers, an instrument I was trying to avoid, and not shekeres.

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