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Adventures in Art with Kids • by Julee Hermann

Julee HermannTeaching art with children is an adventure of discovery ... self-discovery, that is! Exploring every medium is new every time. The thrill of trying something new is rife with tension and suspense ... the kids wonder, “Will I be good at this?” while I wonder, “Will I be good at this? And how will I tell them about this?” But the kids also wonder things I never would have guessed, like “WHAT IS THIS?” “What is it made from?” “Why does it smell like that?” and “Why is it cold?” Even “What does it taste like?!” “How do I hold this?” “What if I ruin it?” “Why is it so heavy?” “Why is it that color?” And all of that just from a simple bag of clay. I never heard questions like that from my adult students ... even if they WERE thinking them ... and it’s part of what keeps me smiling through my children's workshops. I never knew I would be so tickled so easily.

A Whole New Direction
In fact, I never anticipated teaching to a room full of wiggly, giggly, friends of my daughters and I certainly didn’t anticipate finding fulfillment there. I may have never gone there if not for the suggestion of my friend Gina Gabriell, owner of Tangerine and hostess to many of my soldering workshops. One day after class she approached me while we were cleaning up and she commented very simply, “Julee, you are a natural teacher with a ton of patience and nurturing attitude. You should teach with kids.” I was kind of blown away. Not only had the thought never crossed my mind, but also I had no idea she had been hearing my classes. I was even more blown away that I was considering it.

Within the week I saw that Suzi Blu had mentioned a woman known as Dancing Mermaid in San Diego that was doing an online workshop showing how she works with children. So, being the curious girl that I am, I took this as a sign that I needed to at least give this some serious investigation and I quickly learned that Mc Cabe Russell makes MAGIC! Oh my gosh, her Mermaid Warrior workshop was fun and empowering and creative! By the end of the first video I was completely charmed and in love with her amazing way with the girls. In fact, by the end of the course I absolutely believed that I could do this ... this ... this ... teaching kids? Uh ... that’s a whole new direction?! Yep, a whole new direction.

I had to stew on that a little, but only a little. I soon came up with some ideas that I thought would be fun and within a few months, summer of 2008 was going to be upon us. Our little family was not going to be able to afford most of the amazing activities around the San Francisco Bay Area, so we hatched a plan to bring summer camp to us. I put the workshop I had taken to work for me, and the Mermaids and Warriors Summer Camp was born.

What I Wanted as a Little Girl
That first year we invited children from my daughter’s kindergarten class that we had gotten to know by making art with them in the classroom, and I invited a friend’s teenaged daughter to work with me for the summer. Together, 14 of us painted on rocks, explored squishing paint with our fingers and flowers, went on adventures through the meadow and forest behind our home, and learned how to encourage each other, feel safe, be brave, and learn from our experiences.

Since that first camp I have had a group of “Bebe Mermaids” of just 4-year-olds join me for mixed-media art classes, 6-year-olds make a Brave Grrrlz magazine that we had professionally published, 7-year-olds make altered books of their own poetry, and an awesome group of 2nd graders this year who discovered sculpture in the style of that same Gina Gabriell who inspired me to find my passion.

This week I’m wrapping up 18 weeks of working in the Oakland schools bringing art to kids in my native East Bay who may not otherwise get the chance to discover the feeling of wet, cold clay on their cheeks ... I don’t know why, but a solid half of the kids say, “Oooh ... Miss Julee, this is cold!” and then press it to their face. It makes me smile and I fall a little more in love every time.

Something about working with these kids is just salve for the soul. Giving them what I most wanted as a little girl is like giving it to myself. Freedom from mistakes and criticism is freedom to flow and just play and feel your feelings through your work. This is my work and I truly have some amazing contemporary women to thank for inspiring and encouraging me to find my voice. Some of them have public personas and I share their blogs with you ... others are a bit more private and know that I love them without condition.

To learn more about Julee Hermann, visit


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