Friday, November 4, 2011

Why I love dioramas

When I was in elementary school, we seemed to get assigned a lot of dioramas. It seemed like the diorama and the book report were the de facto methods for summarizing a reading assignment. I can't have been the only one who experienced this phenomena. Heck, it's a running gag on the sitcom Community.

"I can't believe our assignment is to make a diorama of us making a diorama."
So maybe for the Gen X parents of today, the humble diorama may seem cliched. I get that. But here's the thing: I LOVED making them. There were no better words a teacher could utter than, "You can make a diorama." It was like heaven.

I distinctly remember working on an interactive diorama with a moving shark in honor of the amazing book, "Shark Lady: True Adventures of Eugenie Clark." There was also a story about a leprechaun and tying red scarves around trees to hide a pot of gold. I barely remember the story, but I do remember carefully placing trees in my little shoebox and tying tiny strips of red cloth around every one of them.

As I got a bit older, my love of miniature grew to encompass dollhouses. Ah dollhouses! It's like a diorama with lots of shoeboxes strung together! And you can play in it! My Dad and I spent one Christmas break building a dollhouse together in the basement. I've loved it ever since. It's taken years to decorate and furnish it, not that I'll ever be done! My dollhouse has a home now in my basement. Though I've let them look, I haven't yet been brave enough to let my daughters touch my precious dollhouse. I'm working on it. I think it may be easier to build another.

And who can forget the wonderful dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History. As a kid, we took a school field trip there, and walking into the first hall just blew me away. I'd never considered making a life-sized diorama. With REAL stuff! Through those exhibits I visited the plains of Africa and the Arctic tundra. It was amazing. It sparked the young scientist in me and solidified my future as a biologist. And thanks to Stephen Quinn, I can read about how they were made and enjoy these amazing Windows on Nature any time I like.

Alaska Brown Bear Diorama
The bears were my favorite. I have a deep love for bears.

Coming forward to the present day, I still love dioramas. I was planning a new one just yesterday. It'll be a small theater and will feature actors that can be moved with a magnetized wand under the stage. I'm hoping to have it finished as a gift for Gwen by Christmas. 

Anyway, let's get your creative juices going too! Below are some great links to get your started.

This whimsical Winter Lake project isn't technically a diorama, but I think it incorporates many of the ideas. I love that it's also interactive and a great sensory play idea for young children. "Crafting a Nature Inspired Up-cycled Diorama" is more classic in form, but uses natural and found objects that the child strings together to create a story. Love it! Perhaps you want to go totally "old school." That's ok too. There are many resources available. One of my favorites is Enchanted Learning. Looking for a more grown up approach to dioramas. We can do that too. The Diorama Man has the most incredible website, filled with tons of ideas and instructions on making detailed dioramas!

Before I leave you, I wanted to share one last tidbit. The video below features the Bedford Gallery, which hosted an exhibition called The Art of Diorama. There are so many approaches to the form, and so many interesting stories about the artists and their process. It's certainly worth taking a few minutes to enjoy.

Have a great day everyone. If you spend some time making diorama this weekend, please don't be shy! Come on back and share some pictures of your work!

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