Mother Nature: Giving us everything we need to create beautiful, natural, art

The chill of frosty mornings. Puddles to splash in. Trees a-flame with orange, red, and yellow leaves... and the crunch of those leaves underfoot. There's no doubt about it. Autumn is here, and she's arrived in all her glory. Sure, she's on her way out, and the early-morning frosts are starting to creep in, but let's enjoy this season while we can.

This time of the year marks the start of the Māori New Year, and the celebration of Matariki. It's a time of preparing for the coming year, and celebrating with our friends and whānau. This year, Christchurch City Libraries is celebrating the 'earth stars' (Tupu-ā-nuku, Tupu-ā-rangi), and the 'wind star' (Ururangi), with a focus on sustainable natural resources, and the ways we can protect the environment around us.

During the colder months, it can be tempting to just stay indoors, but since we know that being outdoors in nature is good for our mental and emotional well-being, why not find a way to bring nature inside? Sure, we could go out, buy paint, and create a mural on a wall ...  but leftover paint may get poured down a drain, end up in our seas and rivers, and kill our fish. We could go to a gift shop and buy a cool plastic bird to put in our bedroom, or go and buy an African wall-hanging ... but the plastic bird will be wrapped in plastic that will end up in the landfill, and the plane trip the wall-hanging took to get here to Aotearoa New Zealand has a huge carbon footprint.

So let's see if we can support the kaupapa of this year's Matariki theme, look for ways to decrease our  more environmental footprint, and use sustainable natural resources to decorate instead.

I'm not overly artistic, but even I know that there's something relaxing about collecting objects from the outdoors, then creating something from them. Leaf people, pinecone animals, bookmarks made of leaves and flowers covered in contact paper - I spent hours creating these when I was little, and I'm not ready to stop making natural art just yet. There are multiple ways of artfully stacking stones, creating leaf art, and using attractive twigs in ways that are as fun for adults as they are for kids, and as the days start to get shorter we can use those longer evenings to let our creative juices flow.

So why not make the most of the natural resources around us, and create some art using just what Mother Nature has given us? If you're stuck for inspiration, check out some of these Christchurch City Libraries' books for ideas.

The Wild Dyer

I have always loved the idea of staining paper with coffee or tea to make the paper look tattered, old, and parchment-like. In this book, you can do the grown-up version of this! Learn how to use plants, seeds and foods from your kitchen, garden, and surrounds to dye fabric and create lovely soft furnishings to keep your home cosy and welcoming. This is a great way to use up the ends of veges when you are cooking, and minimises green waste.
Hand Printing From Nature

Wandering around outdoors, you find so many interesting shapes in the leaves and nature around you. What better way to celebrate this variety than by creating your own unique prints on stationery, clothing, and furniture? With ideas for projects ranging from simple to complex, you're bound to find something that suits your tastes, and your talent levels.
The Organic Artist

If you would prefer your arts to your craft, this could be the book for you. Pencils, inks, bowls for the ink, paintbrushes, books - this book teaches you how to make all this (and more!) using just the resources around you. Even if you are like me, and don't have the time to create all your gear from scratch, this is a fascinating read, and the photos throughout the book really demonstrate how versatile the world around us can be. If you are up for the challenge, though, instead of buying plastic paintbrushes or commercially-produced books which have travelled from overseas, give this try.
Green Crafts for Children

Children are made to be outdoors, moving, exploring, and discovering the world around them, and they naturally scavenge to find little treasures in their environment. This book has a whole section on crafts using natural resources, from natural inks, to pinecone animals, to games of driftwood noughts and crosses. Creating and playing with natural toys and games is much more environmentally-friendly than using disposable plastic toys, so next time your little explorers need to stay inside, why not use some of these ideas for a fun afternoon of creativity.

Christchurch City Libraries will be celebrating Matariki throughout the month of Pipiri/June, so keep an eye out for an event near you!

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