The opportunity to be a part of 798 ICAF the international children’s art festival in Beijing came up quickly. In July, I was contacted by someone involved in the festival who found me through Instagram. Two months later, my cousin Ellen McVicker and I were on planes heading to China to share our book Butterfly Kisses and Wishes on Wings with story telling and art workshops.
The next day the art festival began with Ellen and I, and 7 other international artists, leading 5 workshops a day for 7 days. Spending time with the other artists was one of the best parts of our trip- and they deserve a separate blog post at a later date.
Ellen read our book to hundreds of children, translated into Chinese with the help of some wonderful volunteers, usually university students helping with the festival. A couple of times a parent in the group knew English and would jump in if no English speaking student was available.
Following the reading, the children and their parents went over to the bright orange work tables to create their butterflies. We began by creating personal stamps using card board and foam stickers that they cut into shapes to create stamp or chop. Chops have a long tradition in Chinese culture as a way of signing as well as enhancing their paintings or prints. The children, and often the parents used their stamp to create beautiful patterns and designs on their butterflies.
The next step was to add a smaller butterfly and a chenille stick as the spine for a simple pop up.
The take away from sharing our book was profound. Ellen said this beautifully, “For a nation, where discussing the more difficult things in life (such as cancer), and reserving one’s feelings, Nanci and I could not have been more welcomed and appreciated. While the language barrier was not easy (we were so grateful for our interpreters), it was very clear that the message of our book touched many of their lives.”