Exercise your imagination with Kristi Minchin

The V&A Museum of Childhood Creative Team have been thinking a lot about imagination. You can take your imagination anywhere and be creative wherever you go. With your imagination, ordinary things can become fantastic!

Take a chair, for example. With imagination, an everyday chair could be re-designed into something incredible. Some furniture pieces in the V&A collection have very unusual shapes and bright colours. Some of them don’t look like a chair! But what should a chair look like, anyway?

‘Bel Air’ chair designed by Peter Shire for Memphis, 1982. Museum no. W.19-2010 © Image Victoria and Albert Museum

When the Museum of Childhood reopens, we’ll have three new galleries called Imagine, Play and Design. In Imagine, we want what you see to surprise you, and make everything look a bit different. Things are not always what they seem!

But you can stretch your imagination anywhere. It’s like a muscle that you can use at any time – but it sometimes helps to start from somewhere. Where you are is fine.

Try our 3-step imagination activity for you to do at home, created in collaboration with the fantastic Kristi Minchin.

Kristi Minchin

Kristi Minchin is a maker and an artist. She often makes 3D sculptures that people can touch and play with, using lots of colours and shapes.

Kristi Minchin © Courtesy of Kristi Minchin

We asked her how she gets her imagination going. Kristi said:

I get excited about the shapes and colours I see in my everyday life. I can be inspired by a shape of a doorway or the form of a vase or the pattern of a cushion, I love to look at the stuff around me and bring parts of these into my artistic work.

Kristi at work in her studio © Kristi Minchin

Like Kristi, many designers are always looking for interesting shapes, colours and patterns. Now, it’s your turn to think like a designer!

Scroll down to see the video Kristi has made for you!

Get your imagination going!

Artist Salvador Dalí made this sofa, now in the V&A collection in 1938. He was an important artist in a movement called Surrealism (from the word ‘surreal’, which means something a bit like fantastic or unbelievable).

Surrealist artists often took their ideas from dreams. Have you ever had a strange dream that didn’t make a lot of sense? Like strange dreams, Surrealist artworks and designs often combined things that you wouldn’t expect to see together – like lips and a sofa!

Mae West Lips sofa, Salvador Dalí, 1938 © Image Victoria and Albert Museum

Let’s have a look at more furniture pieces from the V&A that have unusual forms. When you look at them, ask yourself:

  • Can you guess what this furniture is for?
  • What shapes and colours can you see?
  • What is unusual about this furniture?
  • How would move if they came alive?
  • What personality might they have? How would they talk?
Champagne standard lamp, Salvador Dalí, 1938, London. Musum. no W.2-2019 © Victoria and Albert Museum

Put your imagination to test

Warm-up: play with objects at home

Can you make simple things you find at home look surreal? Look around your house, and pick up something ordinary.

Images: objects found in the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom

Now, try putting them together in an unusual way to create a surreal 3D landscape (a little bit of sticky stuff might help you!). Mix things you found from different rooms next to each other – remember that combining things you don’t expect to see together can help your imagination to stretch!

Images: our examples of surreal 3D landscapes

Next step: make up stories

You can take your imagination even further by coming up with stories about furniture. Can you imagine what our furniture at home would look like if it came alive? What if it grew legs, arms or a mouth? What would they be like, and what would they do? Would you like them?

If you can’t decide what to pick you could make two story dice that will help you to make stories.

Go on a tour of your home and choose 6 of your favourite pieces of furniture. These will go on your first one of your dice. Then pick another 6 things from your home that could be mixed with the furniture to make them come to life – maybe dolls arms or robot legs? These will go on your second.

Our example of story dice

Roll your dice to create a hybrid furniture character – like a sofa with robot legs. This will be your star of the story.

Now, imagine:

• What personality would it have if it came alive?
• What would be the first thing it would do?

Make your ideas into a storyboard!

Final step: design something new from objects

Now, let’s turn objects you can find at home into something new!
In this video, Kristi closely looked at shapes she found in the objects at home. Then she combined the shapes together to design a new armchair.

Can you try designing a new piece of furniture with the same technique? If you look at ordinary things twice, your imagination might find interesting forms or colours in them!

Share what you create with us by tagging @MuseumChildhood.

And don’t forget that the V&A Museum of Childhood is currently closed, but you can keep in touch by signing up to our newsletter.

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