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CAMPERS PUT THEIR HEARTS INTO ART

A Largo camp lets kids exercise and explore their creative side.

Carly Jones could hardly stand still. The 9-year-old from Largo was bouncing with anticipation.

"I'm scared to look at them. I'm really excited at the same time," she said.

Eyes closed, Carly and six other girls from Largo Recreation, Parks and Arts' Pottery Bears 'n Beads Camp waited around a craft table to see their creations: glass fusion pendant necklaces fired in an 1,800-degree kiln.

Pottery Bears 'n Beads shop owner Louise Sheelen counted aloud. "One, two, three!"

The girls opened their eyes and gasped as they got a look at the colorful fused glass on their pendants.

"Can you believe you made that?" Sheelen asked.

"It's beautiful," Carly said. "It's mine!"

Amanda Weitz, 9, of Clearwater was happy, too.

"I never thought it would turn out so good," she said.

Carly and Amanda hugged Sheelen as she helped Carly put on the necklace.

The weeklong event, one of many specialty camps being hosted by Largo Recreation, Parks and Arts this summer, produced more than the pendants.

The jewelry was just one of nearly a dozen art projects the campers took home last week. But the girls will continue creating their own art long after the camp is over.

"I just like to draw cherries, I also like to draw pineapples and ice cream. I love doing portraits of people," said Taylor Lannon, 9, of Clearwater. "I like origami."

Carly added, "I like all art crafts. I love painting, and I love every type of art possible in this wide world."

On Thursday, the same day the girls made the pendants by picking pieces of dichroic glass, they also created their own stuffed bears from the inside out. Each girl took an unstuffed bear, pushed pieces of polyester filling into it and dressed it.

Emily Anderson, 11, of Seminole liked that craft the best.

"You got to make your own T-shirt for it. It was really cool," she said.

Before the girls finished, Sheelen made sure the girls didn't forget "the love."

She held out a red and white cardboard box filled with different colored felt hearts. The girls each chose one for their bears.

"You're the mom. You get to pick," she told them.

"Hold your heart up. Close your eyes. Make a wish. Kiss your heart for the bear three times. Put that heart inside your bear. Hearts usually go in the center. Be careful where you put the love."

The project that's closer to Carly's heart, the pendant, now hangs around her neck.

"I'm making it for my mom. ... I picked this color because my mom likes green and I really like blue ... pink because she's a girl. She also likes purple," she said.

That one of her campers was caught up in her own work came as no surprise to Sheelen.

"Kids that age are a natural. Art helps to develop your creativity, your socialization and personal growth," she said. "When you see something that you've created, it's very satisfying."

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Encore session

Another session of the Pottery Bears 'n Beads Camp in Tri City Plaza on East Bay Drive will be July 12-16. And there's still room. To sign up, call the Largo Recreation, Parks and Arts Department at (727) 518-3125.

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Other camps

The Largo Recreation, Parks and Arts Department has a variety of camps scheduled this summer. These camps still have openings:

July 12-16: Train Camp at Largo Feed Store (Largo Central Park)

July 12-16: Crochet Camp at Southwest Recreation Complex

July 19-23: All American Dolls at Southwest Recreation Complex

July 26-30: CSI Camp at Largo Community Center

July 26-30: Fine Arts Camp at Largo Community Center

Aug 2-6: Think You Can Dance Camp at Largo Community Center.

For more information: Call (727) 518-3125.

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