Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Leather Cuff Bracelets- RES

A few weeks ago, a parent asked me if she could donate some fabric.  As an art teacher, I get tons of fabric donations, but rarely the type on offer- dense, strong upholstery fabric in consistent sizes. But the real stunner of the donation was a giant pile of beautiful leather samples from a furniture store.  Now, the RES art room does not actually have any leather working tools, but that's not going to stop me.
Project materials and samples
No awl? No leather punch? 
Okay, we have hammers and nails. And we have scissors.  
And we have both time and persistence. 

It's always a good time to use real tools.
Now, the holes are a mite small, even with large nails, and we do wish we had real tools for leather working, but unless a donation comes down from the art gods, it isn't going to happen this year. 

Finished beauties
But look at what students made!   Leather tools or not, these hip leather cuff bracelets are pretty rad.

Making them was a fairly simple process. I needed a one-period project that would allow a handful of students to finish up their tessellations from before vacation, and making leather cuffs fit perfectly into our time frame.

Students used paint pens (like DecoColor or Sharpie Paint) to draw designs on the smooth side of the leather.  

 A hole was punched at each end to insert leather cording. The cording I made just by cutting very thin strips from the leather samples, but you can buy it on a roll also.

On the ends of the cord we put a bead to keep it from pulling back through the hole, and then tied a knot to hold the bead.  This technique makes the cuffs highly adjustable in size.  To wear it, you just tie the two ends together.

Looks amazing with that henna!
Most students created a pattern, but there were no specifics given about what or how the artist should design the cuff. The long narrow form, however, lent itself well to repetition.

The metallic sheen is a silver paint pen.
Students really enjoyed making these, and have asked to have the opportunity to do them again if we have time at the end of the year. If you have any leather-working tools collecting dust in your basement, please consider donating them to these excited artists!

So cool, right?  I want an armful.
What could we do with real leather lunches and awls that we cannot do with nails?  Most leather working projects require the holes be pre-punched to be able to sew an edge, like for a leather pouch, as a standard sewing needle stands no chance of going through tough hide, so tools meant for this job would make it much easier for whole classes to accomplish.

Check out that long double-wrap cuff.
It's so satisfying to make artwork that is tangible, wearable, and cool.  
If you have any great ideas for leather projects RES artists might enjoy, please share them!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Math + Art = Awesome! Project Explore Flynn Elementary

Second graders in the Spring session of Project Explore have been demonstrating their math and measurement skills through drawing, hammering, painting, and winding string. You are probably familiar with this classic in the world of art+math projects:

Didn't everyone doodle these in the corners of their lined school notebooks?
But not only can these touch on concepts of measurement and plotting on axes, but can of course get into op-art illusions (and therefore artists like Victor Vasarely and Bridget Riley) and 3-dimensional drawing. What made this project particularly awesome was taking this flat, paper rendering into the realm of sculpture by making it out of nails as plot points and string as pencil lines.

Boom. String art taken to a while new level.  And made by an eight year old.

This was not a small challenge. Students created their own design using the skills they had learned, drew it, hammered in dozens of nails, whacked their thumbs, painted their work, and only then began the string.  Which caught on the nails. And unraveled if it wasn't held taut. And had to be tied, over and over again.
I see giant crashing waves at sunset. What so you see?
There was lots of frustration, a fair amount of pouting, and finally that tremendous glow of success at making something about which students were really quite proud.

Can you see the symmetry?
We hung the works next to each other, for the connection to be made most visible.

Part of this program that is really cool is how much the students learn from one another. I step back early in the process, and tend to ask students more questions than I will answer, specifically to encourage them to use one another as resources.

This artwork is on display in the Flynn Learning Center until the end of the school year. 
Come see it!

While you are there, on permanent display is this first grade art+math project from a few years ago, combining multiplication, gridding, pattern, and art techniques to create this tiled mosaic.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

An Art Teacher With a Week of Free Time

In past posts I have written about my own creative time, and the importance to me of being a balanced artist/teacher.  So when time presents itself, I can't help but make stuff.  And in this past week, lots and lots and lots of stuff, which I look forward to sharing over a few posts.  Here is a peek at one of the sillier things I did this week.

After this ridiculously long and cold Winter, I cannot get enough of getting outdoors for hikes in our area. I have been looking for wildflowers (Hepatica are blooming!), watching birds (White Snow Geese right over my house! Red-winged blackbirds are back!), and listening to Wood Frogs in a local vernal pool. But anything green makes me happiest.  Thus, terrariums.  One for my dining table, one for my boys' room.  But what makes them silly?

It's a jungle out there.
Adding Lego people to alter the scale, so I can live his adventure vicariously while I eat breakfast. Did you read Magic School Bus books?  I always wanted to magically shrink like Ms. Frizzle and her lucky students into tiny worlds. Pinecones, moss, lichen, berries, ferns, rocks, and sea glass would be huge.  Hope he is ready for the wild animals that might be around any corner.

Little does he know how many coyote sightings there have been in Burlington's New North End recently...
 Artists play with scale all of the time. It's not only fun and silly, but can really change your perception of an object or situation. Take for example the amazing sculptor Ron Mueck.

Ron Mueck, Boy, mixed media, 1999
This startlingly life-like sculpture of a young boy is even more amazing when you see that in reality, it's over 5 meters tall.
Andrea Merola / Corbis via www.time.com
Whoa, weird, huh?  It gets even weirder. Giant tiny newborn.

Ron Mueck, Baby, Mixed Media (silicone, polyurethane, wood, synthetic hair), 1996
Or for contrast, this artist, Dalton Ghetti, who carves sculptures out of pencils, the type of work my sculpture professor called monumental miniature.

A tiny saw made out of a single pencil, but it looks like you could use it. via Creativepool.com
Usually around the time young artists are around third grade, they start to get a real kick out of altering scale in their own artwork. It works well in landscapes, but there are lots of other ways to play with it as well- my students love to make things unexpectedly tiny- like little dinosaurs crouched under flowers and mushrooms or giant things you'd expect to be tiny- insects bigger than people! Watch out!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

In the Burlington Free Press! Project Explore - Flynn Elementary

In case you missed the paper yesterday, here is the piece they published from the Math Night Meets Maker Fair event at Flynn on April 1.  We made the Hometown section of the Free Press!
These ladies, lower left, loved the balloon races.
It's exceptionally nice how the Hometown section highlights the good news about what schools, teachers, and students are doing everyday in education.  They are super receptive to new stories and highlighting the positive.
If you missed the blog post on the event, you can read it here.  If you loved this event, or want to see Project Explore (What is Project Explore?) continue into the future, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to the program, or if you work for a company that prioritizes charitable giving through grants of donations, please feel free to contact me for information on how to add Project Explore to your program of giving.  In our seventh consecutive year as a program exclusively funded by grants and donations, the next year is never a sure thing, and we could use your help at any level!  On behalf of Project Explore students and all the families who attended this event, thank you for giving it consideration.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

You Are Reading This?!

The other day it sort of hit me over the head. 
People are really looking at the art shared here and are reading what I am am writing. 
Calder Stabiles
 Now, that is rather humbling.  That seems to me, anyway, a lot for a blog about art in schools in the northern part of a rural state.  All this blog is doing is sharing about the marvelous art made by a few hundred marvelous kids.   But let me clear, I don't want to blow things out of proportion- I am no
├╝ber-blogger, reaching hundreds of views per hour. 

Grade 4 Stabile, close-up.  It spins beautifully as well.
Au contraire, this blog is small potatoes, and has to potential to be lost in all the noise, hubbub, and drama of the internet ether. But what is amazing here is that in the ten months since it began, it has been visited thousands of time.

Grade 3 Spirit Animal Medallions
Visited by you, actually, as well as others who also care about what Vermont children are learning, doing, seeing, and making in art class.

Maybe you come because I teach a child you love.
Maybe you come because I work with you, or you know me some other way.
Maybe you are reading this because you wonder how your tax dollars are being spent.
Maybe you are here for a project idea to teach children or students of your own.

I wondered if you might wonder why I am here?

Abstract paintings, ages 6-8
I want for you to know a few things about art, because maybe you question its benefit to children's learning, to society, or to your wallet.

Art is making tons of mistakes you can't fix and learning how to work with them.
Art is the simple pleasure of creating something.
Art sharpens thinking and teaches how to ask questions.
Art helps students succeed in school.
Art unites people of different cultures and languages.
Art gives children the ability to speak when they have no words.
Art saves people from themselves. (Including me. I can only hope that my teaching art-looking, art-making, and creative problem-solving to children does as much for them as it does for me as their teacher.)
Wayne Thiebaud-inspired paper collage
So, that's why. Thanks for coming.  My students are little wonders, eager to share their thinking, game to try anything, challenging me to think in new ways each day, and really quite proud of the work they do.  Keep visiting us!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Bright Link! RES

It takes me a while to move into the modern age, but with amazing and supportive help from our tech guru Jed Carini and building custodian Rick Hamilton, the art room is a step closer!

A interactive, digital whiteboard on my whiteboard.  Whoa.
While I have always had a projector, it has been across the room from the screen instead of ceiling mounted, so most of my presentations look like this:

Oh, you wanted to ask something? Sorry Mona Lisa.
Whenever a child raised a hand, their shadow jumped across the screen. Now, while that was great for teaching about light source and shadow, it was not so great when we wanted, you know, to see the image. But with it on the ceiling now, no more!  Phew.

Instead, we can now digitally color her face! It's all giggles in here now.
(Give me a new toy and...I'm sorry!  Couldn't help myself.  Doesn't she look great?)

In truth, it will be wonderfully useful. You can see textures from far away and can manipulate images during presentations.  And I am learning new things to do with it- it's not just a projector anymore.  We can go on field trips virtually, do large-scale demonstrations, and unlike a dry erase marker, it never runs dry and doesn't smell.  We'll be able to diagram pictures and share our work for critique in a size everyone can see.  

If you have done or seen a wonderful way to use an interactive whiteboard, please share it with me!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tessellations! RES

When my fourth graders came to class, I had on display M.C. Escher's mind-blowing print MetamorphosisIt is woodcut where each tessellated image gradually shifts into the next. Tessellations are shapes that can repeat infinitely over a plane without overlaps, gaps, or spaces in between.
Metamorphosis I, 1937, Woodcut

  Then I told my fourth graders that we were going on a field trip around our own school. There was some groaning. Admittedly, it's not much of a hook, right? What does one have to do with the other?

We got out in to the same hallways that they have walked down thousands of times, and I asked them to find things in our school that tessellate.
The wall.  (Of our hallway)
Ever had a field trip where you students are excited to see the hallway wall? Try it. Because, suddenly, mine were. Psyched, in fact, with hands flying up to tell me more things they were noticing.

"The walls!"
"The floor tiles!
"The ceiling panels!"
"The carpet squares!"
"The bricks!"
Have children ever been excited to see this before?
We came back to the classroom and brainstormed more.  
Soccer balls. Honeycomb. Fish scales. Paving stones.
Now the real question began- Why are tessellations useful?
Here are some of the fourth grade answers:

"Because you don't want air to come in through the wall, so it can't have gaps."
"Because if a soccer ball had space the air would come out."
"If the floor had gaps in it we could trip or fall through."
"The rain could come in the ceiling."

Tessellations have been used by architects for millennia (cue Alhambria here), both for structural and decorative reasons.

The tessellated tile mosaics of Alhambira in Spain are amazing. Parts of the building date back to 889B.C.
Back to M.C. Escher, whose artwork was inspired by Alhambria's decorative patterning.  Students set out to learn how to create tessellating shapes by beginning with squares, although it is relatively easy to begin with any four-sided parallelogram. Here is a simple how-to for making the most basic type, and creates a piece that is flat on two edges and more dynamic on the other two.

Grade four tessellating piece traced onto a grid
Most students chose to go above and beyond and create pieces that tessellated on all four sides without straight, flat edges.  Fourth graders then chose to either trace onto the page directly, or orient it to a grid to help with placement.

Afterward, students began to add color. Most students have chosen to add color in a pattern, but some are designing creatures:
Superhero Fish
Or adding color more at random:

A school of fish!
 The artist of the work above told me that "a real school of fish would just never be in a perfect pattern, so I colored it the way they would really look when swimming, just colors everywhere."

Grade four artists are very proud of using math skills and accuracy to create these.  
Such a happy marriage of measurement, geometry, and precision in an artwork!

Not surprisingly, tessellations are often used as fabric patterns.  

Via basbleu.com
Wouldn't these make terrific prints on fabric for scarves?!  New project brewing in my mind!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Easter Eggs And Related SuperFun!

My favorite holidays include crafting, which is why Halloween is tops, but Easter comes in close behind. Of course, holidays are just an excuse for me to be messy- my home is almost always stained and spattered anyway. (Note last photo in this post... not exactly ready for a showing.)
Eggs made this morning by my little family
We use vegetables and spices for coloring our eggs, but any conventional egg dye kit would be perfect. This is no science, and there are a million Martha Stewart and Pinterest egg techniques that trump mine aesthetically.

But one of the best parts of dying Easter eggs is that when it is over, you still have cups of dye. 
Stop! Don't pour that dye down the drain!
Why should the fun stop here?
Add a tablespoon of dishsoap to each cup.
Use a straw to stir it in.
Now, blow bubbles in the dye!

Press plain paper on top of the bubbles, then lift.

Continue blowing bubbles and printing your papers.  

You can use regular computer paper, or if you want to get fancy, use nice heavyweight stationary paper. These papers can be used for making cards, for collage papers, or wrapping up little gifties.

And naturally, they match our eggs!
Just when he thought that the fun was over, my hubs asked me if he could clean up.  
Um, no. 
The kids will be cleaning this one up.  To a sparkle, no less, and with shrieks of delight as well.

Yikes.  Turmeric stains, beet stains...
Squirt some shaving cream on there, add a few toy cars, and your clean-up volunteers will come running.

Have a messy and fabulously artful weekend!