Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sewing 101

Several summers ago a very self-assured boy in my summer art class took some felt squares that were not being used and bounded over to me to ask for a needle and thread. I asked him what he needed the needle and thread for and he said he was going to make a pillow. I happened to have thread and a sewing needle on hand so I gave them to him.  He started a sewing craze that summer and it hasn't let up since. Every summer my students spend several days if not weeks sewing. Students enjoy making pillows but have branched out to other things as well. I teach the children how to thread needles and use different types of stitches like the running stitch or the loop stitch. Pillows require little instruction. Animals like this lamb are a little more complicated. I suggest that the lamb be drawn out first on a piece of paper then used as a pattern. I also suggest that the fabric be doubled so the student only has to cut once and there are two pieces of everything (lamb body and legs) that match perfectly. Cutting fabric can be hard for some children and may require adult help. Threading needles is an art and I try to encourage students to thread their own needles. Making a knot at the end of a threaded needle is also something students need to know how to do. I also teach students to stop sewing before they run out of thread because you need to have enough thread to make a knot before cutting it away from the fabric.

Many  of my students have never sewn before and I am thrilled to teach them basic sewing skills. I think sewing is an invaluable life skill. I hope my students remember me when they sew on a loose button or repair a torn piece of clothing as adults.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sun Prints

I look forward to teaching my students about Sun Print paper because it is a little science and a little art. You can achieve beautiful designs depending on the objects you use and how they are arranged on the paper. Sun Prints are pretty to look at on their own but can also be turned into other practical things like bookmarks, cards, and coasters. Sun Print paper can be found online (Blick Art Materials) but the other supplies you will need like the objects and a pan for the water can be found around the house or art studio. All artists feel successful after the process is complete so it is an enjoyable project. 

Sun Print paper is activated by the sun's rays. Objects from nature or man made that are placed on the paper create positive and negative space. Objects that are put on top of the paper block the rays from passing through that area of the paper. These objects create a positive space. The areas left open on the paper are where the sun's rays activate the paper and become the negative space. 

I begin by telling my students that Sun Print Paper is light sensitive and the sun's rays activate the paper. I show students samples of finished Sun Prints so they can be inspired by the variety of objects you can use and how they can be arranged on the paper. It also gives them an idea of the range of blues and whites that can be achieved. Before you give your students a piece of Sun Print paper make sure they have their objects and a design in mind. Students need to work quickly placing their objects on the paper once it is exposed to the sun. I find that the sun is so strong that exposing the paper to sunlight for a minute is usually sufficient.  Or, you know its time to remove the paper from the sun when you watch it go from a medium blue to a pale blue. Once the paper has been exposed to the sunlight it needs to be put into a cool water bath for a minute. The water stops the activation process and reverses the colors (initially the positive space is dark blue and the negative space is pale blue). After a minute take the Sun Prints out of the water and hang them up to dry. I notice that after the water bath the colors continue to lighten and darken. 

If your Sun Print looks washed out and there is no definition between your object and the paper it has probably been over exposed to the sun. Next time make sure you watch the paper and the time. Don't let the paper go past the pale blue stage.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Designing Furniture

"What are we doing today?" my students ask me as they come into the art studio. I tell them they are going to be furniture designers. After they get settled in their seats I give them each a piece of white card stock. I instruct the kids to place their paper in front of them in the landscape position (horizontally), then carefully fold their paper into a trifold (making each fold as even as possible). Open up the trifold. Next, still holding the paper in a horizontal position, make a hot dog fold (fold bottom to top). Open up the paper again. There should be six boxes in total (three on the top and three on the bottom). Have your scissors ready to make two small cuts next. Cut along the fold separating the top right box from the bottom right box, but stop before you get to the middle boxes. Cut along the fold separating the top left box from the bottom left box, but stop before you get to the middle boxes. 

  • The bottom left and right boxes are the legs of the chair. Fold down. 
  • The bottom middle box is the seat of the chair. 
  • The top left and right boxes are the arms of the chair. Fold forward.
  • The top middle box is the back of the chair. 

I put a piece of tape to connect the arms and the legs of the chair on both sides so the chair is more stable. I also make feet on the legs of my chair by folding the bottom of the paper into an L position. This will also help make the chair stay upright.

Finally, the fun begins! Decorate your chair using anything and everything you have in your art studio. I put out markers, feathers, fabric, glitter, colored tape, duct tape, colored tissue paper, and colored foam shapes. 

I demonstrate and assist my students throughout the folding and cutting process. However, the designing process I encourage my students to work independently. I see their personalities shining through in their chair designs. This project is good for older children who like to make things and have a finished project to bring home.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Saatchi Art Online

Saatchi Art is a quickly growing online community of artists and collectors. Saatchi Art provides a platform for artists to showcase and sell their artwork and helps make connections between artists and collectors from all over the world.

View my profile on Saatchi Art and see my original collages at the link above. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Love this Idea!

I like to use repurposed materials in my art classes. Often these materials are accessible and inexpensive. Over the past few years I have used clean garbage to make musical instruments, dried beans to make mosaics and this year pieces of discarded crayons were used to make these charming heart shaped crayons. 

Last summer I had an enormous amount of old crayons that needed to be repurposed. My students had fun experimenting with melting crayons. They each selected around 20 crayons and hot glued gunned them to a cotton canvas board. The crayon colors varied from person to person. One student chose all blues, another rainbow colors and still another chose earth tones. All the students had fun manipulating the melting crayon with a hair dryer. The results were fantastic. This summer I expanded their experimentation with melting crayons by adding a crayon made from a heart shape mold and by drawing with a crayon on top of a hot plate. Traditionally a hot plate is used to keep food warm. In this experiment put a piece of drawing paper on the surface of the hot plate then press down on a crayon as it moves around the paper. The heat of the hot plate (no hotter than a heating pad) makes the crayon glide across the paper. The results can vary depending on the user but I observed that the crayon looks like paint. 
Crayon drawing using a hot plate
One girl exclaimed that it looked like "liquid." Remember to always take precautions when using a hot plate with children. Safety is important and students should be aware that this is a hot surface.

The crayon hearts are easy to make. You will need a Silicone heart shaped mold or a mini-muffin tin. Take little bits of old crayon that are no longer useful and put them into the mold. Fill the mold shape up for desired thickness. The more crayon you add the thicker the heart. Use a variety of colored crayon bits. Put the Silicone mold or mini-muffin tin in the oven at 350 degrees for 8 - 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. The crayons can go in the freezer if you would like to speed up the hardening time. When the crayon has become completely hard you can remove them from the mold. I think you will be surprised by all the fun you will have with your new heart crayon. As you crayon the colors change depending on how many colors you put in the mold. The color variations are endless! I learned how to make the heart shaped crayon from a teacher at the preschool where I work during the school year. She was kind enough to share these instructions with me. 

The three different types of melting crayon activities described above work well together. All of the them involve melting crayons using different methods - hot plate, oven and hair dryer - and the final results are all unique. It might be interesting to ask your students before they start each activity what they think will happen to the crayon and record their responses. Then after they have completed each activity ask them what they observed. Compare their before and after remarks.

Dream On

I like to start my first summer art class with a project that is engaging and unique. Last summer it was mosaics, the year before that musical instruments made out of clean garbage and the year before that was gluey string bowls. This year was no different and I was searching for an idea that was special. A former student of mine who is in the 5th grade suggested Dreamcatchers. Native Americans have used Dreamcatchers since ancient times. They believed that the Dreamcatcher kept bad dreams away and gave the sleeper a good night sleep. The Dreamcatcher is hung above the bed and the bad dreams get caught in the web like design around the hoop and the good dreams went through the hole in the center and slide down the feathers. In the Native American culture the Dreamcatcher's circular shape symbolizes unity and strength. 

I knew this project would not be easy for my Middle School aged students so I broke it down into two main components. On the first day the students used hemp cord (any color they liked) to cover the wire hoop I gave them. They held down the hemp on the wire hoop with one hand while their other hand wound the cord tightly around and around until the wire was completely covered. On the second day they began creating the web like design using a simple stitching process using yarn that they looped around the hemp covered wire. Before each class I showed my students a how-to video on my computer so they could see the technique we would be using next. I also taught and retaught the process as needed. This is a fun project but good fine motor skills and patience is required. I think the results are spectacular. Each completed Dreamcatcher is unique and even the ones that have some irregularities (in the stitching) have a lot of personality. 

Learn how to make your own dreamcatcher at: