(Students painting their Nicho frames with acrylic paints.)
Mexican Wall Nichos
Seventh-grade students learned about the practice shrine building throughout various cultures around the world. Students observed and discussed characteristics found in the shrines built by contemporary artists Laurie Zuckerman and Christin Adkins. We discussed Assemblage artwork, and how the ritual of collecting and assembling found or significant objects is a universal practice found in various cultures. For the focus of our own shrines, we looked to folk Mexican wall nichos created from recycled materials to be featured in a domestic space.
Students dedicated their nichos to a loved one. This person would also serve as the inspiration for the designs and color schemes used in their artworks. First, students cut and designed the frames of their nichos. Then adding imagery and symbols relating to the person in mind.
Students decorated their frames and sculpted a “relic” that would be featured as the centerpiece of their wall altars. The entire shrine was assembled and embellished using recycled and donated objects.
I knew I wanted to some kind of textile thing at my elementary placement but didn’t know what. Since I decided to focus most of my units on some aspect of community I thought of the artist Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson and her excellent and beautiful book A Street Called Home. This book is excellent for elementary and a beautiful object to own! Inside is a long accordian foldout of Aminah’s street growing up and all the characters that lived on that street.
After reading the book, we discussed what a community is and who the important people are in our community. The students were introduced to brainstorming and together we brainstormed all the important people in our class, home, and neighborhood communities. We talked about teachers, family members (including pets), policemen, firefighters, and more. After we brainstormed, they drew a sketch of someone they would like to do for their final piece.
On the third day the students learned how to embroider. This took a very long time! Students did not know how to tie knots and threading the needle was a problem. However, once they got started, many of them did an amazing job!
I realized after I started that an older group of students may have been better for this project because of skill, but I had the longest time with my 2nd graders so I used them and they were perfectly capable!
I did have to adjust half way through to just cut and glue fabrics instead of sewing them all down. No big deal as the results were still fantastic!
During my high school observations I notice a few things about my ARTI students. Firstly, they liked to play, like A LOT, with whatever they could get their hands on. Secondly, they needed a project that was fail-proof, meaning a lesson that allowed anyone to create something awesome. So I decided to do a unit based around material exploration, and landed on a three part altered printmaking lesson that went like this:
Week 1: Making altered paper
Each day students explored a new way to alter paper including shaving cream transfer, tissue paper transfer, found object print-making, found object rubbings, and tyvek finger painting.
Week 2: Drawing techniques
Week two was similar to week one, but much less messy. Students practiced a new drawing technique each day, including observational, blind contour, descriptive language (Had to describe to their partner how to draw Beyonce), and continuous line. Eventually students made a continuous line self portrait drawing that would turn into their styrofoam printing plate.
Week 3: Printing
After making their printing plates, students took the altered paper that they had made previously, and collaged it all onto a new surface,which turned into the backgrounds for their self portrait prints. Before printing onto their backgrounds, students practiced clean printing and ghost printing on plain paper.
Week 4: Bells and Whistles
Week four was time for students to finish their final prints, and add extra details. SOme students were also able to combine their prints on one back ground to make a singular piece of art.
Overall, I think this unit was a lot of fun! It took a long time to get completed artworks from every student, but we were able to cover a wide variety of different SOLs during the process. I hope I get to try this again with another group of students, and think that with a little tweaking, this would be a good lesson for any age group.
During my high school placement, my ARTIII group was the first class I began teaching. I was automatically impressed with these students’ ideas, personalities, and talents. The first project we did together was “Advertisements That Should Exist” in which we explored the history of advertising and it’s affect on art culture. We discussed composition, focal point, and how text can alter a work. Students also practiced a variety of micron pen and watercolor techniques to create colorful artworks that send important messages to society, and reflect topics that they are passionate about.
soft sculpture with embroidery, beading, and felting
My crafts II students have been hard at work on a plush textile forms. In my secondary placement I have been trying out the use of an assignment sheet for my students to refer back to as they are working. In my assignment sheet I told my students that their challenge was to “find a microscopic or single celled organism that you identify with or feel a call to create. with the information you discovered about this organism, shift the scale and create a three dimensional textile piece.”
Together we looked at slides of microscopic organisms and brainstormed how we might be able to create them in the three-dimension.
The next step was to make fabric patterns and sew our animals, organisms, cells, and microscopic friends together. We stuffed our objects with alpaca fur and then they were ready to be adorned!
How my students handled the surface treatment of their object was up to them, but they had to use the first three basic stitches we learned: couching, french knots, and chain stitch. Some of my students are choosing to create patterns and designs that imitate the surface of the animal they are inspired by. Other students are using the muslin as a blank canvas for designs that contrast the subject matter.
My students still have about a two weeks to finish their creations and I am really excited by what they have done so far!
In this lesson, the 5th grade artists explore the printmaking process and contemplate the tradition of block printing. On Day 1- the artists will prepare their blocks. The blocks are constructed from the following materials:
Cardboard-pre-cut to desired size and shape
Scissors or cutting tools
Foam paper ( if the “sticker” kind is used, glue is not required)
The students dive into the materials to build their printing blocks.
A presentation on the history of printmaking will help then understand the tradition of the process and a brief discussion about the similarities and differences between geometric and asymmetric designs will help them to understand how to construct a pattern or design that would be visually interesting.
Students can explore other patterning and design techniques. The printing block will revolve around a center shape that can be made from scraps or cut randomly by each student. They will place the large shape in the middle and build out from the center to fill the cardboard with shapes and even texture to maximize visual interest.
Students build their blocks around a large, central shape.
The blocks should take 25-30 minutes to complete, but may take longer based on the skill level and physical abilities of the individual students. When finished, the blocks should be signed and left to dry. A coat of spray paint done by the instructor will help the blocks hold up to light cleaning, if desired.
Understanding the importance of artists using natural materials is an easy way to integrate discussion about contemporary artists like Ana Mendieta https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/artist/ana-mendieta and Andy Goldsworthy http://visualmelt.com/Andy-Goldsworthy into the elementary classroom. If the classroom is able to meet and work in an outdoor environment, setting up a loom is as easy as setting two posts and crossbeams at the top and bottom. If quality wood is used, the loom should last many years of use. Using twine or another natural material like hemp is good for the warp threads, as the weaving will begin to tighten and mesh as the loom is filled.
The project should begin with a discussion about the big ideas of environmental artwork and the use of natural materials in artmaking. Seeing the works of Ana Mendieta and Andy Goldworthy, the students can see how these artists used the environment and resources around them to create meaningful artworks. The methods they utilize to manipulate the environment appear similar at times, but their visions and concepts can be quite different. The students can begin to gather materials they find in their lives and on the school grounds to begin the weaving.
This project can encompass many different materials, it is important to discuss what is natural and safe (sticks, rocks, vines, bush trimmings, etc.) and what is not safe (plastics, toys, etc.) to weave into the loom. This can be a collaborative project as the abilities and needs of each level can be met by simply participating in the creation of public art. This project is meant to be seen by the public and the community surrounding the school.
This project can take several class periods to complete, but the collaboration of all the grades makes it possible in a week or two. Students can paint some of the sticks to personalize or “sign” the work individually while adding visual interest. In the end the goal is to leave the weaving exposed so that nature can reclaim the material and the students can experience the ephemoral nature of the artwork.
When the images are complete and dry, the next step is to turn them into kindness cards for members of the community. The class will gather and discuss the various communities they are members of, and who is in their communities. The instructor can read aloud or play the video for the short story, “What Does It Mean To Be Kind?” by Rana DiOrio
They will draft a practice note of kindness on newsprint paper. Using lined paper for the younger children would be ideal to help reinforce writing skills. The practice is important to get the artists used to re-working their art to refine it and make corrections when necessary.
The kindness cards should express gratitude and a sense of appreciation for a specific member of one of their communities outside of a traditional holiday; birthday, holidays, etc. The artists should focus on how that person helps or is valuable to them and their community. After the practice writing, the students might need help transferring the message using colored markers onto the card. This is a good time to go around and give individual attention to any students who might struggle with their writing skills, or lack confidence in their writing abilities. Reassurance and positive feedback will help them develop in these areas and are especially important for younger students.
After the message is finalized, the rest of the card can be decorated with an image of the individual or a picture that the artist thinks would make them happy. Acts of kindness or helping could help them develop a narrative scene, or a simple landscape would work just as well. When they leave on day 2, it is important to have the cards go with them to give to the recipient. The sooner they can get the person the card, the better, as waiting an extra week might lessen the interest level. Either way, when teachers and parents get the cards, they will see how their artwork and gesture can affect the person.
The end goal of this project is to create a positive experience where the students realize the power of kindness and empathy while working on the incorporation of text and the power of the message in their own art making process Materials:
Watercolor paper image from Day 1 lesson
Lined paper or newsprint for practice writing
Here, 1st grade students put the finishing touches on their kindness cards.
For this lesson the students will create a kindness card for a member of their community. The first day of the lesson the young artists will experiment with cut tissue paper and water to create a beautiful image. The artists wet the paper using small sponges, and then drag the colored tissue paper over the wet watercolor paper. The longer they leave the tissue paper, the more ink will deposit on the paper. They start with the three primary colors, then after 5-10 minutes they can then layer other colors over top, or fill in the rest of the paper how they choose.
The artists are unaware of the next step, which is an important part of this first day; enabling them to experiment with the materials and process without thinking of where it will wind up, or who will see it. The students will need some extra time cleaning up since this is a project can be a bit messy.
The students review what they know about colors in groups, discussing what they already know about and their “families” , Primary, Secondary, Cool, and Warm. They will practice with the materials and learn how they interact in an aqueous environment. This is an introductory/short-term project that engages the young artists at any level. Certain physical limitations might need special accommodations, but otherwise, this lesson can be completed in almost any learning environment and with any age group. They are never too old to experiment with limited materials and maximize their creativity.
These first graders are hard at work building layers of color using unconventional materials and a new process.