Thursday, May 29, 2014

DIY: Stenciled Embroidery

 I don't know if you know this about me, but I'm a songwriter. It's true. Do you really think Emimen came up with all those lyrics on his own? I'm the real Real Slim Shady, ermkay. Don't believe me? Well then, lemme share with you a song I've been workin' on. It's a little tune I like to call The Thus Far Days of Summer Vacay: 

On the first day of vacay,
My summer gave to me
A busted ankle swollen to the size of a panda babe-ee.

On the second of vacay,
My summer gave to me
Flashbacks of last summer when I dropped a food processing blade on the same foot
and a busted ankle swollen to the size of a cat babe-ee 
(which I know is called a kitten but that didn't rhyme so bear with me)

On the third day of vacay
My summer gave to me
A visit to the doctor who said I bruised my ankle bone (what?!)
Flashbacks of last summer when I dropped a food processing blade on the same foot
and a busted ankle swollen to the size of, well, nothing. It healed. End of song.
I do hope your summer is off to a better bruised-boneless start, ya'll!

The hubs and I, when not busting ankles, have found ourselves on the road aplenty thus far. And, as I've chatted about before, one of my fave travel crafts is embroidery (you can read all sorts of fascinating embroideryness here, here and here, kids). Howevers, at the time of said hittin'-the-road-ness, I had nothing in the works. So, on a whim, I grabbed this thrifted stenciled piece with the idea that I'd improve upon it's half-a##'ed stencil-ness as seen above.
 Whatcha see here is a half embroidered piece. On the left side is the original state and on the right is the embroidered upon. Not to sound like a bragosaurus but, despite what the photo shows, the embroidery is a big improvement to the formerly just-stenciled state of the fabric.
See? I told ya's.

Which got me thinking. When I gave my students an End of the School Year survey (an In the Art Room post to come, ya'll), many of them wrote that they wanted to learn more weaving, sewing and "handcrafts", as one put it. I was thrilled to hear that since I loves me some fiber arts (and totally enjoyed teaching it this year!). However, teaching embroidery takes 4.Eve.Rrr...R. And sometimes the results are small due to the size of the stitching and the limited amount of patience (on behalf of both artist and art teacher). 

So, after working on this piece, I had the thought, "Why not have them stencil a design then embroider?" Actually, that's not what I thought at all. What I really thought was, "Why am I thinking about school, IT'S SUMMER!" And then I reminded myself that this is a blog where I pretend that I eat, drink and breathe art education and I needed to shut up before those five folks that read this catch on. 

Oops. Too late.
Ahem. What was I saying? It appears that I fell asleep and that some evil Summer-Loving Art Teacher Maniac took over for a moment. My apologies. 

For this here activity, you're gonna need to gather up the following:
  • Stencils. I had these pre-mades from JoAnn's in my stash
  • Fabric Paint. Left overs from this dress
  • Fabric. I just used random bits from my scrap bin.
  • Embroidery hoops.
  • Stencil sponges. In a pinch, I used my makeup wedges as that's all I had on hand.
  • Embroidery floss.
  • Embroidery needle.

 Because just stenciling one color would be a snooze-fest, I decided to do a little color blend. I think the kids could handle that. Well. Maybe.
 The trick is watching where you stamp so you don't flip that wedge. Because a flipped wedgie just sounds terrible.
 Here's something interesting I noticed: the thicker the plastic stencil, the more underneath bleeding of the paint. The super thin stencils actually worked much better and produced a much more crisp image. Hmm. Not what I was expecting.
 Have you ever embroidered before? I'm gonna assume you've not. So lemme introduce to you The Running Stitch:

1.  Embroidery floss comes in strands of 6 pieces of floss (or thread). Cut your desired length (I usually go from hand to shoulder and clip) and separate 2 strands of floss from the 6. Do this slowly as the floss loves to tangle.

2. Ideally, you should run those two combined strands of embroidery floss over a lump of wax. Bee's wax is preferred. This will prevent the floss from tangling. And tangling sux.

3. Thread your needle with those bee's wax-y stands of floss and double knot one end. Frame your piece in an embroidery hoop. Starting from the back, poke your needle up at your starting point.

 4.  Go about a quart inch and dive your needle down. I'm using mine to outline the edge of the flower. You do whatever you want. Make veins for your leaves, fill in a shape, whatevers. Just be certain to pull that needle down until the knot on the back stops it.
 5.  Now for the next stitch, jump ahead a quarter inch and pop up pulling completely.
 6. And go backward to fill in that gap.
 7.  For your third stitch, pop up from the end of your last stitch. The reason you didn't do this previously is because you would be taking a stitch out. You see, you can never have your needle come out of a hole it just went into, it will take the stitch out. However, it works here because your previous stitch had gone backward. Say what? I don't know, I'm just as confused as you are. Let's keep stitching.
 8.  When you get to the point where your thread is as long as half the length of your hand, it's time to tie off and reload your needle. To tie off, flip your embroidery to the back. Slide your needle under a nearby stitch.
 9.  Pull slightly until there is only a loop of embroidery floss left. Then reverse that needle and go through that loop. Do this twice. That will create a secure knot.

Confused? Me too. Youtube it, kids.
 And there you go! You are on your way to a stenciled embroidery! I'm really excited to play around with this idea of combining these two techniques into one project for the kids. 

What are your thoughts? Got any awesome ideas you'd like to share? Please enlighten this bruised-bone barbarian, would ya?! 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

In the Art Room: Ceramic Painted Elephants of India

My kids busted out the most adorable clay pieces this year, not gonna lie. This project, created by my fourth graders and inspired by the painted elephants of India, was a fave of mine.
Each year in my art room, I like to focus on a particular country and/or continent and introduce the kids to the sights (lots of groovy cast-off souvenirs from the thrift store), sounds (a wee introduction to the languages) and tastes (this year that involved making candy sushi) of that place. The previous school year, we "traveled" to Europe with an emphasis on Paris. At the end of that particular school year, I had a third grade student ask, "Can we please travel to India next year?!"
Photos from National Geographic taken during an annual Elephant Festival in Jaipur, India. Elephants have long been revered in India which has helped them survive in greater numbers than any other country in Asia. That being said, there are roughly 3000 elephants currently held in captivity as apart of illegal animal trafficking. It sucks how, as humans, if we can capture and keep something, no matter how big or how much respect we claim to have for it, we will. Thankfully, the elephants shown in these photos live in a large open area created just for them.

I agreed to the little dude's request, "Sure! Let's learn about India!" and then, weeks later, turned my art room into this...aka NOT India. At our registration night preceding the first day of school, after viewing my art room, said student marched up to me, totally ticked. 

"You said we were gonna learn about India!"

Me (realizing my Big Fat Hair Mistake and thinking fast): "Oh! We are! We're learning about Asia this year."

"Asia IS NOT India."

Me (noting that it was a good think we'd be studying geography): "Well, India is in Asia. So we'll cover it, I promise." 

Little Dude, crossing arms: "We better!"

And, Every. Single. Time. I saw that kid, I swear to you, he asked me, "When are we gonna learn about India?"
Photographing these elephants proved to be tough as it was hard to showcase all of the details some kids put into their work. Like this bowing elephant who is carrying a colorful box with a baby elephant, covered by an umbrella, inside. Both balancing peanuts, by the way. I guess they are those gag-tastic orange Circle Peanuts, hence the color choice.
So then I got an idea. Usually when I introduce the kids to a country that I've not been to, I do a whole lotta homework. But here I had a kid that was not only Indian-American but had also been to India several times! So I asked him to put together a list of the Top 10 Most Important Facts We Should Know about India. Days later, he returned with a list of 20 things as well as a large bag full of beautiful saris and other clothing. 
I've gotten into this habit that if the kids have extra time, they can make whatever they like outta clay. But they have to remember to follow the clay rules: No clay should be thicker than an Oreo cookie; Slip and score everything; If your clay project is wiggly like a loose tooth, it won't make it to the kiln. It'll go to the Clay Fairy. This class was so interested in making elephants that many of them created babies to match. I love the sweet gaze on this mama elephant's face.
With my student ready to present, I had to come up with a coordinating lesson. I didn't want my student to simply present to his classmates and then not have a project tie-in. It was then that I remembered this awesome Painted Elephant lesson created by an art teacher buddy of mine (hey, Debbie!) featured in Arts and Activities a couple years ago. 
This is the elephant created by the student who inspired the lesson!

So just how did this presentation go down in 30 minute art classes when clay elephant makin' was involved? Well, I had the kids gather around our demo table (which is just a rando table in the room. It's crowded but I've found that the Elmo doesn't led itself to demos as it has a hard time focusing on constant movement. Yay, technology.) I told my little presenter that he had 5 minutes at the beginning of each art class to read and explain a bit from his list. When finished, I would jump in and explain the first phase of the project.

Ya'll. This kid was amazing. His passion for his country and culture was so inspiring and touching. The kids were thrilled to learn more about their classmate and asked so many awesome questions. I hated to stop him but told the kids that we'd be learning more in the next coupla weeks. Then we did this:

(In case you didn't know, my classes are 30 minutes in length. Here's what we did the first day:)

1. Divide your clay into two equal spheres (I stopped saying "BALLS" a loooong time ago, ahem) and make two pinch pots of relatively equal size. In an upcoming post, I'll share with you how I teach pinch pot making. Until then, stick your thumb in the sphere, take it out and pinch the sides evenly. 
2. Crumple up a page from one of those countless art supply catalogs you are hoarding and stuff inside one pot.
3. Argh! It's a Monster with Poor Dental Hygiene! Use an old toothbrush and a cup of water to slip and score the rim of both pinch pots. Place one pot atop the other.
4. And close by smearing the clay. If there are gaps, seal those with a clay Band-Aid or a smashed piece of clay that can seal those gaps.
5. Roll that pot back and fourth until it is smooth. Yeah, I know there's paper inside. It's there to stay. Now, wrap a damp paper towel around that bad boy, pop it into a ZipLock bag with your name on it and I'll smell ya later.

6. The next art class, after my student's chat, we were back at it. I gave a super rough example as to how I would make an elephant. However, I emphasized that it was how I would do're a different and much more creative artist than me. I know you'll think of something way better. Smash a sphere of clay into a cookie size for the face. Cut another smashed sphere of clay in half for the ears.
Poor elephant staring at his disembodied legs. Explains the surprised expression.

7. With rulers on the tables, the kids were requested to make four legs as thick as a hot dog and 2" in length. Heads were attached to bodies but we held off on the legs. At the end of Round 2, we put what you see above in the bags. By the way, a whole lotta kids didn't get that far. No worries. The kids know art class is super short and are used to our little sing-song: "Art class is Oooh-ver, But I'm not finished yet!, That is Oooh-kay, We'll finish next time!" 
8. The following class, the kids were ready to add all the fun details to their elephants. I printed off those pics from the National Geographic website and placed them on tables. This really inspired the kids. One thing I pointed out was how many of the elephants were draped in fabric. We looked at the lovely fabrics of the outfits my student brought in. I had tons of textured fabrics on the tables (from doilies to burlap and placements) and showed this kids how to pound the clay onto the texture. this texture could then be used for the fabric on the elephants back. Notice that the clay is super thin. This is because it will be attached to another piece. If it were a thick piece attached to another thick piece, it would explode in the kiln.
9. On our fourth and final day, the kids were allowed to use whatever amount of clay they needed to finish. They added baskets, jewelry, babies, umbrellas, you name it. Once the legs were attached to the bottom, I jabbed a bunch of holes to prevent that sphere from exploding (because an enclosed piece of clay will blow up). Again, we left the newspaper inside. It didn't harm the kiln or the firing. 
I let these guys dry a long time. Like a week and a half. My room was pretty warm and dry due to the constant running of the kiln. But I wasn't taking any chances with these guys exploding.
When this student's umbrella proved to be too top heavy and fell off, we improvised with this drink brolly. She said the holes in the ears of her elephant were going to hold her earrings. Genius.

Once these guys were out of the kiln, the kids were given two art classes to glaze them (although some took a class longer). I give the kids two brush sizes: medium and The World's Smallest Paint Brush. I encourage them to use that wee one for the tiny details and I think they did a good job of that. Also, I am in love with Mayco's Stroke and Coat glazes. I give the kids a wide variety of colors and they love them. Two coats gives a great shine and the color is very vibrant.
Some students opted not to have their elephants so brightly colored. Just a bit of blue eyeshadow to accent my eyes, thank you very much.
And other kids took it to the extreme. I love that bright yellow with the orange earrings!
This girl may have worked on her elephant forever. But look at it! It's amazing! From the basket to the detail of the baby, such awesomeness.
On our last day of All-Things-India, our kid-presenter told us a bit about the clothing he brought. He explained that some of the clothing would be worn at an Indian wedding and that those were big parties that lasted for days.

Me: Oh! I wanna come! Will you invite your favorite art teacher to your wedding party, please?!

Kid-Presenter: Haha! No! You won't be around any more. You'll be old! And probably dead.

Wow. Comments like that make me happy it's summer. Time to live it up before the Grim Reaper arrives!

Until next time, go make yo'self a painted elephant, they're super fun, ya'll!

Monday, May 26, 2014

In the Art Room: The Art Show, Part 1

 It's official, ya'll: School's Out for the Summer! And it really truly couldn't have come at a better time. Our school wide art show was a week before the last days of school which was a good thing since I was basically a useless puddle of exhaustion after the fact. I'm just glad that my Stress-Related Art-Show Eyebrow-Twitch finally stopped as I was tired of the dude at Starbucks thinking I was hitting on him.

Before I share with ya'll the amazing artwork of my kindergarten through 2nd grade students (3rd and 4th grade kiddos and clay projects to be shared in another photo-laden post), I have just gotta give a great big 
Thank You! 
to the dozens of parent volunteers that popped in everyday for two weeks leading up to the art show to hang the artwork. That's right, they hung everything that the kids created all year (my rough estimate was about 2300 masterpieces). I'm super lucky to have such amazing support from the parents of my young artists. Ya'll are the bestest!

Okay, without further ado, I present to you the masterpieces outta Kindergartenland!
 In kindergarten, I like to start the school year with a great big fat unit on line. We sculpt with lines, paint a pattern of lines and create an abstraction of lines. These bright and happy paintings are always a favorite of mine.
Another fave this year was clay butterfly sculptures. I really love that crayon/watercolor technique for the little ones. It seemed to add more depth to their texture than glaze would. That painting on the right is another project from our line unit.
For Read Across America week, I wore my Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus dress and we created these cuties. This was a big hit with the kids and parents alike. We had a lot of fun trying out our wet-on-wet watercolor skills with this project. Look below and you'll see how they did that in the background of their work.

 One thing I love about having the parents hang the artwork is that each hangs the pieces a little differently. I find that this makes for more dynamic displays from class to class. Foxy lesson here and Starry Night Collages here.

 This year, I made signs for the art show that were inspired by that AMAZING art teacher over at Painted Paper. When I saw her post on art show signs, I knew I had to use our stash of leftover painted papers to make my own.

 Onto the 1st grade artwork. The little ones were so busy this year! One of our most recent masterpieces were these koinobori that we were able to hang in a large bank of windows. Details on that fun and quick lesson here.
 My 1st grade started the year creating those hilarious Viking Self Portrait collages with Rebecca, my former student teacher (who is RIGHT NOW interviewing for her own art teacher gig, wish her lucky, ya'll!). Details on those Starry Night Collages here and Party Pandas here
 Our second round of self-portraits were of a Japanese theme with ourselves dolled up in kimonos. Details on that lesson here
 When I was absent for a couple of days attending the NAEA conference in San Diego, I left my "But I'm Not an Artist!" sub directions on teaching the kids to draw these pandas. And, much to her surprise, her drawings, as well as the kids, turned out great! This also meant that I could come back to work with a lesson already started and simply bust out the watercolor paints for the kids to finish them. Details on those ceramic stars to come.
One final look at 1st grade before we move onto the...
 Again, the idea for these signs came from Painted Paper. Each set of signs was hung right above the hallways leading to that grade level. 
I really loved the work that my 2nd graders created this year. Some of my favorites were their circle loom weavings and their cherry blossom paintings. 

 Every year, I have my 1st through 4th grade students right an autobiography to hang with their artwork. This also proved to be a great sub lesson when I was out for a different occasion. Can't remember what. Booze Cruise, maybe? Wishful thinking. My 2nd grade also took part in the Viking and Kimono fun. 
 We hang ALL the artwork that the kids have created ALL year. Which means that one class can take up a whole lotta wall space. I have yet to find what sticks the best to cinderblocks in the muggy pre-summer heat of our halls. We've tried every kind of tape, that blue sticky stuff by Dapp, double-sided tape by 3M and hot glue. While hot glue works great, it's a headache trying to get it off the walls. Next school year, I'm begging and pleading for more cork strips.
 Paper marbling was a fast and fun project to teach about the Japanese art of Suminagashi
 I liked this lesson so much, I blogged about it twice. 
 I've always struggled with a circle loom weaving lesson where I loved the results as much as the kids did the process. In the past, we wove on CD's and unpainted white plates. The results were fine...but when we painted the plates this year, it seemed to take the weaving to a whole new level. 
And there you have it, ya'll! The 2-dimentional masterpieces by kindergarten through 2nd grade. Stay tuned in the next coupla weeks as I share the rest of the art show as well as lessons with ya. 

Until then, how do you know it's officially summer? Well, it's 1pm and I'm still in my pajamas! May your days be filled with pjs and craft projects, teachery folk! For the rest of ya, take a day or three off, you've earned it. Tell your boss a crazy art teacher said so!