Friday, June 20, 2014

In the Art Room: The Best Dressed Art Teacher!

Hey, kids! That super cute art teacher you see before you (who I think could totally pass as a younger, cuter kid sis of mine), you've actually seen before on this here blog. You might have even voted for her during a lil Best Dressed Art Teacher Contest I hosted I while back. Face not ringing a bell? 

How abouts now? She looks just a pinch different, doncha think? It's amazing what a good eyebrow pluckin' will do.  Meet Natalie Friedl, Best Dressed Art Teacher extraordinaire! I was lucky enough to interview Natalie about her all-around art-teaching-awesomeness and I'm so excited to share her words of wisdom with ya'll today. So, without further jibber-jabber, take it away, Natalie!
Hi, guys! I'm Natalie Friedl and I've been teaching elementary art for 10 years, 9 of these glorious years have been at the wonderful Torrence Creek Elementary school in Huntersville, NC (right outside of Charlotte).  I am originally from NE Ohio where I graduated with an Art Ed. And Studio Arts degree from Kent State University.

I'm also married to the hunky Alan Friedl and we have a beautiful 5 year old princess named Felicity.
Me and the check we gave to Second Harvest Food Bank from our very first Empty Bowls night.
I teach the wonderful world of ART to Kindergarten through 5th grade artists at Torrence Creek Elementary School and have since the doors opened in 2005.  We are a Charlotte Mecklenburg School.  For the last eight years our population has been about 1200 students and this is our first year with half of that.  This year was very busy: in the fall I presented a workshop called "Hooray for Clay" with my partner-in-art, Alicia Waters, at the North Carolina Art Education Conference.  And in the spring, I presented our school's first Empty Bowls success at the NAEA conference along side 5 other wonderful CMS art educators.'s been a whirlwind of fun and art! I wouldn't have it any other way!
One of my favorite pics of a students empty bowl with her artist statement. To find out more about the Empty Bowls project and have your students participate, visit their website. 
  I love being an Art Teacher and have two important pieces of advice to other art educators:

Make like minded friends.
Don't get me wrong non-artsy people are good folks too but artsy-smartsy peeps just get our craziness! The best thing I ever did was to become friends with my BFF Sarah Beirne ( while in art ed classes at Kent State University and then meet Wade Cox at the NAEA convention in New Orleans and help to hire Ms. Alicia Waters (  These 3 amazing art educators are my ART TEACHER BFFs!  They are my support system for great ideas, new lessons, CRAZY talk, venting, NAEA and NCAEA travel buddies but most importantly my friends.

My team is a WONDERFUL support system too! Mrs. Joyce Mutter, our technology teacher and Beth Smiley, our media specialist help me to carry out my ideas into real life success along with being the best co-workers and friends a girl could ask for.
They get my crazy and we all need that.
Get involved.
Become a NAEA member, go to the conferences, become a state art ed association member and travel to their conferences or if you are lucky like me your district has art education professional developments. Shout out to Cheryl Maney - Visual Arts and Dance curriculum specialist!
By joining these organizations and attending their functions you become knowledgeable on what's new and you meet important people!
 Just like I did when I met my new friend, Cassie Stephens!
 Now, about Natalie's Frida Kahlo look...

I love teaching art to the little artists of TCES and this Halloween I decided to take a sick day to enjoy my favorite holiday. Well, I was so happy to find that Frida Kahlo herself had recently become a substitute in our system.  I quickly called her and she agreed to sub for me on Halloween!

I was sad to miss the fun but my students filled me in on her life, stories she told, new Spanish words they learned and completed the class with an oil pastel drawing of her including her pets, colorful tissue paper flowers and glitter galore! Most TCES artists loved her thick Spanish accent too!

To this day the kids mix my name up with Frida by calling me "Frida Friedl" and it cracks me up because I remind them that I was absent that day. So FUN! 
The amazing artwork that resulted in Frida's substituting stint.

Frida Kahlo has always been one of my favorite artists because of the vibrant colors she uses and her Mexican culture. Not to mentions, she was an amazingly creative and strong woman. After I traveled to Mexico several times I was under Frida's spell.  She is a colorful person to look at herself from studying many of her self-portraits.  It was a no-brainer for me to dress up as her.
 I drove to school with a black wig tied up with flowers, a large uni-brow and bright red lipstick. As I entered the school my Spanish began to flow and Frida Kahlo was in full force for the rest of the day.  We learned about Frida's life, studied many of her self-portraits and created a portrait of her with one of her pets using oil pastels, tissue paper flowers and GLITTER.  We even listened to Mariachi folk music as we created and also learned about El Dia de Los Muertos.  It was a fun and an exhausting day that left the art room floor very messy yet sparkly.

This was my first time--but not my last time-- dressing up in full costume as a famous artist. I have a lot more up my sleeve for next school year! I do enjoy wearing art themed shirts such as Warhol's soup cans, crayon shirts, Make Art Not War, Keep Calm and Teach Art.  I am not a stranger to crazy hats, crazy hair or crazy socks days either.  There have also been many a time where I have worn complementary colors and had reindeer antlers coming out of my head.

I urge all ART TEACHERS to dress up! The kids EAT IT UP and will remember more from you teaching with a unibrow than your paint-splattered apron!

(OMG, yous guys, don't you LOVE Natalie?! Can I puh-lease adopt her as my kid sister??)
I have tried a variety of super fun activities but the art making projects that mean the most are the ones in which we create art to help others.  Most recently our school participated in students rebuild in which we created enough magazine beads to give clean drinking water to over 40 people in Tanzania ( This year was also our first Empty Bowls night in which the entire school created or helped create a bowl and then they were sold and auctioned off.  We raised over $2,000 for Second Harvest Food Bank!!!

 Some other very meaningful art experiences that we have participated in are cards for Vietnam Veterans and The Memory Project's - books for Africa.The first picture is of the magazine beads my students made for students

Thank you SO MUCH, Natalie! You are truly an art-teachin' inspiration! Her students and colleagues   are so lucky to have her, doncha think?! Unibrow and all. 

Now, this isn't the last you'll be seeing of Natalie and some other folks from the Best Dressed Contest -- oh no! They'll be featured in non-other than SchoolArts Magazine thanks to the editor Nancy Walkup. How exciting! I'll be sure to share that with you in the near future. Oh and if you need more art-teacher-dressin'-craziness, go here, ya'll. It's like a Starter Kit to Crazy Town. Until next time, ya'll!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

In the Art Room: I Scream, You Scream

Ima gonna tell you a dirty lil secret of mine: during the summer months, I seek out and devour ice cream on a daily basis. I mean, I'm like some sort of rabid dog. Think Cujo but with eyeliner and a sailor's mouth if anyone should cross my whipped-cream-cherry-on-top path. There is no screaming for ice cream with me cuz that would be too easy. Oh no. If I'm refused my daily dip, I can be reduced to ugly-crying like that time at the McDonald's drive-thru when I was nightmarishly informed that their soft-serve machine was down. Hot, grimy, ugly tears.
Tell me, what kids don't love the ice creams as well? During our annual art show (deets here and here, ya'll), we also host an Ice Cream Social. So, the day before the art show, with all artwork complete and hung in the halls, I got the crazy notion that we should do one more masterpiece in honor of our said social. And, in 30 minutes or less, my 3rd and 4th grade kiddos busted out these bad boys. They really were the cherry on top of our art show.
So just how did the kids create these super delish paintings in 30 minutes? Well, Ima bout to tell ya. Let's start with my sad list of end-of-the-school-year/we've-just-about-used-everything-up supplies:

*  Rectangular white paper. I had actually run out of normal sized white paper and was reduced to using rando odd sizes found in my storage closet. These were about 5" X 9".

*  Broken crayons. I never buy crayons because we rarely use them and I'm always donated bags of 'em at the end of the school year by classroom teachers. Although, this upcoming school year, I think I'll invest in some construction paper crayons.

*  Watercolor paint. What's left of it, anyway. At the end of the school year, my trays were empty. So I busted out these odd bottles of watercolor I'd found at the back of my closet and they worked great. The kids knew they were working with a limited palette and to make the best of it.

*  Paint brushes. Duh.
For directions, I chatted with the kids for a hot minute on the whole crayon resist thing (they've been down that road before so they knew the routine) and how a whole lotta pressure was going to be needed to "put a raincoat on your paper" to help it repell the paint. Then we chatted about ice cream flavors and background designs. I really kept the chat short as they only had 30 minutes to create these 'creams.
I suppose a good art teacher woulda chatted about Wayne Thiebaud but I've never claimed to be a good art teacher. 
The kids spent a lot of time in watercolor land this school year. I loved seeing them using all the skills they had learned like this wet-on-wet background.
And this splatter-painted one.
Once complete, I mounted the kids' work on whatever construction paper I had left before hanging up this display outside the cafeteria where the ice cream social was hosted. 
Dude, this painting reminds me of the time my mom bought me an ice cream cone at Orange Julius ('member them?) at the mall after relentless begging. The moment she handed it to me, I took one lick and shoved all those neat spheres of ice cream to the floor (notice I said "spheres" instead of "balls". Who else has learned the hard way never to use the word "balls" around 10 year old boys?). My mom just gave me a "Really?" while the angst-ridden dressed-like-Madonna (it was the 80's, ya'll. Girls were either on Team Madonna or Team Lauper) rolled her eyes and yelled: I NEED ANOTHER ICE CREAM CONE! to her cohorts. To this very day, I prefer non-tongue-push-over-soft-serve for that very reason.

Wait, where was I again? Geesh, sounds like someone needs therapy (who am I kidding, sounds like someone needs more therapy). Back to the paintings: there you have it! A super easy and quick painting that's just as delightfully fun to create as it looks. Happy Ice Scream Painting, ya'll!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

What I Wore #102 on a Charleston Vacay

 Day One of our Charleston Adventure: Knowing that Charleston this time of year is like a fiery inferno, I decided to wear my lightest vintage dresses and my comfiest of walking shoes. Thankfully, being right on the water, there is always a fantastic breeze that keeps you from overheating and sweating. Cuz when that happens to me, I'm usually done for the day. dress: vintage, found on etsy; belt: made by me; sandals: Chacos

Well, hello, long lost friends! I do believe I've said those very same words or similar at the start of each blog post of late. It seems that since summer began a coupla weeks ago, things have sped up around here instead of slowing down. Between a trip home to Indiana, a vacation to Los Angeles with the hubs and this voyage to Charleston with my muthahs, I need a break from this break! I'm ready to start plotting next school year, stitch up some dresses and, well, do nothing. Which is really what I do best.

That all bein' said, I just had to share with you my vacay to Charleston, South Carolina. I'd never been before and I found it to be absolutely amazing. Have you been? We stayed three whole days and managed to cram in so much goodness. I know I searched the interwebs far and wide for what to I thought I'd share what we did so you don't have to do the same when planning your trip to Charleston! Oh and you'll have to lemme know what I missed out on as I'm sure we'll be making a return trip. Which is your fave restaurant (ah, so many choices!), fave beach or fave thing to do? I'd love to hear from ya! Until then, here's our Adventures in Charleston in Three Days!
 Day One: Staying in Charleston is mucho money during the peak season (and it's pretty much always peak season cept for Jan and Feb!). I'm talkin' like $200 a night. We weren't about to do that, we had souvenirs to buy! So we stayed just a couple exits outside of town and rented a car. The traffic was never an issue and there was always plenty of parking...even if you did have to pay for it.
 This photo cracks me up as it sums up Charleston in one shot: palm trees, beautiful homes and America. Our first order of business was a carriage ride. Now, ya'll, I'm not much of a carriage ride kinda gal, but this one was great. We took a 60 minute tour of the city that included Rainbow Row and Battery Park as well as quaint little side streets. We used Palmetto Carriage rides and I'd have to recommend them. They treat their mules so well and our guide was a history major so dude knew his stuff. 
 You can't go to Charleston without getting a big fat hairy history lesson. Much of America's history is not pretty. This town does an excellent job of not sweeping any ugly parts of American history under a rug. Time has stood still in this town and it's like revisiting another era. These colorfully painted houses are on Rainbow Row. These houses were in a pretty sad state until they were purchased by a group of ladies in the 1940s who painted them bright colors and essentially "flipped" them. They've kept their bright colors since.
 After our carriage ride, we hit the City Market which has been going strong since 1804. It's a covered open air market with vendors selling anything from flea market fair (we all picked up a hat quickly realizing that the sun was going to be relentless) to handmade goods. Of course, the market is best known for the artists creating sweetgrass baskets which you can see behind the painted portrait of the woman above. I loved those murals above each entrance to the market's buildings.
 After an incredible lunch at Brasserie Gigi (seriously, the food in Charleston was always amazing!), we decided to walk back to some of the sights we saw on our tour.
 Like St. Philips Church which can be seen from just about anywhere in Charleston and made for a good landmark for us...especially since I have no sense of direction.
 There are seriously churches everywhere in Charleston which is how it got the nickname The Holy City. There wasn't too much of a draw to come to the New World for the Europeans back in the day as getting here meant spending months on a boat with a high chance of death. And even when ya got here, you still had to battle the elements and those other folks that where already calling this place home (another ugly side of American history). However, one big draw was religious freedom. With that promise, many folks did take the leap to come to American with many of them calling Charleston home. This here super sweet pink church is the French Huguenot Church.
We also went through the Old Slave Mart Museum which was incredible. Slave auctions where held inside this museum because the auctioning off of slaves was outlawed in public view. Formerly, people were bought and sold all along this street. Inside this museum, you can hear the actual recordings of former slaves that were recorded by the WPA in the late 1930s. I found this museum so heartbreaking. I don't think you can take a trip to Charleston without going through it.
 After the museum, we strolled down to Waterfront Park and watched the kids playing in the fountains. One of my favorite things about this city are the large beautiful trees. Imagine how much history those trees have lived through!
 My mom and mother in law looking very Laverne and Shirley, my fave rerun as a kid.
We ended our day with a big ole mean at Hominy Grill. Kids, you go there, you order you some okra and shrimp beignets. And fried green tomatoes. Oh! AND shrimp and grits. And don't forget to have desert(s). Amazingly good.
 Day Two: We hit Folly Beach bright and early. It was such a beautiful beach in a fun little beach town. I would go back there and stay longer if I could. dress: vintage, gift from a friend (thanks, Cynthia!) and redone here; belt: made by me, details here
 Folly Beach was a 20 minute drive from Charleston. The pier was a lovely sight.
 Mom and I chatting about who-knows-what.
 A view from the pier.
I somehow convinced my mom to carry all of my stuff. She's got a sweet sherpa thing happening here. This photo cracks me up.
We strolled the beach for a coupla hours before heading in to the town for lunch. We ate at Folly Beach Crab Shack and I swear, the hush puppies were the most amazing thing ever. My moms-in-law spotted this fun place and I had to snap a picture.
 A short drive down the road brought us to Morris Island lighthouse. This nonfunctioning lighthouse is now submerged and the community is attempting to bring it back to it's full glory. Personally, I totally dig it's shabby chic appeal.
 While lighthouse gazing, we spotted a family of dolphins not far from the shore having a big time. This was the highlight of my trip to Folly Beach, it was so sweet.
 See ya, Folly! We spent our afternoon shopping on King Street popping in and out of shops. We also took in the Gibbes Museum of Art which had a fabulous collection of paintings and sculptures that captured the history of Charleston. Then we promptly pigged out at our fave restaurant of the trip Fleet Landing
Day Three: So mom and I got this crazy notion that we should walk the 5 mile Cooper River Bridge (aka the Arthur Ravenel Junior Bridge). In the middle of the morning. On the hottest day of our trip. My moms-in-law, being much smarter than us, opted to go on another carriage ride. Smart woman. The walk was beautiful and hot. 
 No, this isn't the view from the bottom after my mom tossed me over it. I snapped this on our boat tour later in the day. It's this the coolest bridge ever? Sorry Golden Gate. You're cool too.
 That's a lotta walkin'.
 A mom and me selfie attempt.
Once our walk was over and we picked up my not-nearly-as-sweaty-and-exhausted mother-in-law, we hit Dixie Supply Bakery Cafe for a Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives experience. This place is definitely a dive (I got the side-eye from my mom when we entered the place) but the food was delish. After that, we headed over to the pier for a boat tour. This here is Fort Sumter as seen from our boat.
Having eaten so much shrimp on this trip, I thought it only right to snap a pic of a shrimp boat being followed closely by a buncha hungry birds. After our boat tour, we dined at Blossom and had the best crab cakes ever. Holy cow, I'm getting hungry just thinking about it! That evening we did a ghost tour which was really more like a history tour. It was so fun to hear the spooky side of Charleston.

Our flight outta Charleston wasn't until noon, so we popped back into town and enjoyed their Saturday Farmers Market and one last stroll through the historical streets. It was such a fun place with so much to do! I don't think we could have crammed in any more but that's okay. Gives us a reason to go back!

Monday, June 9, 2014

In the Art Room: A Pinch Pot Mascot

Well, kids, as you read this, I'm heading out the door and takin' a vacay to charming Charleston with a coupla muthahs. That'd be my dear, albeit totally crazy, mother and my mother-in-law (who will be in need of your prayers as she contends with a double dose of deranged). If one of us doesn't make it back, it'll be my mom who I'll prolly leave tied to a chair in the hotel room with tape over her mouth (true story: in elementary school, my mom talked so much the teacher resorted to taping her mouth closed. She promptly chewed through the tape and commenced chatting. This is what I'll be dealing with). Wish me luck, kids!

In the meantime, I thought I'd share with you these here 2nd grade Pinch Pot Tigers! At my school, the tiger is our mascot so the kids were totally excited to bring the Johnson Tiger to life. Some kids went the traditional Bengal orange and black tiger route...
While others created a white tiger. Did you know that the white of the tiger's fur is a recessive gene? Some mistake them for being albino but that's not so. Many white tigers are bred but, because there are so few of them, there is usually inbreeding. This results in all sorts of birth defects and also has scientists considering renaming the White Tiger the Kentucky Tiger (so sorry, Kentucky friends. That was a low [although hilarious, right?!] blow).
The kids loved creating these tigers. I was so thrilled to see them painstakingly paint those wee tiger faces. That's when you know they are in love with their project, when they put forth so much effort. 
So just how'd they do it? Well, we started out with these supplies:

* Low-fire clay (I'm a Cone 06 gal, myself)

* Toothbrush (preferably your mom's or mother-in-laws, depending on who you're ticked at)

* A skewer

* Aqua

* A clay mat. Canvas works great.

To create these bad boys, we used 2-3 thirty minute classes. On the first day, we made a pinch pot and tiger legs. For the pot, I tell the kids to begin by rolling a sphere and placing it in the palm of your hand. Notice that the sphere isn't perfect. I try to discourage the kids from rolling a perfect sphere because they will do it FOREVER thus drying out their clay and using up precious art time.
Next up: stick your thumb in that sphere of clay until it looks as though your thumb has an afro. Do not puncture your thumb all the way through your clay as that would result in a clay donut. And don't nobody like clay donuts. They's nasty.
Pop that thumb out and use your pinching fingers to evenly pinch the sides of your pot. It should be of cookie-thickness. Once completed, the kids are given another piece of clay. For this, they'll divide the clay in half and roll two coils that are about 4" in length. I have rulers out on the tables for this reason. Once complete, the kids stack their pot onto their coils, wrap it in a damp paper towel and put it in a labeled zip lock bag until next class.
The following class, we chat about making tiger faces. I don't like to tell the kids an exact way of creating a face so we go through many options. When working with clay, I like to stress that you can make anything outta clay with a sphere, a slab or a coil. We chat about the different features a tiger might have and what, out of those three things, we might use to create them.

When demoing, I always stress that you gotta slip and score. I have the kids use the toothbrush and that cup of water for this purpose. After this chat, the kids work on creating the heads. Because of the detail they like to create, most take the entire time making that clay head. Once finished, it gets placed in the zip lock bag along with the pinch pot and coils.
This young artist didn't like my cartoon-y version of a tiger. I had a buncha tiger photos on display as well as one pulled up on my brand new big screen T.V. (ya'll, this thing makes me feel like I'm in a sports bar, it's that huge). I love how she created a three-dimensional muzzle for her tiger and that painting job, gah! I love my 2nd graders. 
On the final day, we toothbrushed and added the heads and legs. Now, I'm not gonna lie, those legs had been in that zip lock bag for days. So they were a little dried out and noncooperative. To solve that, some kids opted to have their tigers laying down (as the clay was too weak to support the pinch pot) while others crumpled up newspaper and used that to prop up the tiger's legs. 
After the legs and head were attached, some kids created a tail. I had to really encourage them to make strong thick tails that did not protrude. So most rolled a coil for the tail and then turned that into a spiral before attaching to the pot. If the kids happened to have extra time when finished, I told 'em that they could create something to go along with their tiger. However, I reminded them that I'd only fire it if they made sure to slip and score. 

This young artist created a baby tiger to accompany the mama. 
And this one decided to have a mouse riding on the back of the tiger.
Another Kentucky Tiger.
Once the tigers were complete, the kids glazed then with Mayco's Stroke and Coat. It's my fave as the colors are just perfect. The kids spent an art class with the World's Smallest Paint Brushes to create these lovelies. When it comes to glazing, I only have two rules: Don't Glaze the Bottom (because the glaze, when melted, will adhere to the kiln shelf) and Don't Layer Three Zillion Different Colors of Glaze as this will result in an unappealing mix of muddy colors once fired. 

And there you have it, friends! A Pinch Pot Mascot that's both functional ("oh, my tiger can hold my earrings!") and adorbs. Until next time, wish me luck with those mothers and have yourself a great week, ya'll!