Tried & True Tips for Art Teachers is a monthly roundup of advice and wisdom
from fellow art teachers, put together by the intrepid Glenda Lubiner.
Textures and Mixed Media
“Tell your own story, and you will be interesting.” — Louise Bourgeois
Happy December! I know that we are all ready for our winter break to celebrate, and relax, rejuvenate, and start planning some great lessons for the new year. This month we will focus on textures, mixed media, and fiber arts. Knowing that fibers and fabrics have always had a purpose in every culture, we can look at all the different cultures around the world and learn some incredible lessons.
From the Adinkra cloth of Ghana to the phenomenal quilts of Gee’s Bend, Alabama (see this month’s Art Print), to the contemporary fiber art of Nick Cave, here are some ideas and tips to use in your classroom that cross the curriculum. There are so many wonderful art projects that you can do with all the “stuff” in your art room to make some amazing pieces of art.
No Guilt Quilt Story quilts in the style of textile artist Faith Ringgold is one way to honor Black History Month in February. Ringgold’s book, Tar Beach, is a great way to start this project. You can use burlap, cotton or felt. Students have also used fabric crayons on white paper, as they love to watch the transfer process from paper to fabric.
For older students, take out that acrylic paint and let them go for it! Sewing machines are not a necessity for this project. It you have an iron and a small budget you can have amazing results. You can use fusible iron-on tape, which can be found, at any store that sells fabric. Iron the quilt pieces together (I would also suggest putting a backing on it) then have the students paint their stories. Let them write their own stories to go with their paintings.
Story quilts can also be connected with the quilts of Gee’s Bend. The women told stories through their quilts and used any fabric that was available to complete their process. All of these lessons connect with math, social studies and language arts.
Tie IT, Dye IT, and Wear IT! Tie-dye is always project, and all students love it. Shibori (another way to tie-dye) is a Japanese dyeing technique. Many Shibori fabrics are dyed with indigo-colored dye, but modern Shibori uses other colors as well.
Many techniques, such as folding your fabric and clamping it with tight bulldog clips or wrapping your fabric around a piece of PVC piping, tying it tightly with sting and bunching it up close together, is another way to produce great designs. An additional way to tie-dye is to actually stitch your fabric … and you can even put a piece of rice on your fabric and stitch around it. Make sure that, if you are stitching, you pull your thread tightly so that you can get a beautiful resist.
Just a few tips before you get started. Make sure to prewash your fabric, as some fabrics have sizing in them. If you are using multiple colors, use squeeze bottles so the colors can stay pure—unless you want them to bleed. Let your dye sit on the fabric for about 24 hours. Leaving it in a plastic bag is a good way not to get the dye on anything else.
Fill a large bucket halfway with white vinegar and fill the rest of the bucket with cold water, leaving a few inches at the top. Let your garment sit in the bucket for about 30 minutes so that the vinegar can set the dye. Rinse, and then wash in the washing machine with cold water and ½ cup of table salt. Don’t forget to add another of cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle. And the most important part … do not wash this garment with other garments for the first wash … just in case!
Mixed-Media Collage Collage has been around since the early 1900s, but it’s time to put a different twist on it. Try a monochromatic collage on newspaper—add fabric, paint and chalk. Make a 3-D collage on a canvas or piece of scrap wood (you can sometimes get these free at hardware stores) and add wire, pieces of plastic, yarn, wallpaper, newspaper, photos, and/or Pariscraft. Other mixed mediums you can use are monoprints, leaves, pieces of books, modeling paste, corrugated cardboard and alcohol inks—the sky’s the limit!
Happy birthday to Georges Seurat (Dec 2, 1858); Otto Dix (Dec. 2, 1891); Wassily Kandinsky (Dec 4, 1866); Friedensreich Hundertwasser (Dec. 15, 1928); Paul Klee (Dec. 19, 1879); Jean-Michel Basquiat (Dec. 22, 1960); and Louise Bourgeois (Dec. 25, 1911).
Arts & Activities Contributing Editor Glenda Lubiner (NBCT) teaches art at Franklin Academy Charter School in Pembroke Pines, Fla. She is also an adjunct professor at Broward College.
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