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Nov 2017

Abstract Felt Designs Inspired by Wassily Kandinsky

Abstract Felt Designs Inspired by Wassily Kandinsky

As the author for the “Stepping Stones” column, I recently shared that some of my favorite lessons to teach were fiber-arts based, but with the time crunches and challenges with storage, I was not always able to work with the materials in a traveling setting.

I did manage to work with yarn, fabric, and other natural/synthetic materials here and there in the past, but like any enthusiastic art teacher, I wanted to incorporate more within my classes.

There are plenty of projects on blogs and social-media sites that have caught students’ interests with weaving, sewing and other craft traditions, and it makes my heart melt to see all the exciting projects shared!

While pondering the concepts of abstract art, I developed an idea to introduce a felt project to my fourth- grade students. When they were in second grade, they had learned about abstract art and design, but now a few years older, I wanted to revisit the concept by viewing the painting creations of painter, Wassily Kandinsky. He was inspired by jazz music, which is evident in the shapes, lines, and colors applied in his abstract paintings.

On the first day, we began by looking at paintings created by Kandinsky and discussing how we were able to see the movement within his shapes and lines in his paintings. In YouTube, there is an animated video called “The Kandinsky Effect” by ManuMeyre (youtu.be/aMiiKLyIR88) that demonstrated how jazz music could influence the way a painting can be created. The animation was based off of Kandinsky’s painting Composition VIII. Afterwards, we viewed slides of Kandinsky’s artworks. The students had a blast pointing out paintings that appeared to have been made during a slow or fast-paced moving song.

After talking about how Kandinsky’s paintings were created with the influence of music, we moved on to discuss how the same idea could be used by creating an abstract collage out of felt and yarn. This was when the students’ eyes opened up and the questions were flying. Since it was a new material for the students to work with. Their curiosity was piqued.

Students enjoyed working with the felt and creating their own Kandinsky-inspired abstract designs.

One of the things I like about working with felt is that it’s very forgiving. It is easy to cut, plus you can arrange your pieces before gluing anything down. Students were asked to create their own abstract collage using the felt and yarn provided. With this being a new material, students were to explore how to design their pieces before gluing pieces down. As an added bonus, we listened to music in the background to help inspire their designs!

In demonstration, I reminded students about foreground/middle ground/ background of layers. Students were shown how even in Kandinsky’s paintings, shapes and lines were painted down in layers. Shapes can overlap or converge to make different shapes!

For the remainder of class, students began drawing and cutting out the shapes for their abstract designs. They were given a full sheet of felt to glue down on a piece of polystyrene for stability, which also made it easier to store on the drying rack. Here’s a tip: when using markers to draw their shapes, remind your students not to press hard with the markers when drawing, or the ink could bleed through the felt and show up in the finished product.

On the second day of class, we revisited Kandinsky’s work and focused on the lines used within his paintings. In Composition VIII, he used multiple bumpy and wavy lines to help unify the space. To create the lines in the students’ artworks, we used yarn to bring out some of the shapes and lines within their artworks.

If you’re interested in integration with math, you can identify line segments, rays, angles, perpendicular, and parallel line used within the artworks.

One of the things I noticed with the students was that they love using symbols and shapes they are familiar with. Here and there, emojis were popping up, flag designs from their heritage, a Poké Ball, and all while having fun creating their own designs. These little pop-up designs did not go against any object and I like seeing how the students enjoyed adding their own little elements to their artworks.

On the third and final day, students added their finishing touches. It was their choice whether or not to add a felt frame or additional shapes/lines. To wrap up the lesson, students described what influenced the creation of their pieces. Was it the music they listened to in class? Did they share their interests in their abstract designs? Writing about their artworks is a good way to have them reflect on their development of their creations.

Overall, the students had fun. They talked about how much they enjoyed working with the felt material and creating their own designs. Students would comment in the hallway how much they couldn’t wait to get back to art to continue their pieces. If you have a pile of scrap pieces of felt that need to be used, this is a great project to use all your recycled pieces! 


Wassily Kandinsky (Russian-born French; 1866–1944). Composition VIII, 1923. Oil on canvas; 55.125″ x 79.125″. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.





Felt and yarn were new materials to them, so when students learned they were to create an abstract collage out of them, their eyes opened wide and the questions started to fly.



Elementary students will …
• identify how movement is shown in abstract art created by Wassily Kandinsky.
• demonstrate how to create an abstract artwork with the use of felt.

• Creating: Exploring and inventing art-making techniques and approaches.

Draw points, lines, line segments, rays, angles (right, acute, obtuse), and perpendicular and parallel lines. Identify these in two-dimensional figures.

• 9″ x 12″ polystyrene foam sheets
• Different colored 9″ x 12″ felt sheets
• Scraps of colored felt, felt glue
• Stencils of different sized circles
• Markers

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Arts & Activities Contributing Editor, Heidi O’Hanley (NBCT), teaches art at Brodnicki Elementary School in Justice, Illinois. Visit her blog at www.talesfromthetravellingartteacher.blogspot.com.


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