CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio
CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Pleasure and Pain of Plaster

In an effort to offer students suffering from Spring Fever something to latch onto, I set up a table this morning like so: 
Half papier Mache, half plaster gauze. 
Only one of these faces is cast from a human face, the rest were made from some molds we found in the closet

Vocabulary and concepts were introduced: 
  • Armature - try wire, aluminum foil, wadded paper - let's avoid balloons for now.
  • Mold - try a Styrofoam mask form, a wooden bowl - please protect the mold first with plastic wrap and remember that the mold needs an "exit."
  • Cast - pretty much the same as a mold, only it is done with plaster. Can be poured plaster or plaster-gauze.

 It didn't take long before the "mold" was 7th grade "A," who agreed to have a cast made of his face even though once underway, he remembered that he is claustrophobic.
The plaster heats up a little while it cures. We protected "A's" face with a damp paper towel, and wrapped him up pretty well in some fabric we found in the fiber art center, to keep the drips off his clothing and out of his ears.
Somehow, a student talked me out of a balloon ("to make a piggy bank like I did last year, but smaller. I still have the first one!") And later, a second balloon was issued to make a planetary pinata ("for a social studies project.") I have gotten very reticent about handing out balloons for paper mache, because frequently, nothing comes of them. I hoped my students today would build an armature with other available materials. I let students know that the only reason to use a balloon, really, is if the sculpture needs to be hollow.
Once all the plaster gauze has been smoothed over our volunteer's face, another student volunteers for the best part: reading a story out loud, to sooth and entertain 'A" while the plaster finishes setting up. I knew there would be a good time to pull out my copy of Millions of Cats" (see previous post).

Middle School students thrive on novelty and teamwork. Today's plaster and papier mache set up was just the thing to jump-start some creative thinking and making and to engage students who are well aware that we are nearing the end of another school year. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Gang's All Here!

I guess the word is out: Students can come to use the (their) art studio during "last block," as long as they have "a purpose and a 
pass" and agree to work independently (it is my "planning period" after all!) Today there were more students using the studio during last block than during any of my classes during the day - and unlike any of my regular classes, these students are self-selected and from all grade levels.

Recent student cat-themed work by a collaborative group of 7th grade artists prompted me to head to the attic for my copy of Millions of Cats," which I am gearing up to read when the moment is right. But today it surely felt to me like the refrain in that classic old storybook: "Cats here, cats there, cats and kitten everywhere!" (Only the "cats" were kids!)
For a while, it was a more-or-less closely guarded secret that I would allow students to use the studio during last block (if they promised to work independently and agreed to let me do the same). Through-out  the year I had a small group of faithfuls, who more-or-less kept this information "under their hat." But as the year has worn on there has been a steady increase of students arriving daily, testing to see if the rumor is really true.  

One student comes with his aid, because ever since the quarter changed, he misses his daily dose of drawing, One student brings a friend and enjoys some time away from her core teaching team, one student, who once needed an aid's help, now comes and works independently on an ever-growing collection of slab-built, functional pottery, often given to friends and family as gifts. Groups of 5th graders, who had to wait all year for their turn in art, are making up for lost time by coming to the studio immediately after their regular class is dismissed, getting, in effect, a double block of art (clever 5th graders). Then there are the 7th graders who have a project due for social studies. Their presence swells the studio almost to overflowing and brings along a sense of urgency ("its due tomorrow," they inform me). 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Vermont Art Educator of the Year

Thank you to the Vermont Art Teachers Association (VATA) for naming me the 2015 Art Educator!
Tina Logan (VATA Secretary and Past President) presents me with the very special, ever growing art teacher award-statue at the Shelburne Museum last October. The deal is, I now have to add something to it before returning it for next year's lucky recipient! My students have more than a few ideas about what we should add, including: wings,  a feather tail, googly eyes, a flower garden...how will we decide on just one idea?

My Vermont colleagues surprised me last fall with this honor at the annual  VATA  state conference. Next, I was recognized along with fellow state recipients from the North East Region, at the National Art Education Association (NAEA) Conference in New Orleans. What a thrill!

Nan Hathaway with Becky Wright,VATA Treasurer, Peter Geisser, NAEA Eastern Region Vice President & June Krinsky-Rudder, NAEA Eastern Region Vice President Elect
This is so exciting for my students and I! My students signed their names all around the VATA award certificate before it went into a frame and up onto the studio wall, because we figure; if I am the Vermont Art Educator of the Year, they must be the Vermont Art Students of the Year!
Thank you VATA, and NAEA for this very special recognition, and to all my students, past and present, for teaching me so much.

Friday, April 10, 2015

How To Write An Artist's Statement

This, my friends, is how it's done.

Name: "B" Grade 6
Title: Color
Media: Oil Pastel, Sharpie
Studio Thinking Habit: Express
Artist's Statement: "This piece shows Creativity (color) being trapped by the Modern Mindset (Sharpie). There is a little piece of color that is trying to escape but getting cut off by the black arrow. The arrow symbolizes the normal/average path."

First artist statement of the year for this 6th grader, whose art class started Monday. He will have art for 9 weeks this year.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Pleasures of Printmaking

Brayer Party

Tools and materials are set up assembly-line style. Students start in the "ink zone" and move down the line to the "Clean zone" before pulling their print. Printmakers always wear aprons (to wipe their inky fingers on!)
 Printmaking is always available in our studio, but to drum up business, I set up our spare table in an inviting "Art Trap" (and then I wait for artists to fall into it.) The table space is divided in half: "Ink Side" & "Clean Side." Artists ink up at the left, and then carry their inked printing plate to the right side, wipe fingers, choose paper, and use either a baren or the etching press to apply pressure before pulling their print.

The main attraction at the printmaking center may be this Charles Brand press left in my care when my brother up and moved to Japan

First try by "A," Grade 5

Printmaking is process-rich and comes with its own vocabulary. 
And students find out that a lot can go wrong! Some years ago a helpful student gave me this sign(photo below) to help others avoid the common pitfalls printmakers encounter - it now lives in the Printmaking Center in the studio
"What Went Wrong?" sign by "MM" many years ago!

Monday, March 9, 2015

A Place to Experiment

The Art studio is a place of possibility. Encouraging learners to direct the course of their study means allowing for experimentation and exploration. These behaviors are foundational for artists. The Studio Habit: "Stretch & Explore" defines this creative disposition.
We know that hands-on learning is powerful, and that sometimes making a mistake is the best way to understand something.  But it can still take considerable restraint on the part of the teacher, to let students learn "the hard way."

Recently a cohort of eighth grade clay artists discovered my secret stash of marbles and began to spontaneously conduct all kinds of experiments firing the glass into and onto their clay objects Mostly they dropped the marbles into slab bowls, and observed how the glass slumped and melted to become its own glaze. 
When I found the clay bowl pictured below on the ware shelf, I knew this artist was in for a surprise. Rather than taking her aside and explaining what would happen at 1580 degrees, I prepared the kiln shelf for what I knew (and she did not know) was coming. I placed her bowl up on a stilt, and used a discarded bowl to protect the kiln shelf and neighboring objects from what was to come. 
I'm sorry I didn't get a picture of the result, but this clay artist learned a little about gravity and melting!
6th grade "J" has an unusually large collection of slab-built and wheel thrown objects to glaze. Right now, she is the only dedicated clay artist in her class. Others have tried clay and moved on to other centers.
Experiments in the art studio are "low stakes." If something is tried, and it fails, there is usually enough time to try again. It is by trying again that students make use of the knowledge they have acquired through experimentation. Each artwork is a teacher that provides insight for the next attempt. Students with the opportunity to return time and again to a favorite medium or process build their own repertoire of skills and information to inform their work.
"J's" finished giant bowl

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Outstanding Teacher Award

Many thanks to Crossett Brook Principal Tom Drake for nominating me for the University of Vermont 2014 Outstanding Teacher Award.

From left: Fayneese Miller, Dean, College of Education & Social Services, Nan Hathaway,
Martha Allen, President, Vermont National Education Association, Luke Foley, 2014 Vermont Teacher of the Year 
 I am thrilled and humbled to receive this honor, and my mother, a retired art teacher is over the moon. For an Art teacher to receive this recognition, she notes, is worth an extra measure of celebration. Nationally and historically, Art often receives short shrift (one of Mom's favorite expressions); in budgets, in scheduling, and in recognition. Not so at Crossett Brook Middle School. Thank you to the Washington West Supervisory Union community: administration, fellow teachers, parents, community members, and students, for the strong and on-going support.