CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

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

Friday, May 16, 2014

Thank You North Country Credit Union!

The art program at CBMS was just awarded an education grant from the North Country Credit Union! We can now purchase the Drum Wool Carder of our dreams. Louet

Needle Felting is a tremendously popular activity in the art studio, and now, with this carder, students can help prepare the wool they use in this process.
Thank you also to Carol Collins, at Singing Spindle Spinnery in Duxbury, for the many hours of patient instruction, knowledge sharing and wool fleece she has provided in support of our artistic pursuits.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Papier Mache' Pleasures

Reclining cat by "H" - grade 5
 The sculpture center recently expanded out taking over the painting table - which happens each time we get going with papier mache'. It can't be helped. CBMS 5th graders are awash with the stuff. Aliens and animals are popping up - once in a while a balloon actually pops - and the joy of the goo makes mess-lovers very happy.
 The clay storage area (the "ware shelf") is also succumbing to mache-in-progress, and we find that the posts for the kiln are especially good for holding gooey sculptures up out of their own puddles.
The suspense is building - will there be time before the sculpture center closes for the year to complete this work? Clay closes first (in two 1/2 weeks) but who's counting?
Look! Yesterday's papier mache' cat caught today's needle-felted guinea pig!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Hey Mr. Spaceman!

How do students get ideas? Sometimes they arrive with an idea fully formed, and just need a green light to get going on the making. Other times students arrive not with an idea, but with a willingness to  engage in artistic play in order to find a way forward.

The fifth grade student who crafted this little astronaut told me the inspiration started with finding that smooth round bead. The bead, larger than most in the drawer, almost looks like it glows. It reminded this artist of an astronaut's helmet.

Alertness is the artistic disposition that causes us to notice possibility. Artists are alert for interesting materials, novel approaches, unusual ideas, and happy accidents. Artists who embody alertness are those who take a picture of the paint spill on the floor, before sponging it up, or rescue an odd object from the recycle bin. Alertness opens the door to serendipity, a phenomenon that could otherwise pass by unnoticed.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Fiber Arts Explosion

5th Grader "J" has been waiting to get his hands on this project from the first day of class: "Altered Stuffies: Soft-sculptures made from old friends"

 Lots happening right now in the Fiber Art Center of our studio-classroom!

 "A" (grade 7)  bought a quilt kit and brought it to class work on - she is tacking down the binding today
 In our studio, fiber artist sew, weave, design fashion, needle-felt and  quilt. We sometimes heat up beeswax and set up the dye for  batik creations (coming around again soon).

Needle-felted butterfly design is felted onto a background (also felt) for a pillow design - by "S," grade 7
 The applique project below depicts a set of symbols (cut from various fabrics) that carry meaning for this 7th grade artist. She is choosing the colors carefully to support the meaning and add to the overall design.

 Our donated dress form is getting more attention these days

It turns out that some middle school students have never practiced threading a needle or tying a knot at the end of a piece of  thread, while others use a sewing machines at home or learn to hand-sew from grandparents. Some students dabble (demonstrating the studio habit: "Stretch & Explore") while others settle in for what is often a long-term project ("Engage & Persist). Both are valid artistic behaviors.


A few students are inspired to try "draping" fabric to create fashion designs, as seen on the popular show "Project Runway," and find they have all they need to give that a try here in the studio (above photos showing yesterday's beginnings; selecting fabrics and incubating ideas,  and today's progress; more purposeful crafting)

I'm happy to observe the interest students have in this area and glad that I expanded the space for the Fiber Arts Center to occupy in the studio so that we can accommodate practice and inquiry here.
Tomorrow: Wool sorting! (Can you smell the lanolin from there?)

Saturday, April 5, 2014


It somehow always surprises me how many middle school students delight in making hand prints. Many absolutely revel in getting paint on their hands and making it a print.
It appears, from my vantage point, that middle school artists are as pleased with themselves as much younger children making this discovery for the first time. Could it be that these older kids never got to try this? Or is it that they never got to do it "over and over" until they were "done." I'm pretty much "done" with making my own hand prints - when did I "finish" I wonder?

This quite large collection of hand prints (above) was made on the day I "opened" the printmaking center for a 7th grade class this trimester. Most have been introduced to Styrofoam printmaking before, so my 5 minute demo was mostly a quick review. 

The students who created this collection of hand prints tired of printing from their drawn images, and moved on to this, which captured their attention for two more classes (or until I put the printmaking center away temporarily, to make things easier on the sub when I was away).
How many days would this activity have held their interest? 

When I unloaded the drying rack, upon my return from a 2-day absence, I pondered these questions, while also turning the expression "caught red-handed" over in my head. The students who made these prints ("the right hand is 'S,' the left hand is 'R,'" they told me) have been in a little hot water recently - getting caught "red-handed" on more than one occasion - is this art illustrating life? It has been observed that "all art is self-portrait"...

I posed the possibility of extending this idea to my classes in a little corner of the whiteboard reserved for possible "Art Challenges." A student made this suggestion one year ("you should give us challenges to do"). The challenge is optional, but can be used as a fall-back assignment if a student is at a loss for what to do. 

Will the boys who made these prints use them as an idea starter? 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Project Runway: Vermont

Teachers in learner-directed classrooms sometimes remark that their students challenge themselves more than the teacher would if the class was teacher-directed. This is certainly the case with a recent 8th grader's work in the Fabrics & Fibers Center.
Jacket - meet skirt!
A fan of the television show “Project Runway,” “S” decided to construct a fitted jacket. She found some beautiful (donated) grey wool, pulled out our (donated) dress form, and began – sans pattern! In a million years I would not have been able to guide her through inset sleeves (I once sewed a sleeve into a garment, inside out, three times in a row!)
Authentic collaboration
Another “true fact” is that artists are inspired by other artists. This is one of the advantages for artists working together in a community studio-setting. So it should be no surprise that once fashion design was undertaken by one student, others were inspired to make clothes as well. While “S” worked on fitting her jacket to a patient model, “C” constructed a cotton skirt to complete the look.
First time using the sewing machine -  to construct a "poncho," while nearby a student works on a series of appliqued pillow designs
In this way, a student who is a beginner can happily work alongside a student with more experience. The experienced student gets company and someone to bounce ideas off of, and the newcomer can gain valuable design and sewing tips. Win-win.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Studio Thinking Habit: "Develop Craft"

My new favorite quote is now installed over the door in the painting center; "I didn't know I could paint until I tried." Isn't this so true? 
Developmental art education theory suggests that children in the middle school years are transitioning from being bold, fearless, self-confident elementary-age artists to self-critical, unsure artists who now observe that their art may not look "real enough" for their maturing inner-critics. 
"J's" Work in progress
I heard an 8th grader  (let's call him "J") make the above statement, as he looked over his almost finished painting, one he rendered over several weeks. He used a photograph as reference, practiced mixing paint colors, noticed how his brush strokes could change with thicker or thinner paint application, drew and re-drew his figure-in-action and learned that wet paint applied over dry paint  can cover mistakes made the day before. He learned that he could work on a practice piece and transfer his knowledge to a final version. He learned to observe closely. Mostly, as the quote illustrates, he learned that to be able to do something, you first have to try. 
Acrylic on canvas - by "J," grade 8
And that is probably not all there is to it, because before trying, you first need to want to do it. Artists in our studio setting are asked to develop intrinsic motivation for learning and making - to find a good enough reason to risk, to try and fail, to work out problems of perception, and to work hard to develop their skills. For some this comes naturally, for others it is an almost daily challenge. I hope "J's" observation, and his painting success,  encourages others to "try."