We have been trying to get a “Fabrics and Fibers” center established in the CBMS art studio. I found four nice wooden looms in the supply closet. One of our families donated a sewing machine. I ordered a good assortment of yarn and brought my thread rack in from home. Our new center is starting to look good. Interest was so high when I brought out a box of fabric scraps that we now have supply-and-demand problems. Not enough fabric. Not enough looms. Not enough sewing needles. We love our sewing machine, but competition is keen for it, and we could really use a second.
5th graders co-sewing
So I wrote a grant. We are waiting to hear if it will be successful. In the mean time, fabric artists are learning to make cardboard looms. Would-be sewing machine operators are practicing hand-sewing techniques, and students are starting to bring in fabric scraps from home. Artists are very resourceful people.
A 7th grader wandered in the other day to show me his collection of “wallpapers.” From a two-pocket folder he began to produce drawing after drawing, all made on graph paper – I think there were 100 of them. They looked like tessellations, or fractal designs. He told me he has been doing these since he was 5 years old, with his mother, at the kitchen table. His mother learned how from her mother, and when he has kids, he told me, he would teach them.
I was so impressed by these intricate, carefully constructed geometric designs that I asked “C” to come and show my 8th grade class, because they were sure to be impressed and might even become inspired to try to make some of their own. “C” commanded the attention of my first block class like I never have. He said that between his mother and him, they have over 900 designs. When they get to 1000, they are going to make a book. Three books, actually, one with his designs, one with hers and a third of their combined efforts.
“C” came back at the end of the day to present his work to another group of 8th graders, and offered to stick around and get them started, if they wanted to practice a little. He came back the next day too, leaving a starter design for me to try (I think it was a test – he chose the tiniest graph paper and a tricky design).
Some of the designs are pure pattern – others are geometric abstractions inspired by objects or ideas that surround “C” - a vase in has kitchen, his father's military insignia, a video game character. Older designs are on larger grid graph paper, many of these he colored in – newer ones are on smaller grids and drawn in pencil but finished in ink. He uses a special pen, one that doesn't bleed through the paper, and he prefers a mechanical pencil – the quality of the line is more uniform.
After looking at these beautiful drawings, trying to grasp how they were made, and listening to “C's" story, I had many questions, but my last one was “do you have a T.V.?” I'm sure you can guess the answer.