CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

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

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Controlling Materials

Due to considerable angst (on my part) surrounding the use (and abuse) of craft sticks in the studio, I have decided to eliminate them as staple in the Sculpture Center. In their place: Cardboard Sticks!
I wish I had taken some photos yesterday, to prove my case. Not only did I sweep up a heaping handful of perfectly good craft sticks at the end of the day, but I found many in the recycle bin (not recyclable), and more in the trash. This bothers me, but not as much at what was being made with them. Sticks were being sharpened to dangerous points, contraptions like crossbows, slingshots and other shooting mechanisms abounded. These are hard to justify as art. Even as "art," although students try to make a case for them (they can be very convincing). 
So - as art teacher and supreme commander, I have decreed the end of craft sticks in our studio. I eagerly await "what's next" in the sculpture center, as students integrate their new construction medium. 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Calling Bob Ross!

In the Style of Bob Ross, By 8th Graders "L" & "A"
Look what happened in the studio yesterday. I didn't know our acrylic paints (or these two artists) could do that!

Friday, October 26, 2018


Grades 5-8 contribute if they choose
Every October, artists around the world are challenged to make a drawing a day for the month. 

Straw-blowing idea-starter, grade 7
A few years ago prompts were added, but only as suggestions (today's prompt is "stretch.")
Sumi-e, grade 5
CMBS students have taken up the challenge with gusto, so we started a display and add to it each day. It has already outgrown the first bulletin board, and reaches around the corner to an adjacent space!

Pen & Ink
INKTOBER makes now the perfect time to introduce ink drawing with feather quills and steel nibs, calligraphy, ink-straw-blowing a la Stefan Bucher's "Daily Monster," Sumi-e (Japanese brush painting), and all kinds of printmaking. 
1st try styrofoam print, grade 5

Sumi-e Grade 6

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Second Day of School

"Can we do printmaking?"
I'm not sure I ever had this question so early in the school year before. But after making portfolios yesterday, this 6th grade class was ready to return to their studio, and their important work as artists. 
So, "Yes! Do you remember how to set it up?"

Five printmakers

2 color print by "N"
Some in this group ended the year last year with printmaking, a center that was late to be introduced. It was so rewarding for me to observe the knowledge, enthusiasm and peer-teaching exhibited at this center today! Students set up a printmaking space, demonstrated good technique and correct use of tools and materials, remembered how to store and sign prints, helped teach new-comers and cleaned up with vigor. I guess this would be called a pre-assessment? Or is it a summative assessment, demonstrating what "stuck" from last years' instruction and experience? Teachers in learner-directed classrooms observe what students "know and are able to do" daily.  
Eight 3D artists
 Meanwhile, one step over, the Sculpture/Construction Center was up and running (one learner brought me a hot glue gun with a big grin on his face and announced: "I found them!") It was crowded at this spot, but artists here made it work amicably, and only needed one reminder to clean it up "all the way" before class was over. 
Two painters, and one finishing up his (complex) portfolio design
This is a big class at the very end of the day. We are under a heat advisement, and the studio is on the second floor - so I was even more amazed to see the focus and independence exhibited by this capable group of artists. 
Three for drawing (see later photo for #3)

Four for Fiber Arts (see next photo also): Two needle-felting, two embroidering

This one, inspired by finding an embroidery hoop, and then a Book of Stitches is learning to embroider a "chain stitch."
Welcome back to your studio artists!

Friday, June 15, 2018


Last day of school. Walk to the town pool (filled two days ago, to be ready for us), stop for a creamee, line up with all the teachers to wave the busses good-bye. Have a good summer!

The 6th-grader who said "I walked in with nothing planned, and I'm going to walk out with something creative," graduated from 8th grade last night.  His words inspire me each day, as I pass through that door. 

Time now to clean-up, weed-out, look back, plan ahead, and recharge. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

 6th grade has "won" clay this term. It's not a competition, of course, but on kiln-unloading-days, the 6th graders' box is always the most full, and usually the most unique and exciting. But that is another story.
Test tiles to find the right antler color
This story is about the moose mug, pictured above. We, apparently, do not have the right color for moose antlers, and the student who made this mug needed a solution for this. 

Me: "Well, what a potter would do is make some test tiles, mixing various combinations. It would mean making the test tiles today, and waiting for them to be fired, before choosing one to use. I doubt you want to wait for that..."
Student: "Yes, that is what I want to do."
Me: "Oh!"

I provided several small bisqued tiles that we use on the top of glaze jars to show the color. I started marking the glaze colors on the back of the test tiles for the student, using a glaze pencil ("amber/yellow," yellow,/brown/white", etc). We tucked them into the kiln, and when I pulled them out, I noted that my student had added ratio numbers to my notes ("1 yellow/ 2 brown", "1 white/2 amber"). Oh my goodness! A potter!

Today a color was chosen and we found just enough space to sneak this moose into the kiln before the next firing. But wait! There's more! Another student approached me to describe a color needed for the pond that was ready for glaze - and it sounded just like the range of colors my student just made those tests for! So, Student 1 taught student 2 about how to mix the color chosen by following the noted ratios. 

A very good day in the clay center, and a big win for authentic studio-learning, where learners can go deep in areas of interest to become experts in their craft.  

Friday, May 25, 2018

Art Show Season

NOW Showing! 
Student Art Show at the Red Barn Gallery
Lareau Farm (American Flat Bread)
Through June 2, 2018

CBMS displayed only collaborative work in this show - featuring artists who chose to work together while creating art. With the exception of the Face/Box sculpture, all work selected was 2D. We were asked to set up down the center isle of the barn, to reflect the passage from elementary to high school - what a sweet spot to show off some of the artwork made in our studio this year!

Student Art Show at the Helen Day Art Center
Crossett Brook Middle School was invited to display work at the Stowe area student art show. Although we had just a small display space, the outstanding work of our student artists made a big impact.

CBMS takes the back (white)wall

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Plaster and Papier Mache'

Plaster and papier mache' are always available choices at the sculpture center in our studio/classroom, but these materials are usually overlooked and don't seem to be integrated into the creative thinking and planning for most of my students. Instead, plaster and papier mache' tend to make a special appearance from time-to-time, usually after a student asks about one or the other, or I decide to feature them to shake things up.

Plaster usually starts innocently enough - as a covering for wire armatures, hand casts, maybe a mask - but all it takes is one 8th-grader to get things rolling: "Can I plaster my face?!?!?!?"
From there it is contagious - one plastered face leading to the next, until everyone brave enough gets a chance under wraps. 
We have a tradition - once the plaster is applied and all that is left is the waiting, the plasterer reads a story to the plastered. 
This gives the plaster a few more minutes to harden, and the person under the plaster a relaxing, nostalgic experience, while the plasterer does a little nurturing.
At least that's how I see it. 

Meanwhile - 
Papier Mache' starts like this, always:

Them: "Can I have a balloon? "
Me: "What for?"
Them: " I want to papier mache'"
Me: (groan) (eye roll) (arms crossed)
Me: "Tell me your plan, because everyone who ever wants to papier mache' thinks the only thing to papier mache' is a balloon. And you know what? When they are done, the result looks exactly like a balloon, only with papier mache' on top."
Them: "No, really, I have a great idea."
I rest my case. 

But - maybe all that whining, eye-rolling and complaining (mine, not theirs) is starting to pay off, because look what I found as I left the studio on Friday...
Giant ear, by "M" - grade 7

Bucket of puppets, grade 6

Mixed assorted works-in-progress

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

5th Grade Collaborative Drawing by "N" and "T"
Authentic Assessment
I was slightly disappointed that these two drawing partners did not choose to display the whole series of skiing drawings they created -the series looks so great lined up next to each other! The two shared with me that they changed the scale of the skier to "zoom in" or "zoom out" on the action. 
But when I read the artist statement accompanying the selected drawing, I understood the value of choosing one from many. Criteria needs to be developed and aesthetic judgment's made. This can be hard! 
Here is the artist statement accompanying "N's" drawing:

"For weeks I have been working on some       very cool skiing sketches and then I chose which one I should finalize and I chose this one. The reason I draw skiing is because I love to ski."

I went through a similar exercise some years ago when working with potter and professor emeritus Marvin Bartel. Marvin had us "make and trim 7 pots, discard two, fire four, and set one aside to decide on later." This forced me to look at my work more critically than I might have and to decide why some would stay and some would go. It was hard to break two pots that seemed perfectly good, but in truth, they were the weakest ones and needed to be culled. 

"N," above, carried out this exercise on his own, and is years ahead of me in critiquing his own work and developing a discerning eye.  

Innovation in Clay

By "S", Grade 6 (Approx. 8")
This clay artist is on to something. After installing a giraffe in her slab-built, slump molded bowl, she went on to make at least two more. Her innovation inspired her classmates to try adding sculptures to slab bowls too. 

By "S" grade 6 (Approx. 14.5"x 6")