Abdulla drew an amazing image of Gail’s dog. So much changes in the translation to 3D. I did my best to get the spirit of it. It will continue to change. These group projects are like whisper down the lane and what you start with transforms along the way as you add new techniques and materials. In the end it seems everyone involved feels a sense of ownership. I love this. Personally, I made some great discoveries about foam cutting tools this week. I will never use a corrugated shaper again because they make a fine mess that sticks to you and everything else by static electricity. A “knife” of all sorts is the way to go. I found some info online about using a sharpened drywall knife to cut foam and it is great. The trades are an excellent source of information to tweak to art. I bought knife blades for my portable jigsaw..also great. I then tried a knife blade on my Fein multitool and wow…amazing too. No more little bits to clean up! this is such a BIG improvement for me not only because power tools make things easier but doing hand cutting works better too. I now have shavings to collect and they don’t respond to static electricity the same way. We started making clay bits last week but I am having too much fun to photograph it…hopefully next week I will take some pics. The students are doing so well…I only wish I knew what was going on in their heads.
We are covering the forms with paper now. These students are doing so well that they complete whatever I bring in for the day. This is another messy job but we have a big tarp under the work table to contain the mess. This time I am using unyru paper rolls and diluted elmers glue. I love this paper but it has gotten too expensive to use in my future school projects. I will switch to bogus paper available at places that sell packaging material. It is recycled newsprint and kraft paper but slightly heavier. You need a paper that is unsized so it is more malleable. Sized papers are stiff. Unsized papers eventually become pulp. Unryu is very strong,stays workable for a long time and covers in one or two layers. Bogus paper usually requires more layers and isn’t as malleable but it works well enough and it’s cheap. My personal favorite is blotter paper. It is thick and covers in one layer but turns to pulp fast so hard to use with kids. Last year I used what I called art snot as an adhesive with what I called bogie paper. Great art terms for 2nd graders. It is methyl cellulose and I used Elmers art paste. I had trouble with the layers de-laminating and haven’t tested it again so I went with white glue which I know works. The paper needs to form a hard stable surface over the foam.
Last Thursday was our first day getting our hands dirty. Our design is becoming large foam forms to paper mache. I’m putting the forms together at home and bringing them in for the students to paper mache. The students are enjoying the process and do very well at this task. They are working well together which is good to see. These are the forms for the center of the mural. What will become the sunflower is almost 8 feet tall. We are using 2 inch polystyrene insulation board available at building supplies. I insert wood furring strips or washers in places so that our installation hardware will not tear through the foam.
The tools I use to cut and shape foam are pictured here. Knives cut foam better than saws. I tried a hot knife but wasn’t happy with it especially the smell. I use a utility knife and an old bread knife. I use a fine tooth handsaw for inserting wood. I tie the wood to the foam with rebar wire. You can use packing tape,duct tape,whatever works to attach other things together. You can make a shape out of more than one piece and join them. I often pin pieces together with dowels. Like doing drywall the form doesn’t have to be perfect but the better it is the easier it is to cover. It also needs to be structurally sturdy so no wiggly loose parts. I shape the foam with the bread knife and smooth it with a corrugated shaper. It is a messy process. I had the bad experience of having a school order the white foam made of little balls. Don’t ever get this. We had little foam balls everywhere!
Happy New Year. This week I start 2 new residencies. As always I am excited and scared. I never get used to meeting new students and always have the jitters. Age has perfected my on top of it teacher facade. This year I am doing another big messy public art like project in Warren NJ. I will be working with special needs teenagers building a high relief mural.
I often feel like I am the only teaching artist in NJ that does these projects that require scale shop drawings, budgets,and material lists to be approved by building staff to meet code. This school got it right in getting these things out of the way in the beginning. I have had a few projects that did not and I left the residency without an installation because of building approvals. We started planning in September and are just now ready to dive in. The drawing lays out a basic template for our design. Student input will determine what it will actually look like within those parameters. I have found that it is very important with special needs kids to have a concrete clear simple plan to follow. I have also found that it helps with all schools to have a preplanned template to improv from. The key is to listen,be open to what is happening, and feel free enough to change it up if you see something great or it isn’t working. I try really hard to be a facilitator not a prima dona artist. My second residency is an after school program in Vineland doing stopmotion…with 3 Ipads. I have been so inspired by the ipadartroom.com website but her kids all have Ipads. I am still working on having a few Ipads with kids that are so hungry to play with them.
So like I always say…Let the fun begin!
I hope to revisit school projects this year to see how they look today. I worked in an after school program for several years on a small garden. We started in 2009. Students designed and I helped build these sculptures. Landis is no longer a school but looks like a construction site today. It is a historic building so it is being renovated in some way for a new purpose. Trailers were removed so one side of the garden is open now. Flourishing weeds surround the sculpture. It has faded but still looks good. Alphonso the squirrel still greets whoever comes by. To see the garden at the height of it’s glory check it out at sjmoc.com/community/Landis’09
In the 2016 school year I got to do a STEAM project at Mercer County Special Service School with yanjep.org. I had so much fun. A big chunk of my life has been working in the trades especially things electric. This was doing work I don’t normally do as an artist/ teaching artist and I had a blast. The students had a great time but couldn’t possibly have had more fun than I did. The residency was a short one about 12 days and with my favorite population of learners. What I did was use a basic electric circuit and tweak it into many projects. I also tried to keep the materials simple and adaptable for many lessons. The basic materials were a mini motor, mini latching switch, craft sticks, beer pong balls, colored plastic cups, duct tape, rubber bands, batteries, battery holders and LOTS of hot glue. At least for me, Amazon is the answer to a teaching artists prayers. Anything I needed I could order and get in days. We started with stick bombs which are fun and a way for me to get to know the students. The best info out there is to google the Kinetic King. I can’t think of ANYONE that pushed stick bombs to the limit like this guy. His site has the best instructions for making them. We made squigglebots(lots of examples on youtube). Creaturebots another take on vibration motors. We made Ping pong ball and stick vibration motor contraptions (an improv off of you tube videos)and catapults that shot ping pong balls. We also made small spin art contraptions. In one class we experimented with motorized doodads. I didn’t take enough pictures. I hope to improve on that this school year.
a spin art contraption in progress
my creaturebot I simplified this for the students
I did a short 12 day stopmotion residency for a second grade class at Sumner School in Camden this school year with Ipads. A grant from Suburu provided 4 Ipads for us to use. To get started we invited the poet Anndee Hochman / anndeehochman.co to help us write some lines to animate about the butterfly life cycle. I made stands to attach to tables. I will share that later. I do cut paper animation. That is what I know and what we did. We used Istopmotion to film each line and edited in Imovie. Istopmotion isn’t free but very easy to use and to add sound. The animation chefs on youtube are a great resource. If you are on a very tight budget Imovie works and is free but barebones. We divided the class into 4 teams. this is one of their movies. they are rough but so adorable.
This little gem was made by a very gifted third grader named Gemmanie