Thursday, June 29, 2017

DIY: Needle Felted Postcards

Ciao! Last Thursday, my mama and I returned from a whirlwind trip to and video heavy blog post to come. Over the past weekend, as I was scrolling through my endless photos of Rome, Florence and Venice, I decided to recreate some of my favorite memories in the form of postcard-sized needle felt. It was super simple to do...although, like all needle felting projects, it is time consuming. However, I love to sit, relax, watch something that doesn't require too much focus (anyone else watching Glow right now and having 80's flashbacks?!) and create. So needle felted postcards it is! 
After sharing these on my IG, I got handful of questions about how these were made. So I filmed the process and slapped it together in this video. I hope it answers your questions...but if not, feel free to drop me a line in the comments!
The hardest part about creating these postcards...was not having a drawing of the image created beforehand. I didn't draw on the felt or work from a sketch, I just went for it. Sometimes this was frustrating as I had to (gently) tear out what I didn't like. For the most part, working without a script, so to speak, was pretty dang freeing. It felt like painting. I think that's why I enjoy felting so much. It takes me back to my painting days...but it is a medium that I find much easier to work with than watercolor or oil paint. 
I asked mom many times what her favorite part of our trip was. We both have had a hard time answering that question! For me, one of my fave days was our bike ride thru Tuscany to visit a couple of vineyards and stop for a traditional Tuscan lunch. It was magical and a day I definitely wanted to capture on a needle felted postcard.
To give the sunflowers a more 3-dimensional look, I didn't needle felt them entirely so they were raised up a pinch. 
One daily question while in Italy was, "Where should we watch the sunset tonight?" The sunset it late, close to 9pm so we usually tried to be somewhere magical every evening to catch a breathtaking view. On our last night in Rome, that meant the top of the Alter of the Fatherland. I loved the silhouette of the statues even more than the view!
For a couple of Euro, we took a glass elevator that was packed with tired tourists toting bottles of wine and cameras. 
With paint, colors tend to mix...with roving, you can layer many colors and it takes on an atmospheric look that I love. 
I have never worked this small with needle felting can be tedious. I have a tendency to over work images (which is what I think I was doing with the image of Venice below) so I always have to take a break, step back and look at what I'm creating from a distance. Anyone else like this?
Gondola man just about did me in. At first I was hesitant to put a gondola in the image as it seemed rather cliche...but there are literally gondolas EVERYWHERE in Venice, it's no exaggeration. And the light between the buildings really is that beautiful. 
Venice has this magical ability to be "postcard ready" everywhere you look. One person I met referred to it as being like Disney. She's right. Except Disney would charge you a small fortune to get on the island and require you to have a magical tracking band to get to the front of the line at St. Mark's Basilica...which is actually a really great idea. But I digress. 
 I've already started on a fourth postcard...I just can't stop. I'll be certain to share those with you when they are complete. 
 Until then, I need to figure out how to display these bad boys. Small frames? Large frame/large mat? A frame that can hold multiple images? 
Until I get that figured out, y'all have a wonderful day and we'll chat real soon!

 photo signature_zpsd10b3273.png

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

In the Art Room: Clay Tacos!

Hey, friends! I thought I'd share with you a fun clay project that you can do with either kiln fire or air dry clay: Clay Tacos! I did this project with my kindergarten kiddos and it was a huge hit. It also taught them a ton: clay can capture texture; how to create a sphere, coil and a slab, the holy trinity of clay sculpture; how to adhere clay with an alternative slip and score method. So here you go: Clay Tacos!
One thing I love when working with clay and kiddos is introducing them to texture and clay. We step on the clay, pound it into textures, you name it, we try it. My favorite thing is to have a variety of lace, doilies and burlap for them to experiment with. 
With a class of 20 kids pounding clay flat, it is going to sound like a crazy roll of thunder (with echoes of lots of laughs from the kids) but I have found it to be the quickest and easiest way to introduce the kids to creating a slab. 
With a beautiful textured piece of clay, the possibilities are endless! In fact, I'll be sharing EIGHT of my favorite air dry clay projects using this method and more at the Art Ed NOW conference
Have y'all signed up? You really should, it's a ton of fun. 
I explored EVERY air dry clay on the market (seriously) when working on my clay book which is now available for sale here! Many of the air dry clays have the look and feel of kiln fire so it's a great way to introduce kids to the magic of clay even if you are kiln-less. So get you some clay and make you a clay taco today! 
 photo signature_zpsd10b3273.png

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Published in a Magritte Activity Book!

Last winter I was contacted by Liesbeth Elseviers who is an editor of children's books in Belgium. They were working on a fun Magritte activity book for children to celebrate an upcoming exposition on Magritte's work. Liesbeth had seen one of my Magritte lessons on this here blog and asked if it could be featured in the book. I happily agreed and then promptly forgot all about the book. Until it arrived on my doorstep from the Netherlands. Look how absolutely stunning this book is!
 A few months ago, when Liesbeth sent me the page proof, I was blown away. She and her team really did a beautiful job with the layout and design of the book. Flipping through the pages, each page is a work of art with a large variety of Magritte-inspired art activities for kids. 
 The book is in English as well as French and Dutch. 
 Isn't it a beauty? Y'all can check out my Magritte-inspired projects here, our mural here and my Magritte costume here
 I thought I would share a little flip through so you can see all that the book has to offer. It would be a great book for kids to use independently, for teachers to use as a teaching tool and sketchbook inspiration. 
I love activities that give the kids quiet sketch time. Telling them the story of how Magritte came up with his surrealistic ideas would be a great jumping point for our kids to come up with ideas outside the box. 
So much inspiration here! I'm thrilled and honored to be apart of such a beautiful book based on such a wonderful artist. 
So where can you get your copy? Currently the book is only available to friends in Belgium and The Netherlands. You can purchase here. If interested in overseas shipping, try contacting the folks here. The book will be available in the land of Oz at the Australian Museum of Modern Art. 

 photo signature_zpsd10b3273.png

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Best Books for Art Teachers!

Summertime is my favorite time to reflect on the past school year. I often find myself uprooting all of my favorite art teacherin' books during this time. Sometimes, I'll just flip through them, look over my cryptic notes (I really gotta become a better note keeper!) and rethink my life choices, er, strategies in the art room. Other times, I'll dig deep into a book, really opening my mind up to new possibilities for the new year. I love this part of teaching: that we get the chance to hit the reset button every school year, throw out the old and bring in the new. I feel like Bill Murray in Ground Hog Day every August! 

In case you missed, during our last Facebook LIVE art teacherin' chat, we were talking about our favorite art teacher books. You can find that chat archived on my page. Be sure to peruse the comments to see what other folks are reading. We agreed that a book club would be super fun so, during the month of July during FB LIVE, that's what we'll be up to! 
How to join the book club? First, get you a copy of the book. We won't be starting until Wednesday, July 5th so plenty of time to get a copy and start flipping through it. Our chats our held here. In order for you to view the chat, you'll need to like my page. At 8pm CST on Wednesday, July 5th, I'll pop up in your feed! We usually chat for about an hour...but you can come and go any time. 
I'm very excited about sharing ideas with one another on how we can infuse art education and growth mindsets in our art room! Until then, I thought I'd share with you some of my very favorite books as an art teacher. Some of these books, I've had since my first year teaching and they truly helped me so much. One book I discovered during my first years teaching was Drawing with Children by Mona Brooks
 Wow, did this book teach me more than I learned in college about working with children! It's such a comprehensive book that explains child development; showcases lessons and examples; recommends supplies and teaching strategies. I followed this book to a T when first started out and it was like having a friend guide me. It is very heavy on the side of guided drawing which I know some folks feel very much against. But, for me, I believe that there is a place for guided drawing in the art room as long as it is balanced with open-ended projects. You would never expect a music teacher to teach a student how to play an instrument without first showing them how to do it. Why is art thought to be different? I also have Mona's book on teaching older children which is also very helpful. She dives into teaching more from observational drawing in that book. 
Ah, a classic, right? Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is currently in either it's fourth or fifth addition. I love the concepts in the book...but it is hard to use with children because it is so dry. Trust me, I know, I've tried. As an elementary art teacher, I really do want to use the concepts from this book, but change it up and make it more geared toward my fun and funny little audience. This is something I'm thinking about this summer. 
What I really like about Hooked on Drawing is that the author, Sandy Brooke, does a great job of sharing lessons that go beyond pencil and paper. She has her students work with chalk, charcoal, kneaded erasers; all that stuff I never used until college. My kids LOVE working with those supplies. Observational Drawing with Children is a great read. What I like about it is that it really explains the developmental stages of drawing. It also provides conversations between student and teacher to give you a peak into an art teacher's classroom. Open-ended lessons and ideas are provided in this small book. 
It's hard to teach what you don't know...and I definitely did not know color when walking into the art room. I used this book as a crash course for myself to become a better teacher. If you are a teacher of older students, you could use the concepts from this book with your kiddos. 
My first year was also helped out greatly by Cathy Topal's book Children and Painting. This book is beautiful with full color photos and great lessons that scaffold. Another beautiful book is You Can Weave! I was so fearful of introducing weaving to my students...this book was a game changer. Again, lots of full color photos and easy to follow steps. 
 I love art history. LOVE it! But how to teach it all? One of my favorite ways to teach is by telling a story. Another teacher who is gifted at this is Marianne Saccardi. Her book Art in Story provides inspiring, well-researched and fascinating stories of artists or art history. You can read them aloud to your students or memorize them and add sound effects, lighting, music and amateur acting skills as I like to do. My very favorite art history book is The Annotated Mona Lisa. Y'all, this is one of my top five. I use this when creating my Hot Minute of History lessons for my kids. It's snippets of art history are short, concise and to the point. 
 A fun and inspirational read is Educating Esme. This is the diary of a first year fifth grade teacher in an inner city school. She struggles with the kiddos, her administration and just finding herself as a teacher. It's a quick read that will leave you inspired. Speaking of inspire, Ron Clark, anyone?! Holy mary, the Godfather of Teacher, can I get an amen? I love all of his books. 
 Need more inspo? Teach like a Pirate is beyond awesome. Dave Burgess is the teacher we all wanna be. But Meena Srinivasan shows us that teaching isn't just about being as wild, crazy and energetic as you can. In Teach, Breathe, Learn, she shares her methods of inspiring mindfulness in her students both in and out of the classroom. 

The key is to discover who YOU are in your art room...reading these books should inspire you, not make you feel the need to conform to any one else's methods or styles of teaching. Your passion is what is going to drive you as an educator and make you  your very best. Just keep that in mind as you flip through the pages of these books and happy reading! 

 photo signature_zpsd10b3273.png

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

DIY: Viva Italia Dress

Hey, friends! I am wearing this here dress today in...Italy! I managed to snap some photos before leaving but I'll be sure to share my Italian adventures with you when I return home. Until then, let's talk dress-makin', shall we?
After (a handful of) years stitching and countless homemade dresses, I think I have finally found the mashup of dress patterns that I like the very best. I am loving the fit and look of this halter-style top with this circle skirt, it's my new fave!
It's taken me this long to realize that simply because a pattern looks good on the envelope does not mean it will look good on you. And that's okay! You gotta go with what is the most flattering for your body type and your taste. Personally, I love a good fit and flair. And I like my fit very fitted (ahem) and my flair super, um, flair-y (double crinoline, anyone?). But I also know that I cannot do a v-neck, scoop neckline or anything else that is meant to show off cleavage. Because, well, I ain't got none. So it just looks awkward trying to show it off unless I'm wearing my big ole "Insert Cleavage Here" necklace which I seem to have lost. 
And I'm cool with this. Not the loss of my necklace, that thing was expensive, but the fact that I can't wear a good ole cleavage bearing frock. Because I have bodice patterns that work...and I think this one works the best for me. 
Now, here's a little something else I've learned: size down on the bust. Do you see that bust measurement of 34"? That is my correct size but when using this dress pattern in the past, I always found the bodice to be a pinch roomie (remember, I like a good fit). You can see other dresses I've made with this pattern here and here. For a more fitted dress, size down on the bust measurement. I'll be using a 32" bust for the bodice in the future. Now, this works for me for the entire dress because I do an open skirt...meaning I can have hips for days and the skirt hides 'em (another reason I love me a circle skirt!). However, if you are using a hip-hugging pattern, you may need to size up for the rest of the dress.
Y'all would be so proud: the last couple of dresses I've created have been from fabric straight outta the stash. I purchased this fabric years ago with the intent to make a dress...but, Ima be honest, I didn't love the colors in the print. So in the stash it sat. Until 36 hours before leaving for Italy, that is! Another reason to love this pattern: it's a quick stitch!
You might notice I decided not to add the bow/belt insert. On the dresses I have with built-in belts, I feel limited. I love to add different belts to my clothing to change up the look. So I skipped that step in the pattern. I also made the straps thinner...the thicker ones just screamed "homemade!" to me. 
 Just a side and back view. Did I mention that this dress has pockets?! I've decided that no dress is complete without them. Forever and ever, amen. 
Despite my initial meh-ness toward the print on this dress, I now really love it. I know that the pattern has a whole lot to do with it. 
And now I'm off to explore the sites on my dress. Viva Italia, y'all! photo signature_zpsd10b3273.png