Monday, June 29, 2015

The Armadillo Project

Georgia based artists, Alexis Gregg and Tanner Coleman were recently commissioned by Macon's Museum of Art and Science to do an installation piece. After playing with several ideas, these ceramicists/sculptors decided to create a brick armadillo bench for the nature trail by the museum. My family got to help with the piece, which was pretty fun despite the triple digit temperatures.

Alexis and Tanner have done large brickworks in Australia, China, Thailand, Taiwan and Turkey!

They begin the process by stacking wet bricks and carving their shape. They mark each brick with a code before loading them into the kiln. Once the bricks are fired, they are hauled to the site. That's where we came in. My kids (and one of their friends) helped carry hundreds of bricks and sort them by letter, which told the layer of the sculpture.

The boys also helped to dig out the shape of the bottom of the sculpture, which Alexis and Tanner then filled with cement. We carved our names into the cement before it dried.

The next morning we started creating the shape of each layer by arranging the numbers in order. Tanner had drawn maps for each layer in a notebook to reference. If a brick is missing, it throws everything off, so great efforts are made to find every brick and be as accurate as possible, especially on the first couple of layers.

My daughter and I came out a third morning to organized the bricks for the back of the bench so that the masonry work would go faster for the artists. They'd mixed a mortar that matched the color of the brick very nicely.

And here is the finished bench. If you've ever wanted to relax in the shade on the back of a big armadillo, here's your chance. While this is a much smaller piece than say, their fifty foot dragonfly in Atlanta, it still took a tremendous amount of time and effort. Real art requires real sweat. Alexis and Tanner are no strangers to rolling up their sleeves and doing what it takes to make great things happen, and I am grateful they let us be a small part in the process.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Cane and Jacket Racket

Last week, I taught at a camp for teenagers who are blind or visually impaired. The camp theme was Home Sweet Home, so they learned home repair skills, gardening, art and cooking. As the art teacher, I wanted to keep with the week's theme and have them make something useful for their home. About half of the students get around using white canes and so I thought rack to hang a cane, jacket, purse, umbrella or hat, would be useful.

The first morning of camp was a field trip to Lowe's to buy the project materials. I made a scavenger hunt which included finding aisle numbers and prices on specific items as well as experiences to complete (lay in a hammock, put your hand down the model toilet etc.)  There are so many textures, for kids with visual impairments, to explore in that store. The flooring section alone is full of carpets, door mats, tiles, and wood flooring!
Groups would come to the lumber section one at a time and discuss how to pick out a great piece of wood. We bought 6 foot X 6 inch X 1 inch pieces, which would make four racks each. One of the employees, patiently demonstrated how to cut the wood for the students.
Day two, campers sanded the boards, picked out knobs and hooks, and then painted their board a solid color.
Day three, we watched some videos on how to use painter's tape in an original way. Each student came up with an idea, taped, and painted their board in a contrasting color to the underpainting. Some used stencils and spray paint.

Day four, they removed the tape, drilled holes, and screwed on the hooks or knobs.

On the last day of camp,students painted terra-cotta pots. They were given a bag of soil and seeds that they had sprouted in their horticulture class, to plant in the pot once they got home. It was such a fun week, filled with practical skills, silliness, and friendship!