Monday, December 16, 2019

Whoville Christmas Program Sets

Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot. This year our school is performing a Grinch themed concert and so I was tasked with designing the Whoville sets. 

I sketched out some of Dr. Suess's house drawings, placed added some trees and mountains and projected them onto 8 foot panels. I had to outline them in black paint for my visually impaired students to see, and even then it was hard to differentiate from the gingerbread background that was already there, so I'd trace those with thicker color lines.

Within a couple of Friday afternoons, most of the painting was finished and we were able to use them as a backdrop for our "Santa and Mrs. Claus pictures" at the student Christmas party.

Meanwhile, I got word that I was on a team to help decorate an office space the Department of Education in Atlanta. Guess what the theme was? How the Grinch Stole Christmas!  So I spent a few afternoons creating cardboard cut outs of Whos.

My teammates stuffed Grinch pajamas with newspaper and added hands, feet, and a lower face using polar fleece that matched perfectly. They curled bulletin board paper for tree boughs, made a 3D paper roast beast, and printed labels for cans of who hash! The Grinch has a cane and is reading a Braille book, which is also a scratch and sniff book from 1970. It still smells! (No one will probably notice, but we get a kick out of little things like that).

Flat decorations were made tactile like garlands and snow (batting) were  glued to the "Welcome to Whoville" arch. We hung real ornaments on our paper trees. Glued yarn for hair, beards, and colors, buttons, pom-poms, and jingle bell for accessaries. 

 A couple of Whos and Max the dog as a portion of our office hallway to deck.
Of course the sets eventually made it to the stage. We painted colorful cobblestone walkways with snow in between on the stage floor. Now we just wait for the giant Whoville backdrop and the Grinch to show up for this week's performance.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Clay Christmas Crafts

Student made ornaments, some spray painted gold
Our classroom slab roller is more than just a space-filler or a pretend pirate ship wheel as an incentive for kindergartners to do their work. It is the best way to make a blob of clay into a perfectly even blanket of clay, out of which you can build something fabulous. We started simple: see what kind of textures you can roll, stamp and press into the clay, then we cut textured shapes to create ornaments.

Little bird ornaments from textured clay that I made as a demo

whimsical cone trees in bright latex colors

The next day, we thought a little bigger and used the textured slabs of clay to create either vases or cone-like Christmas trees.
Surface treatment didn't end there. Some students made tiny balls or tootsie roll shapes from the clay and then pressed them into tree boughs, using an additive process.

glazed ceramic trees

And of course once the pieces were fired, there were lots of options in terms of color. Students used glaze, spray paint, acrylic, and laytex. Some speckled lights, or painted ornaments onto their tree. One painted snow on the tips of each bough, and another was inspired to trim hers with glittler.

Screen Printed Note Cards

note cards I made by screen printing with a paper stencil of a bird

It's always a good idea to keep note cards on hand for last minute invites, "thank you"s, and "thinking of you"s. They also make nice gifts if you bundle a set of five or ten, and that's what I did last year for my family members.  Once I came up with the idea, it was easy to cut paper stencils, tape them on the back of a silk screen, print them onto pieces of card stock, and tie with ribbon in stacks with matching envelopes.
Student image of bird on a branch. We used special heat sensitive ink that disappears when you touch it.

The white of the paper becomes the white of the penguin.
For my students this year, I emailed my friend Matt Forrest images of student bird drawings, and he created screens for them.  We then used paper stencils for a second run, so my students could learn how to print two colors on the same image.

We had an assembly line. One student put the card stock down, one lowered the screen and printed, a 3rd removed.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Mosaic Project

Student piece, titled "Toast"
I honestly don't know why I was so afraid to try this assignment. I put it off for years, having never made a mosaic before myself, but it turns out they are not very intimidating once you decide that doing it wrong is better than not doing it at all. I introduced my students to ancient mosaics from Greece and Pompei contrasting the difference between geometric and organic designs and making inferences about what life must have been like based on the images made of tiny tiles.

Some students used tiny mosaic tiles that they glued to wood or adhered with caulk. The caulk, when piped too thickly oozed out the sides of each thin tile, filling in the cracks as a messy, make-shift grout.
White grout provides high contrast for black tiled background and the greenish-gray number seventeen.

Older students put on eye protection and therapeutically hammered donated tiles into smaller pieces. Then they puzzled the shards together into shapes drawn onto wooden ovals and rectangles. Once each broken tile piece was adhered with tile glue, we let it set overnight before we began grouting. White, premixed grout was very easy to use. Since many of my students don't have any vision, they just used gloves and pushed it into cracks, trying to wipe the surfaces and polish the tiles almost immediately.

Gray, cement based grout was a little trickier since it had to be mixed in a 3 part powder to 1 part water mixture and used before it became too thick.  Dust masks are essential for this process. The texture wasn't nearly as pleasant to work with, but in the end, the gray, middle ground gave a really nice aesthetic. Most of the students who used white grout, later wished they had used gray.

Younger students used sticky backed craft foam, cut into squares and rectangles. These were arranged onto pieces of paper or painted cardboard.
foam "tiles" on painted cardboard bases make for a primer mosaic lesson.

A piece sign made from colored tiles glued to wood and filled with white grout, was much neater than using caulk

Whether you are doing a table top or stepping stones, mosaics are a great way to let yourself go to pieces and then pull it all together again.