Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Prom: A Night in Wonderland

All the Wonderland decorations came together for one truly magical and wonderful evening of prom. We used the cafeteria, which was not a fancy venue, but it was free and easy to transport the decorations (except for the heavy wooden panels, which my paraprofessional and I moved three times this week, leaving bruises up and down my forearms.) Worth it. Here's how it all turned out.

Having a a second photo area away from the dance floor made it easy for couples to leave the crowd and have a private photo shoot.

Giant Chess pieces and an optional Wonderland sign helped bring the spirit of the theme into the photo backdrop.

More photo options: The Cheshire cat can either be used to show off your beautiful prom clothes, or hide it depending on which spot you choose.

One of our graduating seniors showed me his pocket watch which displays time in Braille, before I handed him one of our big pocket watch decorations to feel.

Draped table cloths and rose topiaries helped to hide the cafeteria food line.

We had about 5 to 7 student-made hats serve as the centerpieces for each table grouping of 8 seats. It fit with the Mad Hatter Tea Party. You can see Alice's legs in the background.

 There were also vases of half painted roses and playing cards "flying out" of the top.

Keys and doorknob decorations were practically free to make. If students don't get the reference, they can read the book. Let our prom open the door, to your heart.

Kristie, our amazing food lady knows what our kids will eat and still managed to dress it up and keep with the theme!
The local news station sent a camera man who is shown here shooting our decorations hanging over the dance floor.

We had the movie that inspired the prom, playing silently in the corner during the dance.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Alice in the Rabbit Hole decoration

It's easy to make a pair of Alice legs out of cardboard and tissue paper. I used the white cardboard from a trifold board. I just cut the calves and feet, leaving enough cardboard at the top to fold into a stand.

You'll want to cut an extra triangle to hold up the back so it stands on it's own, if you plan on putting it against a wall or in a corner. 

Stack tissue paper. I put white on the top and blue on the bottom. Then you fold it accordion, cut notches in the middle and tie it with a string or wire. Cut the corners off the ends to round them out.

Open the folds and gently pull the tissues apart to fluff up the skirt. You can do the entire thing and glue it to the front, since you have that triangle cardboard stand on the back, or you can cut a slit through the middle (between the knees) and pull half the tissue paper through to the back so that the fluffy skirt will hold up the legs, in which case you can lose the triangle stand. The project only took one class period with a couple students working.


Friday, May 13, 2022

Doorknob and Key decorations for a Wonderland Prom


The thing with Alice in Wonderland, is that you don't want to leave anything out or someone will say, "What about the Queen of Hearts? Why didn't you use any chess pieces? Where are the hats and tea cups?" So I started with a list and came up with ideas could include each part of the book.

I had collected a bunch of free mat board and frames from a frame store that was going out of business, so when my coworker said she bought some keys to go with the theme, I hot glued them to the board and frames and more mat board. This was displayed on an eisel.

Bigger is better however when it comes to big spaces and visually impaired students, so I made a giant doorknob. This was also almost free. Glue sticks and spray paint do cost money, but the four foot chip board, the cardboard boxes, that I cut up and large cardboard cylinders from empty packing tape rolls were salvaged garbage. I used the same clear plastic plate, I used to make the pocket watches last month, and decorated the cardboard and plate door knob with caulk before hot gluing it all together and spray painting it gold.  The red roses and leaves are from the last bits of bulletin board paper on large rolls. These are the same roses made for the school Christmas tree a year and a half ago. This picture doesn't show the finished piece but we were getting there at this point.

Photo Op Ideas for Alice in Wonderland prom theme

Trying to bring a classic novel to life is no small feat, but many of the projects were fun and turned out really well. This 4X4 foot wooden cut out with a cheerleader and baseball player was recycled to make Alice and a Cheshire cat. I would have loved to do Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, but the holes were in the wrong spot. I could keep most of the green background and just paint over the bodies, so it didn't take long to transform an old painting into a new one. I used 2X4 wood legs to make a stand and hold it up off the floor.

I was able to get tri-fold boards donated to recreate Tennial illustrations. I went old school and traced print outs of the illustrations onto recycled laminating plastic and an overhead projector to trance again with pencil and then paint. I bet my first grade teacher, Mrs. Royer, had no idea that she was teaching me even while she was off in a corner working on bulletin boards with her overhead sheets and Disney coloring book.

A large piece of cardboard has the disappearing head of the cheshire cat. I used the original John Tennial illustration to keep with the feel of the other decorations, but the purple and shocking pink stripes give a nod to the Disney animated cat. We made papier mache mushrooms from umbrellas, large cardboard tubes, coffee cans with cement, paper packing tape, newspaper and liquid starch.

Scraps from the sides of the trifold boards were used to make a sign post, the wonderland sign, and tea pots and cups to hang over the food area. I was careful to make sure the "tea party" sign pointed to where the food would be served.


Thursday, April 28, 2022

Hat Stands

 My students made hats as part of a Careers in Art: Costume Design assignment that also served as a "Let's make hats to use for our Wonderland Prom!" project.  That was a couple of years ago, and now that we're finally going to use the hats as table center pieces, I thought hat stands were in order. You don't want to just have a few hats of the same height sitting next to each other, you want to create some negative spaces and differing heights for visual interest.

I used some dove candy canisters, which were already gold (under the paper wrapping), and a poster canister, which I painted gold, and glued a cardboard top to each. Done. I also found a little wire spool, which was an easy, mini hat stand once it was painted. 

For the rest, I wrapped paper towel tubes (cut to various lengths) with vintage looking wall paper. Wall paper was also wrapped around square pieces of cardboard for the base. These are a little wimpy, and so you need to be sure the paper is securely glued to the top of the cardboard base, so the tube is more secure. I also filled the tubes with sand to give it some weight and stability. The trick then is to put the glue on the top of the tube and attach the cardboard top without lifting the tube upside down to attach it, or you'll have a big, sandy mess. Another tip is to cut vertical slits in the top of the tube, and fan out the tabs like flower petals so the hot glue has more area to stick to the top. I didn't worry about  decorating the top since they'll all be covered with hats, but a little lace around the edges might be a nice touch.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Make Time for Time: Pocket Watch Decorations

 My set design class has been very busy the last few Fridays since the Spring Concert, making prom decorations. The theme is: A Night in Wonderland!  The class of 2020 picked the Alice in Wonderland Theme, but COVID canceled that dance, and we've had giant chess backgrounds and chess pieces waiting in storage since then. (You can go back and see my blog posts about how to make those things.)

In the meantime, I'll fill you in on some of the new decorations, starting with the famous pocket watch that the white rabbit was obsessed with looking at.

I kept large white cardboard scraps to cut out watch shapes and paint with gold spray paint. I figured it would be easier to glue a white watch face on top, rather than try to keep the white part white safe from the paint to draw or paint the numbers and hands on after the paint. Then I realized that printing out various watch faces from clip art, would be easier yet. And FINALLY, it hit me that using gluing two plates is the most easy solution yet!  It also gives the illusion of being a real, 3D pocket watch. I found 20 clear plates in my cupboard,  so I painted them all, hot glued them together with a little loop and windy thing (that I did cut out of cardboard), and I glued the watch faces to the front. It took mea little over an hour to do it alone. Print, plates, paint, and glue-it's that easy!

Soapbox Derby

I love seeing students outside the classroom, so it was fun to work with them on a Saturday in April to participate in the soapbox derby. It was an unusually cold day so we bundled up and brought hot chocolate, but we held our own in the competition and it was fun to revisit the car my art students and I painted, after a couple of years collecting it dust during COVID. Memories were made and we ended up making the front of the Sunday Telegraph to boot!


Saturday, April 23, 2022

Pysanky Lesson

When I planned on teaching the Ukrainian art form of Psyanky decorative eggs to my art class, I had no idea that the Ukraine be in the news every day after Russia's invasion. We were able to look at this decorative egg tradition in 1,000 years of historical context from ancient Pagan symbols, to Easter tradition, and to current event stories of fundraising pysanky eggs for Ukrainian refugees. I also didn't know we'd have an April school-wide Eggs-tranvaganza that included egg games and that I'd get 4 dozen leftover fresh eggs to use for my students. It was a trick poking holes in each end, scrambling the inside with a tooth pick and blowing each egg out for hollow egg shells.

The wax resist technique is the same as the Indonesian batik process, except that we are dying eggshell instead of fabric.

You draw with a kistka stylus. Beeswax is melted in the kistka cup which funnels to a point. Thin wax lines are drawn on the egg before dying it the first color.

Then more drawing can be added between each color to follow.

The colors are revealed by melting the wax lines with a candle flame and wiping them with a paper towel.

Classroom Chihully-style Chandelier

I may not have a hot spot and the ability to teach students how to blow glass, we did the next best thing. We created our own version of a Dale Chihully glass chandelier by upcycling water bottles and platic scraps from the laminating machine. Chihully is not only, arguably, the most famous contemporary glass artist in the world, he also has worn an eye patch since a car accident decades ago, and that loss of perifial vision makes him legally blind, just like my students. He works with a team, just like we can work as a team. And he makes large scale art for specific places, which is what we wanted to do for our school

We started with a tube of chicken wire and hung it from the ceiling. We colored donated bottles with sharpies, taped wire to the top to wrap in plastic wrap and then packing tape, colored laminating paper or cellophane. A heat gun helped melt the plastic into shape. The wire made it possible to twist the ends to make the shapes more organic and less bottle shaped. We ran out of laminating paper, and cellophane, and our sharpies even dried up before we were finished, so we ended up using tissue paper for the tips of some of the "tentacles" for better term.

We poked holes on either side of each bottles bottom, and then threaded a wire through the bottle, long enough to attach it to the chicken wire. It's easiest to start from the bottom and work your way up, but it did help to place a bottle or two of each color hire on the wire skeleton just to know how to space out each color. It's been really fun to see people walk past my door and then walk back and come in, noting that they had to see what that amazing thing was. We may not be able to afford a real Chihully chandelier, but our first attempt will more than do.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Clay Slab Vases and Wall Vases

You don't need a potter's wheel to make functional pottery, a slab roller, or even just a rolling pin will do the trick. Students learned the "slip and score" (or "score and slip" if you want to be chronologically accurate) technique through this process.

 First they rolled a slab. Next they traced a circle around a jar, and rolled the right amount of clay around the jar to match the circumference. Textures or pictures were pressed or carved into the rectangular surface. Then they scratched around the edges of the circle with the needle as well as the bottom of the rectangular vase side. They they painted some slip on the scratches. Slip is clay that is mushy enough to be a thick liquid. Finally, they pressed the pieces together and used a wooden tool to join the edges and cover the seams. It's a project that can be done in an hour long class period for some instant gratification.

A modified version of the slab vase is a wall vase. It's just a shape cut from a slab of clay, with a pocket attached to the front after pressing stamps or objects in the front for texture. Rather than glaze the bisque-ware, my students just dry brushed it with acrylic to reveal the texture. This can be hung on a wall with a ribbon with small dried flowers tucked in the pocket.


Using the Potter's Wheel for Cups and Bowls

various shaped and glazed cups with handles

 We've already worked with clay this year, but I saved throwing pots on the wheel for the craft unit. Some students made cups and others made bowls. Some pressed texture and pattern into still wet clay, while others carved it out of leather hard clay.

Students who were waiting their turn on the wheel, created small dishes or salt cellars, using a pinch pot technique. Some made two pinch pots to enclose small dried, clay balls to make a shaker or rattle. This is a favorite object among my blind student.

In one week, some students made three to four objects, each with a different purpose. It's just the tip of the ice burg in terms of what can be done with clay.

 watermelon bowl

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Rock and Roll Sets and Student Exhibition

 I started my Set Design class just two Fridays before the Spring Concert at school, which meant I would only have the help of four students for less than 4 hours total to create four 8 foot tall panels and a 6 foot long submarine. I'd have to do some serious prep-work and between class muscle work to get it done on time.

The theme of the concert was "Rock and Roll", so I did intercontinental themed sets, focusing on the British Invasion. It's hard to imagine how many lives were forever changed the night the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan show, after all. I drew up some plans, and when the students got to class, we projected my drawings onto the Christmas snowflake backgrounds and they traced them in chalk. I painted three of the panels during the week. 

The following Friday they painted the fourth panel, traced, projected, and painted the Yellow Submarine. So we finished in time and still managed to put together the Art Exhibit for all my other students in the lobby!

On the big day, I got to participate in an aerobics themed percussion piece performed by the faculty to Tyler Swift's "Shake It Off," which made for a nice send off before Spring Break!