Friday, March 30, 2012

Cleaning frenzy, and a request for inspiration

Yesterday I couldn't stand the mess any more. A few days back, I went in my storage closet for something, tripped on a big box, and went flying, landing with a crash face-down on the floor and bruising my knees. Thank goodness I wasn't hurt more. The 6th graders were entering the room and saw me go flying. I told one boy to go the nurse and get me an icepack, PRONTO!! Some of the kids were asking "are you OK?" and others were simply saying "where's my project?" or "where are the poofing tools?", barely noticing I was flat on the floor. The nurse, knowing that I'm an absolute klutz from prior incidents, stopped up in the room to make sure I wasn't really hurt (I guess the boy had charged into her office yelling "Mrs. B needs ice NOW!!!!")

Anyhow, I've had so many projects ongoing that the materials needed for them all had piled up and gotten out of control. By yesterday afternoon, the mess had me so freaked out that I didn't know what to do first. I knew I didn't want to risk any more injuries, so I had to do SOMETHING. So after the kids were gone, I finally tackled the closet, hoping I wouldn't come across this:

I didn't leave my classroom until 7pm. My garbage pails were full, and my storage closet was hugely improved, with nothing on the floor to trip over.

So I told my husband I would be home early today.

But then, after the kids were all gone, and I had stacked up the dry paintings, I noticed the ever-growing pile of leftover paper on the counter.

There was construction paper of every dimension, some in good condition, some faded or with staple holes around the edges, in every color imaginable. I began trimming them down to manageable sizes, cutting away torn and faded edges, and stacking them by color family into a big flat box. A lot of the colored paper will be used for a flower-making activity I have planned.

But I was still left with a HUGE pile of white, especially strips and rectangular chunks, from when I've cut 18"x24" paper into 18" squares, or 12"x18" into 12"x15", and so on... And it was 6pm on a Friday evening and certainly time to go home.

You must have those strips and chunks of white paper too, right? WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THEM?? I had already used some of them yesterday for a really fun painted paper activity with first graders (we used printmaking rollers - very cool results), but there's still just SO MUCH of it left.

Do you have any brilliant ideas for the use of a volume of white paper strips, in a variety of sizes? INSPIRATION, PLEASE!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Some teddy bears are going to be very happy!

Making teddy bear chairs is an annual 2nd grade project in my art room, and the kids really look forward to it. In the spring, the 2nd grade classes go on a fun field trip to the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory, crossing Lake Champlain via ferry on the return trip. Many of the kids make Build-a-Bears while at the factory, and the bears will all have chairs to sit on when they get to their new homes with their 2nd grade companions.

This is a ridiculously easy project, with 100% success. I send a letter home asking for cardboard rolls from toilet paper and tin foil, paper towels, plastic wrap, etc., and I end up with way more than I will need. Even now, every day I find another bag of cardboard rolls by my door, which is so funny since the chairs are all built and mostly painted!!

Meanwhile, way back in the fall, when I received my new supplies, I cut up the shipping cartons into 7" squares, two for each 2nd grader. I'm sure other sizes would work, but this size seems "just right" to me. I have an old "workhorse" paper cutter that makes easy work of cutting up the cardboard.

To build the chairs, we do it in little steps over a period of three art classes, while working on other projects. For the first session, each child is given a cardboard square, and their name and class is written on it in the middle. One table is set up with newspapers on it, and a dish of Elmer's Glue-All. My big box full of cardboard rolls is on the floor. Two at a time, I call kids to put the legs on their chair. They go to the box, pick out 4 toilet paper rolls and check to make sure they are matching in length. Then they dip them in the glue, slosh them around, and stick one on each corner of the square, with their name in the middle. This year the kids then carried them to the hallway where we lined them up to dry, legs up, until the end of the day. In a class of 23 kids, everyone got them done in one class and also worked on another project. I glued legs on for anyone who was absent.

In the next art class, the chairs were turned right side up, and two posts (paper towel-size rolls) are glued on adjacent corners, using the same process. These become the supports for the back of the chair.

In the 3rd art class, the chairs are placed on their backs. Each child gets another cardboard square, and lays them on the posts marking the top of the square on each post with a pencil. The posts are painted with Elmer's Glue-All up to the mark, and the backs are placed onto the wet glue. The chairs dry laying on their backs. Again, this is done a couple of kids at a time while the another project is ongoing.

Finally, in the 4th class, the kids begin to paint. Some years I've used tempera, but others, like this year, I use school acrylics, and I think it gives the best results. I mix up a ton of colors in plastic souffle cups with covers, and place them all on the round table in the center of the room. Kids pick one color at a time to use, and are pretty well-trained in washing brushes. (Tables are newspaper covered, and brushes are wiped on the paper, washed, and wiped again before being dipped in a new color.) Most colors were pre-mixed by me with a little white to give them better coverage, and no black was put out to use until the 2nd class period for painting (most kids were done painting in 2 sessions). Some years, time permitting, I've had the kids paint a coating of an acrylic gloss varnish over the chair. It looks nice but is time-consuming. Also, some years I've used slats instead of squares for the back, and they look very cute too.

Here's the back of a chair, and a chair in use! This chair is actually blue and purple, not blue on blue, but I cannot seem to get the photo to show the true color.

By the way, the original inspiration for these chairs was in an article I saw many many years ago in School Arts magazine. If you like making the chairs and have lots of cardboard and cardboard tubes, and have time to spare, or maybe an after-school group, you could get really creative and make little tables or desks to go with the chairs! What fun!!

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Giant Leap

My son is about to take a giant leap in life. He's landed a 'real' job! (This photo, by the way, is of my son a couple of summers ago, in full-out bungee jump off the Bloukrans Bridge in South Africa, the world's highest commercial bungee jump. Luckily he didn't tell me about it until AFTER he had survived the adventure.)

If you've been following me for a while, you know that I'm a pretty proud mama. My son is an interesting and multi-talented guy. He's musical, creative, intelligent, energetic, outdoorsy, adventurous, and inquisitive. He has a fun quirky sense of humor and can play a mean game of Scrabble (lately he kills me every time). Anyhow, he graduated cum laude from a prestigious university last May, and struck out on his own in search of a grown-up job in Boston, where many of his best friends were headed for jobs or grad school. Since that time he's been both a server in a chain restaurant and a barista in a funky cafe, but had grown increasingly frustrated by his inability to find a meaningful job.

This photo on the left below is my son and a sand sculpture we built together on a beach in Maine last summer. We were thrilled to be able to scoop him up in Boston and take him with us for a few days. At that time, the Boston MFA was in the final days of a Chihuly exhibit, and the photo on the right was taken there.

Anyhow, he's excited to finally start a real career. He's going to be working for an event planning firm in Boston, his dream job at least for now. Good luck to my baby!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Random Views from a Busy Week in the Art Room

More cats underway. I like the whiskers on the cat on the left. The green one in the center is the largest of all the cats, and has cougar pawprints on it - our team mascot is the Cougar and our school colors are green and gold. But the sad story about this cat is that it will have to wait at least a couple of weeks to receive eyes and to be completed. The boy who is making it, an athletic, exuberant, outgoing, fun sort of boy, tripped in a running game outside in gym class (during last week's run of summer weather) and severely broke his arm. I mean the bone broke in at least 2 places and slipped down inside his arm, and he had surgery done and will be out for a while, and when he's back it will be with a cast right up to his shoulder. And this is of course his right arm, and he's right-handed, and baseball season is starting, and he's a HUGE baseball player. Poor kid.

The unfinished yellow cat below (love the tilt of the head) has an Autism Awareness ribbon on its back, in honor of the sweet younger brother of the lovely girl making the cat.

Below is "camo-cat". The next two cats are really intriguing - can't wait to see how they will look when complete!

Here's a cave painter entering a cave through a tunnel...

And below are a couple of the annual kindergarten thumbprint pussywillows. The color is all wrong on the photo on the right but I can't correct it somehow. The paint was a pale silvery gray and the paper was pink. I forgot to photograph the rest. I took some better photos last year and posted them here. Process was the same, but I used a different size/shape paper this year (longer and narrower) because I had extremely tall real pussywilllows to show the kids.

Painting of teddy bear chairs is underway!

And finished kitties have been moved to the library for display. This is how I've made room for the teddy bear chairs and the garden gnomes (which I'll show you more of in a couple of days.)

Busy busy busy!

Look at these goodies I received!

Remember my post about my Gesso Woes? I told you in subsequent posts about being contacted by a rep from Liquitex, apologizing for the problem and informing me they would be sending me some free replacement gesso. I also told you about meeting the rep at the NAEA convention vendor area, and even posted a photo of us together.

Well Friday a package arrived in my classroom, and the photo above shows what was in it!!!! Not one, but two bottles of gesso! I opened one up and tried it out and it is PERFECT. No rubbery lump this time, but rather a perfect consistency gesso with excellent coverage.

And if that wasn't enough, the package also included a sample set of colors of their new acrylic ink, which I tried out at the conference and loved. The inks, including metallics, are fabulous, and I think I am going to be very stingy and use these 6 little bottles of brilliantly colored ink myself. Hooray for Liquitex, and THANK YOU for following through and caring about the satisfaction of your customers. I will definitely continue to use Liquitex products.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

It's the 4th grade annual cave adventure!

Huh? Where is everybody??

Oh. There they are.

Fourth graders are in 'caves' under my tables. The caves are made with sheets of cardboard and big pieces of fabric, and flashlights are their torches.

Today 4th graders were practicing drawing animals while in their caves. In their next art class they'll go back into the caves where they will paint their animals directly on those hunks of cave wall that they made.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Making our hunks of cave wall

This is our 'glop'- shredded paper, moistened w/water, and then saturated with dog drool (Art Paste) and an added hit of Elmer's Glue-All.

I gave a big handful of glop to each 4th grader, and for the next half hour, while we took a virtual tour of the Lascaux cave and looked at images from Chauvet as well, they pounded, twisted, kneaded, and 'worked' the glop into paper clay. And YES, they are doing it DIRECTLY on the table surface. With several minutes left, they each flattened their glop into a big pancake, and inserted a paper clip in the top for hanging. Once they were put away for drying, they used scrubbers and sponges and gave the tables a good cleaning.

We made them rather large this year, and I'm not sure they would have dried fast enough, but it has been - GASP - 80 degrees outside! My classroom windows open onto a flat roof covered with stones. The sun has been bright and the roof is hot enough to fry an egg, and so I leaned out the windows and set the hunks of cave wall on the rocks to dry in the sun.

It's so warm that things are blooming way earlier than usual, and the robins are outside chirping. It feels like July, but there are still 3 months of school left. I think it is making the kids a little wacky.

Tomorrow my fourth graders head into the caves. Hopefully that will take their minds off the summer weather outside. Meanwhile, construction of the teddy bear chairs is complete and 2nd graders are ready to start painting them, and my 3rd graders are about to begin the papier-mache on their garden gnomes. Busy busy busy!
Like a house of cards! Don't dare move a chair.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Creative Challenge

(random photo)

I have responded to a challenge posted on the blog Created 2B Creative, and part of the challenge is to continue it forward. Here's how it works.
  • I will create something (I don't know what yet!) for the first three people who say (in the comments below) they would like to participate.
  • If you say you would like to participate, you must issue the challenge somewhere (on your own blog, on facebook or twitter -- wherever you want) and personally make something in 2012 (don't wait too long and then forget - I actually would suggest you do it in the next month) for at least three people, who will pledge to make something for three more people . . .
  • If you're one of the first three respondents, send me your address in a private message (my email address is listed on my profile) so that I can mail you my creation -- no matter where in the world you live! :)
So, who's in?

My art room is like a cat hospital

A cat hospital filled with unfinished kitties - waiting for whiskers and noses,
eyes, and some patterns, and a little TLC.
It's kind of like Edward Scissorhands - their Creators have gone home for the weekend and left them incomplete, banding together to fend for themselves against the elements. Poor kitties.

Or maybe just waiting for a pat on the head or a rub on the tummy.
But this one is not made out of papier-mache.

And now for a little more art room crazies - here's the next step with that shredded paper I showed you. We are mixing it with papier-mache goo ("dog drool") till the paper breaks down and becomes clay-like. Fun, fun, fun....

And a tower of teddy bear chairs in-progress obliterating my word wall. On Monday 2nd graders will complete their construction so we can begin painting them later in the week.

And then, today, Saturday, I poured OJ and milk at our annual Teachers Association sponsored free community pancake breakfast, and then helped direct kids to transform an old flat into something useable for the grade 5-8 musical production of Cinderella, coming soon. I'll add something that looks like framing on the window when the stones are dry. The kids did a good job, but boy oh boy, the kids looked like a mess when they were done!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A few more cats and a little more insanity

Nancy's colorful cat. The collar will be getting bedazzled with jewels.

Connor's cat has a wistful expression.

Jeff's camoflage cat. Not exactly Laurel Burch, but he loves it, so I do too.

Chelsea's Glamour Puss got a necklace and earrings today and I think will be getting jewels on her collar too.

Anna and Grant have rainbow cats in progress.

And what's this below? Shredded paper - lots of it - three full garbage bags - I poured in a couple of buckets of warm water to break it down a bit, and tomorrow it will get a bunch of papier-mache goo mixed in, because my 4th graders will be building hunks of CAVE WALLS and I want them to be bigger than last year. Check out here to see what I'm planning with this glop.

As if I don't have enough stuff in my room, I have a tower of teddy bear chairs stacked practically to the ceiling on my counter, and 18" square paintings in the drying rack, and clay pinch pot clusters on a shelf, and... and... and... INSANITY.