Sunday, March 8, 2015

Yarn painting, Huichol style for kids

My three DragonWing Arts students just finished 8 weeks of 'global art' projects.  In our last class, while paint and glue were drying, I introduced a surprise project for them with only 40 minutes left in our class time, before cleanup!  I wasn't sure if it would be a disaster or a success, and I was pleasantly surprised.  The project: mini-yarn paintings, Huichol-style.  (I'll share about the other projects in a few days.)

This past summer, at the International Folk Art Festival, I saw the incredible Huichol yarn paintings of Cilau Valadez and his father Mariano Valadez.  I was there participating in the Crizmac travel program and they came to visit our group, gave a demo and Cilau spoke eloquently about being a bridge between cultures.  I previously wrote about this experience in a blog post you can ready about by clicking here.

Here are a couple of pictures of their work, and also a photo of Cilau and his father demonstrating their process.
 Click here for a link to some info about the Huichol people and  their art.

Cilau told us that he teaches some workshops in his travels, and I asked for advice on how to imitate Huichol yarn painting with kids.  I had tried the glue/yarn thing, and the yarn stuck to my fingers and it was a disastrous mess.  But he had a terrific suggestion: peel and stick vinyl floor tiles!  I finally tried it out, when I decided I wanted to squeeze in one last project while paint dried.  And it is certainly easier than glue.

Knowing we wouldn't have a lot of time, I decided we would work small.  I bought the vinyl tiles individually at Lowe's for maybe $1.19 each; I believe they are 12" square.  They have one side that is sticky, and is covered with a waxy paper coating that you peel off when you are ready to use the tile.  I experimented with yarn, but realized I would have to buy yarn in a large variety of colors, and with just three students it didn't seem practical.  So I tried crochet cotton, the kind that kids use to make friendship bracelets.  I got a whole selection packaged together at JoAnne's, and with a 50% off coupon, it was a good bargain.  And the bonus was, I actually found the thin cotton to be easier to use than the yarn.  But I wasn't sure how the kids would feel about it.  The photos at the top of this post are of my sample, which I made start-to-finish in 30 minutes. 

I bought tiny frames at the dollar store.  I think the inside dimension is probably 1-1/2"x3".  They are intended to be used for place-cards for weddings and other events.  I opened them up and cut the vinyl tiles into pieces the size of the backboard.  Then, I measured the size of the frame opening, and used an exacto knife to lightly cut that inside dimension on the paper that covers the sticky side of the tile.  When the kids were ready to get to work, we simply peeled the paper off of the inner rectangle.  Below you can see a couple of the kids working on their pieces.  This should make the process easier to understand!
 It's really quite easy.  Cut pieces of the cotton, lay them into place, snip the ends, and tap it down.  Tight curves or sharp angles are a little more difficult, so I suggested that the kids cut them at the corner of the angle to make the cotton lay in place more easily.  
 
The piece pictured below, is by a 4th grade girl.  She was working meticulously, and rushed to fill in the last spot in the last minute we had left.  I didn't think she'd get it done.  I jammed it into the frame just in the nick of time, because their parents were arriving for their mini-'art show' for the end of the 8 week session.  I'm posting two photos because, unfortunately, neither photo is very good.  I wish I had photographed the work before it was put into the frames.  When her mom asked her what her favorite project was, this was the one she chose!  Her mom says she likes to do drawings like this, and she was excited when I said how easy this would be to do at home.  I wouldn't be surprised if they buy a tile and some crochet cotton so she can do a bigger piece on her own.
 This abstract piece is by a 2nd grade boy, who bursts with enthusiasm about everything we do.  He was pretty excited about his work!
The piece below it is by his 4th grade brother, who tends to rush.  I didn't tell them to do landscapes, but I was working on one for a demo.  He insists his is also abstract, but it looks like a sunset to me...
If the pieces look rushed, well... they were.  They really only had 40 minutes of work time after I'd talked about the Huichol artists and shown them images.  So I'm pretty proud of how they dug in and went right to work, and this is definitely something I'd try again.  As a matter of fact, I still have another unused tile, so maybe I'll make a bigger piece myself.  I'm picturing paisleys...

11 comments:

  1. I love the idea of using embroidery floss!! Genius! These look great. AND those silver frames, perfect!

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    1. If I dd it again, with more time, I'd buy slightly bigger frames. The nice thing about the frames is that the glass insures that the yarn will stay in place.

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  2. HOW CUTE! I love these! Love the embroidery floss too :) Amazingness.

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    1. Thanks! Why couldn't I think of the word 'embroidery floss' when I wrote the post?

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  3. DO you think Kindergartners could do this? What modifications might you make? I have a workshop period....90 minutes for 5 weeks and I would like something(s) for kindergartners to do while others are looming and crocheting.

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  4. DO you think Kindergartners could do this? What modifications might you make? I have a workshop period....90 minutes for 5 weeks and I would like something(s) for kindergartners to do while others are looming and crocheting.

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    1. Honestly, I think it would be super-frustrating for kindergarteners! Try it out yourself, but I think you'll find it's too difficult for their little hands.

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  5. I had students use half a floor tile and do landscapes. If you use yarn you need to tell students not to pull and stretch it or it will shrink when they go back to the project the next time. I did this project with students with special needs and I was so happy with the outcome. The students enjoyed it, too.

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    1. I'm glad this worked successfully for you!

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