Monday, July 1, 2013

Experimentation through Fabrication

There are many art mediums through which children can learn to express themselves.  An often overlooked one is sewing.  Learning to control thread and fabric, and how to creatively use these to express themselves, can be a rewarding experience for artists of all ages.

While sewing can result in creating something beautiful and/or useful, it can also be an enjoyable pursuit for children to develop important skills.  Small finger muscles are used as this artist draws with a pencil, snips with scissors, and stitches with a needle. Her hand-eye coordination skills are honed as she engages in these activities.  

Freely experimenting and observing her progress as she works, the artist learns cause and effect.  This results in her ability to set goals for herself, make important choices and work hard to achieve those.  Making mistakes is natural.  Learning from them requires an opportunity to do so through hands-on experience.

As the artist develops her sewing skills, she can also come up with projects to create in the future.  Her knowledge of patterns, counting and symmetry will apply not only in the art studio, but also in the classroom and other real world experiences.

There are no right or wrong ways to sew.  Experimenting and exploring what works is how an artist makes connections.  Providing young artists and seamstresses with a safe environment and the tools for exploration will lead to their increased ability to try new things, master techniques, and become proficient at creating.  The most important thing is that enjoy the experience!

Planning, Patience, Process and Progress

Sewing is, in a way, much like engineering.  The seamstress is building something.  She must plan ahead, visualize the finished project, problem-solve and understand how each and every step creates the foundation for the next.

Fine motor skills involved in sewing are necessary, but the mental exercises that the artist experiences also serve a very important purpose.  A great deal of planning and forethought bring about the finished product, and as patience and persistence result in a rewarding process and enjoyable progress.

The artist shown here constructs her creation by drawing an idea, cutting out the pattern, tracing it onto fabric, and designing exterior elements.  She is inspired by an image in a book, but modified it according to her personal preference.

Moving on, she sews the pieces together so that they are secure.  Sometimes encountering a knot in the thread or a faulty stitch, the artist must stop and solve the problem at hand.  Taking the time to remedy these issues results in a stronger end product, and stronger sense of ability during the process.

Sharing the progress with her peers, the artist receives feedback about the steps that she is taking.  Her patience is paying off and she reports feeling pleased with how the pieces are coming together.  Balancing her sense of achievement with others' suggestions, she can determine what she needs to work on next.

Returning the next day, the artist is determined to finish her work.  She remains focused, as she pins her fabrics together securely.  Becoming organized in this way took practice, and will allow the artist to work more efficiently the next time she begins a sewing project.  

Completing the construction process, the artist sews the body of her creation together.  She has come a long way since just learning to tie a knot and thread a needle.  Her patience has paid off and she has learned much from the process.  The foundation for learning has been established and each sewing experience will add another layer to that foundation. 

As the artist adds the final touches and fills her creation with stuffing, she sees the steps that she has taken come full circle.  Her planning, visualizing, and continuous problem-solving has resulted in a beautiful piece of art to have and to hold... and to show off!  Because fabrics and threads are very forgiving, sewing is a wonderful activity for artists of all ages.  Mistakes can be made, as patience develops and progress takes place.

Making and Mastering

Starting a sewn creation is a task in itself.  Since making something from scratch requires many steps, it is best to begin by brainstorming and drawing out various ideas.  This artist decides on an image and remembers that she first needs to focus on the overall shape.

Proceeding with the next step, the artist cuts out the body outline.  Keeping in mind that the two sides of the body will be attached and turned inside out, the artist keeps the pattern fairly large, so that it doesn't become too small to work with when it shrinks. 

After tracing the pattern onto fabric that she will use for one side of the body, the artist carefully uses the scissors to cut along this outline.  Utilizing fine motor skills is necessary for this step and teaches the artist that taking her time is also essential.

Continuing to focus, the artist draws and cuts out the details for her creation's face.  These features will be sewn on to one of the body's sides.  

Carefully, she again traces the detail cut outs onto fabric, so that she can cut them and pin them on.  All of these steps are important and require great attention, so that the pieces all fit together.

Now, the creation's characters starts to emerge, as the artist sews on the facial features.  Deciding exactly where they should go and keeping them pinned in place takes concentration and diligence.  This artist does a great job of checking and re-checking to make sure the fabric doesn't move.

Though she engages in conversation with her peers and enjoys the social aspect of this craft, the artist is still able to work on her project and take breaks as necessary.  It is important to be able to put her material down every now and then, so that she can get a fresh perspective and continue where she left off.

Recalling the basic techniques of threading a needle and tying a knot, the artist does this over and over again as she puts together her piece.  As she works, she is mastering these skills.

Persisting through struggles and solving problems as they come, the artist develops confidence and knowledge.  She has all the tools that she needs to break through any barriers and make her ideas work.

After completing the final touches on the face, the artist is able to put the body's pieces together.  As her creation takes shape, the artist feels a sense of accomplishment and pride.  

The stitches are strong and the stuffing is in place, as the artist's idea comes to life.  Getting to this point allows one to understand the importance of each step that was taken along the way.  This young artist came into the studio not knowing exactly what she wanted to create.  However, she left with the belief that she can both make and master, if she just puts her mind to it.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Blooming and Bonding

When children engage in social learning, they are provided with a way of acquiring new skills and a means of engaging in nonverbal interaction.  These children attain many of their most important social and cognitive abilities by observing and imitating what others do.

Making art with friends in the studio often comes in the forms of both imitation and emulation.   Using each other or the artworks of each other as models, friends transfer knowledge and inspire further ambition.  As these girls move from drawing to painting, they excel independently but also as a pair.

Each artist has her own style and makes personal choices about what mediums to use and which colors to apply.  Having the freedom to do this allows the artist to focus on her own creation, while also gaining new ideas from others.  She develops skills of her own and appreciates those of her peers.

Sharing discoveries, the friendship between these two girls grows.  Separately, each artist is developing her own sense of self and realizing that she has unique attributes and talents.   Offering these up for imitation replaces the need for competition, resulting instead in mutual achievement.

Comparing and contrasting the final works of art highlights the girls' similarities and differences.  They can visually recognize where they might need help from each other, and also recognize the many ways in which they are maintaining strengths of their own.  Imitation results in appreciation, copying leads to caring.  Through the process of creating together, the capabilities of each artist blossom while the friendly bond between the girls increases.

The Mind Body Connection

Being human means more than just having a brain and hands.  These elements are important for our interactions with the world, but utilization of those inner and outer body parts is what leads to functional experiences that result in genuine living and learning.  When we use both our minds and bodies together, we become creative, useful and productive.  With clay, humans can safely explore these innate desires, while remaining curious but becoming more confident at the same time. 

As we grow up, we are often taught that we should stay clean and we become worried about getting dirty.  That concern can be forgotten when using clay, as it is an easy material to rinse and wipe off.  This young artist is aware of the freedom that comes with using the soft medium, so he is able to plunge in and begin creating without inhibitions.

Original thinking and imagination result in designing and problem-solving.  These artists use their brains to think about what they might like to make or to modify their pieces as they continue the creative process.  For an artist to develop both physical strength and mental energy, he must remain flexible, both in the body and the brain.

 Three-dimensional quality comes naturally for humans.  The artists here work more kinesthetically, as they move their arms and hands to push, pull, and piece the material together.  Sculpting the clay mirrors shaping ideas.  Moving back and forth between these steps, the mind body connection increases.

Working from his own experiences, the artist understands more about what his hands can do and how he can use his brain to facilitate those movements.  Making his own observations, he is not limited in creative possibilities and is encouraged to continue experimenting.  Visual thinking and problem-solving are important not only for clay-making, but also for becoming more self-sufficient.  As different parts of the brain develop through each of these processes, different parts of the body also develop.  The essence of being human is combining and balancing these.  Desire, inspiration and artful capability are the outcome.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Form and Content

To some artists and art critics, form and content are considered distinct aspects of a work of art.  Form refers to the work's style, techniques and media used, and how elements of design are used.  Content refers to a work's overall essence, or what is being depicted.

In our studio, young artists don't particularly care about these concepts.  They just want to discover new things and feel good about what they are doing.  Their form is depicted more through how their bodies are moving, while the word content shifts in pronunciation and simply means "happy".

As seen above, this artist uses his physical form to explore materials and feel content while he engages in the act of mixing colors.  Here, he transfers that feeling of contentment into a more concrete visual representation of line and shape.

He forms an idea, a purpose, an image, a friendship.  The contents of his painting are purely a result of the sensory experience, though he is also content with the resulting aesthetic value of his work.

Using his body to paint, he creates both form and content.  Without having to stop and think about it, the artist is also engaging his physical, mental and emotional abilities, as he moves, thinks and feels.  This is but one way that form and content can be depicted, as art is hardly ever just about the subject matter.

Stuck on Art

When young artists enter the studio for the first time, they often don't know where to begin.  It can be hard for them to know exactly what their favorite thing to do with art is, and they may feel some nervous excitement about all of the options that lay before them.

Usually, the best place for them to start is right where they are.  This artist found that she really liked collage.  It seemed to come naturally, as she had at least had some experience using glue.  Finding pieces of paper, ribbons, fabrics, cardboard and buttons, she also found her way to a new interest.

Making friends while making her art, the artist gained momentum and continued to try new things, as ideas were shared with each other.  She added more layers to her creation while, at the same time, also added layers to her personal and social skill sets. 

The artist was so engaged with collage that she returned to it the next day.  Feeling more confident in her understanding of the activity, she was also more confident in her ability to label one of her favorite things to do with art.

The studio is a wonderful place for young artists to stick things together and discover surprising results. Often, the real surprise is that the artists end up being stuck on art themselves.  Process and product are balanced here, as both the art and the artist develops.