"It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge."
I had an interesting experience yesterday. One that I am now 100% certain was divinely designed so that we could talk about something in this space. I was chosen to co-host a weekly theme challenge for a popular early childhood education account. Please note that this is something I am really looking forward to doing. I had thrown my hat in the ring along with some suggested themes that I was jazzed about (at the top of my list: FELT... guys, you can make anything with felt). Only the theme that I was paired with on this co-host selection announcement was PROCESS ART. HUH? I was confused because it wasn't one of the themes that I threw out. Then I realized that I had # a post that was promoting a Process Art Webinar that a friend was leading. So it totally looked like an official entry for the theme search. What came after I put 2 & 2 together is what I want to talk about.
Here is what followed: I am not allowed to host a process art theme because some of my projects end in a "product". Some of my projects are crafts, or DIYs, I almost always provide tutorials therefore, this isn't a good fit. Because it's Process or Product and I don't want to ruffle any feathers. There are teachers and studios who identify as Process Based and I am not one of them so I gotta tell them that this probably isn't a good theme fit for me.
Gratefully, at the age of 39 there is a pause that generally comes after this kind of fear-fueled reaction. So I did not send a rash, "there's been a mix-up" email. I took a breath and then I remembered MY TRUTH: I hate labels and I hate rules. Hate is a strong word. Let's say that I am highly allergic to things which define and segregate. It extends far past my teaching approach.
Q: What do you do? My husband can answer: accountant. We all know that that is 1/100th of what he does, but that is a short, acceptable answer. A small, tidy, easily digestible box. What do I do? I am a mother, an educator, a painter, an interior designer, an illustrator, a business owner, a blogger, a collage artist, a mixed media artist, a cook, a photographer, a graphic designer, a writer, a print maker, a crafter, a DIYer, a stylist, a poet, an event planner...I seriously do all of these things but we live in a society where we are supposed to dilute ourselves down to a sound bite. We have to choose a title. Only I'm not willing to play that game. Seriously, I was designing my business card the other day and I was struggling to fit what it is that "I do" into that sweet little space under my name and after 2 days of going back and forth I thought: this struggle is telling me something. This resistance is speaking to me. Why don't I listen? I am a creative being at my core and I have been breaking the rules and veering off "the delineated path" to make my own way since the day I was born. Why don't I just own it? So I did.
This could easily turn into the beginning of my memoir so I am going to try to wrap it up. If you are still reading, thank you. After 20+ years of teaching here is what I know: there is not one approach that is right or better. There is value in open-ended art exploration and there is value in learning technique, method, color theory, and steps. In my "camp" there is room for all of it. I have seen students shine when exploring materials with very little framework and I have seen students soar while learning how to build a project step by step. Both add value and there is process, creativity, and room for individualism in both approaches. Just when I think I have "got it" my students show up and teach me something new. I think the art of a healthy educator, a good parent, is to stay flexible and present to the beings in front of you. I cannot tell you how many times I have gone in with a a plan and ditched it because it wasn't what my students needed on that particular day. All inclusive art making with varied approaches and techniques is where I want to be. Color me that.
We had an art session that turned into a really fun exploration with "loose parts". I gave my little friends a tray and let them hunt through our found objects and supplies for any little bits and pieces that sparked their interest. H really wanted to add some colored pasta into the tray but we were out so this desire for painted pasta took the art experience in a magical direction. Check it out:
- clear glue
- craft bond stick
- tempera paint (turquoise, peach, tan, neon yellow, neon pink)
- black card stock
- tray for collecting and containing loose parts
Here are some examples of loose parts:
- flower petals
- bits and pieces
- nuts and bolts
- recycled containers
- fabric pieces
- cut gold straws
- sticky back felt dots
- old penne pasta (that we painted)
- felt pieces (leftover from other projects)
- painted cardboard pieces (leftover from other projects)
Painting the pasta in a new way. We happened to have some pre cut black card stock out from another project. I just grabbed a stack, the girls picked some pretty paint colors, we added a blob to the center of the paper and they started rolling the dried penne noodles through the paint. This created two cool effects: brightly colored painted pasta and the unexpected bonus of abstract shape against the black background that looked really stunning. The ridges of the penne also added some great texture. Lots of messy fun!
We placed the penne on wax paper and let the background and the penne dry for 15 minutes. You could speed up drying time with a hair dryer. We just played mermaids while we waited.
Once our penne was dry we added it into the loose parts tray and started playing with our materials.
We used clear school glue and craft bond sticks to attach the loose parts with the exception of the felt dots which came with sticky backs.
Stacking parts and color was popular with this group
This is a really fun one. I hope you give it a try!