Tag Archives: Art at the Center

Celebration of Intention

Part 3 of my Evolution as a Teacher

Another piece I’ve started incorporating into my classes is Celebration time, which really to me is more the Celebration of Intention, rather than the Celebration of a Finished Piece.

Celebration of Intention
A huge guiding factor in Kathryn‘s way of teaching is that it’s about the process, not the finished product.  I didn’t realize how eager I was for the celebration of process, but as soon as I realized what this was about, my mind ached for this focus on intention.

At the end of every class we gather on the couches & everyone takes a turn talking about their work of the day.

Celebration of Intention
Why did they choose that fabric?
Why those shapes or patterns?

Celebration of Intention
And what I love the most: Do you feel the piece is finished? Sometimes we don’t know then if a piece is finished, but we just have a feeling & we need to stop & think about our work.

Celebration of Intention
In an earlier Celebration, one girl commented that she hated her piece & wanted to throw it away. I felt this needed discussion. Instead of just disposing of what we don’t like, let’s stop to think about what made us dislike the work. Was it a design choice? Thread choice?  Do we need to add something to it to improve it, or take something away?  Did it even begin in a place you wanted it to start?

I feel there’s a need to stop rushing from project to project working only for completions sake. We need to slow down & think about our work, become involved & truly connected to what we’re making.

Creating is a part of us & if we work for production, we don’t give ourselves the space to grow.  We grow by learning & reflecting.  The Celebration of Process gives us this space.

Read Part 1 & Part 2 of my Evolution as a Teacher for more background about my journey.

The Evolution of a Teacher, Part 2

Be sure to read The Evolution of a Teacher, Part 1 first!  This post will make a bit more sense!

Yesterday I started telling the story of my teaching & left you at the point where I had observed Kathryn teaching.

I went home & had a serious discussion with myself on how I taught & how I could possibly move forward.  This is what I knew:

1. I didn’t like how my current classes were going.  The students didn’t own their work & it seemed to me that they weren’t looking forward to what they could make in the future.  I feel that education should spur the student to take the lesson, make it their own & move forward.  That wasn’t happening.
2. I could tell that the kids I was working with had a lot of stresses put upon them.  They also had a lot of “this is how it’s done.”  And in a way, my project based class was just adding to that burden.
3. I wanted the students to love sewing, & I didn’t feel that they were falling in love with sewing.  Yes they had a good time & enjoyed class, but I didn’t feel they loved sewing so much they wanted to convince their parents to buy them a machine & again, own their sewing experience.

So I sat down thinking how I could change the class.  I wanted them to love the medium of sewing.  I also wanted their creativity to come through & for them to own their projects.  I knew that collage was a large part of Kathryn’s studio work (have you read Collette?) & quickly realized paper collage can easily be translated into fabric collage!  Thus the Fabric Collage Class was born.

Fabric Colllage

The first class was a hit!  It was so much fun & drastically different.  I began by giving the sewing machine rules & then guidelines/suggestions for how to make their collage & then I let them go.  We started by using 6″ squares of white fabric.  I’ve included pictures of their work throughout this post.

Fabric Collage

The class also just ran smoother.  There was more listening & fewer distractions.  They were more willing to focus to thread the needle.  There were fewer needles that became unthreaded.  It was a completely different class from the project based classes.

Fabric Colllage

I also was strict about us having clean-up time &  Celebration time.  There were fewer clean-up protests, & Celebration time allowed us to stop & talk about their work.  There’s more I want to say about Celebration time, but I’m going to leave that for another post.

The next series I taught was 3-D Creations.  Here I went through the basics on how to add dimension to our fabric pieces, mostly using the technique of adding “stuffing” or poly-fil.  Here was struck me was that they didn’t just create art, they also created elaborate stories as they worked.  The art became bigger than just the fabric- it became part of something else- something entirely theirs they needed to bring to life & share with the world.

I love how this method of teaching inspires the students to act on their own.  I love how given the chance to have reasonable responsibility, 8-10 year olds are able to safely & efficiently use the sewing machine.  I love how this encourages to ask “what next?”  They are constantly evaluating their work and asking how can it improve.

The greatest gift I received was this past May when I had two repeat students & on the first day one told me all the things she had made over Christmas break (a sewing machine cover, an infinity scarf, more dolls & all of these weren’t from patterns- she knew what she wanted & planned out from her ideas how to make these!) & another told me she had asked for a space in the basement where she could keep her sewing machine up at all times, so she could easily go & sew whenever she liked.

These students are learning more than how to sew.  They are learning to work through problems thoroughly.  They are learning to be present while working.  They are learning how to ask questions & search out answers themselves.  To deal with challenges as they arise.  They are telling stories in a new way.  They are using math & applying design techniques and evening learning some physics along the way.  And they are doing all of this through intentional play.

collage 3

The Evolution of a Teacher, Part 1

I recently wrapped up a session of my Fabric Collage class for kids & had several revelations I wanted to share.  But first, I need to share how I got to where I am today.  Because you need to understand that before you I can share these thoughts.

I started off teaching project based classes.  All the kids would come to class & I’d have a sample of a specific project & they’d all walk out the door at the end of class with basically the same item.  And it worked.  Sort of.

Art at the Center
And then we moved to Virginia & one morning as I was walking to the Farmer’s Market, I noticed the sign for “Art at the Center” in a cute white house & stopped in & chatted with the owner, Kathryn.  I mentioned I taught sewing & before I knew it, there I was teaching again.

I did the project based classes again, but as I chatted with Kathryn over time I became interested in how she taught.  If you had the opportunity to visit the old building, you probably noticed that it wasn’t your typical Art room.  There was an abstract mural in an “active” state, there were signs all around about how to rethink art, there was advice to parents on how to incorporate improv art into their lives.  It was different because rather than talking about how great art is, this place seemed to resonate with “Make Art.  Play with Your Art.  Think About Your Art.  Own Your Art.  Know Why Your Art is Yours.  Know that Art is a Process.  Respect the Art of Art.”

This idea of playing as art intrigued me & I asked if I could observe Kathryn teach.

The result was mind blowing.  I’d never seen something like that before!  8 kids walking around the room all doing their own thing, but everyone was calm, it was quiet & everyone was working.  I mean- they were working.  They were serious & focused & you could tell by the atmosphere that these kids had art to make; they were busy owning their art.  And Kathryn wasn’t all in their business.  She was hanging out in the background, reminding them of some of the rules of clay & letting them be.

At the end, they gathered around a table for “Celebration” & the kids talked about their pieces.  They spoke about what inspired them, what they found challenging & what they enjoyed.

After leaving that class I knew I wanted to change my classes.  I wanted to create an atmosphere of an active self directed studio.

Thanks for reading the story of my evolution!  I hope to have the next part posted soon!

The Evolution of a Teacher, Part 2

Sewing Classes for Kids

Teapot & I have been sick all week, so I don’t have any quilty stuff to show you (we’ve been napping & knitting…)

But I can tell you about the sewing classes I’ll be teaching this fall at Art at the Center in Alexandria, Virginia!

Intro to Sewing Class with Ormond Beach Quilts
In the Intro to Sewing Class we’ll be making bookmarks while learning about the sewing machine and the basics of operating the machine.

Sewn Fabric Collage Class with Ormond Beach Quilts
In the Sewn Fabric Collage Class kids will use a piece of fabric as the “canvas” & use fabric pieces to create a design of their choosing.  Then they will sew the pieces & embellish as desired.  By the end of class they will have several of these pieces they can put on a ring & build upon later at home.

3-D Creation Sewing Class with Ormond Beach Quilts
In the 3-D Creations Class kids will learn how to take an idea from a sketch & turn it into a reality.  There are no limits on what they can make in this class! 

This is my third semester to be teaching at Art at the Center & I’ve never been so excited about these classes!  I’ve changed the format greatly to incorporate more play & more room for individual creativity.  I want to write on this is more depth, (once my head clears from this sick fogginess), but know that I think play learning benefits more than just toddlers- that elementary kids *need* to play with sewing machines!

I can’t wait to see your kids in my classes!


Big Chalk Draw

One of the advantages of moving around is that I’m constantly meeting people smarter than myself that challenge my thinking in ways I never imagined.

This move back to Virginia led me to met Kathryn who runs Art at the Center.  Aside from teaching me the wonders of process art & inspiring me creatively in innumerable ways, I admire her pursuit of community art.

Last Friday she hosted the “Big Chalk Draw” & Teapot & I walked down to join them at the insanely early hour of 8am (we take mornings easy around here.)  We discovered the parking lot empty of cars & filled with buckets of sidewalk chalk.  Parents & kids had already started drawing and the parking lot was slowly being remade into a giant canvas.

Here’s a labyrinth (they’re nuts about labyrinths at A@TC!  You should really read Kathryn’s musings on them):

Chalk Labyrinth at the Big Chalk Draw

I added a chalk quilt- a simple sampler quilt with nine different basic quilt blocks:

Chalk Quilt at the Big Chalk Draw

Before we left though, I noticed that someone/someone’s had added to my quilt:

Chalk Quilt After at the Big Chalk Draw

I love their blocks!  See that middle block on the third row from the top?  I envision enlarging that & turning it into a baby quilt!

On the way home I was thinking about the morning & here are my thoughts:
– Art was built upon art.  I may have started a drawing, but it was fair game to be added upon & become something new.  This didn’t ruin my work- just changed it.  I wonder what new things we would discover if we approached more situations like this in our lives.

– You can always start something if you’re willing to move to a new place in the parking lot.  I’m guilty of this- I get in my comfort zone & I don’t want to move, but if I just scooted 2 feet, I’d find the opportunity to work on a new project in a new light.

– Most drawings start with a line.  A LINE people!  A simple little line.  You don’t need some impressive plan in your head, you just need to start with a line.  We can take this into the quilting world too- what if we just started a quilt with a block & looked to see where it can take us?

– Draw with your kids.  I noticed striking moments of bonding when kids & parents worked together on a drawing.  The art connected them together in a new way.  They both contributed to the final piece.  They were both makers for something that wouldn’t have been without both of them.

Finally, here’s a time lapse video of the entire morning in 2 1/2 minutes!