Saturday, November 19, 2016

Indigo Tie-Dye (Shibori)

What to do on a sunny fall day? I cooked, I blogged, I took pictures of leaf piles my children made. And then I decided that it was going to be Indigo Dying Day!

I'd never done it before, but I'd read about it and decided I could totally do this. I started by ordering this indigo dye kit from Amazon and some white cloth napkins. 

As my family played in leaves, I rooted around in the garage for a 5 gallon bucket. I settled for an empty Tidy Cats bucket that my neighbor had given us stones in for my driveway planter! It was just what I needed! 

I read the directions, mixed up my dye, and looked at examples in the booklet for ideas on how to tie the rubber bands on my napkins. 

The kit included thick and thin rubber bands, so I mixed it up on each of my napkins and used both. Each napkin was an attempt at a slightly different pattern. I had no idea if it was going to work or not, but I was too excited to be very worried about it.

WEAR GLOVES! The gloves I wore were ok, but next time I'm going to wear longer ones...the kind you'd wear for doing dishes. As I worked, the ink dribbled into the tops of my gloves and my hands are now slightly blue. 

See? Compared to Randy I look like I'm turning into Violet from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It won't last forever, right? A few days of artsy hands won't hurt. Maybe it'll be a conversation starter! After banding the napkins and donning my too-short-for-this-project rubber gloves, it was dye time!

I wiggled each napkin around in the bucket-o-dye for several minutes, working the dye into the fabric. 

When removed from the dye I noticed that the napkins were bright green

Each napkin was laid on a plastic bag in my driveway. It didn't take long for the bright green to darken into a deep, dark, beautiful blue. 

When my husband and our neighbor were finished taking care of the leaves, they kept me company as I worked. They admired my mess and asked questions. They also admired the process. It's an interesting process to watch, but it's best to keep your distance if you're not dressed for the occasion. Especially if you're around me. I'm a slob when it comes to dying. 

I dribbled indigo dye on my favorite L.L.Bean slippers! I dribbled indigo dye on my warm wool socks! Needless to say, don't wear things you love while making artistic messes. Next time I'll practice what I preach to my students!

Before you judge too harshly, you should know that the rest of my outfit was practical for the job, ok? It was also super comfortable. Once the napkins had been out in the air for 20 minutes or so, I rinsed each one thoroughly in clean water, untied the rubber bands, and hung them on my neighbors fence to air out a bit. 

It felt like I was opening gifts on Christmas morning!

Each napkin was different, and I couldn't wait to see how they looked!

I LOVE THEM! I'm totally hooked and cannot wait to do this again! After airing them out a bit I took them to the local laundromat to wash them (I didn't want to take the chance in my machine). They didn't take long to wash and I dried them at home. They are BEAUTIFUL! 

After being washed and dried the color lightened to lovely shades of blue and indigo. They're ready for napkin rings and a dinner party! After my hands are back to normal, I'll be ready too!

I scored these sweet rose copper napkin rings on eBay and they are PERFECT!!! The copper is a beautiful complement to the indigo. I love the old with the new. I love the uniqueness of each of these. Love, love, LOVE!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

I'm always sad to see October come to an end, but we sure do go out in style! Each year a coworker friend hosts a fabulous Halloween party. We get together for pizza, decorate with friends, and I'm always tasked with climbing the tallest ladder to put webbing around the chandelier. I hate heights, but each year it gets a bit easier! My favorite part of Halloween is the making of the costumes. 

This year our costumes were based on the Wes Anderson film "The Fantastic Mr.Fox"inspired by the children's book "The Fantastic Mr.Fox" by British author Roald Dahl. Warm golden hues are used throughout the movie, the claymation characters are perfectly styled, and we love it. The overall look of the movie is just so good. A true feast for the eyes. And it's funny. I could watch it a million times and I don't think it'd get old.  

I'm embarrassed to admit that I was going to paint our faces this year to save myself a bit of time. October is crazy, my kids are in sports and scouts, and I just didn't think I had it in me to make fancy costumes this year. My dear husband really wanted masks, which surprised me because he usually waits until the last minute to think about costumes. Perhaps I shouldn't have been too surprised, though, because he knew I'd be the one making them! I set to work watching the movie with a cup of coffee and some materials to problem solve the mask making. I had seen instructions for fox masks on Pinterest but decided to wing it and try doing it myself. I was armed with scissors, paper plates, masking tape, cheap masks as foundations, a faux fur vest, and a hot glue gun. How hard could it be?

I started with plastic 99 cent masks for your eyes, the kind a superhero might wear. I used paper plates to build up the faces, referencing the movie while I taped the bits and pieces of cut plate into place. My kids were so excited about the costumes and the movie that they sat with me while I worked and sipped coffee. Family bonding time. I didn't want to spend much on the costumes. I had days before the party and wanted to get the project finished while I had a chunk of time to invest. Since I hadn't purchased faux fur, originally intending to paint our faces, I decided to repurpose a faux fur vest that my daughter rarely wore. It worked beautifully! The only snag was that there was faux fur EVERYWHERE. It looked like I'd been shaving animals in my dining room! I was covered in fur, it was all over the floor. A small price to pay for cool masks I guess. Sweep sweep and it was gone. 

The vest fur wasn't the right color, so I had to figure out what to do about it. After digging around in the basement I found cans of spray paint and remembered that I had a stash of old colorful hairspray. Jackpot! I put cardboard on the driveway from my stash in the garage and set to work spraying the masks with reds, oranges and yellows. Referencing the case from the movie, I added a few gold and black details. It was going to work! It was coming together! I was going to have them finished in plenty of time! And it only took half the day!

It was a beautiful day, so I left them outside to dry in the sun and breeze. When my husband returned from his day of golf he was thrilled with the end product and couldn't believe I'd finished them while he was out! I had purchased ears and one tail (spoiler alert, in the movie his tail is shot off), so I painted them up a bit to match the masks I'd made.

A quick trip to the local Goodwill for him, a digging around the closet session for me, and voila! Mr. and Mrs. Fox! I'm biased, of course, but I think we looked FANTASTIC!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

American Gothic Parodies

Inspiration can be found almost anywhere. Over the summer a group of coworkers and their sons invited me to join them to hike a small portion of the Appalachian Trail. The trail runs from Georgia to Maine and takes roughly 6 months to thru hike. Summers aren't that long, of course, so we planned a 4 day hike. You can read more about it hereWhile hiking only a few things occupy your thoughts: moving forward, hurting feet, water, and miles to camp. You notice incredibly beautiful things around you and carefully avoid the scary things, like snakes. Sometimes other things hit you. An intensely strong desire for a cold glass of lemonade, or a cool new idea for an art project. I was struck by both!

Dave and Erin Good are a married couple that teach at my school. They're always up for an adventure and they have a great sense of humor (my favorite type of folks), so I knew they'd be perfect for an American Gothic Parody! A parody is a silly version of a serious work of art. For example, Weird Al sings parodies of popular songs. Anywho, American Gothic is probably the most recognizable work by Iowan artist Grant Wood. It's so famous that it's often parodied in advertisements. While visiting Knoebels Amusement Resort with my family over the summer I saw that their baked potato stand sign was a parody of American Gothic. Farmers Only used a cartoon parody in their first wave of tv commercials. A former student gifted a pin to me from the state farm show a few years ago that had a chicken and rooster in the iconic pose. If you know the famous original, you'll notice parodies of it all over the place! I've seen 4 parodies of it on social media this week alone! Knowing bits of cultural art history is like being in a cool club! You understand humor that others don't appreciate!

Back to the trail...When we stopped for a water break I asked Dave and Erin if they'd be willing to pose for me and they very happily agreed! I told you they were fun, but this really upped their cool factor! I carry my sketchbook everywhere, so when we were sitting in camp later that evening I did a quick caricature of them posing as American Gothic. I didn't want to lose the idea. In the sketch I added details from our hiking experience. In place of the white house from the original painting I drew the large tarp that we tented under during a rainstorm. Instead of holding a pitchfork, Dave proudly holds a roasted hot dog on a stick, our first hiking feast! All of the parts make sense together and are easily recognized as a parody of the original. So how does this work in the classroom? To prep for this project I hung several parodies of Mona Lisa around the school. Students had been noticing and commenting on them for weeks. What are they for? They saw a Star Wars Mona Lisa by the library doors and a Lego Mona Lisa by the stairs. They know the original version plays an important role in the art room, so what's with the silly stuff? 

When they came to class I projected this image at the front of the room. I wanted students to read the picture, to think about what they were seeing, to look closely for clues that would help them answer the questions. I wanted them to own the information instead of me just jibber-jabbing facts at them. Many noted their attire. People don't really dress like that these days. They were standing pretty close to each other so they couldn't be strangers, that'd be uncomfortable. Some thought they were married, but others thought the farmer looked too old for the lady standing next to him. Maybe it was his daughter? They must be farmers because there's a barn and he's holding a pitchfork. Maybe they're in England? No, this could be Pennsylvania because it looks kind of like where we live. They shared a lot of good ideas, and then we discussed the answers, justifying them with the clues. Students were excited when they were on track with their thoughts, and I was too! This was all pretty serious business, so we added a dash of whimsy fun viewing several parodies of American Gothic. Now the silly Mona Lisa pictures were making sense! They're parodies! I shared my Appalachian Gothic with them and explained the parts of the drawing. So why were we looking at parodies of famous art? Because we were making our own! Oh, the possibilities! What could we draw inspiration from?! From things we know...

Students needed to brainstorm 2 characters that made sense together. Darth Vader and Princess Leia make sense together, they're from the same movie franchise (Star Wars, a family favorite). But Scooby Doo and Mickey Mouse wouldn't work at all because they're from totally different cartoons. You get the idea. How could there be a Scooby without a Shaggy?! One of the characters needed to be holding something to represent the pitchfork. In my example Dave is proudly holding a stick with a perfectly roasted hot dog. Then students needed to have an idea to replace the white farmhouse from the original work. I drew a tarp behind the Goods. Darth Vader and Princess Leia might have the Death Star behind them. That would make perfect sense, since that's where Darth Vader hangs out! They needed to draw LIGHTLY, breaking things down into basic shapes that they could add details to. We were careful about the size of our characters. How close were they standing to the viewer (that's us, the folks looking at the picture)? The kids loved this project! 

Some students chose characters from movies and cartoons they love, others chose characters from favorite video games or books, and others chose real people that they know, like their friends and family. Everyone was thoughtful in their choices. I like giving students the opportunity to choose whenever possible so I showed them several ways to add color to their work, including colored pencils, crayons, markers, markers blended with water painted over them, watercolor paints with salt sprinkles, and various combinations of those. It makes it more personal when they choose. Maybe it's something they've never tried before, or it's their favorite art supply to use, but it's theirs. Can I do this all the time? No. There are techniques and materials they need a formal introduction for, but can we experiment from time to time? Absolutely! 

These parodies are personal. Students chose subjects for their work based on what they like and then chose supplies they enjoyed to fill them in. They did a fabulous job! Be watching the hallways for these beauties in the near future!