Saturday, December 9, 2017

Get Stuck on Papier-Mache!

I've been slow to finish telling you all about my state conference.  In the pic above, I'm about to present a tell-all workshop about my favorite medium for working with kids, papier-mache, which I'll be talking about in this post.  Notice that in every photo, my name tag is turned around backwards so that all you can see are things like my dinner tickets and such.  Which is a shame, because I put a lot of effort into making it pretty at the Bling Your Badge table.  But at least you can see all the eyeballs on the neck strap, and the ribbon for participating in the member 10x10 show.... 
This post isn't actually about the Bling table, but I can't write about the convention without mentioning this activity.  I'm proud to say that the Bling Your Badge table was my brainchild about 1/2 dozen years ago, when the convention was going to be in our region for the first time in a while.  I thought art teachers would like something to occupy their hands during their spare moments.  And boy was I right.  The table has been so immensely popular that we sponsor it annually, no matter where the convention is held, and I'm the gal in charge.  It is so popular that, before dinner and the evening events I'll unplug and hide the glue guns and power strip, and clean up the mess of spilled rhinestones and pipe cleaners and wiggle eyes and close the containers, and I'll come back an hour later and find the glue guns all plugged back in, with the containers open and feathers and sequins sparkly foam stickers and such again spilled out all over the table.  Art teachers are persistent about wanting to fancy-up their badges!  It's hard to get angry when you've made so many people at the convention have a happy smile.

Anyhow, back to my workshop.  I shared my unique methods of doing papier-mache and avoiding wads of drippy gooey paper that take weeks to dry.  We talked about using the benefits of using paper bags and plastic bags as armatures, along with many other options, and I gave my usual warning about the potential problem when using balloons as armatures by telling the story of my late afternoon disaster, when I was alone in the school and thought I heard gunshots.  It wasn't guns after all; it was the sound of one-after-another balloon, covered with fresh papier-mache, popping.  About half of the 50 balloons had to be replaced in a hurry, and I spent the next hour (when I should have been home for dinner) inflating new balloons inside a couple of dozen collapsing messes of gooey wet newspaper.  Not fun...
The masks pictured above use a paper lunch bag armature, and the cats below use a plastic grocery bag armature.  The bags are, of course, stuffed with crumpled newspaper.  And of course that's me with slightly blue hair doing my presentation.  If you want to know about the eyeball in the background, you can read about them in the blog post you'll find by clicking HERE. By searching my blog you can also find info on the various projects pictured in the images bleow.
The delicious ice cream cones pictured below are made from a newspaper ball armature, on top of a paper or oaktag cone.  Easy papier-mache project and oh-so-fun!
We discussed much more in the workshop, but since I wasn't the person taking the photos, this is all I've got.  But that's OK, because if you want to know everything about the workshop, my handouts and PowerPoint are available for you, with all sorts of advice and instructions for using papier-mache successfully!   Here's a link to my papier-mache handout from the convention workshop:  Get Stuck on Papier-Mache - handout.

For  links to my PowerPoint from this workshop, or various other documents uploaded from previous workshop presentations, including instructions for several papier-mache projects presented in a workshop at NAEA 2016, you can find them by going to my 'Document Weblinks' tab, which is located HERE.  The PowerPoint document has not been uploaded yet, but hopefully will be tonight.  In the meantime, there's a link to my PowerPoint from NAEA 2016. 

The documents available through these links are available for your benefit and to help inform your teaching, but I ask that you please acknowledge my ownership of them and not copy or share them publicly.  You are NOT free to share my PowerPoint in a class or workshop without my permission. Thank you.  

Note: I still have more to share about the convention in another upcoming post!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Sculpture from scrap cardboard!

Just before Thanksgiving, I returned from my NY state art teachers annual convention, a whirlwind weekend of learning, creating, presenting, engaging, and more.  While there, I presented two workshops; I'm going to tell you about one of them in this post, and I'll tell you more about the convention and the other workshop in another post.  The workshop I'm telling you about today was called From Scraps to 3-D Success, and I co-presented with a friend (pictured below). 
We each presented one project made mostly with recycled materials; my project was an abstract sculpture made entirely from cardboard and Elmer's Glue-All.  The photo at the top of this post, and the one directly below, are examples of these cardboard sculptures, made by participants during the workshop.
We began with 4"x 6" rectangles of cardboard, cut from shipping cartons. 
 I also provided a big bagful of random shapes of cardboard cut from shipping cartons.  All cutting was done on an old paper cutter to get straight edges. It works great, and is fast and easy to cut a lot.
 Participants were each given a Popsicle stick, to be used as a 'glue paintbrush', and little cups of Elmer's Glue-All to share with a neighbor.  However, when I do this project with students, I do NOT put the glue into cups; the students actually pour a little puddle of glue directly from the bottle onto their cardboard base, near to the corner.  This prevents them from using too much glue.  Using too much glue does not make the structures hold together better!  In fact, too much glue means it takes longer to set and therefore the sculptures are more difficult to construct.
The small cardboard pieces have at least one cut edge that has zigzaggy corrugation, and another edge where the cardboard is more like two parallel lines.  The zigzag edges will hold much better and I recommend using those edges for gluing/attaching when possible.  We scoop up a little glue with our pop sticks, paint it on the edge we plan to glue, and hold it in place where desired, counting AT LEAST to 10.  For more challenging structures, count higher.  While the glue does not dry totally in 10 seconds, this allows it to set enough for you to let go.  Usually I would have students glue a base structure in one class, and then add to the construction in their subsequent class. In this workshop, I had participants set their sculptures aside to work to the project offered by my co-presenter, and then come back to the cardboard sculpture to add more pieces. 
 Hold and count to 10!!
 It's possible to hold some crazily balanced pieces if you are patient!
 Note: the glue MUST be Elmer's Glue-All, which is very strong.  If you use Elmer's School Glue, the sculptures will collapse.  Don't bother to try; it will be a waste of time and your students will get frustrated when their work begins collapsing.
Some workshop participants had time to paint their little sculptures. One workshop participant said she was going to have her students paint large pieces of the cardboard in a 'painted paper' type of activity, BEFORE she cuts the cardboard for this project.  It could work great, if the cardboard doesn't warp too much.  I look forward to seeing her results.  Below, a participant painted hers a solid color.  Behind it is a piece of painted wood for the project that was presented by my co-presenter. 
And one gentleman got really inventive, cutting the shapes into curves, while leaving straight sides for gluing.  Ironically, this same guy attended a papier-mache workshop I taught years ago, and totally went in his own direction then, too!  I even mentioned him in a blog post about the workshop, HERE.
I've done this project many times over the years with my first graders.  We discuss what a sculpture is, and what it means to be abstract or non-objective.  Sometimes their sculptures turn out to look like castles or robots or airplanes etc and that is fine too!  We discuss that a person who makes a sculpture is a sculptor, and that they are all sculptors while doing this project! We look at photos of work by various artists, in particular Calder, but there are many others that can directly relate to this project, depending especially on how you intend to paint the finished products.

In the blog posts from 2011 and 2012 that you'll find HERE and HERE, you can see some examples of my first graders' cardboard sculptural creations using this process.  Here's a first grader working on his sculpture, paying attention to balance, and another first grade piece.
If you're looking for an easy, low-cost project that will work at almost any grade level, give this one a try!  Sculpture with kids is really fun! 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Surrealism in Space!

I came across a really cool post on the Italian blog Arteascuola, and decided to adapt the project to use with my after school DragonWing Arts students.  Thank you to blogger Miriam Paternoster for her great idea!  You can find her post, HERE.

There were three parts to creating the final project.  But before we even started, we discussed surrealism and and looked at images by various artists.  We noticed that many of the paintings created a sense of space and depth by using perspective.  So of course we had to discuss what linear perspective is!  Then we were able to start.

Step 1 was creating the background, and outer space sky.  We painted with black ink, and let it dry.  Then we painted on some glittery purple paint (it was a free sample I was given at a convention, and the consistency is rather thin and jelly-ish and doesn't cover well at all, but it create a nice effect great over black).  We also splatter painted some white tempera paint.  When it was dry, metallic and glittery markers and colored pencils were used to add some planets and stars and such.

Step 2 was to create a simple room interior on a separate paper, using one-point perspective.  We used the vanishing point and our rulers to create a checkered pattern on the floor, and also to place some doors and windows.  The rooms were painted with liquid watercolors, and salt was added as desired o make a funk textural look to the walls and floor.  When the paint was dry, some details were added with Sharpie, and the windows and doors were cut open.  Some were cut out completely, and others were cut so that they could open and close.  The ceilings were completely cut away. 
Here we are, ready to cut out our ceilings and doors.  
The Sharpie embellishments haven't been added yet.
Step 3 was assembly and magazine collage.  The parts were glued together, and students picked images to put in their rooms and skies.  I was originally planning to cut a window flap in the skies, and take and print photos of the kids so they could be entering through the window.  Thank goodness I didn't tell the kids about this plan, since we ran out of time and never got to it!  The pic below shows the work created in steps 1 and 2, ready to be assembled.

The pics below are the finished pieces, after the magazine collage was added and everything was glued together.  (We used Elmer's Glue-All applied with a paintbrush.)   The pic at the top of the post is another of the complete pieces.

I have just 4 kids in the class this fall, which sometimes makes an odd dynamic.  I had great expectations for the kids putting things like giant hamburgers or ice cream cones or insects or tubes of toothpaste in the room or in the windows, or a fish flying through the sky, and so on. I made an example with a giant foot coming through a door, and a large hand reaching in a window, as well as a huge eyeball and a lizard, and a chocolate chip cookie.  I had loads of magazines - nature, home, and more, and so I was very surprised at the odd choices the kids ultimately made.  I've been teaching a long time, and usually kids would have been intrigued by my example but these kids had other ideas, decidedly different from my expectations.  But I think they are pretty cool, nevertheless!!!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Ugly No More - Family Heirloom Restoration Project is Complete

The lamp formerly known as the Ugly Lamp is complete and has a new home on a corner table in our lakeside cabin.  It seems happy there.  Since the last time I blogged about the lamp, I purchased the white shade, and after debating whether to paint the shade, I finally glued beaded trim and polka dot ribbon on the bottom edge, and a narrow ribbon near the top edge.  I'm happy with the result.  Meanwhile, my sweet husband wired the lamp so that it would actually work.  This is it, below, just after we turned it on for the very first time after being wired.  It hasn't been illuminated in decades.

When I first began the restoration process, more than two years ago, the lamp looked like the left-hand pic below.  On the right, you see it with some of the layers of paint removed.  I blogged about the history of this family heirloom, carved by my grandfather, and how it came into my possession, in the blog post you will find by clicking here.  You can also see more photos of the restoration process there.

After working on the lamp, I've decided the lamp was probably a gift from my grandfather to my grandmother when they got married.  The carving isn't as sophisticated as much of his later work, and it has engraved, on the three sides of the base, the following: a Jewish star; a menorah; and an entwined 'H' and 'R', the initials of my grandparents, Harry and Rae.  There is no such personal symbolism on any of his other pieces that I know of.   You can see the entwined initials in the images below, which show the lamp turned off and illuminated. 
 For more information about my grandfather and his wood carving / sculpture, including the story of the missing totem pole, check out the following links on my blog:
My grandfather's carvings, part 1
My grandfather's carvings, part 2

Monday, October 16, 2017

Papier-Mache Recipe

I've gotten a request for the awesome papier-mache recipe I mentioned in my previous post.  I had a link saved on Pinterest, but the link seems somewhat fussy.  I'll post it HERE, but I'm also copying the recipe at the bottom of this post, just as it is written on that link, in case you can't access it.  

Be aware, this is a flour-based recipe, so it should NOT be used if anyone in your class has a wheat/gluten allergy.  My little class of four students has nobody with a wheat allergy, and neither do I.  But be warned, and be careful. I'm a big proponent of using "Art Paste" for papier-mache in a regular school program because it is not a wheat product and has no allergy concerns, and also because it can be stored indefinitely.  But this stuff is definitely stronger.  Since the kids' structures were somewhat complex and our time is very limited, I did not want them to have to do multiple layers.  So using a strong flour-based paste was definitely preferable.  We used up all the goo I mixed so I didn't need to worry about storage. 
On the day that I mixed the papier-mache for my little DragonWing Arts class, I could NOT open the link with the recipe, and could not find my saved copy of it, so I just sort of invented based on memory.  It turns out that my memory is not so good; I didn't remember the baking soda and salt, nor the proportions of rice to wheat flour, and as a result, my mix was a bit gritty/lumpy, as you might be able to tell in these two photos of my girls being goofy.  Luckily, while not as creamy as it should have been, it seems to have held the projects together just fine!!!  Following the recipe would have been the better alternative, though! 

So without further ado, here it is, the recipe for the "Best Creamiest Papier-Mache Recipe Ever":


  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp rice flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup cool water
  • 2 cups boiling water

1. Mix the dry ingredients.
2. Mix in the cool water with a fork or whisk, adding the water a little at a time to keep it as smooth as possible.
3. Stir the flour mixture into the boiling water.
4. Allow it to boil for two or three minutes.

Options: After a night in the fridge just stir it up with a fork. It's even nicer if you heat it.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Totally Twisted Taxidermy, Part 1

Yes, finally, after a lapse, this is an art project post, and papier-mache is underway.  My DragonWing Arts students have been back in session for 4 weeks, but I didn't want to share their projects until there was more to show.  But today I'll share the progress on one project.

The theme of our 7-week session is Surrealism, 'Cerealism', and Space.  I wanted to do a papier-mache project with the kids, and so we are creating "Totally Twisted Topsy-Turvy Wacky Tacky Taxidermy Wall Mounts".  A lot of words, I know.  Hopefully they will somehow go with the Surrealism theme. 

Anyhow, we started by creating a wire loop to hang the projects on the wall when done.  I punched two holes in a cardboard backing, and twisted a piece of wire through the holes to make a loop.  The right-hand pic below is the back, and the left-hand pic will be covered by the wall mount creature. 
 We discussed ideas for our creatures and I shared various supplies they could incorporate in their armature, the bones and flesh of their   creations.  We had everything from toilet paper cardboard tubes to disposable champagne glasses.  There were Styrofoam balls, and some junky fake gourds, as well as tin foil, newspaper and tape.  We talked about how to attach the parts and the kids jumped right in. 
 Below is an example I am making.

 Then we started papier-mache.  I wanted them strong so that we wouldn't need to do lots of layers, so I checked that nobody had a wheat allergy, and then I made a boiled paste of wheat flour, rice flour (for extra creaminess), and water.  And the kids got to work, using newspaper. 
Today we added a second layer of papier-mache using white newsprint instead of newspaper, to make it easier to add color without having to pre-paint a layer of gesso.
We only meet once a week, so you'll have to wait a couple of weeks to see how they turn out!  So far, I think the kids are doing a great job.