Saturday, July 22, 2017

In the Art Room: Stitching Pizza Plushies!

A little over a month ago, I got an email from Trixi Symonds over at Coloured Buttons. She asked me if I'd like to join her super fun #sewasoftie project for the month of July. Her concept was simple: introduce kiddos to stitching with a month long sharing of sewing projects via her Facebook page (which, by the way, is LOADED with fabulous sewing inspiration for kids of all ages). I happily agreed and used my recent trip to Italy (and love for all things pizza) as my inspiration. 
Another reason I chose pizza is because my kiddos always find inspiration in food. Are your students/kids like that? It's so funny to me: give a kid a piece of clay and it's guaranteed that they will come back with a clay cookie, pizza or a taco. I know when I share this project with my third and fourth graders in the spring, they'll be all in. 

Let's talk supplies:

* Craft Felt in bunches of colors. I find that I have a TON of craft felt. Does it multiply? Are teachers secretly dumping the stuff in my storage closet? The latter is more than likely the case. It would also explain the ziplock baggies of broken crayons I always receive (y'all, I don't even use crayons!). 

* Chenille Needles are my jam. They have a big eye that is great for threading and a nice sharp point which is perfect for puncturing that felt. 

* Thread can be tricky. Get the cheap stuff and it can break with a slight tug. We use embroidery floss with the single thread...not the one with 6 threads. Cuz we ain't got time to be splittin' hairs. 

* Paper for creating a pattern and for making a needle threader.

* Scissors are great...and if you have one for fabric and another for paper then you are just the bee's knees. 

* Pins and a Magnet to park those pins. They make these great pin wands that my students love. You just wave them and the pins snap right to the wand. 
When I first got the idea to create this lesson, I kept getting more ideas. First it was allowing the kids to create toppings that can be changed at any time. Kind of like the felt boards I played with as a kid. That's why I created the segment in the video where the toppings are changed. Then I thought it would be great to introduce button sewing...for that the toppings would have to be tacked down. And, of course, I had to throw on some puffy paint because PUFFY PAINT MAKES MY WORLD GO ROUND. Thank you, Puff Daddy for the Puffy Paint. He's the one who invented it, right?
Then I got the idea for a silly-faced pizza. I spotted these giant googly eyes at the craft store and thought it would be fun. Because I wanted to add arms like we did with the Stitched Monster project, I knew I'd have to go about sewing a little differently. Originally I was going to make one video...but I decided that two was best: one for the Stuffed Pizza and Button Sewing and another for the Funny Faced Pizza
So, just some thoughts on sewing with kids: I usually do a fibers unit in the spring, after clay. Kids love sewing, weaving, felting, you name it...and it's a great follow-up to clay as they pink-puffy-heart-with-sparkles LOVE clay. However, sewing is a challenge that you and your students need to be prepared for. Whenever we tackle something new, I remind the kids that we are learning and that takes practice and patience. I tell them that some of them will get it right away...and others will take a little longer...but we will ALL get there. With practice and patience. It's important to emphasis this so that frustration does not lead to a defeatist mentality.
Now, I'll have my students glue their items down with tacky glue. But, for those kids creating at home who wish to change the toppings of their pizza frequently, they could simply keep their cut pieces in a sealed bag. 
This pizza was created the same way as the first but I really wanted to introduce button sewing. What better way to do that than with pepperoni buttons?! And, of course, puffy paint. 
No doubting that I grew up in the 80's...I got puffy paint in my veins. 
Shortly after posting my Stuffed Pizza video on my YouTube channel, Jeanne Kemp, an art teacher out of Baltimore shared this with me. She'd done the project with her students! How fun and they did a fabulous job. I had pizza for dinner in their honor. 
This project is a little more involved simply because of the addition of sewing the arms and sewing three sides verses two. For that reason, I'll reserve this project for my older students. 

I def don't plan on purchasing them all googly eyes as I don't have that kind of budget. So, more than likely, if my students decide to make a face, they'll have to create the eyes from felt. No biggie. 
 I really had fun creating these pizzas. They got me excited about hand sewing again...and the upcoming class I'm taking at Alabama Chanin. More on that to come. LOVE to know if any of you all have taken a class there before! 

Until then, have a super fun time stitching your pizza! 

Arrivederci!

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Art Teacher Travels: Alabama Chanin, Florence, AL

 True Confessions: I've lived within just two hours of the amazing Alabama Chanin and I had never ever been. If you are not familiar, let me just say that you might want to read here to get yourself super informed. But I can provide the condensed version, if you like: Alabama Chanin is the creation of Natalie Chanin a Florence, Alabama native. Florence is a rural town of about 40,000 near the Northwest corner of Alabama, lodged between Mississippi and Tennessee. For years, Natalie was a stylist and costume designer who traveled the world. 
In the early 2000's, Natalie returned to her home of Florence with the intention of creating a line of hand-stitched garments. During that time, she was connected with many people who used to work in Florence during the textile boom in the 80's. Many of those folks were without employment as jobs had moved South of the border. This inspired her to create a place for people to work, create, dine, design...you name it. And that magical place is called Alabama Chanin. 
I decided to give Alabama Chanin a visit after taking a road trip from Nashville to Tupelo to see my favorite friend, Mallory. Mallory runs a wonderful art program for kids that I had the pleasure of teaching one day. More on that to come. Between the drive from Nash to Tupe is Florence, right smack dap in the middle. I knew I would have to drop by and see what it was all about. 
Let me just say, that when I was listening to good ole Siri for directions, I thought I was being lead astray. I found myself in an unassuming industrial park filled with nondescript metal buildings. After telling me "you have arrived" five times as I drove up and down the deserted road, I happened to look to my left and see a little read awning with the words Alabama Chanin, The Factory written on them. Really? This is it? I almost turned around. I'm so glad I did not!
The moment I walked in, two things happened. The first was that I was greeted so graciously and politely. I know what you are thinking: but of course, Southern hospitality! Lemme just say, I've lived in The South for nearly 20 years...Southern hospitality isn't as common as you'd like to think. However, in this place, I was warmly greeted and made to feel completely at home. 
The second thing I noticed is this: the place was AMAZING. It used to house a textile factory (how appropriate, right) and looked every bit as such from the outside. But, once inside, it was like I was in Andy Warhol's The Factory meets Brooklyn-hip Heaven. The concept was an open one with the beautiful Alabama Chanin clothing on display. Just beyond that were carefully curated items such as pottery, printed dishtowels and table runners as well as cookbooks and aprons. Steps past that was a counter service restaurant with, I cannot stress this enough, The Best food I've had in a very, very long time. There was also a bridal dress area and a work station for classes. And that was just in the front room. The designing, creating and manufacturing happened just beyond the walls of the space you see in the second image. 
 Of course, what first drew me in: the garments. 
 Natalie is a pioneer in the slow design movement. This is in stark contrast to the fast-fashion we know of all too well. Her garments are created from start to finish from organic cotton. They are hand-dyed with organic dyes; printed, painted and/or stamped and hand sewn. 
 Natalie employes those in her community. Those left without jobs when fast fashion took jobs to other places. 
What that means is you are looking at a piece of clothing that was created from beginning to end, from the ground (literally) up, by hand. What that also means is Alabama Chanin clothing is anything but cheap both in quality and price. 
 I am not even going to lie to you, I was shocked by the prices on the pieces of clothing. We're talking into the hundreds if not a thousand or more for the bigger garments like coats. 
But look. By hand, y'all. Every stitch. Every piece painted and sewn and cut away. All by hand. Each piece, a work of art. 
Here's my favorite part about Alabama Chanin and Natalie: she shares her craft with all who are interested. Meaning she's not an artist who safeguards her secrets. She has her roots based in the quilt making traditions of the South. Traditions that have been lost over time. It seems her goal is to bring the teaching of those traditions back. And she starts with those in her community.
But she also reaches beyond with the many books that she has written on the tradition of her craft and the art of stitching as well. 
As I was there, poking around, snapping endless photos, my stomach started to growl. It was not my intention to do anything beyond pop in for a bit before heading home but with a talking tummy and the amazing smells coming from the cafe, I decided to stay. After I placed my order at the counter, I wandered in the direction of these laughing ladies to secretly see what they were up to. I had read that every other Tuesday a sewing group met and I was intrigued by what they were creating...but I did not want to intrude on what looked to be a fine and fun party.
 Immediately after snapping this photo, the women grabbed me and drew me in. A sweet woman named Judy introduced me to everyone and had them show me what they were creating. 
 I found that my new friend Rita, shown here with the skirt she's been working on for many a Tuesday, actually lives near me...and makes the two hour trek every other week to spend time stitching with her friends. 
Isn't her piece beautiful?
 This fitted corset style top is one being created for the daughter of this lovely lady. One thing I learned: never ask how long these ladies have been working on their piece. It's a labor of love...the hours spent do not count. Would you believe those sweet ladies invited me to bring my lunch over and dine with them? I had a wonderful hour of chatting, learning and watching them create.
 Before leaving, I headed over to the hand stitched bridal area. 
 I was told that one woman had already made three trips from Maine for dress fittings. Can you imagine? That is going to be one amazing dress, y'all!
 I immediately fell in love with this area. 
 Look at this hand stamped and stitched treasure. 
 In our mass produced, fast paced world, learning about slow design and seeing the beauty of it was truly inspiring. 
 So much so that I signed up for a class right there on the spot! I'm taking the beginner hand sewing, stamping and applique class. I'm thrilled to learn this technique and bring it back to my students. I'll be sure to share with you here as well!
 Here's a view of the left side of The Factory from the entrance.
 And a view from the very back, looking over the tables in the cafe and the store front. 
 The food was so good that folks were coming in from outside to dine. I mean, for real. I don't even cook and I was asking if they sold a cookbook. I get a meal during my class...and I daresay that might be what I'm looking forward to the most!
Until I report back with my adventures at Alabama Chanin, I leave you with a view of this piece being worked on my one of the sweet ladies I lunched with. I am so excited to go back and learn about this beautiful technique!
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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Art Teacherin' Book Club: Growth Mindset Coach, 3

Hey, y'all! I'm so excited about this week's Art Teacherin' Book Club meeting. In case you didn't hear, co-author Annie Brock will be joining us at 8pm CST right here! How awesome is that? I was so thrilled when a fellow art teacherin' buddy reached out to me to say that she knew the authors...I was all, "hey, can you hook a girl up?" And she did! Annie will be joining us and fielding any thoughts, questions and concerns we may have about growth mindsets.

Even if you are not currently reading The Growth Mindset Coach (um, you really should be), please know that you are welcome to join our chat. Here's all you have to do: 

1. Like and/or follow my page

2. At around 8pm CST, I should pop up in your feed. If I do not, try refreshing your feed or popping by my Facebook page. 

That's it! It doesn't get much easier than that!
Now, if you've joined a Facebook LIVE before, then you know the comments fly by. And, if the comments are lengthy, they tend to get cut off with a "see more" button. Ain't nobody got time for "see more" when more comments keep rollin' in! So, to keep us all on track and to allow Annie enough time to share her journey, I thought it would be good to establish a couple of ground rules. So here we go:

1. Questions will be answered by us first. You can see a general version of the questions we'll be throwing Annie's way in the first image. We will answer the questions first...and then give Annie the floor. For example, when I ask for an introduction to kick off our chat, I'll want to hear from all y'all. Once we are done introducing ourselves, where we teach, our demographics and the number of years we've been killin' the art teacherin' game, we'll give Annie the floor. This will make it so her comment remains onscreen the longest giving everyone ample read time. 

2. Allow Annie's comments to remain. If you've joined our chats before, you might have noticed that new comments push the older ones out. If Annie responds and we flood the comment box then her comments will vanish and she'll have to repeat herself for those who missed it. I'll try my best to read what she has to say...but in case I miss it, let's allow Annie to have the last word. Meaning, once her comment is up, please do not comment until we've all had time to enjoy her words and are ready to move on.

3. Please keep your answers short. Frequent chatters might know  why keeping your answers short is important. If you type out a lengthy paragraph, the totality of what you have to say will not show. Instead a "see more" button will interrupt your comment and, I hate to say it, ain't nobody got time to "see more". So, keep your answers short, on point and we'll be able to see them. If you have a lot to say, simply break it up into bite sized bits so we can see it all. 

I am THE WORST at following rules and directions such as the ones I've laid out for y'all. My therapist says I have issues with authority (I thought I was paying him to tell me I'm right!) That being said, I think laying these ground rules will make it so we can get the most out of our special guest, Annie Brock, and enjoy our chat. Big shout out to Annie...we are so excited to "meet" you and chat about The Growth Mindset Coach with you. We are thrilled to bring your ideas to our art rooms! 

See you on Wednesday, 8pm CST right here!
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Monday, July 17, 2017

Art Teacher Travels: Lowe Mill, Huntsville, Alabama

Not too long ago, a sweet art teacher friend asked me if I'd ever been to Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment in Huntsville, Alabama. Not only had I never been, but I'd never even heard of it! When I think of Huntsville, which is a couple hours south of the Nashville area where I live, I think of the NASA's Space Flight Center. Art isn't usually the first thing that comes to mind. So I was super surprised one Saturday morning when Mitch and I pulled up to this giant old factory turn arts facility. 
Every Saturday, Lowe Mill hosts a small farmers market on the front lawn. There were just a handful of booths when we walked by and I didn't stop to check them out...I was too intrigued by the giant brick building which had a steady stream of folks going in and out. We stepped inside. 
The Mill has three floors. The first was filled with open concept shops like this weaving studio. There was a comic art shop, a quilting shop with some super fun fabrics, one filled with instruments crafted from cigar boxes, you name it. Each storefront was super welcoming with mini-make and takes happening. In this weaving shop, I was introduced to the Weave-It loom, a miniature loom that was created back in the 50's. I had inherited two of these looms from my grandpa...so I was thrilled to have an expert show me how to use it. 
 Also located on the first floor were a couple of art exhibits. I was loving these paintings by Bethanne Hill as apart of her show titled Home Ground. 
Each artist's studio was so unique and each artist so stinkin' friendly! I was encouraged to snap photos, ask questions and try my hand at creating. 
 Loved this artist's collection of bottles. 
From the first floor, we took the stairs (deciding to forgo the slightly frightening vintage elevator) which opened up to a vendor's craft market. Here, the artists were selling their inexpensive wares sidewalk style, right in front of their shops. There were artists of all ages selling such a variety of stuff that I was always intrigued. Not to mention, this place was hopping! I loved that so many folks were out celebrating the arts. 
Also, that monster door thing is giving me life. 
 As is this bright orange deer. 
 I have to say, the shop that excited me the most on the second floor was the one with the puppets. This place was like a puppet museum! I was fascinated with the variety of vintage and handmade puppets. 
 After traveling in Italy this summer, I'm really excited about the idea of puppets and having my students learn about the history of Pinocchio. But now I realize I'll have a lot of puppet ideas to share with them. The puppet possibilities are endless!
The owner of this shop was every bit of awesome and informative as her booth. I chatted with her at length. I loved that about the Lowe Mill...so many opportunities to meet and hang out with working artists. 
 So I took exactly one million trillion photos in her booth. Sorry not sorry. 
 Can you blame me?!
 On the third floor, there were much bigger studio spaces. I learned that some of these spaces were open for rent. I saw a clay class happening in one rented space. I need to get on their email list to stay up on the classes offered. 
 There were also places where folks could drop in and create. Lots of classes being offered like ones for painting, stained glass, you name it. 
The third floor was also home to a fantastic popsicle place and a coffee house. 
 This view of the third floor should give you a better idea of the space. Again, very open air and open concept. What I love about that is that it seemed to provide a chance for artists to have a community...and not feel isolated as they normally might. 
 The variety of artwork being created was so inspiring. 
 LOVE these pieces!
 Mitch and I did take a break half way through our visit to grab some pizza. Lowe Mill is so big, we needed to step away for a bit and come back to explore some more. 
Here is what I found the most amazing about this place: the amount of folks who were there. Imagine what the halls of a mall look like on most weekends with folks mindlessly walking up and down. Now imagine those same crowds here, at the Lowe Mill...but this time, being intrigued and engaged all while creating and admiring art. It was amazing! I thought: why don't all towns have something like this?
 You know what? Maybe they do. And I've failed to find them. New mission! I know both Nashville and Franklin (where I teach) have thriving art communities. I need to get more involved. Look what I'm missing out on.
 But back to Lowe Mill. After our pizza lunch, we finished exploring this magical place. 
If you find yourself near Huntsville, Alabama, I recommend a trip to Lowe Mill. It's a place I'd definitely like to visit again. 
What magical maker spaces are near where you live? I'd love some road trippin' recommendations. 
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