Thursday, February 26, 2015

Time to Catch Up!

Wow! It's been a little while since I've been here!

It is definitely time for an update.

Michael Zepeda is a Scholastic Art Silver Key Recipient! This was our first year to take part in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. More than 4000 students in Harris County submitted work. Congratulations, Michael! Former winners of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards include Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, Richard Avedon, Zac Posen, Robert Redford and Joyce Carol Oates. The keynote speaker at the Awards Ceremony was none other than Patrick Renner, the artist who create Funnel Tunnel on the esplanade in front of the Art League of Houston. Patrick was a Gold Star Recipient in 1997.

Remember long ago, last fall, when we made monarch butterflies? I mailed them off in October. Have you wondered where they went and what they were up to? You can find out here at Journey North.

We have been focused on fiber arts since the beginning of January. We begin with tying a slip knot, a task that is often difficult for many students. Once this skill was mastered we begin finger crocheting. This led into finger knitting. Some of the students are now attempting proper knitting using improvised knitting needles. We will be using these skills as we continue on to create our ensembles and accessories for the Altered, Upcycled and Recycled Fashion Show. Working with yarn has been a means to introduce fiber, fabric and fashion.

Knitting is an integral part of the Waldorf curriculum. It also has a place in Montessori schools and is included in Friedrich Froebel's Occupations. Once mastered it aids students in calming and focusing, improves fine motor skills and allows students a sense of success and competency. 

It supplies an excellent opportunity to play with the elements of line, color, form, shape, space, and texture. As far as the elements of art and the principles of design, the yarn itself can be thought of as a line. We establish a pattern and rhythm through our repeated motions, whether manipulating the yarn with our fingers or with knitting needles. Texture, color, shape, and form all play there part as we create with fiber. 

I personally find the experience of taking a length of yarn and creating with it to contain an element of the miraculous. To go from what is effectively a piece of string manipulated with two sticks to a scarf, a sweater or something more, is extremely satisfying. In the case of finger crochet, finger knitting, or even using a knitting noddy, there is an additional challenge of forming the finished product into something more useful than a simple length of yarn. Whether this is done through the use of fantastic yarns or through coiling, stitching or weaving is a moot point. The knitter must bring imagination and creativity to their work, be it a yarn snake or a coiled beret, a sweater or an entire playground.

Over the past couple of decades there have been several fine artists and crafts people working in fiber arts and, more particularly, knitting and crocheting. Kaffe Fassett's knitting designs focus on a symphony of color. Katherine Cobey is known for her sculptural works and knitting with unusual materials including recycled plastic and wire. Debbie New creates works in freeform knitting. Her works run the gamut from garments to a knitted coracle. Valentina Devine creates works from the traditional to large scale sculptural pieces. Japanese fiber artist Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam has crocheted entire playgrounds. And, of course, I can't leave out the work of Magda Sayeg and the group Knitta, Please, (originally formed here in Houston) whether you call it yarn bombing, yarn storming or yarn graffiti. Currently knitting and crocheting have been making the news as the boundaries between mathematics, science and art blur in projects like the Crochet Coral Reef project and knitting fractals.

Getting back to the the art classes at St Stephens, each class from kindergarten through sixth grade has a theme based on one of the branches of the arts taught in the Fine Arts Academy. The kindergarten classes are focusing on Music. Ms Ralene's class theme is Visual Arts. Ms Liz is covering Theatre. Ms Megan's class theme is Photography while Ms Jillian's class theme is Film. The Upper El is able to overlap and interact between the two classes due to the relationship between their themes. In the Middle School students are creating in collaborative teams while working under the umbrella of the Big Idea. The Lower School classes are creating at least one ensemble per class. Finally, the High School students are creating individual fashion statements based on their personal visions. Neither the Middle School nor the High School were afforded the opportunity to work with knitting. The fashions that are created will be featured in the Film and Fashion Show at Discovery Green on May 1.

The Upper El and above have looked at art, fashion and the fascinating area where they overlap in the work of designer Alexander McQueen, Salvador Dali and Nick Caves and his Sound Suits.

Classes from third grade through high school have had the opportunity to work with René Garza. Grassroots Art in Action accepted my proposal and generously provided St Stephens with Mr Garza for a short residency limited to 24 hours. I requested Mr Garza for a residency based on both his art work and his experience with fashion. He has been working alongside me with our students since February 17.

I am still asking for donations of recycled materials for us to use in the students' fashions. We are upcycling anything and everything from plastic bags to t-shirts to artificial flowers. At this point we have gone through nearly all the yarn donated by both myself and parents. I replenished the supply somewhat last week with a shopping trip to Michael's. I stopped by Texas Art Asylum and bought up all of the cameras I could find along with old movie tins. I would really like to locate as many film canisters as possible for the Upper El to use. If you have any materials to spare of any sort, please send them our way. We are using anything and everything in our creations.

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