Kumihimo

This summer I attended a workshop at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth. As part of the workshop, we has to submit a lesson plan inspired by the objects in the exhibit, From the Lands of Asia: The Sam and Myrna Meyers Collection.

I admit that I planned this lesson in my head before I went to the workshop. I knew the exhibit included Asian costumes and textiles, so I felt fairly confident they would have beautiful kumihimo ornamentation. I was right. I can’t even remember where I first came across this Japanese craft; probably hunting on Pinterest for a textile craft I could use with my 4th, 5th and 6th grade art students. We make our own cardboard looms and weave using inexpensive yarn. My students love it. bracelet loomNow I’m hooked. Here is my lesson plan. Hope you can use it. All the photos are my own.

History of Kumihimo

Asian textilesKumihimo began as a type of finger braiding that was used in China, Korea and Japan. The oldest form of Kumihimo used in Japanese clothing and religious ceremonies is believed to be from the Nara Period (710 to 794 CE). Like many Asian crafts, Kumihimo is all about detail, with many versions having a specific pattern, use and meaning. There are many types of stands made to hold the strings to weave Kumihimo and many types of fibers can be used, like silk, nylon, hemp and even leather.

Translated as a “gathering of threads”, one of the most widely known and studied versions of Kumihimo are the silk Japanese braids used on Samurai armor in Japan during the Kamakura Period (1185 to1333 CE) through the Muromachi Period (1336 to1573 CE). The cords were used on helmets and to bind the armor plates together. Each suit of armor could require as much as 250 to 300 meters of braid. Kumihimo was also used to bind the hilts of swords and harnesses of horses used in battle.

With the rise of Buddhism during the Heian Period (794 to1185 CE), kumihimo braids were made by the monks for clothing and to decorate temples.

Kumihimo is still used in Japan today as a part of the kimono. The obi, the wide sash used as a belt on the kimono is secured by a Kumihimo braid called an obijime. Hand-made kumihimo obijime are on the decline because of the invention of machine-made Kumihimo, but obijime are still the biggest use of Kumihimo made in Japan today.

Luckily this ancient Asian craft has been popularized around the world today because of the invention of the foam hand-held Kumihimo looms for braid and jewelry making.

Interesting notes about Kumihimo:

  • Tea storage containers used in the Japanese tea ceremony were often secured with elaborate Kumihimo braids. The knots used were so elaborately tied it was easy to see if someone had tampered with them, so you could avoid be poisoned. Tamper-free packaging, even then.
  • A Kumihimo color pattern of lilac, magenta, blue, green, gold, and an orange specially imported from China was so powerful it could ward off “evil ghosts”. Called “Shōsō-in colors” when these were used in a belt, they were said to ward off bad luck for the wearer.
  • According to Yasuhisa Fukushima, owner of the Fukushima Store (a Tokyo kumihimo shop) and the director of the Association for Tokyo Kumihimo, 90 percent of the products created by Tokyo kumihimo artisans are obijime. “We have tried producing other accessories such as ornaments for keyholders and cords for keitaiand glasses, but these are still minor sellers compared to obijime,” he says.
  • The Japanese national treasure “Heike Noukyou” is a set of thirty-three sutra scrolls that are tied with elaborate Kumihimo braids.

Directions for kongo gumi (strong braid)– makes one 20 – inch necklace (including end caps and clasp):

Basics for kumihimo
Start-up items you’ll need , plus jewelry clasps and bail not shown.

Materials:

  • Kumihimo Foam Loom
  • Four each of two colors – 1.5-yard (54 inches) pieces of 1mm satin cord (I used 1mm hemp cord in the illustrations) – total of eight pieces
  • Eight plastic kumihimo bobbins
  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Sharpie
  • E6000 industrial strength adhesive
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Tooth picks and paper to apply adhesive and protect work surface
  • Pendant with 6mm or larger bail (not shown)
  • End clasps (5.5 or 6 mm)
  • Binding thread (to bind braid before cutting it)

Set up:

  cord layout

  • Flip foam disk over and mark north, south east west positions with sharpie (avoids the confusion of the numbers on the front until you get the basics down)
  • Measure and cut your eight 54-inch pieces of cord (four each of two colors)
  • Tie knot in one end, place tied end in the center of the hole on the kumihimo foam loom
  • Snap strings into place on loom as shown in photo (one color north and south, one color east and west). Put only one string in each slot.
  • Wrap loose cord on bobbin to within one inch of loom

Basic braiding technique for kongo gumi:

  1. Take top right cord and bring it down to the bottom to the slot just right of the two cords at the bottom.
  2. Take the left-hand cord from the three cords now at the bottom and bring it up to the slot to the left of the one cord at the top.
  3. Turn the disk one quarter turn and repeat steps 1, 2 and 3. Top-right down, bottom-left up, turn.

braid 1

Stop Position
If you stop before you finish your braid, always leave the three cords at the bottom. That way you know when you resume, you take the cord on the left, lift it to the top-left position and then turn the disk.

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Finishing your necklace:

  1. Bind the ends of your braids with beading thread so that they will not unravel before your glue on your closures.
  2. Use a toothpick to apply your E6000 glue to the inside of your closure caps. Be sure to do this over paper to protect your worksurface from any glue.
  3. Insert your braid ends into the closure caps and let them rest for 24 hours.

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Sources:

https://www.kcpinternational.com/2015/02/intricacies-and-uses-of-kumihimo-braids/

http://domyo.co.jp/en/history/

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2000/03/04/arts/twisted-tradition-thats-knotty-but-nice/#.Wx1FvEgvxPY

https://artsandculture.google.com/exhibit/GAIi8e97r03CLw

http://www.englisch.kumihimo.de/html/history.html

http://www.ee0r.com/sca/kumihimo/index.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zb5vy8egtQQ

http://factsanddetails.com/japan/cat20/sub129/item2292.html

https://www.facebook.com/debra.strandberg.5/videos/1014276002051603/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What Does Art Mean?

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#mwisdthankful

Today, Friday November 10th, I am thankful for the experiences my students give me.

As an elementary school art teacher, I get asked a lot about the meaning of art. What does this abstract art mean? What is the purpose of my child taking art? What did the artist mean when he or she painted that? My reply is,” What does it say to you?”

You want to know what art means?

Today it means a tall, timid shell of a girl, with wispy hair, standing at my desk with a paper card in her hand. “Today is my birthday.” she said quietly, not seeking the ranting Happy Birthday song that usually follows that news into a classroom. “Well, Happy Birthday!” I say, “Are you doing anything special?”

“I don’t know.” she says, eyes darting away from my face. I sense I’ve said the wrong thing. “But my Dad made me this.” She is holding out the card. “You want to see?” “Sure.” The card shows a princess in a Disney–style gown; a scroll proclaiming “Happy Birthday Princess” in elaborately hand-drawn tattoo letters. The card is a much folded piece of white paper, the image beautifully drawn in delicate pencil.

“My Dad is in prison. He made me this for my birthday.” Her eyes search my face for any sign of disapproval. I mentally bless this father who loves his child.

What does this art mean?

When I look at this card I imagine time melts away for the artist as he works and the air takes on that super-charged feel at the edge of a storm. That moment when the summer air is replaced with the cool rush edge of the weather and the first round, fat drops splatter your face. This art says all things are possible. It says “Child, you are loved in this world.” It says, Child, wait and see and don’t lose hope. Ever.”

“Tell your Dad I think this is wonderful and he is very talented.” She smiles at the father that is miles away, but here in the room as she folds the card carefully into her pocket.

That is what art means for me and for this child today.

The Kimbell Stretch

 

I spent four days in late June at a workshop for teachers hosted by the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. If you are an art teacher reading this, you probably are already mentally recoiling from the mention of in-service workshops. But in my summer The Kimbell Summer Teacher’s Institute is an oasis of art-focused learning and fun. Open to educators of all subjects, it is held in the beautiful Renzo Piano Pavilion museum studio.

Piano Pavilion
Renzo Piano Pavilion , Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

See these folks? They are happy public school teachers and just people who like art in this beautiful studio space.

Happy Art Teachers

Idea Exchange

I believe this is my fifth time to attend a summer workshop at the Kimbell, which says a lot. You don’t repeat a bad experience. Each year the activities are based on the special exhibition at the museum. This summer it was the Phillips Collection, a rich and varied group of paintings and sculptures from artists like Bonnard, Van Gogh, Degas, Marc, Klee and Picasso. The well-defined structure of the days, access to the special exhibition and incredible museum educators are what makes this workshop so valuable. Each artist and style is first outlined in a lecture by Connie Hatchette Barganier, Education Manager for the Kimbell. Somehow Connie managed to evade my camera this year. While these lectures are necessarily compact, they enrich and inform each gallery experience. Great docents led our little herd of teachers through the galleries. Did you ever try to get teachers to be quiet and focused? Hats off to the Kimbell docents for being friendly and professional while herding twenty teachers (like herding cats) through the exhibitions. Unfortunately photography in the special exhibitions is not allowed, but if you follow this link http://phillips.kimbellart.org/ you can get a glimpse of some of the pieces in the exhibit.

Back in the studio the talented Studio and Family programs Coordinator Marilyn Ivy leads us through exhibit-based art projects. My photos show Marilyn demonstrating a lino plate printmaking project; one of my favorite lessons this year.

Marilyn
Marilyn Ivy

 

Printmaking is not my strong suit, so it was nice to have Marilyn demonstrate. I think I may finally have enough of a handle on the process that I can use it with my students this school year.

The Kimbell provides top notch art materials and we get to try our hand at the painting, sculpture and printmaking activities. Again, happy teachers shown with time to  create.

Beautiful Work

As an added benefit this year the museum had Carol Ivey, a Fort Worth based artist, present a still life from observation clinic and offer a critique of our finished acrylic paintings. She arranged a still life in the studio and we got a canvas and acrylics and got to work. No pressure there, right?  Here’s a link to information on Carol.  My painting is still a work in progress, but in three hours at the workshop and a few more at home, I’m feeling good about it.

work in progress

We also did a mixed media interior drawing with a wonderful black multi-media board I had not used before. Here is a beautiful example by Carolyn. Jessica Montes this Great Dane made me think of your sweet dog. Carolyn, thank you for offering to give this drawing. I hope your family loves it as much as I do.

beautiful multimedia work

The last day of the clinic is invaluable as each teacher presents a lesson plan to the group inspired by the exhibit. I chose to relate to the Degas painting Dancers at the Barre.

Edgar_Degas_-_Dancers_at_the_Barre_-_Google_Art_Project
Dancers at the Barre, Edgar Degas

 

Image courtesy of Google Art project. Public domain.

I chose to break my lesson down into three steps. First, draw the painting upside down to so that my students focus on the shapes only rather than what it is they are drawing. The human figure is very daunting for elementary students. Second, concentrate on the arrangement of positive and negative shapes in the composition. I was really fascinated by the way this Degas painting is composed, the legs of the two dancers are almost at unbelievable angles, but it works. Using tracing paper on my contour line drawing  I concentrated simply on isolating the positive and negative shapes of the composition and how they fit into the format. Finally, the third step is using another tracing of my contour line drawing  to make a paper collage of the piece, using basic tones of paper and adding chalk to simulate the textures of the painting. So you explore three of the basic elements of art in this lesson, line, shape and color.

I’ve included some shots of the other teachers presenting their ideas. That is one of the best things about these days, hearing ideas from other teachers about how they would present a concept. It is always eye-opening and fun to see what everyone comes up with.

You walk away with a catalogue for the special exhibition A Modern Vision: European Masterworks from the Phillips Collection, a copy of all those lesson plans (40 pages in all this year), a flash drive with all the lecture notes and images plus a binder with the written version of all of the resource materials.

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What a treat and a stretch for the right side of the brain at the same time. Next year is Asian art. I can’t wait.

 

Bubble Away

End-of-the-school-year sanity routines are vital.

In our elementary school we pack everything up in the classroom so that the maintenance crew can strip and wax the floors over the summer. That means the six-foot tables in my art room have to be stacked against the wall. I have seven of those tables in my room. A few years back I lucked into a end-of-year routine that keeps my sanity, is fun for the kids and guarantees I have clean table tops when I come back the following school year.

I have an inside Bubble Day. This requires a trip to Walmart to buy four giant containers of bubble liquid, hundreds of straws and plastic cups. My treat, because I love the effect it has on the kids. Both exciting and calming at the same time.

Rules are:

  • You must be sitting to blow bubbles.
  • Bubble stuff can go on the table, but not on the floor; too slippery.
  • Don’t blow bubbles directly into someone’s eyes. It stings.
  • If you bubble up all your bubbles, you are out. No refills.
  • End of the class all straws go in the trash, all cups go back on the counter, wipe down your table with paper towels at the end of class.

So here’s how it goes. The kids blow bubbles in the air for about two minutes until someone realizes that if you blow  into the cup it will bubble over the lip of the cup and onto the table. Sort of like when you blow bubbles into you milk glass when you are having milk and cookies. Viola! Instant clean tables. Children combine straws in a bubble to make the largest bubble. Shouts of “Look, Mrs. Strandberg, Look!” fill the room. They progress from blowing bubbles into swishing their hands around on the table top and writing letters in the bubbly film on the table. Fun stuff.

The art room smells like soap. Clean tables. Clean hands. Happy kids. Happy teacher.

 

 

 

My Favorite Meal

#mwisdmatters

My 4th grade art students always seem to have fewer barriers between their art and their imagination than my 5th and 6th graders. I’m not sure why that is, but is delightful to watch and listen to them as they open up to a project. I revisited an old classic recently when I asked my 4th grade artists to draw their favorite meal.

The set up for the project is a discussion about going on a picnic. Students get to pick their favorite foods to have at the picnic, which must include a main course, sides, drink and dessert. They must also include silverware and a napkin and a tablecloth under the plate.

I have three goals for this project.

  1. They must have their food shown from a bird’s-eye point of view, which involves a demonstration and discussion of how shapes change when they are shown from different perspectives.
  2. They must show a place setting, which involved a discussion and pictures of how you set a table. Social skills in art class. I wonder how many families sit down at a common table for dinner these days, so I hope I filled in a gap for some of my students who have not ever set a table.
  3. They must show a pattern of some kind on the tablecloth, which reinforces the definition of a pattern in art as a repeated shape or color series.

Students have a large sheet of paper as their format, 12 x 18 inches, and draw first in pencil, then outline in sharpie and color with crayon. I give them a paper plate to draw around to make sure we don’t have miniature plates.

And oh the stories about what food my students like the best!

And the extras! Ants on the tablecloth. Butterflies flying over the picnic.  Good memories about family. Great fun.

Why Do Art Teachers Need A Conference Time, Anyway?

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My elementary art student: Think of the best “valley girl”-accented voice saying, “Why do art teachers need a conference time anyway?”

I’m thinking, “You seriously did not just say that to me, right?” I smiled. Actually I think I bared my teeth and took a deep breath.

Me: (think Julia Sugarbaker accent). My answer:

“Ok, We’ll just examine that question, my friend.

Let’s just talk about materials and tools for a sec, ok?

It may have escaped your notice that on days like today when we paint, when you arrive for your thirty- minute art class (that is really just twenty-five minutes because we have no passing period) that these things are already ready for you on your table:

  • twenty-four large manila backer papers
  • a paper towel
  • a mixing plate
  • and a paint plate with red, yellow, blue, and white paint on it
  • the paint rack where you store your paintings is empty and ready for you with a clothespin on the front with your class number on the side you are supposed to use
  • twelve water cups are filled and ready for you to share with your partner
  • the paint brushes you used yesterday are clean and ready to pass out
  • soapy water is in a tub for your used brushes

Now, about those pesky ideas and goals for my lesson. (I did smile again, really.)

The painting formulas for mixing secondary colors and tints are already on the in-focus screen for you to refer to and your goal for the day is posted on the white board. Ah, vocabulary; like tint, primary, secondary, foreground, middle ground, background, and landscape. Did you think the Keebler Elves handed those to me on a notecard just before class or that I planned what I wanted you to learn?

How about when I carefully taught you procedures for taking out and putting up your artwork and materials by colored table or chair number, did you think that just happened spontaneously through a light sprinkling of fairy dust? No planning involved at all? And that I do all this for six classes a day?

Does that give you a hint of why I might need a planning period?”

The room had become eerily quiet. They were all looking at me like I had grown another head.

Student: “May I have some more yellow paint?”

Me: “Sure.”

Note to self: Switch to decaf tomorrow morning.

Spelling Your Heart Out

the_beatles_rock_band_-_microphoneThis year’s school Spelling Bee is in the can, completed, finished, wrapped up. I was the pronouncer for our elementary school bee; a job you get basically because everyone else says “I’m not doing it.” Oddly enough I mostly love being a pronouncer, my mom had us reading dictionaries at an early age, but I have to tell you it is an exhausting job. Why? Because you have to watch each student, heart in their mouth, come up to the microphone and spell the word you give them. And when they miss, you can not react. My face has to stay deadpan as they labor through the word, looking straight at me. My heart is breaking for the student who just misspelled their word and whose eyes just filled with tears. I’m thinking, “Please don’t cry, because if you start to cry, I’ll going to cry and it’s going to get damp in here.” That’s the exhausting part, the tension. I say the word,  then they are supposed to repeat it, then ask me questions, then spell; which most never do. They’re nervous kids, they forget to ask for help.

By the way, just in case you don’t know this, the pronouncer does not pick the word; it is part of a prescribed, numbered list issued by Scripps each year and brother, I go in order. Anyway, my job is to help the kids. I can say the word again for them, give them the part of speech, origin of the word, a definition, use it in a sentence and give alternate pronunciations for the word, which is really hard for this southern girl. Who knew there were three different pronunciations for “equestrian”? And why? It takes me several weeks to get ready all 375 words and my donkeys all have an expanded vocabulary.

And while I’m at it, I have to say I have never met a fourth, fifth or sixth grader that has voluntarily used the word thaumaturge. Look it up. But now if I ever witness magic or a miracle, I’m ready.

Speaking of miracles, let’s invent a sound system that does not sprout gremlins the moment the Bee starts and begin issuing unearthly feedback when it did not do that yesterday when we practiced. Thanks again to a very nice parent who routed the feedback gremlins. Thaumaturgy! See I knew I’d use it.

But at the end of the day I am proud to be a part of the Spelling Bee and appreciative of all the hard work our students and teachers put into learning to spell. Spelling is a skill they will need their whole lives. Language is the accumulated knowledge of many people, many ages and it is an important thing to pass on.

And yes, I remember the word I missed in the Spelling Bee; it was “magazine”. Really.