Pete

color-spheresAs long as I live I will never forget the special education students in my art classes. They have provided the most genuinely sweet moments for all the students in my classes over the years.

Today a little guy named Pete (not his real name) broke up my entire sixth grade class with his reaction to the color paddle chain I use to teach color mixing basics. This is a child who literally had to have his little fingers lifted off the door jam one by one as he entered the class. To say he was not feeling interested in attending art class was an understatement.

I took a calculated risk and brought everyone to the table where he sat with a paraprofessional to explain a color theory project to the rest of the class.

As I manipulated the red and yellow paddles over each other….I said to Pete, “Look, it’s magic…orange!” His face lit up like a Christmas tree…he grabbed the paddles and we were off to the races. He spent the rest of the class in a rainbow-colored trance, combining the colors, looking at his world through those paddles. The students gathered around us were smiling, laughing at his joyful reaction. God, it was a nice moment. Can you ask for a better explanation of the effect of color on the world?

As I walked around the room the rest of the period he kept looking up at me through the green paddle with this mischievous grin, saying “You look like the incredible hulk Mrs Strandberg, …..green…aaarghhhh!” I’d say “Aaaargghhh” back.

You have to love it.

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First Saturday

holding handsI’m sitting here at the kitchen table the first Saturday after school started this week. We had the students Thursday and Friday. What was old in May is new again in August. It is my nineteenth year of teaching elementary art in a small rural Texas school and my first days of school were good.

In the hallway the first day I saw a mom come in with her fifth grader. Mom had on what we used to call “a house dress”, big wire curlers and fuzzy house shoes. The daughter was holding her hand and grinning from ear to ear. The Granddad was carrying two bags of school supplies. They stopped and the Granddad said to me,”She said her mom couldn’t embarrass her the first day of school.” The girl laughed and posed with her mom for a selfie. As they separated and the girl walked on to the gym the mom looked like tears were close. But she also looked happy. And so did her child.

Harry Wong’s words ring in my ears. “The first days of school are so important.” As I welcomed my students this year I remember again that the first two things in their heads are, ” Am I in the right place?” and “Does she know my name?”

On the first day of school, your name is the only thing that really belongs to you. Everything else, your time, your brain, even when you eat and go to the bathroom becomes part of “the schedule”.  So to a kid, ” my name”, “my seat” and “my chair” become a big identity thing. After a couple of months of summer freedom that comes as a shock to the system.

Lots of good things happen. Like a student that brought me a cookie at Meet the Teacher night. It said something like”May your days be great and your coffee be strong.” I can’t remember exactly because I ate that sucker the first day of school. It helped.

I get to see big brothers and big sisters walk their siblings around my room and say ” I used to sit here.” And “This room looks so small, I thought it was bigger!” I even had a former student bring their child to meet me because they were going to be in my class this year. I’m getting old.

Even the challenges are somehow familiar and endearing. “No you can’t say fart.” “No, you should not make a fart noise even if you are not farting.” There is nothing in the world funnier to a fifth grader than a fart.

I had a small sixth grade class practice safety drills. As we practiced the lock down drill the mood turned quiet. They were sitting on the floor, away from windows with their backs against cabinets. I turned off the lights to show them how the room would look, “See, we can still see each other with the light coming through the cracks in the blinds.” I told them how my number one job is to keep them safe, even before teaching art. And you could see the concern in their eyes. I hate that our world has put that concern there. The one student said, “It’s ok, I’m a black belt.” Everyone laughed and came back to their seat. But I got hugs as they left the class.

And so I realize once again how precious these children are and what a privilege it is to be with them each day. It was a good start.

 

 

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.

DSC02848

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.

DSC02855

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/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kimbell Summer Institute for Teachers

#mwisdmatters

Another summer workshop at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth has come and gone. I can’t say good enough things about the Education Department and this workshop at the Kimbell. I think this is the 5th or 6th Summer Institute I’ve attended and they get better every time. Lectures concentrate on the special exhibit, as do the docent led tours and studio art workshop activities.  The four days end with a sharing of lesson plans prompted by the exhibit from all the teachers in the group.

Bodhisattva
Bodhisattva, wood, Song dynasty

This year’s exhibit during the workshop was From the Lands of Asia, the Sam and Myrna Meyers Collection. An extraordinary exhibit consisting of Buddhist Sculptures, Asian Textile works and an amazing collection of Jade, which is as I understand it, the largest privately held collection of jade in the U.S. and perhaps in the world.

Jade Funerary Vest
Jade Funerary Vest, Han dynasty, 3rd – 2nd century BC, 75 x 59 cm

Connie Hatchette Barganier, the Education Manager for the Kimbell is responsible for this wonderful workshop and along with master teacher Marilyn Ivy they never fail to come up with techniques, tools and information that can be shared and implemented in my art classroom.  The group usually consists of art teachers, teachers of other subjects and just people who are art lovers.

Bi
Neolithic Bi, Sam and Myrna Meyers Collection
Meiping
Meiping, Yuan Dynasty, 14th c., 40 cm

Imagine being able to sit in the gallery and draw these items without any dirty looks from the very patient and worthy museum guards. Imagine several docent led tours stretching over the four days of the workshop, there to help you understand the exhibit and answer questions in a small group of about twenty educators. For me, it is just heaven….but I am an art teacher and I love museums. I was fascinated by the stories about how the Meyers got their first pieces of jade in a shoe box from a Philadelphia antique shop. The bought the box for a $1,000, not realizing it contained Chinese jades from the Han Dynasty to the 19th century. That’s my kind of shoe box!

The jade collection was fascinating. I certainly did not know that jade came in multitudes of colors based on its mineral content and that the color changes over time and with exposure to the elements and environment, like the decomposition gases in Chinese tombs or with the additional firing that produces the coveted “chicken-bone” white jade. It is even more astounding to learn that all of these jades are cut with abrasive materials, since the nephrite is harder than any diamond drill, so most likely with hand labor with sand or other abrasives.

Cong
Cong, jade, Neolithic period

The jade Cong were delicate and mysterious, their function and meaning unknown, carved with such care and placed in Chinese tombs. Perhaps scholars will discover their function one day.

Organized into three distinct sections, the exhibit also featured exquisite Asian costumes and textile works showcasing the all important silk and the technical virtuosity of needlework that characterized the Chinese, Japanese and Korean clothing of that day.

 

This section gave me the nudge for my lesson plan on Kumihimo, the Japanese art of braiding, which I’ll post on another blog.

To stand in these galleries is to get a sense of the enormity of time these objects represent and the depth of the Asian culture which is awe-inspiring and humbling.

In many ways, the Asian search for spiritual answers reminds me of many cultures, including our own, but it is in the depth of their ancient societal structure, their sense of belonging and honoring family and their ancestry is where I find the deepest lessons in this exhibit. These beautiful works will certainly occupy my thoughts for a long time.

Aisle 2

 

aisle-business-cart-1005638

 

“What’s your hurry Bud?”, I think as the teenager moved around me on aisle two. I’m grocery shopping on a Tuesday at ten o’clock in the morning.  An unusual thing for me because my retired husband shops during the school year, but now I get to browse in peace during my summer break from teaching elementary school. Adults everywhere. Heaven. It’s quiet. Even the Musak is not too loud. As I look at this kid, I realize that teaching has made me watch people in a different way. I scan the expression on faces for intent, body language for the possibility of trouble.  It’s hard to stop doing that, especially in these troubled times of violence at schools. It takes time away from that twenty year commitment to control. It’s only been a week since school’s been out.

I’m assessing him now, mildly irritated, as he moves past me, going around my cart. He doesn’t look up, intent on his phone screen. Surprise. T-shirt and jeans with a baseball cap turned backwards. Short shaggy black hair. No basket for the young, he has a few items clutched loosely under his arm. Keys in the other hand. He’s in a hurry.

And coming the opposite direction up the aisle towards me is an old man. He looks in his late eighties, white-haired and composed in a starched short-sleeved shirt and khakis, with a notebook paper shopping list in one hand. He leans heavily on his grocery cart with the other hand, but his back is straight. He glances up from his list just as the teenager approaches him. ” Hey, don’t I know you?” he says to the teenager.

All my teacher sensors go off at this point. ” I can’t help it. I think, “Don’t you be rude to that sweet old man.” I’m clutching the handle of my cart, pretending to look at something beside me on the shelf, furiously hoping…for what? Courtesy? Acknowledgement from a teenager of the old? What am I going to do if…. “Breathe,” I think.

And then it happens. The teenager stops and smiles at the old man. “Why yes sir,” he says, “Don’t you go to Midwest Church? Aren’t you Mr. Preston? I’m Ben, I saw you last Sunday. How are you?” “Oh Ben, of course, I’m great, just great, say hi to your folks for me.” says the old man. ” Yes sir, you have a nice day now.” Ben says. He moves on.

I’m stopped in my tracks. It wasn’t what the teenager said, it was the way he said it. Such a simple thing. The easy respect. It was expected of him, I knew. I suddenly wanted to hug his parents, then the kid. I can see the headlines, “Former teacher arrested at grocery store for hugging complete stranger.”

As I walked on I mentally slapped my own hand. “You didn’t give him a chance, did you?” I thought. “You thought you had his number…sheeshz.”

And maybe life is as simple as that and as hard as that. People don’t always telegraph their intentions. Disrespect isn’t always tattooed on a forehead, posted on a Facebook page or exclusive to an age. And perhaps rather than paranoia and mistrust, the key is trust, family and respect. For what will we have if that is not enough? For today it is enough for me on aisle two.

I smiled at the old man as I passed him. He smiled back.

I exhaled.

Construction Work

#mwisdmatters

Combine an excess of scrap cardboard and 6th grade art students. Ask for them each to build a house that has a roof, four walls, a door and at least one window. Shake well and add end-of-the school year energy, paint and about thirty glue sticks. You get a small cardboard city and a lot of fun.

Lots of good discussions about hinges, doors, roof lines, balconies and interiors. The best part is the creativity my students showed in bringing their house to life. Good choices and problem solving were encouraged.

Clay Rams

#mwisdmatters

Being a Mineral Wells Ram has its advantages. Like creating a great little pinch-pot ram to remind you of your great school. Travis 4th, 5th and 6th graders are starting to finish up this fun clay project in art class. Glazed with our school colors and created with a lot of enthusiasm and imagination some little rams are making their way home today!