Saturday, January 31, 2009

Teaching Children to Spin Wool at Kaleidoscope Arts Foundation in Bermuda!

Success with Spinning!

Here are my 7 & 8 yr old Fiber students showing off some of their hand spun yarns.
I had a great time teaching this class. Not only did they learn the priciples involved with spinning fiber into yarn but I learned a thing or two about teaching it!

My goal with this class was for children to understand exactly what it means to spin yarn. I wanted them to realize how the twisting motion gives the fibers strength while bonding them together. The challenge was, how could I do this without them having to worry about keeping a spindle going and remembering everything that you have to, to learn to drop spindle. This class was more basic that that....
I had used clip clamps to teach them how to braid and decided this might be a good option for spinning as well. This allowed them to focus on the actual spinning concept without any other mental or dexterity challenges.
I had them begin with 4-6" pieces of coarse pencil roving which I taught them to draw out a bit before begining to spin/twist the fibers. After they had spun the full length, I showed them how to fold it in half and let it twist on itself to ply it. EVERY student found success!
After they had practiced a bit with the short coarse fibers I gave them each a longer piece to work and then moved them on to white merino which I intend for them to dye with Kool-Aid in our next class. I found that this clip method though great for teaching the concept and for shorter pieces, is difficult for them to do a long piece with since there is no method of winding the spun yarn. If they let their yarn go for any reason (loss of focus for example) their work untwisted and this was understandably frustrating for them since they had to do it over again. I was able to find a happy medium but learned that I will only use coarse wool and shorter lengths for this level since if you are a seasoned spinner you know that the coarser wool is stickier and stays spun more readily without too much effort.

Never the less, EVERY student completed three lengths of white merino which they will dye next week and then use in an upcoming weaving project.
Here is a look at their good work! They did a fine job and were very proud of their accomplishment!
One of the greatest joys and compliments that I have received from teaching this class has been that every week as the children leave my class, I hear at least one parent exclaim something like this. "Did you make that?" and when the children say yes, I hear them ask again "YOU made that?" with total surprise.
Pure honey to my ears :-)
I don't think it's that the parents don't think highly of their children's abilities necessarily. Instead I think this is because they perceive that this would be difficult for them to do, let alone their small children. This has made me realize how we as adults, put OUR OWN limitations on what a child can accomplish.
I hope that this is a lesson that I will remember!
Until next time!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Children's Fiber Art Projects

As promised!

I have finally decided to at least show you photos of my samples for the children's Fiber Art Classes that I have taught so far to give you some idea of what we are doing.
The first one is a sample of the design for Felt Bead Jewelry. We in fact made the bracelet since our class time is limited and it is important to me that children do not have time to get bored or bogged down in details beyond their attention span.
Both classes, the 5 & 6 yo and 7 & 8 yo children created the bracelets by first felting the beads. They then braided two worsted weight strands of dyed cotton string together with a finer matching heavy weight thread for stringing the beads onto. I clamped the end of the braid to the tables using medium sized plastic clip clamps and when they had braided enough to add a bead at an appropriate spot, they strung it on and then continued with the braid until they added additional beads. One end has a loop knot and the other a tripple knot so that it is fat enough not to come out of the loop. This forms the fastener which I helped them with.
Both groups found success and went home with their finished piece after one class. The younger children is a class of four and spend one hour with me. The 7 & 8 yo class is also four students and stays with me for one and a half hours so they were able to complete three beads instead of two for their bracelets.
They were all very pleased with themselves. I especially enjoyed hearing parents comments.... "did you make that? YOU made that?" They were very pleasantly surprised at the quality and completion of a wearable peice of Fiber Art that their child had made.

This next project was a flat felted treasure pouch. Students were guided through the flat felting process; layering their fibers, felting and fulling. This project took two classes. What I found is that it takes them a while to figure out that once they get past the initial need to be gentle that they can add pressure and more agitation. Additionally, I had to be careful not to make the water too hot for their tender young hands and some of my students are still little and don't have the strength and dexterity to exert the kind of pressure necessary to make quick work of felting. Never the less, they got their soft felt completed with surface designs embedded into their piece during the first class. They were spent, but when they returned the following week, they were all eager to continue with their projects, fulling them to completion and adding the pull strings to form the pouch.
Though their patterns were round, most ended up with more rectangular shapes but each was thrilled with their completed pieces and couldn't wait to show their moms after class!
This week I have begun the bare basics of how wool is spun. I am again using my plastic clamps to hold a piece of pencil roving to the table which allows them to twist the fiber into a yarn. When they have done their short length of roving, I have them hold the two ends together and I help by holding tension on the center of the strand. Once I let go, if there is enough twist in it, it will automatically ply to itself. It is magical to them!
My one mistake was that once they prooved that they understood the concept (this did not take long) and were successful at making a very good yarn, I gave them too long a piece of roving to work with. This was the younger group and they seemed unable to go beyond a certain length of time without dropping their work. The result of course, was that it came untwisted and they had to do it over. I will use this learned lesson with my 7& 8 yo group tomorrow! I believe that when they are unsuccessful, that it is I who have failed to either present the concept in a way that they can understand or, that I have over estimated their ability in some way and that I must re-adjust to suit them better.
The plan is that the yarns they have created will be used in the following class to experiment with Kool-Aid dyes preparing the yarns they spun for use in a future weaving project.
Great Fun is had by all!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Teaching Children Fiber Arts

Well the new year is underway and with it has come some exciting new challenges!

My most exciting new venture is taking on teaching children Fiber Arts at Kaleidoscope Arts Foundation in Bermuda. The interest in fiber is growing very nicely here thanks to our efforts with the second annual Bermuda Fibre Festival that I organized which occurred in December. Our class enrolment was up by 10% with more than 300 spaces filled and more than two thirds attended by children from ages toddler through teens. This magnitude of interest encouraged the KAF director to add Fiber Art to her after school program for the winter term with me as teacher, and I am having a great time!

I teach a 5 & 6 year old class and a 7&8 year old class and both are going well. The children have had three classes so far and have performed their tasks very well. The curriculum began with felting since that is every one's favorite fiber art. It is easy to learn so students can have some immediate success; an important factor in our world of instant gratification. We have completed bracelets made from braided yarn which have been strung with felt beads as well as a treasure pouch which they created from flat felt work. I am sorry to say that I have left my camera at home and did not get photos of their work but will ask them to bring their finished pieces in for documentation before the end of the term.

We will now move on to hand spinning. YIKES! I have some ideas on how to help the children be successful with it and will let you know how that turns out. I fully expect that the yarn they produce using their fingers will be strong enough for them to dye them using Kool-Aid dyes and ultimately incorporating them into a woven project yet to come.

I find that I really am enjoying sharing fiber arts with them and that I am an effective teacher Their successful projects and enjoyment in creating have been boosters for my feeling of success, gratification and enjoyment!

I will add a photo of their work soon!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Hand Felted Slippers!

Ok so I had to play!

The Bermuda Fibre Festival inspired me to "play" in felt which I have dabbled in here and there over time. I decided I wanted a new pair of slippers and so here they are! I love them.... I brought out some old creative tools that I hadn't used in years and did some crewel embroidery embelishments and crocheted a flower to add.
I have begun teaching children Fiber Art at Kaleidoscope Arts Foundation and I am trying to instill in them the idea that I am giving them creative "tools" for them to have throughout life in their creative endeavors. Mine are serving me well and I am grateful for my paternal grandmother who taught me how to crochet many years ago and my mother who taught me how to stitch. These skills are a bit like the bicycle concept. Once you learn you always know how though you might be a little rusty.
I hope you all find ways to use your creative "tools" now and again and that you never stop accumulating them!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

2009 Calendar Underway!

It hasn't quite hit me that we have started the year 2009, yet, I seem to be doing a good job of filling my calendar of events and keeping myself very busy as usual!

The new year has brought me a new commission which I have begun work on; a portrait of "Skipper" a terrier mix. The drawing is near completion and once the client has approved it and decided on a size, work will begin creating the canvas and subsequent painting. Watch for images as they come available.

Soon I will be taking on some R & D with some wool jersey fabric that I received. It is fabric that was originally destined to be made into cycling jerseys, however with the synthetics on the market these days, popularity for wool in a cycling jersey has declined. I am really into the idea of making a new use for old things so I am going to play with creating paintings on a "cycling" theme and see where it leads me. It's always so much fun to try new things, but it also leaves me with a feeling of being spread a bit thin at times.

During the Bermuda Fibre Festival I happened to act as tour guide for our US teachers and visited the Crafts Center at Dockyard. While there I was inspired by some art that I saw which gave me a new idea for framing my paintings. First, for those who are not aware of it, my work was originally inspired by studying Sumi-e, Asian ink painting. Often Sumi-e is framed in the traditional scroll style so when I saw some work that was hung using bamboo rods, I was very excited about the prospect of trying this method for my work! There is a stand of bamboo near where I live so access to materials will be easy! Now I just have to squeeze the experimentation into my schedule. If this works out, it will be a wonderful solution to framing my work for showing in Bermuda. I have not been keen on framing work here not only because of the expense, but it then makes it impossible to transport work from here to the US. A fact I learned the hard way after having a bunch of work framed in the US and not able to bring it back to Bermuda for some upcoming shows!

Oh so much to report!

The success of the second Fibre Festival in Bermuda keeps me working! As I wind down the reporting and record keeping for this year's event, I have to get my sights on the 2009 planning and get that underway which brings me to the next adventure!

This week I began teaching Fibre Arts classes at Kaleidoscope Arts Foundation to 5&6 year olds and 7&8 year olds. I am so excited about this! The Fiber Festival here has inspired me to share my passion for fibre arts with the children and this is a great opportunity. This week we are creating Felt beads and making bracelets that are braided with the beads strung to them. The younger class, though needing some assistance with the braiding and stringing, did a great job and I look forward to the older group later today! I will get some photos of the finished work and post them later. This is a ten week program so look for more details on the classes and their outcome!

Ok so I have digressed a bit from my original intention with passing on my 2009 schedule. Easy for me to do! So check the side bar for my 2009 schedule so far. And in case I forgot to say it, Happy New Year to you all!