Thursday, January 28, 2010

Shibori Dyeing on Silk with Children

Good Morning!

I have been gifted a teacher's dream! A group of 8-10 yr olds that are focused, interested and enthused about what we do in my classroom!
I had planned to follow the lesson plan for the younger children with this group but their maturity, interest level and focus made it feel like they needed to do more. I ended up adjusting my lesson plan to a lesson in Shibori dyeing on silk and used the real deal acid dyes and they did a stellar job. No spills, no messes, clean hands and clothes, and beautiful scarves to take home!
I began with safety issues and the differences between acid dyes and fiber reactive dyes. I only recently have gotten involved in more dyeing so have been learning along the way as well. They were asked to consider their color choices and how it might affect the patterns they would be creating as they experimented with color and unwrapped their surprises in the end. We were able to use the newly donated microwave to set the dyes which worked out perfectly! There were no disappointments on this day............
I have found that dissappointments come with expectations. Unless one is a master at what he does, expectations can often lead to unhappiness. That doesn't mean that we can not aspire to better things, but as we are learning, experimenting  and challenging ourselves with new tasks, we can not possibly know outcome. Instead, attempting to know outcome is what we strive for. It is often said that there are no mistakes in art. I believe that to be true. However, I do believe there are mistakes in technique.
The classes and lessons that I pass on in my classes are primarily about technique; learning how to use the tools of an art so that one if interested, might practice it. It is with practice and experimentation that we progress to become masters who might be able to successfully predict outcome. But, any artist will tell you that some of their finest moments have come with "'mistakes" for incredible outcome.
Shibori dyeing to achieve a certain pattern or outcome is all about practice. It's about learning how the dye bleeds into the voids when using different application methods, it's about learning to understand how colors react to one another. It's also about learning that sometimes less is more in the final design.
These students had a terrific time experimenting! They watched and exclaimed as they combined colors to create new ones. Several chose to create specific patterns with fewer colors while others were taken by trying as much colors as possible and you can see their affects in the photos.
A good time was had by all and their hope is to repeat this process again another day.
OH, so many lessons........ so little time :-)
Once our dye projects were completed, we returned to drop spindle spin practice and I have at least one student who has figured out this challenging skill. Dexterity is paramount. The ability to multi task by coordinating several things at once is not always easy. But, she is already with just a few hours of time, spinning a fine yarn and managing the feed without getting it tangled and has also learned to add to the roving without assistance. Brilliant! The others are coming along as well and I expect that within the next few classes will be in a similar place with it. The spindles will be available for practicing during luls in class or with extra time before class begins. I never had any expectation of teaching anyone to successfully spin on a drop spindle while here. I imagined no one would have interest enough to take it on. Glad to know I was wrong!

Until next time!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Kool - Aid Dyeing with Children

This week brings us one of the children's favorite things to do! Kool - Aid Dyeing..............
Not only is the smell of the Kool - Aid a delight to the nostrils, but children seem to love the idea that they can have so much impact on something; They can alter the appearance of a piece of yarn with a brush and  bit of Kool - Aid. How great is that!

Instructions for Kool - Aid dyeing are all over the net and understandibly so. It is an effective, NON TOXIC way to change the color of protein fibers and readily available. In fact, it's the only non toxic one that I know of, but I also have not researched it. If there's another I would like to know of it!

I included this project in all of my classes for ages 5 through 7. The youngest, a group of 5 year olds kept focused for the whole hour with few interuptions. I know this means they were enjoying their project! As usual, it took some children longer to complete their dyeing than others but this comes from several observations. Some are particular. Though their skills may not necessarily match their ability, they take their time and are following directions carefully. They are not into quantity but are looking for quality in their work. Others are inspired to complete as much work as possible in the given time. They are competitive and want to show the others that they are fast and have produced more. Sometimes they are messy, but some find a way to be fast and neat at the same time. One child did this by dyeing three out of four yarns one solid color. The first one was rainbow dyed, changing colors every few inches. This takes more time. I will never know for sure if this child chose to paint one color instead of multi colors for speed but the competitive behavior and comments that were made after, leads me to believe that they were interested in being first and found a way to do that. Fascinating to me!
One little one commented that they thought it was going to be boring but that in fact it wasn't at all and that they were enjoying the process! Pretty big idea for a 5 yr old! The 5 - 7 yr olds were diligent and productive with lots of yarns painted. Of course this age group seems to always be looking to take their projects home. To their dismay, this wasn't allowed because next week we will do circle weaving and the children will use their dyed yarns in that project. Once the item leaves the classroom, it never comes back! So no matter how tempted I am to please them by letting them bring them home with a promise to return them, I know better :-)

One of our adult fiber enthusiasts was renovating her kitchen and donated her old microwave to our classroom to be used for both dyeing and wet felting. I use the microwave to re-heat my felting projects since water in Bermuda is a precious commodity. No need to pour the cold water down the drain when I can effectively re-heat it, project and all! Not too much though. Just enough to warm it up again.

I was able to experiment with setting the dye in a microwave right in the classroom this time and the children were quite impressed with that idea. I used to have to hold these calsses in the HUB, our kitchen space at the school, so that I could set up a steam bath on the stove. Of course there's no concern for toxicity with these dyes but I have labeled the oven that it can no longer be used for food because I intend to use it for chemical dyes as well. I try to always be passing on tid bits of info to the children. I know that their attention spans and capacity to absorb is sometimes limited, but you never know what might stick so I explained that we could never use our classroom microwave for food again because some dyes are toxic and would make the microwave unsafe for food anymore. I told them that Kool - Aid dyes could be set in the home microwave because that is safe for us to drink, so is also safe to put in the microwave, even at home.

So, the older group will be dyeing in today's class. More to come on that one later..........

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Shibori for Me & Shibori workshop for Children 8 & up!

I have  begun playing with Shibori dyeing and I'm not quite sure how I got into it at this moment! But into it I am, and enjoying the surprises!

I am preparing for a show with Ronnie Chameau, noted Bermuda water colorist, banana doll maker and basket maker, and Ronnie Lopes, rustic furniture maker. I decided that it was time to take this opportunity to explore the many fiber arts that interest me so Hairlock Paintings will take a back seat this time around and represent only a small portion of the show.

 I have been working on some pillows using various Shibori techniques. The one I am sharing today is a "wrap & cap" technique where small dried beans are bound into the silk with thread, dyed, then wrapped with plastic wrap, bound again and      the balance of the piece is then space died. I actually painted the dyes on. Sound labor intensive? It is! Unbinding the beans took forever but I did get more proficient after the first one. Thank goodness! But, it has given me my favorite results! Doesn't that figure.... Anyway, I'm including some photos of the process and results.
 Though Shibori can be intensive, I thought that it would be a great little project for my older fiber students so I will be offering a special Valentine workshop on February 12th from 4 - 6:30pm.

Students will enter the wonderful world of Shibori Dyeing to create a heart surface design and create a pillow! The "Stitching and wrapping" technique and basic sewing skills and resist dyeing, will be used by students to create a heart design on silk. No experience is necessary and children should wear old clothes!

I'm looking forward to adding Shibori to my regular class curriculum and know that the children will have a great time doing it! I will use Kool -Aid dyes in my classroom since they are non toxic so can safely be used by any age and be heat set in a microwave for quick results. We have been lucky enough to be gifted a used microwave that I will use for both dyeing and wet felting. A microwave is a nice tool to re-heat a felt piece in progress to quicken the felting process; an important factor in keeping children encouraged that their work is progressing more quickly.

These are some photos of the prototype. They haven't been stuffed properly and are only pinned closed for now. I have to go intown to buy filling and I procrastinate driving into Hamilton whenever possible! The backer is some lovely donated fabric that is a nice sueded flannel so very soft and cozy and a nice color match to the red dyed silk.

All for now! Time to go and create!

Until next time.........

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Wooley Story Hour with 5 yr olds......

This is the first time I have had a group of children who are all five years old! After last week I quickly realized that I can not do all of the projects with them that I do in my 5-7 yr old class. It was interesting to conclude that when a few five year olds are mixed into a group who are up to seven years old, their behavior rises to the level of the older children in class; they take their cue from them. On the other hand, when put together with others of the same age, they have no role models; no one to emulate. Result? A VERY different atmosphere in the class room!
As a result of learning this, I shifted gears and have begun bringing their project levels down a notch or two. Additionally, the 5 yr old class is only one hour long which also is a limiter on the projects we can complete.

Now that I have experienced this learning curve, I am back on track and now know how to proceed with this group! We began with a lovely story book written by Elsa Maartman Beskow called Pelle's New Suit  which tells the story of a little boy, his lamb and how he  uses his lamb to get himself a new suit. After the story I did a brief drop spindle demonstration which always amazes.

The project of the day was for the children to do some wet felting in a baggie. This is an easy project for them to find success with which they all did! I had prepared the usual three layers of fibers in a baggie ahead of classtime and added a bit of soapy warm water to each. I had them work them until they were firm enough to remove from the bag and finish up by rolling them in bumpy shelf gripper.

Next week? Kool - Aid Dyeing. I will have them paint yarns which they will then use in a circle weaving project.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hand Spinning with Children at Kaleidoscope Arts Foundation.....

This was spinning week with two of my classes.....

 I use an unconventional method with a clamp to teach them the basic concept of what's happening when a yarn is being spun. We used a coarse, short narrow piece of wool roving; A breed that might be good for needle felting so that it is less slick. The smaller narrower piece makes it easier for them to draft from and will spin less than a yard of yarn. I begin by demonstrating how to draft which each of them has encountered in my felting classes. I then show them how to twist the tip and clamp it to the table. Once they have done that They begin drafting and twisting in a clockwise manner until they reach the end. There was very little difficulty with over drafting to the breaking point and though there was not a consistent twist in their yarns, each was successful at creating a length of plied yarn! Next week we will add their yarns to some factory spun to do some kool - aid dyeing.
Once they completed their yarns, I demonstrated the drop spindle and each of them got a chance to try with my assistance. Spinning continues to amaze everyone who sees it being done. It's like magic!

The 5 - 7 yr old group worked with me as I had them draft....slide...
and pinch while I held the work and spun the spindle. Unfortunately I couldn't take photos while doing this but maybe next time I can try to get one of my student to be acting photographer!

I did the same with the 8 and up group but after they had a turn at the spindle with me, I gave them each a spindle to use. I was impressed that although it was challenging for them, they managed to spin without too many breaks. The hardest things for them to grasp are to add another length of roving to their work and which way to spin the spindle. Their insecurities kept me hopping so I never got a shot of them spinning on their own. I plan to have them work on their yarns during class down times  so will make a point of getting a photo of them in action another time!
In the end, I asked how much they enjoyed learning to spin in spite of it's challenges and they all were enthused and glad to be doing it! Another successfule class!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Felting with 8 - 10 Year Olds.......

I've now met all of my new students for the term at KAF and it's a great group of kids! The newest ones are the 8-10 yr olds and they are so enthused! Two of them are returning students glad to be back, and the others seem genuinely glad to be in class. All are looking forward to our next time together. What more can a teacher ask for?

In this class students learned to make a multi colored felt roll that was cut into slices and strung onto elastic thread to make a bracelet. The two hour class time didn't allow for us to string the remaining beads for necklaces but we'll finish that up next week.
Students did such a  good job of felting that it was a bit difficult to thread the beads! We had to use pliers to pull the needle through their work. Well done! This means the beads will hold up and not easily fall apart. It helped that we used Merino this time!

One of the lessons they learned is that felting is a labor intensive job. Children in my classes are always asking if they are done felting; is it enough.... I always try to get them to keep going but give them the option to make an informed decision by telling them they can be done, but that if they continue, their efforts will pay off with a stronger felt that will stand the test of time. Most respond by continuing to work but ultimately, it's their choice.
These students kept at it and have created some great beads! They can be proud of their work!
Next week, we spin a yarn! Stay tuned..........

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Children's Fiber Art Classes have begun!

The ball is rolling now! The first week of children's classes has begun and I'm so excited about the success of registration this term!

Children's options began on Sunday with a mom & child fiber class. Children range in age from 6 to 11 and our first project was to felt a vessel. All of the children and some of the moms' already had some felting experience. I think the mom's who had never felted before may have found a new respect for their children's efforts:-) It's hard work to felt!

My monday class is for 5-7 yr olds and I have a large class for this type of work. I usually have a cut of of 8 children so that I can give them the attention they need but somehow a ninth one got under my radar. I have boys this term! Three of the nine in this group are boys. That's great but will keep me challenged for two reasons. Fiber arts projects tend to lend themselves to girlie things and boys have a lot of energy! They keep me hopping! In the end, we managed to get some beads felted that were made from a roll of felt and sliced into discs. I had some Harrisville batts that I used so they could avoid laying out fibers for a first project but it took a bit longer to felt so would not use it again in this situation. Good old Merino felts so fast and the children have a hard time concentrating when they have to work the fiber for too long to get it to felt. Everything is relative of course but it's important to make it as quick and painless for them as possible.

Tuesdays I have a group of 6, 5 yr olds and 4 of them are boys!!! I am so surprised! Most of them had participated in workshops at the Bermuda fiber festival and wanted to return! The atmosphere in my classrooms this year is definitely different with all of that energy from the boys. We'll see how it goes and if I can keep their interest. It was slow going but all students managed to felt one small ball that either got strung as a necklace or on a loop for a key ring. Success was had by all:-)

Today, Wednesday, I have a smaller group with only one boy. WE will do roll beads in this class but this time I will use my reliable merino. I'll let you know how we do!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Teaching Fiber Arts at Kaleidoscope Arts Foundation

The new Winter term of classes has begun at KAF and I am one busy teacher! Now that classes have begun I will bring you updates on my sutdents progress as the term unfolds....

Fiber is really catching on in Bermuda after three years of success with the annual Bermuda Fibre Festival event. Enthusiasts are developing in both children and adults. My class schedule is proof enough that our efforts are paying off and we are creating interest in this wonderful artform! I am teaching five classes this term!

The term began with an adult "play date" which is scheduled for twice a month over the three month term. The classroom is busting to capacity with women who had never done any fiber arts until they attended one of our festivals. Two are the exception, a handspinner whose schedule has each year prevented her from participating and another who missed our events but loves any artform and was looking for a class to fit her schedule.

These sessions are intended to allow us to gather, create, share and mentor each other in a supportive environment. We all lead busy lives and often find it difficult to make time for ourselves to do what WE like to do, and this seems to be providing that space. There was a mix of projects going on that included wet felting placemats, a three dimensional fish which had been learned at fiber fest, and two newbies followed my instructions as I created a prototype of a bowl for a future class. The newbies were thrilled! They could not get over how successful they were and how pleased they were with their creations. They can't wait to return! The phot above is a vessel made by a first time felter. Nice work!

There was some tough love learning going on as well. One woman is working on felt samples of various fibers to help her decide what fiber she wants to use to ultimately create a felted quilt. She is a new felter and purchased samples of various wool fibers to experiment with. She learned some hard lessons that day.

Lesson # 1. Smaller samples are best - By the time I noticed what she was up to, she had layed out a two foot square; agressive for any sample and a new felter. It turned out in the end, that the fiber would not felt! I regret to say I don't remember what breed it was but it was a coarser fleece and though in the beginning it looked like it was doing ok, the surface had formed a skin but once she began the fulling process the layers just wouldn't bond.

Lesson # 2. felt a ball from the fiber first - I recommend if you have a fiber that you would like to felt something out of and no experience or information about it's ability to felt, begin by felting a small ball. In just a few short minutes, you will see whether or not the fiber felts in the first place and move on from there.

Lesson # 3. A little research can save time and money. Refer to a micron count chart or fiber charts available in many felting books as a guide. Finer fibers tend to felt quicker and give a softer finished product. Felting books will tell you what fibers they are using in their projects and the list is not that long. Certaily there are many wools that can be used but the most popular ones and easiest to buy are most commonly used. Additionally, a search on the web for a specific breed of wool and felting (IE: dorset & felting) will give you a pretty good indication of the felting qualities of a breed. Often you might only find reference to needle felting. This is your clue that it may not be the best bet for wet felting.

I left my camera at school so have no pictures to show but will add one as soon as I can!

Watch for new posts on class projects with both children and adults coming soon!