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My Five Favs

8 Dec

Screen Print Demo

My cooperating teacher found about 25 beautiful silk screens left in her classroom from a summer project, so she wants me to do a screen printing lesson in the spring.  I am definitely not the best at screen printing, and I had only ever done it in a university setting where I had access to a light table and high quality acetate printing.  The screen print demo gave me some ideas that could be used in a classroom, including stenciling, chemical block, and using a home made dark space.  I think these techniques will help me organize a project that is actually feasible in the school’s situation.

Javier Senosian

Javier Senosian was one of the architects from the global architecture presentations.  During my elementary fieldwork placement, I was having a really hard time coming up with a project that satisfied everyone involved.  Staring at my computer in perplexed frustration, I remembered the class blog.  I am teaching at Pasteur, where the majority of the population is of Mexican descent, and the art teachers make an attempt to connect art lessons to Mexican culture.  Long story short, I used Javier Senosian for my lesson plan, and the students made some amazing work.  I set up the powerpoint as a game, having students guess which animals were the inspiration for which buildings.  They then drew abstract shapes, transformed them into animals, and then finally into houses, adding fantastic, imaginative details.  They really took off with it, so much so, that I had to re-make my exemplars because their work was so much more interesting.

Needle Felting

I see some problems with the initial cost for this, in that roving is pretty pricey, but I think that there is something in how interested we all were in the process, and I could see that interest being just as strong in a high school or elementary classroom.  I’m not sure what the ‘big idea’ would be yet, but I felt healthier after needle felting.  Everybody can do it on some level, and it was a productive way to release frustration.  Maybe it could be a project in which students create a sculpture of something that annoys them, and through the process of making, they might become less frustrated?  I’m not sure exactly how to explain this, but it’s a big part of my own art making—the more anxious or annoyed I am, the more work I make.  It makes me feel better to do repetitive physical work.


In the same way as needle felting, the sketchbook workshop was really engaging.  I sometimes think that teaching an interesting and accessible technique automatically paves the way for ideas.  I could see this being used as in class work for a less structured day (which I think we can all use every now and again).  I also remember having a huge problem with sketchbooks when I was in school.  I think this is because they were approached as a homework assignment.  We had to have a certain number of drawings of specific things every Monday.  Maybe this works for some students, but I could see giving in-class time for sketchbook work, where the teacher might teach a technique and allow students to experiment with that.

Spreads in InDesign

I’m not sure how this might apply to my teaching yet—I would need a much more comprehensive understanding of the program.  I did get a lot of pointers for making my spreads look better and happen faster.  I think I am going to get the program and redo all of my spreads before turning in my portfolio for applications.  I have a really tough time with computer-based design, so I found the little tips and rules to be extremely helpful.



8 Dec

Safe, Easy, DIY fabric dyeing.

*your fabric must be washed before this process. Dirt and oil will keep it from ‘taking’ dye.

1. Buy *fair trade* coffee.

2. Brew coffee.  For those of you who do not use coffee as a survival method, the easy ratio for brewing a pot of coffee is to use ‘x’ tablespoons of ground coffee and ‘2x’ cups of water.

3. While coffee is brewing, put 2 tablespoons of regular table salt in a bucket that is large enough to hold your fabric and your coffee.  Use more salt if you are dyeing a large amount of fabric.

4. Wet your fabric.

5. Pour coffee into bucket with salt, and stir until salt is dissolved.

6. Submerge fabric in dye bucket.  Stir occasionally.

7. Give fabric at least 15 minutes to take coffee color.  This is usually about as dark as it will get.

8. Add 1/4 cup vinegar to your dye bucket, with fabric still in it.  Stir.  This works like soda ash in tye dyeing–it sets the color so it will not fade and bleed as much when you rinse it.

9. Leave fabric in dye for another half hour, stirring occasionally.

10. Remove and rinse fabric.

11. This and other dyeing processes can be used in combination with different resist techniques such as batik and shibori to obtain different designs.

If you want to use the leftover grounds, they can be used to dye again, or here are some other suggestions:

Coffee Ground (Re)Uses

Skip Schukmann

23 Oct

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So here’s another architect I thought y’all might like

Skip Schukmann lives in California.  He makes one of a kind works for clients on commission (which I’ll admit, I find a little frustrating and a bit at odds with his philosophy and process, but I’ll let it slide because the work is so beautiful).  He expresses frustration with our materialistic, marketing nature, and thinks we need to get back to a place where we can be satisfied with the world around us.

When a client contacts Skip to work on a site, he tries to use only the natural materials including sticks, dirt, rocks, water, and anything else he can find there.  As a last resort, he will import materials but even when he does this, he tries to use materials that someone else is discarding.  He also uses natural processes to construct his work, including fire and water power.

What I find most interesting in looking at his images, is that sometimes you can hardly tell that the work is there.  It still looks primarily like the surrounding landscape, just maybe a little more human-ly organized.  The type of structures he builds depend on the needs of the client, but for the most part, they are spaces for meditation as opposed to living spaces.

I could not find a website.  He seems to like to lay low.

I found him in a book, and I’ll put the link to that book here:

Mario Pani

19 Oct

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Mario Pani (March 29, 1911-February 23, 1993) was a Mexican architect and urban planner—meaning he did design buildings, but he also planned the layouts of multiple buildings with great consideration for the effects that his planning would

have on the people who use the space.  He heavily influenced the appearance of Mexico City, especially the University City of the UNAM, or National Autonomous University of Mexico.  This particular space covers 1500 acres, and is the collaboration of several different architects.

Pani is best known for integrating the Mexican muralist tradition with very functionalist and practical architecture.  Most of his buildings are highly geometric but incorporate very large and highly ornate works of art.  The Rectoria (Rectorate Tower), is a prime example.  Pani, in collaboration with another architect, designed the short square building, which features a three-dimensional mural by the artist David Alfaro Siquieros.  The mural is made of glazed tile, epoxies, glues, glass bricks, concrete and onyx.  Even in the mural itself, the materials and the form work to unite traditional Mexican mural painting with new technologies and materials.  It is a beautiful fit into Pani’s ideas of unifying these two things.

Pani worked during a time when Mexico city was experiencing a huge increase in population as people surged to the city looking for work.  He created housing complexes with these people specifically in mind.  He wanted to create efficient living spaces and focus on economic growth for the city.  The industrialization of the 1950’s greatly influenced his style.

Pani studied in France and Mexico, and later founded the National College of Architects in Mexico in 1946.

Thank you to Jessica Thurston, an Urban Design Major and really smart person, who introduced me to this architect, and allowed me to read a paper she wrote about him. She should probably re-do his wikipedia page.

Sujuni & Khatwa

6 Oct

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Sujuni and Khatwa are two types of stitched work, now made mostly by collectives in India.  Sujuni refers to works made in rural areas and they are typically two layers of cotton with chain stitched lines and color fields filled in by long stitches.  Khatwa is the urban version, again using chain stitched lines, but the shapes or fields are usually filled in by applique fabric.

The two art forms tie very closely to womens’ rights, and both have had a troubled history.  Traditionally, they were viewed as useful objects, much as quilts in North America.  Recently, they have been made by collectives of women seeking freedom–the money these women make from their work allows them to provide for their families, and often they are able to leave their villages or even the country to display the work. At the same time, the collectives have in the past become corrupt, and the people who did parts of the work were taken advantage of by higher-ups in the collective.  Certain collectives have made efforts to use more transparent and democratic business methods.  Also, a lot of the collectives fall under outside influences (i.e. people from humanitarian organizations or western art professors in this case)  so there is some discussion regarding how much control the drawers and sewers have over the work.  There is also moral debate about the involvement of outsiders.  Would the collectives exist without them?

These works walk a line between art and business.  The women often work on commission–for them this is a way of life, and the financial freedom afforded by this allows them to make their own decisions.  At the same time, just as with American quilting, people are beginning to view them as art objects.  The work does, however, pose a bit of a problem for the western art world because they are not made by one artist.

Usually, there is a story-teller, who is the draftsman.  She draws the design on the piece of cotton.   The sewers then interpret the story and put those interpretations into the colors and the stitching that fill in the drawing.

The work is related to Mithila and Madhubani painting, using rounded figures to tell a story.  Mithila and Madhubani painting is usually thought of as two processes–first there is a line drawing, then the spaces are filled in with color.  In Sujuni and Khatwa, this process is mimicked in thread.  Commissioned work is often decorative and conservative, but many times, the women of these collectives use the process to tell their own, updated stories.  Some of the works are about the dangers of AIDS, some address the unfairness of the market, and some record the telling landscape of everyday life.

Stitching Women’s Lives

The Object of Labor

Livingstone, J., & Ploof, J. (2007). The object of labor: Art, cloth, and cultural production. MIT.

Viji Srinivasan, Dr. Skye Morrison, Laila Tyabji, Dorothy Caldwell (authors of pertinent essays in the book)

26 Sep

here’s the link to Journal of Ordinary Thought, y’all.  The ‘insert link’ button is grayed out (unclickable). Any thoughts?