Friday, February 27, 2015

Making Mistakes in the Art Class: March's Stepping Stones

For March's Stepping Stones article, I focused on how students learn from their mistakes in the art room.  

We always tell ourselves that it’s human to make mistakes, and as adults, we’re used to them happening, big or small.  We fall down, pick ourselves back up, brush off the dust, and carry on.  As children, we felt horrible when we made mistakes and thought our worlds were upside down because things did not go as they planned.  In school and at home, children learn from watching others, and over time as they develop into adult citizens, they develop the ability to cope with ups and downs.

Many times we have students in art that shut down or give up after making a simple mistake.  As part of social emotional learning (SEL), we’re equipping students with the knowledge they need to be able to get back up when students fall down, and teaching students to learn through their mistakes is a key component in developing those skills.

Making mistakes teaches students that they are not perfect.  Too often I hear students saying their work “must be perfect” and cry when one little thing goes wrong.  When a student learns to shrug it off and work through their mistakes, they understand that they are not flawless and carry on.

Making mistakes teaches students to face their fears.  In art, we teach our students to be risk takers and to think outside of the box.  If a student is too afraid to push themselves in their creative abilities, they will always be coming to you asking to do their work for them.  Students who face their fears are more likely to try new things on their own, even if they succeed or fail at their attempts.

Making mistakes teaches students to keep moving forward. How do we know what is successful without a few failed attempts?  When making mistakes in art, we learn what can go wrong and how to avoid making the same mishap again.  

Making mistakes teaches students to take responsibility for their own actions.  Sometimes when students make mistakes, they are quick to blame another.  Taking responsibility for our own actions is not fun, but students learn to grow from accepting their own faults.

Making mistakes teach students about integrity.  Students make more mistakes with their art when their goals are too high.  It’s good to encourage students to take risks, but if their risks are beyond their capability, they will be let down with constant failures and give up on their projects.  When students accept the truth of their own abilities, they can push their limits at their own pace.

Making mistakes teach students that there are multiple solutions to one problem.  There’s a very good reason why Elliot Eisner added this sentence in his top ten reasons why the arts are important in education.  If you’ve observed your students at work, some students have what many art teachers call “happy accidents,” which are good changes that happen from little mishaps in art projects.  One book I like to read to my younger grades is Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg.  In the book, students see how simple coffee stains, smudges, or ripped paper can become another beautiful piece of artwork.  When students make simple mistakes in my art class (such as a smudge or line that can’t be erased), peers throw out ideas on how artworks can be altered.  It’s a great opportunity for students to be a team and share ideas, or for individual students to use their creative thinking skills on a whim.

Making mistakes allow students to inspire others.  When students react to their errors, others are watching.  Kids can be great role models for each other when they react to any situation in the classroom.  They observe how we as teachers respond to their choices, and react in a positive or negative way.  If a student works through their “happy accidents” or “beautiful oops’s,” congratulate them for thinking around their obstacles.  Classmates are inspired when they see other being brave and taking risks.

Mistakes are powerful lessons in every part of our lives.  As art educators, we teach children how to embrace their faults and to work with what we have.

Monday, February 23, 2015

After School Art Projects: Butterflies for Lurie's Children's Memorial Hospital

In Springtime, Ann & Robert H. Lurie's Children's Memorial Hospital hosts an annual memorial service for families and staff to come together to honor and celebrate the lives of children they have cared for and who have pass away.  Elementary and High Schools in the past have created over 200 ceramic butterflies as gifts for the families.  The butterflies have become a special tradition at the service where families are able to pick out a butterfly that uniquely "speaks" to them.  

According to the hospital, butterflies are commonly used as a symbol in a child' death, paralleling that even though it was for a brief moment, we feel blessed to have known them.

Back in 2012, I was asked by a dear friend of mine if I could take on a charity project for Lurie's Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Il.    At my previous school, I joined together with the Jr. High teacher to have students from grades 4-8 create and paint butterflies for the memorial service.  I shared our previous experiences in last year's post:

A Charity Project: Butterflies for Children's Memorial Hospital

Now that I am teaching in a new school, I needed to figure out how to implement the project without having a kiln.  Joining with another art teacher in our district we decided to create our own ceramic butterflies.  We each set up an after school club for 6 weeks to create, glaze, and package the butterflies.  Since I do not have a kiln in our school, I needed to transport the butterflies to the Jr. High to be fired in between after school classes.

Below are images from the first part of the project: creating the butterflies.  Students used cookie cutters to form the butterfly shapes, while others drew designs within each cut out.They were so determined to make the quota, they surpassed the amount in just one day!

After the firing a few weeks later, we started glazing the butterflies, one by one.  Since this is my school's first time working with glazes, I needed to remind students not to paint the backs of the butterflies!

And now the finished products!  During our last meeting, we carefully packaged the completed butterflies and shipped them to the hospital for their service!

Thank you to our students for their help with the charity project and for the support from our school!

Friday, February 13, 2015

And Today's Special Guest...Mom! A Project Inspired by the Keeping Quilt

One day, I was walking past the 4th grade classrooms and noticed the students were reading the story called "The Keeping Quilt" by Patricia Polacco.  The homeroom teachers were doing class book cover contests, paper quilt patterns, and written responses inspired by the book and hanging their work in the hallways.  I was so excited when I saw the work they were doing, I asked if I could join in the fun!

Now for a little back story, before I was a teacher, I was a textile conservator.  In art school, I focused on the fiber arts, combining traditional methods with modern technology.  I would print photos onto fabric and create "story quilts."  This one below was created over 10 years ago for my grandma!  We added photos of our ancestry into one quilt!

So back to the story, I joined with the teachers in doing a quilt project of my own, inspired by The Keeping Quilt and an artwork by Gustav Klimt (titled Baby) seen below:

On the first day introducing the lesson, I was talking with my students about quilts and patterns while demonstrating the motions of the project.  I was sharing how I learned how to quilt from my own mother, and the students started asking if they could meet her!  Since my students were so interested, I invited my mom to my 4th grade class!  Here's some pictures of quilts she had made herself!

My mom has been making quilts since I was a baby.  She's been part of a local quilt guild for years and has made over 20+ quilts over the years.

She explained to the students the process of appliqué and embroidery, and how quilters hand stitched piece by piece before modern technologies.

This is one of the first quilts my mom had made.  It was my brother's baby quilt!

This one is a story quilt made by all her guild members.  Each member created a block of their child's favorite childhood story book.  The pieces were combined together and quilted, then hung in their local library.

Thank you, mom, for coming in and sharing your works with my students!

Now the project I shared is a familiar one I've seen from a few different bloggers on Pinterest.  Arts and Activities had also shared a similar project, which you can find here.

-10.5" x 16" white paper, about 60# weight
-12"x 18" colored paper for frame
-Black permanent markers
-Watercolor paint

After reading "The Keeping Quilt" and discussing the artwork Baby by Gustav Klimt, students create a drawing of themselves sleeping under a quilt.  The quilts were to be filled with different patterns, then painted with watercolors.

Once completed, students reflected on their work by writing what their future dreams were and what they had accomplished with their project.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Art Teacher Fashion! Where to Find the Good Stuff!

I've been inspired to share my wardrobe.  Not just any clothing in my closet, but what I like to wear to the best job ever.  Thanks to the popular styles of Cassie Stephens (author of, many art teachers are creating their own wardrobes to share their creativity and passion for the arts.  I'm amazed with how she can design her own clothing inspired by famous artworks, and I've seen others trying to make their own as well.

Unfortunately, I do not have the time to create a dress from scratch.  Every time I attempt to even pick up a paintbrush or a needle, my daughters at home request all my attention.  However, that doesn't stop me from searching out art-inspired clothing online!

Open House and Parent Teacher Conference Fashions

Over the summer, I found this amazing Starry Night style dress from  The name of the dress was "Down to a Fine Art" and if you're interested, you can view the dress here.  An you know what's amazing?  It comes in plus sizes too!  Art dresses for all my friends!  

When I found this design from Nerd Girl Creations on Etsy, I literally screamed this:

Seriously…I did!  Nerd Alert Creations also has this same design for skirts and scarves as well.  They have a 4-5 weeks turnaround since they're made to order, but trust me, it's totally worth the wait! Click here to view the dress and order a size all your own!

PDs, Meetings, and Presentation Fashions

This is a nice dress for days you may need to present or give a good "artsy" appearance at a meeting.  I found this design on Simply Be in the Joe Brown collection.  Doesn't it look like a Monet?  The name of the dress is "Days Gone By" and you can find this dress here on their website.

It may not be artist-inspired, but it's a colorful design found on!  The students always comment on how "colorful" the dress is!  This dress comes and goes within 24 hours, so if you spot it, grab it right away!

Fun at the Book Faire, or any School Event Fashions

Any moment I get a chance to be creative with my wardrobe, I take it!  Our book fair theme this year was Medieval Times, so I asked if I could pep up the students for Ye Booke of Faire by dressing up in my Renfaire costume!  We totally had a blast decorating the hallway to look like a castle entrance!

Dressing up for Halloween?  Yes, please!  I know…I could have gone as a famous artist.  I decided to go as a character many of my students would know, Wyldstyle from the Lego Move!  

I did manage to paint the graffiti designs on the outfit for the event, and the students and I were singing how "everything was awesome!"

Color Day, Casual Friday, and Everyday Teacher Wear Fashions

I would like to thank Torrid for this wonderful Pop Art dress I found last year.  Unfortunately, I could find a link to the actual dress.  It's out of stock.  Maybe Ebay?  When my students enter and exit the room, I catch them saying, "Oh look!  A roller skate!  A skull!  Those words are cool!"

Here's another one from Nerd Alert Creations!  They have quite a few skirts with different art designs that are made to order!  Click here to view this skirt!

Here's another find from the Joe Brown collection on Simply Be.  It's a summer dress, but it's cute and colorful!  I don't see it on the website anymore, but outfits like these always pop up throughout the year!

For our Kindergarten color days, I had the perfect shirt for yellow day!  Mona Lisa!!!  This shirt was found from a company called Yizzam selling on  You can click here for their online store, and yes, they have all sizes!

Even on days you can wear jeans, I still wear my artsy shirts!  Here's another top from Yizzam on Amazon!  They carry tons of shirt with different artworks on them!

Art Teacher Accessories

 Would you like a pair of matching socks to go with that Van Gogh shirt?  Yes, please!  These can be found from Hot Sox on Amazon right here!

Here's a find I found from a seller on Etsy!  There are quite a few paint palette hair accessories from sellers on Etsy.  Click here to view a search of different types you may like!

Here's a list of different sellers on Etsy who make and sell paint palette earrings! This particular pair is currently sold by AzureAllure.

I started this collection back in 2010 from a seller at the Artisan Gallery at the annual NAEA conventions.  This collection was made by Jeanne Elmer and you can find her charms sold on Etsy here!  I do know that if you're going to the NAEA convention in NOLA this March, keep your eye open for the seller!

I plan on buying this next for my collection!  Nerd Alert Creation's Fine Art Print Scarf!  Click here for the link to see their scarf and store details!

 So remember the time I said I don't have time to make stuff?  This cape was made before I had my baby, so I actually had a moment to sew.  What art teacher wouldn't want their own superhero cape!  It's hanging in my classroom right now!

And lastly, I decided to add a permanent accessory to my collection, my paint palette tattoo.  I'm sure many of us have something permanent we love!

My students totally inspire me to continue to find new art-inspired pieces for my wardrobe.  So thank you to my fellow art teachers for your inspiration and enthusiasm.  It's good to see that others are as obsessed with collecting art-inspired fashion like I am.

And Cassie, you deserve a standing ovation!  You inspire art teachers around the country to show their true colors in fashion form!  Thank you!!!!

Where do you find your art teacher wardrobe?