Making with Miss Lexy
Sometimes things just work out!
I had the opportunity go to NAEA last year in New York and listen to this fantastic artist speak about her journey as a creative, growing up in Canada, going to art school at Parsons in New York, and ultimately making an incredible impact in her local arts community in Queens.
What impressed me about Lexy Ho-Tai is her unbridled creativity, wild (yet humble) spirit, joy of making, and reach to ALL artists, regardless of their ability or confidence level. I knew she would be a great fit for our youngest artists here at Enfield.
After many months, several zoom meetings and various email strings, Lexy made the journey to our school in late November and how lucky we were!
Every student made a colorful fabric square that was then carefully sewn together to achieve a giant “kindness creature” that is currently making it’s presence known at our school! We were happy to be able to whip this up (with Lexy doing the whole of the assembly work) in a very short (but busy!) week
I wish I had more time with this lovely lady! Below are a few process pictures. Enjoy!
One of my favorite memories of this summer was a family bike ride around Peaks Island, Maine. We stopped at an old fort on the island (known as Battery Steele), which reminded me so much of the old Graffiti highway in Centralia, PA. Amidst this crumbling structure, rich with history and indelible markings, was a simple saying... "Enjoy Life." Something so easy, but often hard to accomplish given a myriad of circumstances over the past few years. As we often forget or take for granted, life is short, precious, and we should ENJOY IT!
I am striving to keep this in the back of my head as we plunge into the new school year. Even though this is my 22nd year as a teacher, it feels like many changes are afoot and what I want more than anything is STABILITY. If I could build that nest of stability in my classroom, then we could feel the comfort to embrace change as it comes, while having a sense of renewed confidence and optimism.
Over the summer months, I was happy to be able to travel to many of my favorite places, squeeze in a bit of creative time (though never enough!), and just spend some outdoor time with my family :)
As we returned to school, we began the year with reviews of the ARTIST pledge and classroom routines, as well as a celebration of DOT DAY on September 15th, in honor of beloved author/illustrator, Peter H. Reynolds. Enfield artists had a lot of fun creating unique designs on their dots as part of a school-wide collaborative art display. More information on DOT DAY can be found here.
In closing, so much excitement awaits the 2022-23 school year! I am continuing the curriculum development process for K-2 (and linking with 3-5), as well as attending a great PD opportunity happening at Moore in early October. We are also awaiting the confirmation of a visiting artist this year (in person!) which will be a fantastic collaborative learning opportunity for Enfield artists. More to come on that :)
Close the book
Teaching is one of those magical professions that every year we get to close the book on a very interesting and unique chapter. It is wonderful chance to recognize an end, reflect, and have time to rebuild and renew again. And year after year, the book opens again and again.
This year was no different, and in many ways, harder than ever. Yesterday, we had an end of the year faculty meeting and I had a chance to read a letter that I wrote to myself in the beginning of the school year. Before I read my own letter, I looked around. Some teachers laughed as they read their letter, others become very emotional. When I read my own, I started checking off in my head all the things I had written and set out to do, I will probably file this away in a drawer later. This is just how my mind works. Everyone's letter is a mirror to themselves, their wants. their fears, and their dreams.
I am trying to wrap my head around all the things that I hoped to accomplish this year. I was so honored to have a student teacher in my classroom this year, for the first time in fifteen years!
It was a great experience that I would recommend any teacher do, as you really get insights into your own teaching as well as having an Art teacher buddy. It's well known that most specials teachers can feel isolated at their school, as they do not have a large team of teachers that share the same subject matter. I try to reach out to as many art teachers as I can in other places and parts of the world to find that common connection.
I was also able to attend the NAEA (National Art Education Association) conference in New York City in March. This was such an incredible gathering of art teachers, artists, and just generally cool people in the most creative place on earth. Below are some highlights from the conference, which was also, a wonderful experience for my family :)
In March, we also marked two years since the Covid-19 pandemic. Again, the emotions came in strong with this one. I was asked to make a school-wide mural to recognize this milestone. I spent about a week after school painting a visual representation of "Gratitude"- we decided on a natural/botanical theme with vines, flowers, leaves, and a sunset. Each class wrote on a leaf different messages of gratitude. It was heartwarming to see what the students wrote!
Right before Spring break we were able to welcome Atlanta-based artist Reggie Laurent to our school via Zoom. This was an awesome morning for Enfield artists, as they were able to make a quick abstract collage with Reggie and add more details/paint in Art class the following week. Below is a picture of all the artworks together at our Festival of the Arts this year.
While we are on the subject of Festival of the Arts, I was honored to bring back this end of the school year tradition in early May with showing artworks of every Enfield artist in our new school!
Below are some highlights!
Some of the last things that I wanted to introduce to the artists this year was my love of wheelthrowing! We were able to practice a tiny bit of wheelthrowing with Second grade this year. Unfortunately, the clay supply ran out so I was only able to show this to a limited number of students, which I hope to expand upon next year!
Finally, I tried to squeeze in a bit of art playtime for myself. I hope to expand upon some Plein air work this summer and take some time to RELAX. Next fall, a new chapter begins :)
The past two weeks since the new year has started have been a roller coaster. We had a bumpy re-entry school starting, fraught with uncertainty, staffing shortages, and a resurgence of Covid-19. We are also saying goodbye to our old building pre-demolition, which brought back such vivid and happy memories for me; during a time in my life where I was finding my stride as an Art teacher.
Yesterday, I went and toured the my Art room that was my previous home for ten years. It looked very different... abandoned, small, and surprising. Amidst the mess and rumble, I found some things. A fifteen year old photograph of myself lying on the floor. It was taken in my first year of teaching Art, when I was pregnant with twins, standing in front of a huge bins of art supplies. I looked happy (and perhaps a little unsure of myself!) I also was given a piece of mail from my principal (surprising!) and found a cute little ball of yarn to take back to my current Art room :)
I am an extremely sentimental person. This experience of returning to the old school was hard for me (and probably hard on everyone.) I am a saver of baby clothing, a squirreler of artifacts, and a fervent holder of traditions.
It has been challenging to come to terms with having traditions and events that have occurred each year come to a grinding halt; which has left me thinking of ways that I can pave new traditions in place of old ones, and also save hope for old traditions to someday reemerge.
It has been of great comfort and joy to see old Artist-in-Residence projects reappear from the old building and find a home at our new school building.
I have begun creating new traditions. I am in the process of building a mini-studio of pottery wheels in the classroom that I will be purchasing through a mini-grant though the home & school partnership. My goal is to have each of my students experience wheel throwing (in addition to hand building) throughout the school year.
I am continuing to configure the space outside of my art classroom and create art displays that bring happiness to the school community. This is definitely a time when we need it most.
Despite some continuing challenges and roadblocks, I feel that there are so many experiences and things to look forward to, and maybe a few old traditions that will eventually return in time.
I am looking forward to welcoming back my student teacher, "Miss G" back into the Art room for the winter/spring. I am also super excited to be able to attend NAEA in person this March in New York City! More to come in the spring :)
I feel like this summer I held on a little longer than usual. My family and I had the chance to go on our first "solo" family vacation with just the four of us. We decided on a New England road trip of sorts, with Acadia National Park being our farthest point from our home in Ambler. This place is like a dream for landscape artists, canners/preservers, and hiking enthusiasts! We had the most thrilling time exploring, and I was able to even squeeze in some painting time.
As the school year approached, I felt like I was ready to return with a fresh perspective... this is the first full year in the new school, and I was excited to embrace some things that I really did not get to achieve during the previous year. In addition to continuing to decorate and add on more visuals to the classroom walls, I made the decision to bring in my pottery wheel from home into the kiln room, with hope that I will be able to show the artists' wheel throwing throughout the school year. There may now be a need to begin the search for additional wheels to add on to the studio over time for further practice :)
I also feel incredibly lucky that this year that I will be able to participate in two exciting Art Education PD opportunities... PAEA in Philadelphia and NAEA in New York City. In the coming weeks, I will also welcome my first student teacher into the Art room.
We had some really great professional development sessions in late August, and I also was able to lead one session on "mini watercolors" which was part of our wellness series. Check out these fantastic artworks from Enfield staff!
After our in-service week, the last three weeks of school have gone by in lightning speed. I have (almost!) met all of my artists this year, and we have reviewed classroom routines, expectations, and had the opportunity to put on a "TINY ART SHOW" to kick off the school year. The next few weeks will continue to be introductory projects, such as "line monsters" for Kindergarten; "self portraits" for First Grade, and "abstract name designs" for Second Grade. Finished artwork to come!
It’s go time!
The first day of school is finally here! After all the planning, emotions, fears, and I overwhelming feelings of uncertainty, I am so proud and excited for this new chapter with the students. It is not how I ever imagined it would be in a “normal world”, but
even still, we are all doing the same things we always do as teachers in the beginning of the school year.
The new school and art space are well beyond my wildest dreams and expectations. It is truly a work of art and these architects have created a true masterpiece! I feel honored to get to come to this space every day and one day, welcome Enfield artists to what I hope will be a welcoming and calming art studio. As you enter the room, the light from the windows and feelings of being outside envelop and calm you... truly a special place.
This is where we were a few weeks ago stepping into the space...
Below is where we are now... still a work in progress this week!
Still a lot of unknowns, that has become fully engrained in our minds today. I do not know when artists will be in this space in the future or if I will need to adjust the furniture for social distancing measures. I would like to use the space outside as an outdoor classroom if possible.
For now, we wait and hope!
In the meantime, I am putting all my efforts into providing a robust virtual instruction for Enfield artists this fall! I will be zooming in all my classes the first week and every other week thereafter, combined with my video lesson structure from the spring. You will still be able to view all my lessons from my YouTube channel from the spring here: https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCCAC_do_lXXjM0tZYvMhmWQ/featured
I will sending out an Enfield Art online learning guide today to families that will have a more in depth look at what students can except from virtual instruction.
Finally, and most importantly, I can’t wait to see the faces of old and new Enfield artists the week and next! 🎨
Where do we go from here
March 12th.. it started like most days. We were finishing up a whimsical Dr. Seuss project. I was thinking about creating an Earth Day bulletin board. Thoughts of the art show projects were swirling in my head. Ceramic and sculpture projects to plan. Trying to keep organized.
There had been this sense of uncertainty that had been building for weeks. Events were starting to get cancelled. I think everyone was becoming increasingly nervous and fearful of the future.
When the news hit at the end of the day that our school was closing, I had a rush of emotion, energy, and a strong desire to capture every last artwork that would be created on this day. I began snapping pictures, saying goodbye to my students. This was hard. In the hallway as I was about to leave for the day, a teacher said, “We are witnessing history.”
For those first two weeks, things moved at both a slow and frenetic pace. I was able to do some clay and painting projects with myself and my kids. I got way deeper into cooking and baking! Together, my principal and specials team created a plan going forward. I created daily drawing challenges for my students so that they still felt connected with art class. When I saw those initial pictures coming through with the students and their work, it made me feel so happy and hopeful.
As our new digital format took shape, I was excited to return to my design roots and continue making and then editing instructional videos for art projects, which has been so much fun. I can’t say I am the YouTube star my sons want me to be, but I try.
When I was able to return to the school and see my classroom again, I had a few moments to collect materials and create an entirely new curriculum that would continue indefinitely through the last ten weeks of the school year.
What I decided to do, was to create a theme for each week, pull from staple projects and create some new projects that would include found objects and materials that families would have access to at home. Clay has been the greatest challenge, as not all of my classes has completed clay projects for the year. So we find substitutes, and we will have to get creative. Below are some artworks the students have been working on over the last three weeks.
Now the big question is... Where do we go from here? Next Wednesday was to be our school’s art and music celebration, the Festival of the Arts. I would normally be in the throes of last minute art show prep right about now.
I decided a week ago to have a virtual art show. I know it will not be the same, but I feel that it is extremely necessary to honor all traditions, even if in a different way. More than ever, as artists, it should be a time to record, reflect and remember what connects us together.
Winter is here
Time continues to move at such a fast pace that I find myself relishing the few and far between opportunities to reflect on what I am doing, take a breather and start the process of renewal.
It has been a busy few months in the art room as I continue to feel out some new projects here and there, and decide whether to fine tune or discard the tried and true projects.
Lately, I have given a lot of thought to adjusting the art curriculum to less DBAE (project-based) and more TAB (choice-based) curriculum. I find that more and more, my students crave the freedom to create without such stringent guidelines and expectations. Giving them more creative control will quite possibly alleviate a lot of the anxiety I am seeing with my youngest students.
This found object house project that I have done for ten years or so, continues to be a favorite. It yields such interesting results, and feels less cookie cutter than most.
I have tried to keep busy with my own pursuits, which have continued to be canning, ceramics and painting. I feel such tremendous guilt when I am not creating on my own, and also the constant feeling that it is never enough.
My best friend asked me a while ago, why do I do it? For recognition? For a living? For enjoyment? It’s a powerful question. The only way I can describe it as imagine you are underwater for a long time, struggling to breathe. The act of creating is like coming up for air and taking a breath you have been holding for such a long time. I know that creating makes me feel alive, and that I connect with something regardless of the outcome.
I hope this new year continues to bring change as I feel it coming on so strongly. Whatever happens, it’s the love of creating that holds me together.
End of the school year...
One of my favorite things about being a teacher is having the ability to reflect and reset each year- it’s like nothing else!
It was pretty neat to be able to have one of my students selected as PAEA artist of the month, and to be able to celebrate that success! I also had the joy of seeing Enfield and Erdenheim student work displayed at State Representative McCarter’s office in the winter.
In the spring, we welcomed (for a second time!) fiber artist and Children’s Museum director, Gabrielle Kanter to Enfield. The students also celebrated the end of a successful year with our annual Festival of the Arts, themed “Summer Camp.”
I also got a chance to exhibit some work along with Ambler based Artworks Collective at Pigs Alley Gallery in Flourtown, Pa. and during Ambler Arts and Music Festival... so fun!
The years just keep flying by and it’s hard to believe that next summer we will all be moving on to a brand new elementary school. I am more excited than ever for this next chapter.
Until then, summertime is here!
Winter wrap up!
Winter has gone by quicker than usual, and now that I am starting to think spring, I wanted to share some of my favorite winter projects of the year! We started with some fun salt-watercolor snowmen, moved into a classic Kandinsky project, delighted in some Northern lights collages, dabbled in some penguin collages/clay penguins and finished with some heart paintings/clay hearts! Have a look at some of these:
I selected a few students works for a display at our local state rep’s office in January which was an awesome event for the kids! It is great to see their work being displayed outside of the school, they were very proud.
I am keeping busy with my own artwork and trying to squeeze in some jamming time! I joined a “food in jars” challenge in January (started by Marisa McClellan) that involves a different canning challenge each month! It’s been a lot of fun :)
Well, as always, the school year really starts cooking by the end of February. We have a visiting fiber artist Gabrielle Kanter joining the students next week, and in March, it will be time to start planning for this year’s art show. The theme will be “summer camp.” I can’t wait to get started on these camp-themed projects that I hope the students will love as much as I do!
Halloween fun and fall projects!
So, I’ve taken a looong break from blogging lately in favor of quick insta and Facebook posts, but I wanted to share some projects that the students have been working on since the beginning of the school year!
I love starting the new year with inspirational, art-themed picture books. This year, I was happy to find two new books, “I’m not just a Scribble” by Diane Alber, and “Mixed” by Arree Chung. We read these books and then carefully crafted an illustration of our own that was inspired by each story! Below is a gallery of each project...
In October, we explored some fall-themed projects in Kindergarten inspired by Matisse’s still life paintings. We moved next to a fall tree collage, and a few classes even snuck in a little Halloween “spooky cat” project as well.
Next up, we are exploring line as part of a two-part Line unit, in which will we create both a sculpture and drawing/painting. The sculptures closely resemble theme parks with rides. Have a look...
In First grade, we’ve focused on really slowing down (which can be a challenge for 6/7 year olds!), and worked very hard on a three-week self portrait project that lead to some really impressive results! After, we jumped into some leafy fun with a popular leaf print project. Here are a few...
November looks to be equally as busy as we head towards the holidays and Thanksgiving break. Kindergarten will finish their line unit and create a painted paper blanket; while First grade will dabble in some pumpkins, art history, and one of my favorite childhood books, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.”
Last Day wrap up!
Today we finally made it to the the last day of school!
This spring has been bustling with activity between the school Art show in early May, to some Plein air and exhibiting events that I participated in during May and June! Above is some of my work at Ambler Arts and Music Festival as part of the Artworks Collective.
This year for the Art show, the student’s artwork surrounded the theme of “School Rocks”, to which their artwork was inspired by different school subjects, such as math, reading, and science. We had a lot of fun with this theme, and for the first year ever, all the work resided in the gym, which was super cool! Here is a gallery of the show...
Among my favorite pieces of the show was the first image of the gallery. We did a mixed media project inspired by the book,”Unplugged.” Here is a link for more information on this fantastic children’s book:
This project took three weeks to make... the first week involved painting the landscape/reading the story, second week we put together the robot with paper scraps and metal objects, and lastly the third involved drawing details, such as animals within the landscape.
Other popular projects from the art show were definitely the Rubix cubes and Papier Mache’ ice cream cones! The students worked with Celluclay for the first time this year as part of the ice cream cone project and they absolutely loved it! These will definitely be resurfacing in the future!
During the summer, I hope to refocus on making some new ceramic pieces, continuing Plein air works, and joining a book club with some online art teacher friends!
Bird's nest Video
February has been full of activity! Between the start of the month kicking off with the Philadelphia Eagles finally winning the Super Bowl, some Valentine's fun, and the Winter Olympics... it has been a little crazy in the art room!
I have just recently started experimenting with creating instructional videos in art class... so much fun! The students have always really responded well to any type of guided video, so I decided it was time to make a few of my own.
Yesterday, all of my classes had a clay day. Kindergarten made bird's nests and the first grade made dragons. Below are some student examples of bird's nests...
I had created two separate videos to explain the approach. You can view them both here...
This has really helped further engage the students through the process of making art and allowed me to circulate around the room to help students during each step.
Below are a few more highlights from the month of February in the art room...
For this blog post, I wanted to share something non-art related that I have been into for the past few years!
My best friend since Kindergarten, Allison, introduced me to canning three years ago and I have made some odd fifty or so things in jars ever since. I’ve read a few books, and blogs, and closely follow local Philly canner Marisa McCellan (www.foodinjars.com) for her endless tips and inspiration.
Canning and preserving is a lot like making art. You gather ingredients in any point in time, put them together in interesting ways, create something (hopefully special) and give it away. It is time frozen, and often when you open that jar a few months later, it’s like a memory unlocks itself yet again.
The joy of making these things is so calming and relaxing, I feel like it closely matches the feeling of making art. I do have much to learn on the process as well as building more confidence in myself to deviate from the recipes, but one thing is certain. I am running out of cabinet space!
To end with a little art project update, the Kindergarten students have started a beautiful project inspired by the author, Lois Elhert. First graders are finishing up some wintry artworks with birds and beginning a typography project inspired by Jasper Johns. Here are some examples in progress: