Finding the Flow

27 08 2016


It’s my tenth school year at my school, 26th year of teaching, my second year of full choice. You would assume I got this under control.  I do have things lined-up and a system in place but with new students in the studio who are new to the program it’s all new to them.  So I have a lot of housekeeping information to disperse before a successful launch of my choice based studio can begin to flow.  I feel the momentum has been growing for the choice program and my students are excited about the self-directed and self-pace studio opportunities.


On the second day of school I focused on warm-up experiences and the kinetic body drawing was a huge hit.  After two days of hands-on experiences; I introduced the process to submit artist proposals and how to document the research and their artistic journey.  One blip I discovered was the platform I was using for student documentation had changed some of the navigation and uploading tools.  It became too many steps for a smooth process for my students.  So I spent the night vetting out a new platform to introduce to my students as a replacement.  I don’t need to tell you how stressful it was making a switch mid-gear.  Luckily, I found and it is perfect to meet my needs as the educator and my students find it user friendly.  They love it.  The platform is a Microsoft platform that connects to my student’s school email account and it also has a nice smart phone app.  The value added is the quality of the appearance and the design layout options are really nice.  Each student can modify and design the look of the documentation on Sway to match the style of the work or student’s personality.  I also appreciate the curated resources that populates on the link for each Sway when my students use key words for the document.  Before I would curate information I collected on our class Haiku page to use as a starting point for my student’s research.   Sway having this feature is an added benefit to using this platform.  Students can still upload documents, websites, YouTube videos, and add written comments for each slide.  The only piece missing is the ability for me to comment directly on the Sway so we will need to do more one-on-one discussions to have full communication about their process.  This isn’t really a negative but it was a convenience to comment on each of the student’s links from home each evening so my students could read and have a record of what was said about the submissions.  The sharing options are similar to the prior platform so each Sway can be visible when the artist chooses to open sharing beyond the artist proposal form.


This year I am going to add QR codes to help share all the research/process my artist creates.  We will continue with the Arts Reveal Night presentations but we will be adding QR code links to each of our displays.  I will be requiring students to write artist statements and titles on each piece.  On the artist statement students will add a QR code to share what they want viewers to see and learn about their work.  The Sway link can be copied into a QR code creator and saved for future use.  I can also see using this QR code for attaching to scholarships, resumes, and art competitions.

Busy week setting up my students to understand the proposal and submission process then leads into how to collect and design an artist proposal and keep it original.  I have several videos I share about Remixing and best practices to follow when appropriating ideas to create original works.   I support my young artists with Artistic Targets and Themes.  I read the artist proposals and review the skills each artists wants to explore.  My next step is to plan workshops to scaffold the learning of each artist.  I hosted several individual and small group workshop sessions.  This next week I will review with everyone how to push the compositional layout to get the most unique and well composed compositions.   This week I felt as if I was keeping a whirling storm under control.  Loads of energy and excitement to submit their Artist Proposals with the new Sway platform.  I had an evening with my student’s parents for our Open House and the excitement was echoed by the parents.  I have to say, having my students share what they are doing with their parents is a big deal.  Teens don’t often let their parents in, so when they do, you know you struck a chord.


We had our first big school social at a Watermelon Supper and my art club kids showed up in force to help spread school spirit with face painting.  The energy will carry me into next week for our Club Fair when my student leaders will present all the club’s activities.  We already have a Girl Scout Troop Empty Bowls workshop to plan and a Saturday Chalk Art drawing day to celebrate the arts.  Our theme is “Celebrating our HeART”.


One more little bit of exciting news is that I was asked to submit an article on the Kinetic Body warm-up drawing inspired by Heather Hansen’s “Emptied Gestures” for the School Arts Magazine.  I have been reading that magazine since I started teaching so it is an honor to publish an article about my artists in the magazine.  I will keep you posted when it is published.

Have a great start to your new school year.



Recycle Fashion Runway Show Success

14 04 2015

Group Curbside 2015

Curbside Couture 2015

Sixteen art students ventured into another season of striving to create couture outfits from recycled and repurposed materials into wearable garments. We started in September and it concluded in on April 12th at the Clinton Presidential Center. It was a long journey with many bumps in the road.

If you are an artist you understand that what you conceive as an idea may not actually be the end result. Since we are not doing this as a studio art course and it’s only volunteers who participate. It limits the amount of time we have available to do the creating. Balancing all of our academics and athletic responsibilities is a challenge on it’s own. Then you add up the hours to be successful at this project and you understand why some students do not participate. This project takes guts.


I start collecting and storing materials all year long for the possibility that the materials may be chosen to be used on a garment. I encourage people in my school community to bring in anything they might feel we could use for the designs. I have strong community support and I nurture it often. So I end up with loads of very interesting stuff.

My students will collect a lot of their own materials too, especially if they have a strong vision for the concept. This project is not for anyone who is particular about being super neat but it will require organization.

FullSizeRender copy 6

The projects start either from an inspired sketch or by the actual materials. Our garments are created to fit the student models that have decided to be a big part of the process. Our models are not just hangers that wear our garments on the runway. Our models help with the construction, offer opinions, and dedicate hours of time to be available to constantly make adjustments to the design. The pieces are more like sculptures that move and fit like garments.

Pointers for the art teacher or students:

  • My advice to new students is to work on looking at what you like in fashion. I created a Pinterest Board for inspiration and I encourage my students to create their own inspiration board or have a sketchbook.
  • Second bit of advise is to rummage through the materials we already have in the studio for the project and figure out ways to reimage the materials in new ways.
  • Ask these questions: Can it be painted, cut up, weaved, braided, and or layered.
  • Ask questions on what can be changed? Color is an element to make a decision about, shapes are also a decision, dimensions in relation to the size of the model, what will move well and be comfortable?
  • I emphasize changing the materials so it looks like wearable beautiful garments. I want the viewers to see the garment and then wonder what is it made of not the other way around. It should surprise the viewer with how it is made and what it is made of.


This year I sat relatively invisible in the crowd and listened to the people in the audience as my students walked the runway. I heard people say “I’d wear that!” “Wow!”, “Episcopal Students pieces are always so good”. I am bursting with pride when people say wonderful things when they have no idea I am their teacher.

The show was a success because we had created dynamic and exciting garments. I was successful because I was able to get this group through another season of the recycle fashion show. It is a season and it is a long one with many hours outside of my regular school hours. I have had amazing talks with the students at our Saturday workshops. I learned so much about them. We laugh, we goof off, and we get to know one another. We build a level of trust and I love it. It is one of the most important elements of being successful with students. Building a community around positive and active ways to create art and make a difference in their lives. The art part will be the extra.


This year we are graduating three seniors. One of the seniors has been with me since the very first year of our venture in recycled fashion. The beginning was all new for me. I had a steep learning curve but it was fun because we were all doing it together. She has participated every year creating wonderful designs and encouraged others to get involved and take the risk. Although she may not have gotten the big prize, she has proven herself to all of us over and over. I am so very proud of her and I will miss having her in my studio.


I will also be losing my right hand for Homes for Haiti and our runway backdrop designer for the past two years. She is our cheerleader, a model, and always offers assistance.

Backdrop artists curbside 2015

Our last senior has only been doing the show for one year and she did a great job. She did not give up and she created a fun and inspired design and it was one of the favorites of my art teacher friends.


Lucky for me, I get to repeat again next year with a bunch of experienced and creative juniors. “Look out! We are coming hard next year.”

We not only had 16 students involved in the runway show but I had a bunch of student volunteers at the fashion bazaar selling our Homes for Haiti. We have been creating our pins, magnets, and ornament since the devastating earthquake in Haiti and five years later, $65,000 later we are still going strong. On this night we raised $80.00 at the runway show.


This event is a great opportunity to showcase what “art in action”, can do in helping young people realize new talents, take risks at being original, and to help students find ways to make the world a better place.

Reimagining materials that would fill up our landfills and creating an amazing event that hundreds people come to see. The room was filled to capacity with viewers lining all the walls, standing up to see what all the students created.

As an art educator witnessing this was awe-inspiring. If only more individuals, who make the decisions about cutting the arts, could realize the power of art.

The transformative power art does for a community is amazing.

I always get sentimental with my students when they leave the studio. It is not so easy when you work hard for many hours through frustrations, problems, disappointments, and successes. We get attached. I know my students have had a great time and have fond memories from all the activities we have done. All the beautiful art is all gravy to me.

Opening up a new school year!

10 08 2013

When the teachers return to the school, to begin reopening for a new school year, it usually follows just after several restless nights and weird dreams.  It’s just one of those things we learn to expect before we actually get into our classrooms.  Strange dreams about showing up in pj’s, or for some reason we cannot find our room, and we are late to class.

Well, that has passed for me, (thank goodness) so now I am twitchy with anticipation of seeing my students and getting into new exciting lessons.  I spend my days in meetings about school housekeeping and then the remaining time organizing my studio.  At night, I brush up on my ice breakers and revamp or recreate new lessons to engage my students.  I strive to add new twists to how I start my early assessments.  Not only to inform me as to where my students skills lie in each course but to design experiences that heighten the engagement of my students to tap in to their dormant creativity.

My Studio

My Studio

This summer I found and purchased a cool Balinese street puppet and this has reignited my interest in puppets and marionettes.  Thankfully, I have a Sculpture class with some really great students who will latch onto this assignment and run with it.  I will share the progress we make on our Global Exploration of the art of puppets and marionettes.

Bali Street Puppet

Bali Street Puppet

I am also excited about having a new sewing station in my studio for the first time.  We have a full scale Curbside Couture Fashion Club so this is a good addition.  And by popular demand I have launched a Photo Club with new photography challenges to execute.   I am really blessed to have such enthusiastic art students who like to spend time with me outside of school.

Pink Sewing Machine Station

Pink Sewing Machine Station

This will be my 24th year of teaching and I am feeling really great about the direction of my program, students, school, and volunteer activities.  I will be doing several speaking engagements this year.   Two at the NAEA14 Convention in San Diego, California.  I am so happy to be able to share the success I have had with my students.  I am also going to present at the Clinton Presidential Library for Arkansas Teachers on the benefits of the educational opportunities that are offered.  Plus, I will be presenting a book review to our Upper School faculty about Teach Like A Pirate.  I like how it has inspired my teaching and how the book offers new ideas; hooks to add to the teaching experience.

This is going to be an interesting school year with a new head of school and a new 7 day week- 5 period day schedule.  Each class will now be 65 minutes which will offer so much more time to immerse into the work we do in the studio.  I am also mentoring a new MS art teacher; I am motivated to have the experience be positive and a smooth transition for the art students.  In addition I am sending my only child off to college and my husband and I will be “empty nesters”. – Weird but we are adjusting.

The final bit to what makes this year a career benchmark year for me is the Teachers Award,  I received at the end of last year.  Still unreal to me…. but also pretty Awesome!

Outstanding Teacher Award Plaque

Outstanding Teacher Award Plaque

I wish all of you a smooth start to your school year.  I hope you find inspiration and share it with your art students.

Homes for Haiti

19 01 2011

The project started as a response to the earthquake in Haiti. Two art teachers in Florida began a project to help raise money to help with Haiti relief. Meanwhile in Little Rock, Arkansas, I received word that one of my alums, who was volunteering in Haiti, was in Hotel Montana and she was missing. Three days passed before we got word that she was alive. The fear and destruction of Haiti hit home for me and I wanted to help. On art teacher’s blog, I came across a simple project and I decided this was a great idea for the upper school art club to try to recreate in our school community. So with the left over railroad board and the paint left over on palettes I requested the students to apply the paint on the scrap boards, after the paint dried I began to cut the boards up into small pieces that were needed to construct the simple house forms. I always have scrap colored paper, magazines, maps, and left over fabric. So I cut out hearts and door shapes needed to assemble the houses. I pieced the houses together to create a sample set to entice the students to participate in the project. The final and finishing details include an epoxy type coating and either a pin back or a magnet. One day after school while I was putting everything together and finishing up the top coat a few students marveled at the little colorful houses and asked “Can we do this?” I wanted this project to become something the students would adopt and create during club time or after school. I wanted the students to dedicate themselves to the cause. I strongly believe in the “grass roots” initiative and giving the driving force of a project over to the students. I explained the process and they became excited and organized time to come and build houses dozens at a time and then to come in after school to top coat the pieces- this is time consuming and needs many hours to completely dry so timing is an important part of the project. After all the pieces are dry the student’s added magnets and pins. We did this for several weeks and accumulated quite a bit of inventory. So students began selling them by word of mouth on campus and our donations grew. I organized a booth at a local art walk to sell even more pins and several students volunteered to sell them. So we set up our booth with a table, a tent awning, signs, and our product, and within two hours my students earned $1,000, we were excited. We presented our project to the school during chapel and passed our earnings on a “big” check to the Red Cross Haiti Relief Fund. The students wanted to reach a higher goal so they produced more, this went on for the rest of the school year and our donation to the Haiti Relief Fund grew.
An art student who helped create the pins approached the Clinton Presidential Library and asked if they would like to place orders for our pins for them to sell in the Clinton Museum Store with the idea that all proceeds would go to the Haiti Relief Fund. They loved the idea and ordered 100 at a time and then 200 at a time. The project had a steady amount of money coming in for our recycled art pins to benefit Haiti, we were so eager, and we were making a difference. The end of the school year was fast approaching and students wanted to continue the project but the upper school studio was relocating and we would no longer have the studio space to work. This is where the magic happened, after communicating our desire to continue to make pins, but no longer having studio space to make the pins, The Clinton Museum Store stepped up to create a studio space for our students to continue the project over the summer. Two of my art students worked hard to organize materials and create a safe place for the project. With the help of Connie Fails-the store manager and my student Jodi Schmidt, and me, a community service project was born. Students from our school and all schools could now sign up as a volunteer to the Clinton Presidential Library and log hours in the basement studio creating the “Homes for Haiti” pins and magnets. President Clinton formed a relief fund where all of the donations go directly to Haiti to “build it back better” and we have raised over $22,500 dollars for the needs in Haiti. We have expanded our project to include special Christmas trees with ornament versions of the “Homes for Haiti”, a tree topper, and tree skirt. The trees where set up in the Presidential Library and we decorated the trees for the launch of the sale of the ornaments after Thanksgiving. At this point in time the volunteers included parents, grandparents, aunts, and students as young as kindergarten helping to create our little recycled pins. The Clinton Museum Store had hats and t-shirts made featuring our pins for sale to continue to help raise money for Haiti. We have been doing this project for two years and we have dedicated students who put in time outside of the documented hours for community service to work on parts of the project because they do believe in the project. I am always impressed and amazed at how I can direct students on how to create a small part of a bigger project and before my very eyes the students take the idea into their hearts and make it grow.
At the Clinton Library Volunteer Gala in 2010 we received special recognition for our efforts to bring this project to the community to help Haiti. The core group of students had the opportunity to shake President Clinton’s hand and pose for a photo. As all this was unfolding in front of me I was touched by the mention of my schools name by President Clinton. I looked over to my beaming student’s faces and I could see they were proud of their work – a great gift for me to witness. My students knew in their hearts that they made a difference. The evening continued as Jodi Schmidt was honored with the “Bridge Builder” Award for her efforts to reach out to the Arkansas teachers at a conference to educate them about the project and for her work in creating a video to capture the process to create the pins at their schools. A well deserved award and a magical evening. I repeat I believe in the “grass roots” plant a seed, nurture it and let it take root; the journey has evolved because the students wanted it to work and it did and still does to this day.
I cannot take credit for the original idea for the “Houses for Haiti” but I can take pride in bringing this idea to my students and letting is thrive and to fan the flame to let it grow. I am pleased to see my students set goals for raising funds for Haiti and exceeding their expectations- this is priceless.

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