The essential information: my art workshop is about SPACE! I have seven students, all girls, ranging from fourth grade to sixth grade.
As the girls trickled in we began with introductions. While we waited for everyone to arrive, I had them design a name tag. I think this was a good starter activity. It’s always hard to meet new people and I could see shyness and hesitance in some of the girls when they arrived. To immediately throw them into an activity together, where the focus isn’t completely on them, helped to get things started.
It’s so often that way with younger children, too. Have you ever noticed that at a park or playground? Kids that have never met before will throw themselves into play without introduction. And at the end if you ask, “What was your new friend’s name?” They’ll often shrug and say, “I dunno.” It's the activity, the play, that makes them feel comfortable with each other.
To begin, I showed the girls the examples I had made in preparation and explained we were going to dye roving and make felted planets. My lesson started with a short PowerPoint where I tried to mash together the seemingly unrelated topics of planets and Fiber Art.
We talked about the interior of the Earth and I showed them where the inner core, outer core, mantle, and crust were in my example piece.
We also talked about the interior of Jupiter and satellites like moons. We talked about how scientists think that under the crusts of Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Titan there might be liquid water!
From there I moved on to the topic of where wool comes from. I had a short youtube video I had intended to show that broke down the process from sheep to yarn, but it wasn’t loading, so we moved on.
In the PowerPoint I connected Jodi Colella’s fiber art to our lesson for that day. She has some works that look like bulging planets or wormholes—and they are felted! We talked about Nick Cave and how he reuses knitted and crocheted things to make “suits” and other unique and beautiful pieces of art.
Seeds, Jodi Colella, 2014
Then we got down to work…er…play.
I demonstrated how to dye wool roving and the girls followed along step by step.
First, we coiled our roving in microwave safe dishes.
Second, we let the roving soak in a mixture of vinegar water.
Third, we picked our food colors and began sprinkling them onto the roving. Poking the wool so the water would help it spread.
After the roving was dyed it was time to microwave everyone’s wool to set the dye.
While the microwave cooked all the roving, we moved on to our Felted Planets.
I started demonstrating how to make a wool ball and wrap it up with layers. The girls did a great job with this. It’s not the easiest to get roving to behave and stay put.
After their ball had been layered with a few colors, they dunked them in warm soapy water and squished and squished and squished to compact the fiber and get it to felt.
The girls had a hard time believing that their fiber planets were felting. It takes a good amount of time and pressure to felt the balls and I think they were worried when it didn’t happen after a few rounds of squishing. But they persisted and we got some awesome results!
I don’t have any photos of this part because all of our hands were soapy and wet.
But I'm pretty certain everyone's favorite part was the last step--cutting their planets in half to reveal the interior.
Felted Planets cut in half:
The girls that finished their felt planet early wanted to continue making more. They made moons and suns for their planets. Some of these didn’t quite felt as well as their first planet since they were eager to get to the part where they cut the planet in half. But the one below is a gorgeous sun.
Judging by how engaged the students were in the process and the spectacular end results, I feel the objectives of this lesson were met. And we had fun, too.
Based on how this first experience went, one change I would make for future lessons would be leaving enough time at the end of class for the students to be responsible for some portion of clean up.
It also felt like a crazy whirlwind of activity! It's possible I planned too much for the day, but we did manage to complete all the tasks other than the short reflection discussion I had planned. The only question I managed to get out for that part was a quick "Did you guys like this lesson?"
It was great to hear enthusiastic "yeahs!!" all around. :)