As a child, I remember my father bringing home lots of fabric, yarn and carpet samples from his architecture office that we kids used to make arts and crafts. Thinking about those days, I contacted his office to ask if I could have any discarded samples to use in my classroom. The office donated so many boxes of samples it took me three car trips to carry them all away!
Indeed, local architecture and interior design offices, as well as home improvement and carpet stores, can often be a great resource for textile materials needed for a project, this one in particular.
This “Textile Landscapes” lesson, which I developed using these free materials, may be challenging for beginning art students. Therefore, I assigned this project to students who had taken our fundamental art classes at the high-school level. The challenge was for students to create a piece of art within a wooden frame, with a multi-layered textile landscape extending over it.
To start the lesson, I gave my students books to use as references that focused on landscapes in different regions of the world. They would have the freedom to create any landscape they wanted, as long as they could make it with the materials provided.
Students were advised that this project might be too difficult if they chose highly detailed scenes, so they should instead focus on landscapes with different “levels,” such as a sunset or a desert. I also said that a landscape with a horizon line anywhere but in the middle of the piece would make it more interesting. We also discussed color and choosing fabrics that complement each other.
I asked the students to sketch out three different plans, so they could choose their favorite one and also get plenty of practice thinking about how to execute the project and use the materials properly. The students were asked to consider each level in terms of what is closest to the viewer and what is farthest away. To avoid waste, they had to think about all of this before receiving materials and starting to work.
With the help of our woodshop teacher, students measured and cut the frames for their projects. Pairing up made the assembly of each frame much easier. We used cardboard instead of wood for the back of the frame, as it would have made the project a lot heavier and much more costly.
We attached the cardboard to the wooden frame with nails and the students drew their landscape on the cardboard inside the wooden frame. They also applied one layer of papier-mache to the wooden frame so that gluing fabric and carpet to it would be easier.
Before the students began their landscapes, I demonstrated how to layer fabric to create more dimension. Using a sun as an example, I took several gold, yellow, orange and red colors and cut them into slivers. I then drew a circle on a piece of cardboard and started to overlap the pieces of fabric so students could see the sun begin with light yellow and gold at the top, and slowly grade to deep red. Students could see how this made the piece more dimensional because of the range of values.
The students took about two and a half weeks to cut out fabrics and carpet, and slowly layer them with hot glue and cardboard to form their respective landscapes. Some students found it easier to cut the fabric for specific shapes by tracing what they had drawn on the cardboard background onto a transparency and then drawing around the transparency on the flat side of the carpet. The carpet is also much easier to cut if students use an art/craft knife to score the back of it and then break the binding. Once this is done, students are able to cut the softer part with scissors.
To create dimension and distance, students built up layers of cardboard to bring the foreground closer to the viewer and then created the background by gluing the farthest layer directly onto the cardboard back.
The students were also encouraged to experiment with different ways of manipulating the materials. One student, for example, made a tree for her landscape by gluing wire to the back of the fabric, making it possible for her to bend its limbs. Some students painted the carpet with acrylic paint, while others used yarn to add ripples on a lake or grass on a prairie.
The students were expected to expand their landscape onto the wooden frame. That way, the frame completed the landscape by blending, rather than setting off the scene with a dark, solid color. Some students continued their landscapes by layering cardboard and fabric onto the frame, while others preferred to use acrylic paint on the frame and mixed colors to perfectly match their textile samples.
The students enjoyed creating incredible landscapes with lots of texture and dimension, and were surprised how the landscapes began to take shape as they added more pieces of carpet or fabric to them.
When the textile landscapes were finished, we exhibited them in the library. Students are often tempted to touch art that’s exposed and in the open, sometimes inadvertently pulling pieces off. However, these textile landscapes were so hardy, they withstood any mistreatment and didn’t show any wear or tear. The librarians were so excited to have art in the library that they offered to take photographs of every student with his or her work and laminate the photos to display next to each landscape.
Everyone benefited from this project. The students explored color and space, and had the opportunity to work with textiles, an often neglected area in the high-school classroom. The students truly enjoyed this unique project, and the librarians and the students’ peers enjoyed seeing the landscapes.
High-school students will …
* become familiar with textile art.
* measure and construct a wooden frame.
* create an original landscape with an offset horizon line and harmonious color scheme.
* exhibit an understanding of space by layering the landscape to create different levels.
* display their work for the school to admire.
* Hammer and nails
* Hot-glue gun and sticks
* Assorted fabric and carpet samples
* Acrylic paints
* Art/craft knives (we used X-ACTO[TM])
Kristine Hamidou is a sculpture and ceramics teacher at Rowlett High School in Rowlett, Texas.
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COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale Group