Paper as a Sculptural Form


One of my holiday excursions was to the Trout Museum of Art in Appleton, Wisconsin. (Art educators: scroll down to see a quick, paper sculpture application as a creativity project for your students.) (Handweavers: check out this origami interpretation of triaxial weave structure.) To my delight, I was able to catch the end of an exhibit, ORIcursion which displayed the work of Robert J. Lang, an origami master. He has been an avid student of origami for over forty years and is now recognized as one of the world’s leading masters of the art, with over 500 designs catalogued and diagrammed. His website is rich with information and resources, as well as photos of his amazing work.

The exhibit was beautiful! The display of his flower series were organized (left to right) with a photograph of an actual flower, a single sheet of paper with a portion of the photograph blown up and printed on the surface (and showing the crease patterns necessary to create the origami flower), the resulting origami flower created from the single sheet of paper, and a photo of the finished origami sculpture. It was such a clear way of helping the viewer understand the process from the beginning of the concept and the processes necessary to produce the finished sculpture form.

I was also very excited about this exhibit, because I had recently showed my art students a documentary film about origami, Between the Folds, that Mr. Lang is featured in. This award winning documentary gives an extensive overview of the history of the art form as well as the current trends in pushing origami to its limits. Here is a preview of this excellent film:

After showing the video to my 9th & 10th grade sculpture students, I challenged them to create a sculpture from a single sheet of paper. Before creating the form, they applied color to the surface of the sculpture with their choice of chalk or oil pastels. I loved the resulting forms they created. It was a short project, but one that introduced them to the 3 dimensional form in an easy and instinctive process.

student work montage

The Trout’s exhibit also streamed a NOVA PBS video, The Origami Revolution. This is an amazing video! The folding principles of folding used in origami is an fundamental process found in nature, in organizing new 21st century technological advances, and is even at the heart of the way the Universe is organized!

I encourage the reader to explore this exciting process by incorporating it into an aspect of your own creative expressions. If you do, please share your discoveries with us!

Surface Design Association Inspires Explore Fiber

This is my Pecha Kucha presentation (with the text) that I presented at the Surface Design Associations’ 40th anniversary conference 4/3 – 4/6/2017. Find out how receiving an SDA scholarship to attend the 2011 Minneapolis conference planted the seed for the creation of

Art Education – The Challenges of Curriculum Transition

This presentation examines a school district’s Art I Foundation curriculum change into the Understanding by Design curriculum template. Find out the challenges and successes for this National Art Education Association annual conference in New York City March 2017.

Bring Fibers Into Your Art Curriculum

See examples of art educators in the Plano Independent School District using fibers in their art projects. This presentation gives not just examples, but advice and resources to support including fibers in the classroom. Resources include the website, the blog of Cassie Stephens, and the fiber course of The Art of Education.

Fostering Community in the Art Studio

Fiza 2Creating a strong community in the art classroom has been a top priority this year.  Sometimes it seems challenging, especially in a 9th & 10th grade high school, when kids clump together in different cliques and feel most comfortable with their friends.  This year I have started talking about community from the first week of school, and instead of talking about our art class, I refer to our space as the art studio and invite them to think of themselves as real artists working in this shared space.

I show an artist video at the beginning of every class, and one of my favorite Artist of the Day videos is Candy Chang’s TED Talk ‘Before I Die I Want To…’

Her poignant story and community based art project really demonstrates how a simple idea can connect many people.  After showing the video, I asked each of my students to respond to a daily question with an ‘exit ticket’, a post it note that they use to write their response to the question and leave for me to gather and find out about their thinking.  Here are some of their responses to the question “How can our art impact our school community?” after we watched Chang’s video:

  • Inspire others to step out of their comfort zone
  • Art is a great stress relief.  You need things that are colorful around the school to make people feel at home.
  • By giving the school life, color & passion
  • It can change things for the better.  It can inspire people
  • Art can unite the whole school community and create a solid bond for a long time
  • Change a perspective on a view they already have
  • It gives a voice for students and provides freedom for expression.  It also presents new ideas and stimulates the imagination.
  • Make our school look better, make it more colorful and create a better learning environment
  • It can show people that anyone can become an artist

These are just a handful of the wonderful responses I got from my students.  I think it’s going to be a really great year!

The Power of Photography – Artist of the Day Video Theme

Day 8 - I see you

This is such an exciting time in the history of man!  I want to share the history of photography with them, and get them thinking about the POWER they carry around with them – the camera in their phone.  Never in the history of mankind have so many had such a powerful tool in their pocket.  The 21st c. has seen the explosion of communicating information through visuals.  The fact that a high percentage of the population of the world has the capability to transmit images globally in the blink of an eye has completely shifted the way we understand our world.  It has been a huge democratization factor, and has changed not only art, but also politics and society.

This week’s Artist of the Day videos centered around the theme of Photography.  I wanted to help them find out how to take better pictures, and to think more broadly about the kinds of pictures they might take.  Here is the lineup:

My student teacher came up with these questions for the students to reflect on after viewing the videos:

  • What is one way to improve the composition in your photographs?
  • A photographer in Dubai takes photos while skydiving, how can you change the way you take pictures based on your interaction with your settings?
  • What might be some challenges and considerations of taking successful photos underwater?
  • Micro photography is taking photos of the smaller details in life (like the ant carrying the pink leaf). What objects or organisms would you be inclined to take photos of at the micro level?
  • If you were a photojournalist, what story would you want to capture through photos?

Showing our students these viewpoints of professionals broadens their perception of the world.  I asked each class how many students were interested in photography, and a healthy number of hands were raised in each class.  Photography and video content are trumping text in information dissemination.  Helping our students to strengthen their visual literacy is an important skill art teachers can pass on.  Enjoy this lineup of videos, consider showing them to your students and use these questions, or come up with your own questions or activities to connect our students to the power of the image.