Sunday, 21 June 2015

Seven Stories: St. Bede's School #3 Fabric Collage and Stencils

Rainforest Fabric Collage: Selecting materials

I've been working with a local school for the past few months on a big project from Prism Arts and Cumbria Library Service called Seven Stories. Recently I've been catching up on my blogging about this project, this post is about the collaged and stencilled flags we've made.

Using paper templates to cut out shapes

Using paper templates to cut out shapes

Using paper templates to cut out shapes

As I mentioned in my previous post about this project I wanted to give the students the chance to try a range of different techniques so having made our collagraph printed flags and felt flags and because I knew the pupils were really good at paper collage I thought fabric collage would be a good technique to try.

Arranging the fabric collage

Arranging the fabric collage

Arranging the fabric collage

I really like working with collage, both paper and fabric, as it is a very accessible way of working and allows for a lot of experimentation. It is also a good opportunity to get to handle different materials and to explore colour and texture. Fabric collage also allowed the pupils to have a go at pinning and tacking, skills they may not necessarily get to develop otherwise.

Work in progress

Pinning the pieces down

Arranging and pinning

One of the things I've been working on with the students is getting them to work through a process; a lot of modern life is so fast and is all about instant gratification I think it's good to do things that take time and that you have to work out. I think it helps the students understand that the more time and energy you invest in the work the better the outcome. I also think that some of the slower, more labour intensive techniques give them chance to really think about what they're doing and so gives them the opportunity to develop their analytical and problem solving skills.

Pinning

Tacking

Tacking

Making both the fabric collaged and stencilled flags involved quite long processes and as you would expect each student found certain parts of the processes easier than others. This class has been good at concentrating on their task from the start but I have noticed that over the course of the project the pupils ability to stick at things has improved and really importantly their confidence in their own abilities has grown. Because there is only one of me and 28 of them I obviously can't give them all my undivided attention all of the time, this has meant that rather than always waiting for me to say 'yes, that's right' the students have become more confident in trusting their own judgement and just going for it.

Taking pride in their work

Work in progress

Abstract arrangement focusing on colour

Another reason I think their confidence has grown is that all the work they've produced is their own, by which I mean there has been very limited input from me beyond demonstrating and explaining processes. When a student asks me what to do I tend to turn the question round and ask them what they think they should do. We can then have a little discussion about different options but I let them decide how to proceed and get them to do it. I want to support the students to create their own work, try new things and learn by doing rather than having me do things for them.

Paper stencils

Paper stencils

Paper stencils

The class really enjoyed working on the collaged flags. As always they had some great ideas and produced beautiful work. Similar to the felt flags the collaged flags were based on the different landscapes of the stories. We started by making templates to cut out shapes related to each landscape as I wanted to encourage them to try a more abstract approach rather than a pictorial approach. We then had great fun selecting and cutting fabric shapes which were then pinned and then tacked in place. I then took the flags home to sew on the sewing machine.

Using the stencils

Using the stencils

Using the stencils

Building on the idea of shapes for each landscape we took a similar approach to making the stencilled flags. Making stencils can be quite difficult, it can be very hard to visualise which bits to cut out and which to leave to create the image you want so I was impressed with the stencils the class produced. As with a lot of the techniques we've been working with simple shapes often work better than complicated ones and some of the pupils whose work is small scale and intricate found this quite hard. However, everyone ended up with a usable stencil and was able to make a flag, as before some really beautiful work was produced and this activity was a really good example of how the students have learnt to persevere and keep going until they get the result they want.

Flags hung up to dry

Stencilled owls

Stencilled snowflakes

So, we now have collagraphed flags, felt flags, collaged flags and stencilled flags. These will be sewn together in pairs to make double sided flags which can then be sewn onto ribbon to make a string of flags ready to be installed in the library in November. Best get stitching...

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