Friday, December 24, 2010

Human Flora

In researching my next focus for textile patterns, I came across the Human Microbiome Project.

I have been reading how our human cells are outnumbered by bacterial cells in our bodies by 10 to 1. We are in essence scaffolding for a zoo of bacteria... such an interesting filter through which to examine our identity as organisms.

Here is an interesting Youtube video on the HMP project:

I enjoy following Australian artist, Jonathan McCabe's generative pattern work on both Flickr and Spoonflower, the most recent of which has a very cellular and bacterial reference.

I will be exploring creating a textile series, Human Flora, that reflects on various facets of our relationship with the organisms we host.

Of course, I knew that there would be art already out there exploring these themes. I especially liked this one using petri dishes and images of bacteria to form a human body: installation: designed by Julia Lohmann with the help of Prof Michael Wilson and Dr Derren Ready, UCL Eastman Dental Institute, University College London. Photos by Lee Mauire.

And finally, here is an amazing image contest by the Wellcome Image Trust

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

San Jose Bans Plastic Bags!

San Jose has today banned plastic carry out bags in grocery stores. The ban will take effect in 2012. I was surprised to read this development in a San Jose Mercury News Article. I have used plastic bags in my art and it amazed me a few years ago when I visited a local creek to collect trash for projects and saw many nests of plastic bags tangled in the water and surrounding bushes. This ban is a wonderful development for our more of this urban tumbleweed! I will be nice to no longer see empty bags blow up against fences and drifting along the streets.

I have met an entrepreneur who is the son of a plastic bag manufacture. This son now has a business selling the eco friendly Japanese cloth wrappers called furoshiki through His furoshiki are a lovely collection of local and Japanese designs.

Anyway, musing on plastic bags and am grateful that they will be a thing of the past. I do have a purse somewhere made of woven together Safeway plastic bags. It was made by a friend of my grandma in Hawaii. Such hobbies utilizing this waste will move onto other medium, I suppose.

At any rate, good news today on the plastic bag ban!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Well, I just launched my Kickstarter project to raise funds for student created community street banners. Here is the link:

It seems that such crowd fundraising may be a good alternative to the traditional grant route. A few days ago the Wall Street Journal wrote an article, Tapping the Crowds for Funds, about this growing way of fundraising and the article mentioned Kickstarter.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I have submitted my project idea to the funding site, Kickstarter. Once your idea is accepted, this site requires a video and a detailed description of the project. Here is what I have so far for my video. The student project site for the project is:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Get Your Project Funded

In the Fall I was working with a group (Socks Inc.) who received public donations for their arts project through Kickstarter. I was intrigued by this site and went through the steps to submit a project idea. I am hoping to receive funding to conduct a collaborative art project with students resulting in street banners. The project is called "You Are Here" and I have created a site for the various steps of the workshops:

After submitting your basic idea to Kickstarter they review it and approve you to submit the full project idea. This entails creating a video to explain one's project. It is fascinating to review other people's ideas for projects and the diversity of styles for presenting one's project idea. This looks like a great alternative way to explore funding. I will be adding posts to this as I complete my submission to the site.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pattern Generation Tool :Repper

A friend of mine introduced me to the pattern generation tool, Repper, today. This is an amazing site that enables you to take photos and create patterns in a simple interface. I have used both Photoshop and SumoPaint to create repeat pattern tiles, but Repper seems to me to be the best tool to have students work with.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Project wins KCI Rambus Award in Innovation

I was excited to learn last Friday that the Picking Strawberries on Gold Mountain workshop series won First Place in the KCI Rambus 2010 Innovation Award. I conducted this workshop series in four classes at two schools last spring. It is a wonderful honor to have the project celebrated in this way.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Pattern Repeat!

I will be teaching a digital textile workshop in a few weeks and wanted to post a step by step on how to create a repeat pattern the old fashioned way.
1. Draw a design in the middle of your page. Be sure your drawing does not touch the edges of your paper!
2. Once you finish this drawing, cut the paper in quarters.
3. Move halves to opposite sides so outside edges are now facing eachother.

4. Move top two pieces to the bottom so now all outside edges are facing inward.5. Tape together (tape pieces together from the back).

6. Fill in the middle section with the rest of your pattern. You can see below that I filled in the new center (the former edges of the paper) with a leaf, more children, clouds and butterflies. Now I have a perfectly repeating pattern tile. 7. Here is the pattern below.8. On the computer, using either Photoshop or SumoPaint, you can use the Offset Filter to create this repeat pattern effect without having to cut your drawing at all.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Paint Chip Bats

Above: Still from Sherwin Williams animated color chip ad.

I have long use paint chips to teach value and hue to students so when I saw the Sherwin-Williams Paint Chip animated paint chip ads I knew there was a great jumping off point for a lesson plan. Here are the two animations

In this Kinder lesson students will learn: to trace around shapes and cut out, will learn about value and hue, will make their own bat paint chip collages.

Materials: pencils, scissors three different hued paint chip swatches per child, glue, hole punch and string if you want to hang (If you hang, I would glue a button to bottom left corner to counter the weight of the tree branches on the other side).

Resources: The Sherwin Williams ads (link above) and Jeff Wilson's Paint Chip Collage 2, Arlington Public Library. hue, value, collage

Monday, September 20, 2010

KQED features O1SJ Art & Technology Biennial

KQED featured the 01SJ Biennial in their Gallery Crawl show.
The collaborative installation which Colleen Quen, Rick Lee and I created is displayed towards the end of the video. More on our Techstyle SoftWEAR: Surface & Shape installation is at my textile blog, TechFusionFabrics.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Self Portraits

Above: Quick child's drawing without mirror.
Above and below: Careful pencil portrait study by six year old child with a mirror.
One of the most interesting and challenging art classes to teach is self portraits. We tend to get self conscious and want our creations to look just
like us. The key to loosening up people is to first have them draw a happy face or generic face in 30 seconds...then have them take their time creating their portrait with a mirror while using principals of facial proportions...these second drawings always end up much more expressive and capture better the essence of a face. The artist feels accomplishment at the end when assessing the difference between his/her first drawing and second drawing.

As an introduction to self portrait drawing, my lesson will visit the portrait works of Johannes Vermeer we will look at how he used light and shadow to define the face. Using the interactive whiteboard, we will overlay lines demonstrating principals of facial proportion.
Above: Johannes Vermeer: Girl with a Pearl Earring. (from
overlaying principals of facial proportions.
Introduction to Johannes Vermeer:
We will visit the Essential Vermeer , a fabulous site with much information to explore as one rolls over the painting with the cursor. One can even listen to snippets of music from Vermeer's contemporaries at this site. There is also information on the theory that Vermeer used the camera obscura in the creations of his painting.Above: Camera obscura portrait. Observe the blurry lines, soft edges and strong darks. Do you think there is similarity with Veermer's softness of painting?

If we have time we will be looking at as a site showing unique examples of contemporary digital portraiture and we will briefly discuss the use of value to create contours both in the digital art and works of Vermeer and van Eyck.


Step 1: Fold a piece of paper in half. Draw the simplest of faces, a happy face, in one half. Draw a quick portrait of yourself on the other half. (timed one minute) Compare the two. Is there a big difference?
Step 2. You will now create a more detailed portrait using a mirror for reference. But first, we need to think of composition: symmetrical or asymmetrical? Is your face peering at you as if through a window and we only see part of your face? Does your face fill the page? Or are you quietly sitting in the middle of the page?
Step 3:
Draw lightly the egg shape of your face where you want it on the page.
Step 4: Lightly divide that egg shape in half horizontally. Your eyes will go on this half way line.(complete step by step lesson info will be posted here soon.)

Did the student's portrait use principals of facial proportions properly?
Did the student use a dynamic composition?
Did the student use proper hatching techniques?
Did the student pick a consistent light source for shading?

Students walk around tables and give critique of each other's work. Have them say what they find interesting about each portrait. Then have them address above assessment questions.

Extension Project: Simple Camera Obscura:
As an extension project, students can create these at home and observe for themselves how camera obscura images share the deep darks and soft lines of Vermeer's paintings.
Detailed instructions are here at Make It.
I stuck a digital still camera into the camera box to take the round photo portrait at beginning of posting. I will be bringing in my inelegant camera obscura to school for the kids to test out. I think the key to making it work well is to also drape viewer and much of camera box with a black cloth.

Above: tube with black paper on one end and wax paper on the other.
Above: Wax Paper covers one end of tube.Above: Black paper covers the other end. Punch a push pin in the middle of the black paper to create a tiny hole.
Box to stick tube in. I first wrapped tube in a paper cone and then stuck it in the box.
See below:
Below:The end of the tube with the push pin hole faces out the back.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Contrast, Pattern & Evolution

Add ImageAdd Image
Overview: We will examine pattern, texture and value shifts in nature. We will look at two artists work and we will be creating mixed media rubbings of moths using lace, crayon and paper.

Elements of Art addressed: texture and value
Science component: VoiceThread observations of industrial melanism. This component addresses California 3rd grade Science, Life Sciences Standards 3.0.
Art History: Francisco de Goya and contemporary artist Robert Hague

Lead in:
Animals often have interesting textures and patterns. What role do these features have?
The black and patterned peppered moth populations changed drastically during the Industrial Revolution in England. Soot blackened the trees and killed the lichen growing on the trees. The new darkened environment set into motion changes in the number of patterned moths and the number of black moths. How? This is a classic example of industrial melanism, or genetic darkening of species in response to pollutants. I have posted a VoiceThread exercise for students. (link will be by invitation only once project begins).
Source images for moths: Olaf Leillinger, Wikimedia Commons.
Source image for bark: Chris Luczkow.

In each class we will be briefly exploring other artist's works. Here are two for this project:
Contemporary artist Robert Hague created these pieces below. They beautifully illustrate pattern and value shifts while both unveiling and hiding ghostly silhouettes. The lace patterns evoke the era of late 1880s's and the advent of the Industrial Revolution.

Francisco de Goya's uses texture and value contrast to create focal points, balance and tension in his political and allegorical images .

Credit: Francisco de la Goya, Donde hay ganas hay mana. National Galleries of Scotland

Credit: Francisco de la Goya, No llegan a tiempo. Arno Schmidt Reference Library
Using crayons, coffee cup holder and lace scraps, students will create their own moth rubbings exploring texture and contrast.
1. Hand out texture boards (matt boards with lace or flattened coffee cup holders glued to them)
2. Students choose one colored crayon. Students place piece of paper over rubbing board.
3. Students peel crayon wrapper back half way and brush flat side of crayon over paper to create rubbing.
4. Students take another piece of paper and create a rubbing using same crayon but a different texture board.
One of these two rubbings should be darker than the other.
5. Students cut out a moth shape from one piece of paper.
6. Students cut out a factory or tree shape from the other piece of paper.
7. Students glue background rubbing (tree or factory shape) to a white piece of paper.
8. The moth shape is glued on top.
9. Students answer questions on VoiceThread as to which moth they would eat in frame A and frame B if they were a bird.

1. Is the moth visible in your collage? Why or why not?
2. How does value impact visibility of objects in the rubbings, in Goya work, in Hague's work?
3. How did the soot impact the visibility of moths on the trees?

Assessment Based on Objectives:
Did student create a piece including all components requested?
Did student successful record voice or written thoughts on VoiceThread?
Did student answer VoiceThread questions correctly?
Did student successfully create an image with value shifts strong enough to define the outline of the moth against the background?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fish Mobile

I am working on an introductory art project to conduct in K-3 classes. This mobile project can be scaled for various grades and it engages problem solving (identify balancing points for shapes and for resulting hanging form). It is inspired by Alexander Calder's work.
Elements of art addressed:
white line sketch on black paper.
shape 2-D paper cut outs
3-D forms in space created by final assembled paper suspended shapes.
One could also discuss focal point created by a small colored shape and one can discuss negative space created by the spaces between the floating elements.
Artists to inspire
: Calder and Matisse.
Good prep for future more elaborate projects such as a very inspiring High School collaborative kinetic art project on Edutopia
Materials: white pencil, black paper, colored paper scraps, scissors, push pins, beads, floral wire or pipe cleaners, pliers (optional), tape and heavy weight quilting thread (the mono filament pictured here I discovered was too difficult for K-3 to work with and pieces would not hang straight from it so don't us it).

Step 1: Sketch fish with white pencil o
n black paper.
Revision to lesson: student can draw a second fish in extra space on paper.

Step 2: Cut out shape of fis
Revision to lesson: second fish is also cut out as above but does not go through step 3 and 4.
Step 3: Sketch dividing lines vertically through fish.
Step 4: Cut through dividing lines to create segments.
Step 5: Cut out smaller shapes: What does your fish ea
t? What is in its environment? What food chain is it a part of? (can use colored pieces of paper or cut from scraps)
Step 6: Poke holes into top of each fish piece and each piece you want to hang. The trick is to experiment and find out where the balancing point is. You can do this by pushing the push pin all the way through and then letting the piece pivot on the pin and see if the piece hangs in the balanced way you want it to.
Step 7: Lay out your fish pieces in order on a piece of paper. Be sure the tops are facing up. Take a piece of floral wire or pipe cleaner and make a kink in the wire at each spot you will tie the shape to. Also be sure to make a twisted loop towards the middle through which to attach the next hanging wire. Tape wire down on background paper Tie a short string (five inches) through each hole on the black shapes. Adjust string length and tie the loose end to each corresponding kink in the wire. Remove tape from wire.
Step 8: pass another wire through the center hanging loop. make a kink and then attach a bead a the far end of one end. Experiment on length of wire arm to see how the mobile changes.

Quickly before I forget, here is some of feedback I got today. I am going to first post the negative and if I have time later will post the positive.

Student Feedback:
First Graders: "I didn't like having to cut up my fish." Two students felt this way. During the class one child was crying that she had to cut up her fish. I suggested that she could trace her fish and cut out only the second fish, but she was too upset to continue. In the wrap up, a boy suggested that the kids be able to suspend one fish that is cut up and one that is whole. Awesome suggestion!! I will make that an option for this workshop here on out.

Kinder: Lots of frustration with tying string knots. This was way out of their skill set range. One student decided to hole punched holes and strung his parts along the pipe cleaner. Seeing that great alternative, we switched mid lesson and had all the students do the same. It was much easier. We also did this modified construction in the First Grade class. (I will added the step by step images of this modified version soon.)

Second Graders: I was surprised that even in Second Grade many students had difficulty in tying a knot in thread (I have more experience teaching 4-5 and up, so this was eye opening). They enjoyed using the floral wire instead of the pipe cleaners. A few students offered to help other students needing help on various steps. I was so impressed.

Teacher feedback:
Have a detailed process board!I will be sure to have one by tomorrow.
Have students draw in the air fish shapes....model the form before they even put pencil to the black paper.
Have materials set up in one spot that is easily accessible to children returning the supplies.

My own observations:
In the Kinder class I handed out some materials too soon. ...beads make awesome rattles in cups! Best to wait and have students come and get their counter weight bead at the end of the project! The kinder teacher jumped in and used a simple small chalkboard to quickly sketch shapes of fish for the children. Loved it!

I had an hour in each class. The Kinders completed despite the mid course modification. About half of the Second Grade class completed in an hour and wished to continue on it next week. In the First Grade class I believe half completed their project. This was a challenging art exercise for the children. The next class will be a simpler project...watercolor studies of leaves.

Add ImageAdd Image