The past two moist March weeks I’ve been lucky to spend time diving into the experience of Plant-Fiber Technology with 90 wonderful young people, while teaching at IslandWood, a fantastic environmental learning center in Washington State. Here are some pictures of the budding young artists at work.
Students pictured in this blog entry are from two Seattle schools: Highland Park Elementary, and North Beach Elementary. Our focus project for the 2.5 hour sessions was for them to each create their own Coiled Cordage Pendant out of the humble plant materials provided.
This is the incredible work space provided by IslandWood. The Art Studio is a circular-walled building made with straw-bale-hay construction. It is a teaching-artist’s dream, with space for us to move around as we learn. I’ve set-up plant identification cards in the exhibit area with quotes and pictures from many teachers from local First Peoples cultures that have directly influenced and motivated me to promote the value of intellectual, human, and biological diversity through teaching the traditional art of Plant-Fiber Technology.
Here students are twisting away to make cordage out of the long leaves of the “invasive” Yellow-Flag Iris.
To give students a firm frame to work off of as they learn the coiled basketry technique, they started their pendant with a small hoop, made of recently pruned limbs from either Western Red Cedar or apple trees. They used colorful donated yarns as the wrapping and sewing elements as they learned to stitch the cordage in a spiral, sewing each coil to the previous coil.
The last step was to make Nature Beads. I had brought in lots of materials to work with, scouring rush, thimble berry stems, Swamp Dogwood and River willow limbs, Highbush Cranberry stems, Forsythia branches.
Any fresh materials with either hollow centers, or soft pithy centers can be easily reamed out with quick-change bits.
We’ve used parts of the plants and trees to create something for ourselves, so now it’s time to give back something to the earth. This is part of what it means to have a relationship. We give, we take. We take, we give back.
Students find a place they agree “looks good” for planting their baby cedar tree.
Students help each other put their beads on their necklaces.
Making Nature Beads is almost as addictive as making cordage!
Really nice work!
Each Pendant is as different and as beatiful as each of these artists!
This creative student used scouring rush as a small vase to hold a feather on her pendant.
My reward is seeing pride and satisfaction in a students’ face, or by their body-language, when they show me their work. And all through our experience together, I love listening to their voices, and watching them help each other through what is at first a very difficult process.
Learning is always difficult at first. But one of the most important lessons that working with plants can teach us, is to be patient with ourselves and each other.
I’ll post more about our art-making experience at IslandWood soon. Thanks for listening!