School is out, but Craft in Schools is active all summer long! Last week we had the pleasure of hosting Ms. Suzanna Hidalgo’s art history class from Eisenhower High School in Rialto, CA. During the field trip the students experienced the current Craft in America Center exhibitions Tibbie Dunbar: Assemble and Location Services: Jewelry Perspectives on Time and Place. Assemble artist Tibbie Dunbar spoke about her artworks, process, and career. The students posed thoughtful questions, which led to a rich discussion about the meaning of her art and the use of non-traditional materials such as plastic debris and car parts to make sculptures. Reflecting on the discussion, Ms. Hidalgo said that “being able to hear from an artist was the most meaningful part of the field trip experience.”
After the talk, the students explored Location Services. Through a facilitated art discussion using Visual Thinking Strategies, the students learned about the way the artists Motoko Furuhashi, Kerianne Quick, and Demitra Thomloudis investigate place through the lens of contemporary jewelry. The students were enthralled by the individual narratives associated with the Kerianne’s artworks and felt compelled to share their own personal stories and connections with the objects on display.
After the tour, the students made their own collages inspired by Tibbie Dunbar’s work and process. After the field trip, many of the students shared that the collage workshop was their favorite part of the day.
If you are interested in visiting the Craft in America Center during the summer with your class or summer camp, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more!
The exhibition Piñatas: The High Art of Celebration has come to a close, but the 600 students who participated in Craft in Schools will remember it for years to come. This fall schools returned to in-person learning, so we had the opportunity to bring artists into the classroom and students into the museum. We are thrilled to share a few highlights with you!
Artist Giovanni Valderas visited Ms. Laura Goldin’s classes at Palms Middle School to demonstrate how to make their own sad piñata houses based on Valderas’ landscape intervention project Casita Triste. Valderas, a Dallas based artist, places his Casitas in his hometown of Oakcliff to bring attention to gentrification, lack of affordable housing, and displacement of Latinx communities. The students learned about these issues and placed their Casita in a neighborhood suffering from similar issues.
Giovanni also led a Casita Triste workshop at the Craft in America Center with students from Ms. Jess Perry-Martin’s high school art class from Artes Magnet. The students experienced the piñata exhibition and then made their own Casitas, which they placed in their neighborhoods.
Another highlight was when Fresno based artist Isaias Rodriguez (Little Piñata Maker) led a workshop with Ms. Beth Dror’s fourth grade class from Rosewood Stem Magnet Elementary School. First, the students engaged in Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) while exploring the exhibition. Then they had the opportunity to hear from Rodriguez about the meaning and significance of his installation resilience. The creativity continued back in the classroom where Rodriguez taught the students how to make little reindeer piñatas.
Considering the socioeconomic issues involved in piñata making, we were able to connect with Ms. Suzanna Hidalgo’s AP Macroeconomics class. The students were inspired to visit because they watched our artist talk “Labor of Love: The Economics of Piñata Making.” We coordinated a talk and workshop with artist Lorena Robletto, who is a passionate advocate for piñata makers. The students heard Robletto speak to these issues and made their own piñatas to understand the time and love that goes into making them.
If students were not able to meet artists or see the exhibition in person, we were able to connect with them virtually. For example, East L.A. artist Francisco Palomares gave a virtual artist talk and led a two-day painting workshop with Fairfax High School students from Ms. Elizabeth Kim’s advanced painting class.
Giovanni Valderas and Lorena Robletto also led virtual artist talks and workshops in addition to their in-person experiences. We are so grateful to the artists involved in Craft in Schools, and we are excited for what is to come next year!
As someone who has devoted their entire adult life to art education, it is an honor to be the new Education Manager at the Craft in America Center. In this role, I have the privilege and responsibility of bringing craft into the classroom by providing educational experiences at the Center with K-12 public school students across L.A. County. Because of the pandemic, we had to get creative about the way we celebrate and share the handmade remotely. Starting in 2020, we joined classrooms via Zoom, and continued this virtual approach into 2021. As teachers already know, the challenges of teaching remotely are innumerable, so one of our main goals was to create a craft experience that was engaging and inspiring.
Since the start of 2021, we have already hosted students from Rosewood Elementary and Van Nuys High School. In Ms. Dror’s 3rd/4th grade class, the students shared their favorite cups in conjunction with a field trip focused on our exhibitions A Humble Legacy and Here/Now: Contemporary Narrative and Form in the Yunomi. They are also making a virtual cup exhibition which you can enjoy here.
In Mr. Ruppert’s Honors U.S. History class and Ms. Price’s U.S. History class we discussed the exhibition Democracy 2020: Craft & the Election. The responses the students had to the societal issues the artists were addressing in their works were powerful. When asked the different ways that they exercise their democracy, since they are not old enough to vote, they proudly said that they protest, use social media, donate to political causes, and make art. One student in particular shared his “meme art,” and used this illustrative method to share his thoughts on the craft objects that we were discussing.
I reflect often on the moving responses the students had to the pieces we talked about. Their excitement is what makes teaching so rewarding. If you are interested in participating or learning more about Craft in Schools click here to learn more or email: email@example.com.
Diego Romero’s work integrates traditional techniques from his Cochiti heritage with his love for both the ancient and contemporary storytellers of Western culture. From Greek vases depicting legends of gods and heroes, to comic books hailing the deeds of superheroes of the modern age. Romero uses his pottery to tell narrative from his own experience and indigenous folklore, a contemporary storyteller within craft.
In this hands-on activity, let Diego Romero’s work inspire you to make your own bowl, and tell the story of someone you consider a hero, whether from life or legend!
Watch the video below of Diego Romero on his life and work for inspiration, and ask yourself: Who are the heroes in my world?
Video Treasure Hunt:
- Rolling clay into a long coil shape
- Young children dressed as knights
- An ancient Greek chariot
- A coyote stealing fire
- Polishing with a stone
- A fallen angel
- Using breath as a tool
Hands-on Activity: Papier-mâché Narrative Bowl
- 1 cup flour
- 2 cups water
- Aluminum foil
- Cooking spray
- Acrylic paint, or markers
- Cut or tear your newspaper into strips. Make sure the paper is clean and dry.
- Choose a bowl to use as a mold for your paper mache. Larger bowls will require more newspaper.
- Place the bowl on a flat surface, bottom side up. Cover the bowl with tin foil. If you don’t want your bowl to have much texture, try to make the foil lay as flat to the surface of the bowl as possible.
- Lightly coat the tin foil with cooking spray or oil. This will help make it easier to remove from the paper mache bowl when it is dry.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour and water. Mix until it resembles thin pancake batter.
- Take a strip of newspaper, dip it into the flour mixture, and use your fingers to remove any excess liquid before laying it on the bowl.
- Continue coating strips of paper in the mixture and laying them onto the bowl until it is completely covered. You may need one or two additional layers to strengthen the shape of the object.
- Feel free to experiment with different shaped vessels, like cups or glasses. When complete, allow the form to dry completely overnight.
- When the papier-mâché is dry, remove it from the tin foil. Trim any rough edges with scissors.
- Now you can paint or decorate your bowl however you may like. Here are some ideas:
- Choose a scene from a myth, legend, or story that influenced you and illustrate it on the inside of your bowl.
- Create a portrait of someone you consider a hero – it could be a specific person (a relative, a friend, or a public figure), a role in society you respect (doctors, teachers, or firefighters), or a fictional character that inspires you (a comic book hero or figure from literature).
Cristina Córdova explores the human figure, and all of the expressions and emotion that can be found within. Using clay as her medium, she allows the material to guide her through the act of sculpting, finding the character as she moves through her process.
In this hands-on activity, make your own “clay” from materials in your pantry, and sculpt your own expressive features with this easy salt dough recipe. You can craft facial features, different parts of the human form, or an entire figure!
Watch the video from our IDENTITY episode below about Córdova’s life and work for inspiration, and see what expressive characters you can sculpt as you craft at home.
Treasure Hunt: Watch closely! Check off these visual clues as you find them in the video.
- A woman among ferns
- Trio of photos on a studio wall
- A pool of sunken ships
- Using vinegar as a tool
- A mural featuring a flying animal
Hands-on Activity: Make your own clay, and craft your own human sculptures
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup fine salt
- 2 tbsps. vegetable oil
- ¾ cup water
- Food coloring, optional
- Sculpting tools (toothpicks, popsicle sticks, rubber stamps, etc), optional
- Acrylic paint, optional
1 – In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Use fine salt if possible, as courser types will lead to granular dough.
2 – Add the vegetable oil, then gradually mix in the water until you get a clay-like consistency. You may add another tablespoon or two of water if you need more.
3 – If using food coloring, separate the dough into portions and add a drop or two of color to each portion, mixing well.
[TIP: Food coloring may stain your hands while working with the clay.]
4 – Once completely mixed, use the dough to sculpt your desired shapes or figures. You may craft a part of the body, a whole figure, or a variety of facial features with different expressions.
[TIP: Be careful not to make your sculptures too thick, or they may crack while baking.]
5 – Bake your finished sculptures in an oven set to 250º for one hour, making sure that they do not burn. Some sculptures may take more or less time, depending on how thick they are.
[TIP: For a golden look, you may brush egg yolk over your sculpted pieces before baking.]
6 – Allow finished sculptures to cool completely, and decorate your sculptures with acrylic paint if you wish. Be creative and experiment with imagining a personality waiting to be crafted from clay!
Wendy Maruyama’s recent work, The WildLife Project, was inspired by the harm being done to African elephants. Informed by the issues and problems of poaching and its impact on wildlife, her wood sculptures of elephants bring new life to the animal. Each knot representing a desire to repair the damage done to these beautiful creatures, Maruyama connects ideals of conservation to the art of craft.
In this at-home activity, we will connect another aspect of conservation to craft: recycling! Watch the video clip from our IDENTITY episode below to learn all about Maruyama’s work, while keeping an eye out for the treasure hunt clues. Then, using recyclable materials like cardboard, create your own elephant sculpture with these simple steps!
Treasure Hunt: Watch closely! Check off these visual clues as you find them in the video.
- Woman wearing a face shield
- A dog shaking hands
- A yellow rose
- Maps as skin
- A bird hitching a ride
Hands-on Activity: Make your own elephant sculpture!
- Scrap paper
- Clean cardboard
- Glue (optional)
- Paint & paintbrushes (optional)
1 . Sketch out the basic shape of the elephant’s side view onto a piece of paper or directly onto the cardboard – do not include any limbs or large features. This is our base shape.
2 . Mark on the top of the base shape where the pieces for the head and body will be (Make at least 2 marks for the body). Draw a line at each mark across the base shape. Use a ruler to measure each line. Write those measurements down to help you remember!
3 . For each measurement, draw a circle with an equal diameter. You will have at least 3 circles: 2 for the body, 1 for the head.
4 . Draw ears on the smallest circle for the elephant’s head.
5 . Draw the shape of a pair of legs for the elephant. You will make 2 of these pieces.
6 . Cut all of these shapes out of the clean cardboard. You will have:
- The base shape
- 2 body circles
- 1 head (with ears!)
- 2 pairs of legs
7 . Make a cut about halfway into the center of the body circles, the head, and each pair of legs. This is how the pieces will attach to the base shape.
8 . Make a cut for each piece into the base shape. Make these cuts equal in size to the cuts made in the pieces themselves. Cut the slits for the head and body pieces at the top of the base, with the legs attaching to the bottom.
9 . Ready to assemble! Place each piece into its corresponding spot, using the cuts you have made to slide them onto the base shape and push them into place.
10 . Ta da! You have made an elephant! Feel free to use glue to keep the pieces in place permanently, or have fun taking it apart and putting it back together again. You can also decorate the cardboard with scrap or wrapping paper, paint, or markers! If you do, make sure to let the cardboard dry completely before you connect the pieces again.
Experiment with making other animals using these same steps, but with different shapes. Get creative and happy crafting!
Artist Felicia Rice‘s work explores how to draw the viewer into a story contained within the pages of a book. Artist books must be handled in order to be fully experienced, and can contain many different forms of media! This activity teaches us about one of the most versatile artist book styles – the accordion book.
Watch the video below to learn all about the incredible craft of book arts & Felicia’s work, while keeping an eye out for the treasure hunt clues. Then, get creative telling your own story with the activity below!
Treasure Hunt: Watch closely! Check off these visual clues as you find them in the video.
- Leopard print in a book
- Pink armchair
- Purple ink
- A doctor’s stethoscope
- A face on a metal plate
Hands-on Activity: Make your own accordion book!
- Blank paper – any type or size will do.
- Glue or tape
- Any art supplies you have – crayons, pencils, markers, etc.
- Cardstock or cardboard – cut out cereal boxes work too!
- Decorative scrap or wrapping paper (optional)
- Decorative materials – stickers, feathers, fabric, sequins, etc. (optional)
1 . Cut (or fold and tear) a piece of paper in half lengthwise to make two long, skinny rectangles.
2 . Fold each piece of paper in half widthwise.
3 . Fold the top flap in half again, with the bottom edge of the paper meeting the first top crease.
4 . Flip over the paper and do the same fold. Your paper should now look like a W.
5 . Repeat this with the other rectangle of paper so that you have 2 Ws. (You can begin with more sheets of paper, and make more Ws for an even longer book!)
6 . Glue your Ws together to make an accordion (or use tape if you don’t have glue). If you are using a thick type of paper, you might want to use a heavy object like a book to press down on top of it for a few minutes.
7 . To make your book cover, take two pieces of cardboard or cardstock (you can cut up cereal boxes too!) and cut them to the same size as the accordion.
8 . Take your decorative or scrap wrapping paper and cut two pieces a little larger than the cardboard, about an inch or two bigger on each side.
9 . Glue your cardboard in the center of the scrap or wrapping paper, decorative side out. Clip the corners of the paper, then fold and glue in the excess paper on the sides. Repeat for each cover.
10 . Glue the covers to each end of the accordion. You might need to press the book under something heavy again for a few minutes.
You’re all set! Now you can decorate your beautiful book however you decide! You can add decorations to your cover, like ribbon, glitter, feathers, rhinestones, or anything else you can think of. You can use the pages of the accordion to tell a story, create drawings, collect pictures…the possibilities are endless! Be as creative or as colorful as you want, and have fun!
Craft in America Shares Its Abundant Library of Free Videos & Online Resources for Educators and At-Home Learning
As educators across the country creatively and swiftly activate new systems for learning at home, Craft in America is enhancing free online access to its treasure trove of inspiring, educational materials that explore craft as a part of American history, culture, art, and technology. Over the past 14 years, Craft in America has built its website with a multimedia library of lesson plans and accessible learning resources that are at the fingertips of teachers, students, and families. Craftinamerica.org is making innovative education materials available, easily accessible, and best suited to the needs of our nation’s students and communities.
(more information below)
Educational videos, including 400+ shorts that vary in length from 2-15 minutes plus 23 complete, hour-long episodes of our Peabody Award-winning PBS series that tell the story of how craft shapes American life and art through stories of innovative artists living and working in cities and towns across the U.S. These engaging, visually-stunning free videos are applicable to a range of subjects: history, social studies, art appreciation, English language arts, and STEAM-learning.
Craftinamerica.org offers 33 national standards-based Education Guides with lesson plans for K-12 teachers that bring the story of American craft to students anywhere. Lessons written by respected art teachers for all teachers are designed to encourage critical thinking skills and creative engagement. These guides engage students in making meaningful interdisciplinary connections between craft and diverse content areas, from environmental sciences to history and social studies. They can be woven into existing lessons or stand alone units. Educators can use and adapt guides to lead thoughtful discussions on art and culture, assign creative and responsive writing prompts, or engage students in meaningful art-appreciation projects.
Lesson plans are enhanced by video segments that can be watched at home for free on craftinamerica.org for example:
The most recently published 2019 Education Guide covers social studies, story and scene creation, and offers numerous interdisciplinary connections.
The Education Guides are developed by a team of respected art teachers under the direction of Dr. Marilyn Stewart, Professor Emerita of Art Education, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, with Dr. Amy Bloom, Art Teacher, Exeter Township Junior High School, Exeter PA and Dolores Eaton, Art Teacher, The Pennington School, Pennington, NJ.
Virtual galleries and video tours of Craft in America Center, with exhibits spanning ten years, provide gallery installation views and detailed images of artworks, giving students the opportunity to experience a museum from home, and allowing them to independently explore art.
The current exhibition Identity: 4 Voices explores works by nationally acclaimed artists who convey heritage, cross-cultural histories, and personal belief systems through ceramics, woodworking, furniture-making, and photography.
Our playlists feature videos in one central location, organized by subject and theme so teachers may easily find content to compliment lessons across all content areas. These videos are available for teachers of all subjects to incorporate into their lessons as needed. Newly launched playlists include: History & Culture, STEM Handmade, Language & Storytelling, Performing Craft, Craft & Kids, Craft in History, Schools of Craft and much more.
Craftinamerica.org is regarded as an encyclopedia of national craft. The website contains over 350 profiles of leading and emerging artists across the country, serving as a who’s who in contemporary craft. Informative short-format bios are enhanced by portraits of the artists and images of their artworks.
Craftinamerica.org includes over 60 hour-long lectures given by leading, noteworthy contemporary artists working in ceramics, fiber, glass, wood, and metal. These filmed talks give students the chance to learn in-depth about artistic inspiration, technique, and about the professional and creative choices and pathways that artists take to pursue their dreams.
PLUS: PBS LearningMedia maintains an additional portal of Craft in America online resources for students to learn about the artists, origins, and techniques of American craft.
Explore the photography of Cara Romero and tell the story of a person in just one picture.
You can bring the joy of craft and the handmade right into your home with these activities designed for all ages! Inspired by the amazing art featured in Craft in America’s episodes and exhibitions, these activities aim to encourage exploration and creativity for the whole family to enjoy.
Watch the videos for each activity, keeping an eye out for answers to the clues in our visual treasure hunts, or just jump right into the hands-on craft activities that go with them.
There are no rules! Simply have fun and be inspired by the marvelous makers of craft in America.
Treasure Hunt: Watch closely! Check off these visual clues as you find them in the video.
- A tree branch underwater
- 3 pine cones on a pedestal
- A boy sitting on a rock on a billboard
- The wings of a bird
- A cross on a hill
Hands-on Activity: Tell the story of a person or persons in just one picture!
- A camera
- Anything you have around! You can use clothing, costumes, toys, objects from nature, or whatever you can find to stage your photograph.
- Ask yourself: Why do we take photographs of people? How can photographs tell us a story? If you watched the video segment about photographer Cara Romero, think about how she used her photographs (see below for examples of Naomi and 17 Mile Road) to tell stories about her people.
- Think about and decide who you would like to represent in your photograph. Will it be a portrait telling the story of you or a family member? Will it be a character from your favorite book, movie, or your imagination?
- Think about how you will tell a story about that person by what you include in the photograph. Where will you take the photo? Consider different settings, inside or outside. What objects or clothing can you use to tell the story?
- Gather everything you need to stage your photograph, and pose your model in the frame. Your model can be yourself or a friend! Set up your shot, and take the photograph with a camera.
- Show your photographs to others, and see how they react to the story or describe the person in the image. It’s always fun to hear other people’s perspectives! Set up and stage different photographs for different people you would like to tell a story about. You can take as many different pictures with as many different environments as you want!
The Craft in America Center welcomed back Grandview Boulevard Elementary this month, with Ms. Sanchez’s 3rd grade classroom visiting to explore the Quilts: 4 Directions exhibition. The Craft in Schools program’s young participants were excited to experience visiting a museum, some for the very first time.
Many of them were unfamiliar with the concept of craft and quilting when they arrived, but quickly were able to relate their own experiences with handmade objects and textiles to the works on display in the galleries. They practiced carefully observing art as they investigated each piece, searching for the answers to clues provided to them on an art scavenger hunt. For many students, this was the first time they were given agency to explore a gallery independently, and encouraged to slow down and look closely at works on display. Working with their peers in small groups, they were able to really explore and talk about the artwork freely, and several students later reported that solving these “riddles” were their favorite part of the visit.
After they explored the galleries on their own, the class got back together for an in depth group discussion of selected works, like Michael A. Cumming’s Satin Doll quilt from his African Jazz series, or Susan Hudson’s quilt 29 Warriors made in honor of Navajo Code-talkers. They practiced visual literacy and academic language skills as they engaged in visual thinking strategies and inquiry-based dialogue, asking questions and making observations, interpreting meaning and analyzing the methods employed by the artists. While discussing Judith Content’s Aftermath quilt, some students pointed out that her use of contrasting colors gave the illusion of falling leaves – a revelation that artists can tell a story without using words, or even pictures.
The students were then introduced to quilter, Liberty Worth, who provided them an opportunity to meet and speak with a living, working local artist! Speaking on her craft, her professional journey, and her art-making methods, Worth then guided the students in a hands-on activity where they could practice the design aspect of quilting themselves! After investigating the process of using batting to place fabric, they were then provided with glue, a gridded paper template, and a multitude of colorful fabrics die-cut into the half-square triangle shape. The 3rd graders then experimented with designing their own quilt patterns using this basic form. They created such a variety of colorful, wonderful patterns inspired by the art they had seen.
After their visit, the Grandview students were kind enough to send us some incredible thank you cards – handmade, of course! Their words of gratitude and inspiring illustrations were appreciated by all of us here at the Craft in America Center. We look forward to welcoming them back in the future for more fun visits with Craft in Schools.