My last blog post described an elementary school artist-in-residence program I participated in, working with fourth grade classes. After finishing with the fourth grades, I began working with each of the fifth grades. Our assignment was to make a class art quilt, illustrating the students special memories from their time spent at the school.
We began with a planning session, brainstorming ideas and doing rough sketches. Students were asked to pick one larger element to showcase, so it could be seen from a distance. Smaller details or designs were added to the background. For example, several students chose to draw the musical instrument they played in the band, adding musical notes in the background. Other students drew themselves wearing their patrol badge, chose an element representing the school fair, or drew portraits of themselves and their best friend.
Because a sewn quilt was a bit too complex a task to accomplish during our allotted time, (and beyond my capabilities), we assembled the art quilts using painted fabric squares, using the following supplies:
1. Precut squares of fabric in a neutral color, approximately 8X8 inches, one per student.
2. Any liquid type of acrylic paint-inexpensive craft acrylic paint works well.
3. Large piece of patterned background fabric, measured to accommodate as many squares made per class.
4. Old broom handle, curtain rod or even a varnished and sealed branch to hang the quilt.
5. Paintbrushes, paper cups for water, paper plates to mix paint, paper towels and plastic trash bags to protect desks. Fabric glue to assemble all parts. For embellishments: black sharpie paint pens, ribbon, buttons, beads or other elements that can be glued on to fabric.
After the paint fully dried, students outlined their paintings using a black Sharpie paint pen. Beads, buttons or other embellishments were glued on top of painted squares. Squares were then glued in rows to the large patterned background fabric. Each square was then framed using strips of ribbon. Mismatched ribbon pieces add a lot of colorful interest! Most of the supplies were donated by parents as well as contributions from the PTA. We used some colorful sheets for the background fabric, and students brought in beads, ribbon etc., from home, keeping our costs down.
A similar project could also be done as a writing exercise, using squares of colored or patterned paper glued to a larger background piece. Have students write a paragraph or two about their fondest school memories, or challenge them to write these in poetic form.
The completed quilts will be hung and displayed first at the fifth grade graduation, then moved for permanent installation in the new school, sharing their memories with many more students in years to come.