Sunday, September 16, 2012

Amate Paper "Spirit Figures" Capture Our Imaginations!

In the last post I demonstrated the method we used to make faux amate paper. We made this paper to use as the surface for this project as well as a spare sheet for the next assignment.  My students were asked to use one half of their paper to fold and cut an original figure of an imaginary "spirit" that represented an area of their lives.  Hmmm....that sounds kind of weird, right?  Well it's not that strange once you introduce your students to the Otomi Indians of Mexico.  They are farmers who fashion "spirit figures" from Amate paper to represent the spirits of plants.  They believe that these paper figures can be used, with the help of the village shaman, to manipulate the success of their crops.  What I really like about this lesson is that you can encourage open-ended problem-solving by having a great class discussion about the Otomi culture, but then shift gears to get the kids to make connections to their own lives.  I asked them, "If you believed that a paper figure could influence an area of your life, what type of figure would you make?" Students considered areas of their lives that they could be more successful in as well as areas that they are fearful of or have difficulty with. "What if you could affect these areas?"  You could see the "lightbulbs" turn on as students began the brainstorming stage. They used a planning worksheet and discussed ideas.  I asked, "What types of shapes would you need to include to help define what your figure is about?"  "How will you show symmetry in your design?" " How can you simplify the shapes so they are recognizable without showing any drawings on the paper?"

This student is working on cutting out a rough draft of one of his ideas for a figure.  You can see the planning worksheet on the table where three different ideas were developed.  The entire figure was cut from one sheet of photocopy paper.  Negative shapes were carefully cut from the inside of the figure. Sometimes we used a hole punch for small areas like eyes.

Here are two really great rough draft figures.  They were made by Faith M. in Period 1.  The figure on the left is the "Spirit of Pizza" (check out the hole-punched pepperoni) and the other is the "Spirit of Money".  He is holding bags with dollar signs and his hairs are dollar bills.  The kids selected their favorite one and used it as a tracing guide for the final draft.  They folded a half sheet of the brown paper and placed the white template over the edge of the folded side.  Using a pencil, they simply traced one half of the figure, removed the template and then cut through the folded papers.  The result is a figure that has perfect symmetry!

Remember how I mentioned that each final draft figure was cut from one half sheet of the brown faux amate paper?  Well, the other half was used to make the parts for the patterns on the frame.  I asked students to glue their figure to a black paper and then onto a larger manila paper.  The entire project measures 12"x15".  I showed them how to cut the paper into strips, fold the strips and cut multiple shapes at once.  They were also required to use positive and negative shapes. This impressive figure is the "Spirit of the Sun" and was made by Selin in Period 3.  I think her choice of frame shapes really compliments her figure.
This figure is the "Spirit of Math".  Student artist Steven made it because he needs help with his dislike of all things math-related.  You can see math books, plus signs, minus signs and multiplication signs.  His frame design is elaborate and I noticed when I posted this that he is missing one shape in the bottom corner; it was there when I graded this project and now it is not.  I'll take the blame for that!

Below I've added many examples so you can get an overall sense of the variety of awesomeness the students created.  Enjoy!
The "Spirit of Lightning" by Jonathan M. shows the sharp lightning bolts electrifying his figure.  The hands look very "Wolverine" don't they?

The "Spirit of Candy" by Miranda C.  The face looks like she is on a sugar high!

The "Spirit of Pants" by Caitlyn in Period 6.  The use of so many  pants tend to make the image look Native American to me...what do you think? His shoes even look like moccasins!

The "Spirit of Summer" by Mary D. in Period 1.  Palm trees, ocean waves and the big heart as a negative shape in the middle help us know her feelings about her favorite season.  If only we could make Summer last forever....  This frame is amazing, by the way!

The " Spirit of the Husky" by Avonlea.  This figure does such a great job of representing many symbols that might appeal to a husky dog.  I see a t-bone steak, fire hydrants, bones and tennis balls.  The frames is also adorable!  Check out the way she has used all of the tiny punched holes on the short side that were punched from the squares on the long sides! One day you will get your husky, Avonlea!

The "Spirit of Squares" by Janisse.  This figure and the frame have a really cool pixelated effect that make her work look very different from the other students' work.  This was a lot of intricate cutting!  Well done!
The "Spirit of Music" by Alex P.  This figure and frame took great effort to design, draw, cut and glue. The musical notes and keyboards are interesting and rhythmic to look at!  Excellent craftsmanship and effort, Alex!
I showed the rough draft of this figure above, but I wanted you to see the end result of Faith's "Spirit of Money." figure.  This one makes me chuckle; who wouldn't want their own one of these?

Louis created the "Spirit of Hockey" for his figure.  The overlapping hockey sticks are so plentiful they make an intricate design of negative and positive shapes.  Talk about a challenge to cut with school scissors!  Remember, these are cut in one piece!  Nothing was glued on to add to the design of the figure and we didn't use exacto knives either!
And finally, here is the "Spirit of Shopping" by Amanda C.  Her figure is loaded with personality as she enthusiastically shows us some of her new purchases.  I see dresses, skirts, shoes and it looks like she didn't even have time to take them off the hangers yet!

I hope you have enjoyed viewing this lesson.  If you have any questions or comments please let me know and I'll be sure to get back to you soon!  Coming next- "Painting on Amate Paper: Documenting Scenes of Daily Life."  Fun, Bright, cartoon-like paintings are currently in process inside Room 9!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Let's Get Started: Amate Paper Figures!

Sorry for my lack of posts recently, but I'm finally at a place where the "back to school crazies" have subsided.  Yeah!  I always feel such a relief when my students finish the first project of the new school year.  Our first lesson this year is a new twist on the traditional Mexican folk art known as Amate Paper Figures.  The Otomi Indians create these figures from handmade paper from the Amate tree.  The bark paper comes in different shades of tan and different thicknesses.  The paper is folded in half, shapes are carefully cut and the resulting figure is a great example of symmetry and imagination.  
I will go into more detail about the objectives and goals of the lesson in the next post, but for today I wanted to show you a new and easy method for creating faux amate paper.  

There are several ways to make a surface to imitate the look of bark paper, but most of them are somewhat time-consuming and have a significant drying time.  I needed a method that was quick, easy and used no special or unusual supplies.  Each student made two 12x18 sheets of this paper; one for this assignment and one to set aside for another assignment.  In the picture above you can see the first step.  Peel a piece of brown crayon, place a sheet of white paper over a flat piece of a cardboard box and rub the crayon in different directions over the texture of the box.  Remember that you are trying to have some areas of light, medium and dark.

Use a large soft brush to paint diluted brown paint over the entire paper.  The crayon will resist the paint and the paint will fill in the white areas.

Use a squished up piece of a dry paper towel to blot off some areas completely while you leave more paint in other areas to add to the textural effect of the different brown tones.

Here's a preview of an amate figure made by an 8th grade student in Period 1. This was cut from one half sheet of her paper which she made by using the method described in this post.  I'll be sure to post several amazing amate figures soon!