Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Lesson: GIVE ME A HAND!! Henna Inspired Cast Hands





Finally!  A sculpture project- WOO HOO!  In this project, we looked at different types of sculpture techniques; created cast hands using plaster strips; attached the hands to cardboard bases using either plaster strips or papier mache; primed the sculptures white; looked at Henna traditions and other line drawings from different cultures; voted on a class color palette (white, black, and one color); planned our designs in our sketchbooks; painted our design on our hands!  Phew!  That's a lot- so let's break it down. 


First and foremost, students were enlisted to prepare all of the supplies that they needed to make the sculptures.  I had them cut up the larger plaster strips (plaster infused gauze) into smaller, easier to handle plaster strips about 1.5" x 6".  "Who here has ever broken a bone?"  
My colleague Matt Milkowski and I started a "materials bin" and "materials manager" materials system at the beginning of the year in order to dish out and maintain materials per group.  This system worked great!  I was able to place a certain amount of supplies (for example: 2 pairs of scissors, 4 glue sticks, 1 set of color pencils) per group and then account for those materials at the end of each class.  Once in the routine, students understood who was the materials manager that day and the responsibility that went with that role.  
However, as the year went on, the bins became more of my "specific materials bins" instead of student group supplies.  Now one bin was designated the scissors bin, one was the color pencils bin, etc. This happened because projects started to become less structured by the material as they became more conceptual and open ended.  


For this project, however, I went back to the old system; each bin received a handful of plaster strips, one dry bowl (for water), and two pairs of scissors per group.  In the past, one bin would serve a table of 6- this time, I needed enough bins for every 3 students.  


DAY ONE 
On what I would call the FIRST day of this project, I showed a Powerpoint of the sculpture process to the students.  I had them take notes (as usual- Cornell!) in their sketchbooks.  We took a look at what it means to CAST something, and we looked at all the different career fields that use the casting process.  From the arts and entertainment, to geology and archeology, to dentistry and medical (prosthetics, etc), to engineering and manufacturing.  I think the students were a little more interested in the powerpoint when I showed them how XBOX controllers are mass produced. Do students (or any of us, to be honest) really think about where things come from and how they are made?  



In the last 10-15 minutes of class, I had all the student come up to the demo table where I showed them MY hand that I cast for them to see.  First impressions?  "That's RAW Mrs. Taylor!"  (In the beginning of the year, I had to ask what that meant... now I'm accustomed to that lingo- a "THANK YOU" is in order!)  It's always a great feeling to see students get excited about what you are showing them, before they know that it is what they are doing.  Now that I know it's "totally raw," I am happy to announce to them that... "This is what YOU will be doing!"  Ok- a good start.  


While they are around the demo table, I explain to them the process in a nutshell- just a little appetizer before tomorrow's entree.  "You will FIRST need to apply a release of vaseline to your hand.  And why would we want to do that?"  
"Next, you will be dipping the plaster strips into the water buckets, "squeegeeing" off the excess water like this, then placing them onto your hands.  Make sure to criss cross the strips, smoothing the plaster along the way.  You'll need to work fast so that the plaster does not dry too fast.  You'll also need to be very aware to reinforce and support your finger connections!!"




DAYS TWO, THREE, & FOUR
On the second day, we begin.  I don't say a word as the students walk in, but rather, I hand them this handout below and say over and over again, "Read this thoroughly before you start!!"


I was very pleased to see how many students were actually reading!  After about 5 minutes, I'd start calling out, "Ok!  Who is a Handman?  Who is a helper?  Let's go!  We don't have much time!  Let's go!"  (Sometimes students would reply, "Ok ok!  I'm still reading, Mrs. Taylor!!  Geez!")  


After the first day, we all learned a lot of quirks to making this project work.  There were a few hands that didn't turn out, but that was okay.  On the second day, after students began working on the next person's hand, I would call out, "Now, what did we learn from yesterday?  Who can tell me ONE thing we should make sure to focus on?"  Students often came up with the following on their own:


1.  Work fast.
2.  Support finger joints.
3.  Smooth plaster.


These are the 3 main things to remember.  Of course, it was written in my instructions.  BUT!  These tips were really reinforced while students were troubleshooting their own process.  Ahhh, I LOVE this type of learning!!  




DAY FIVE
The hand casting process should take only 3 days since students were working in groups of three- one day per student in each group.  Inevitably, there are students whose hands didn't turn out, whose hands needed small repairs, who didn't even make a hand.  Ideally, on day five, we attached our hands to their cardboard base.  At this point there were some students working on this, some that were repairing their hands, some that chose to work on their Doodle 4 Google (our other ongoing homework project).  I cut up squares of cardboard and students used plaster strips to attach the hands to the cardboard.  Students had to dampen the already hardened plaster in order for the NEW plaster to adhere to the hand.  This process was short and easy.  However!  (Of course, there are always wrenches...)  I RAN OUT OF PLASTER STRIPS!!!  Yes, I did.  Good thing I'm pretty flexible (most of the time), and had students start cutting up newspaper (MAJOR Kudos goes out to whoever stocks our stand with "The Mash" outside the main office- what a life saver!) to begin a papier mache process instead.  While this wasn't as "clean" and more flimsy during the process, the papier mache worked just as well in the long run as the plaster strips in adhering the hands to their base.  
Now- what to do with the students who didn't make a hand?  Well, since we were out of the plaster strips, I gave them an option of making a papier mache balloon version, or (if they had unexcused absences) a cardboard cutout taped to a base.  (I also ran into the few occasions of students claiming someone had stolen their hands, so the same options were given to those students as well.)




DAY SIX
Students primed their hands and bases with thick, white acrylic paint.  I was surprised by students telling each other that the white paint was glue- and they also seemed very confused by the term prime vs. paint (even though I had explained this).  Anyway, before moving forward, I decided it was best to make sure all of my students were at this point- a fresh clean canvas.  Ahhhh... how cool did it look to see all those white hands coming out of the tables!  I wish I had gotten a photo of that.  




DAYS SEVEN & EIGHT

Today we took time to talk about and look at our inspiration for the design on the hands:  HENNA.  I showed a Powerpoint (and again, students wrote notes in their sketchbooks) on a nutshell history of Henna.  We then looked at different line art used in various cultures (mehndi, celtic, islamic), and how we borrow these designs in the contemporary work we create today in graffiti and doodles.  Students then used the remainder of the time to begin designing their hands in their sketchbooks.  They used a variety of line weight, symbols, organic and geometric shapes/lines, to create a design that related to themselves. 


(A SLIGHT TANGENT)  Something that I did not necessarily anticipate (although it was in the back of my mind to do this next year) was that some students remembered drawing the TEXTURE HANDS (a drawing project we made in the first quarter which had students change each finger into a different texture- a focus on the element of design TEXTURE.  In that project, students looked at how to make that texture look three dimensional in a 2D drawing) and some students' designs looked a little like that project.  I did think about combining these project next year and making this the texture unit project.  


Anyway, the students were REALLY engaged in this portion of the project!  I was THRILLED to see what they came up with for the designs.  I handed out packets of "Line Inspirations" of just henna type drawings, symbols, doodles, celtic and islamic inspired line art, etc. I'd say that out of 150 students that I taught this project to, only 3 tried to literally trace the images from the packet.  I was very impressed by the students' want to make their own original piece.  






DAYS NINE through THIRTEEN
On Day 8, (I know, misleading subtitle) I had the students vote on their color palette.  Another colleague, Elizabeth Osborne, suggested that it would look really cool if all the students had one color palette- nice, clean, and a massive attack of hands!  I liked this idea, so I made the students choose a palette per class:  Black, White, and ONE color.  Groan, groan, whine, groan.  Okay- let me tell you how glad I was to have made this choice.  1.  Students hadn't really done a color mixing lesson with me (we did a short color theory lesson on color schemes, but not physically mixing paint).  2.  Too many colors for students who haven't had this lesson typically becomes a mess (both physically and visually).  3.  Students had a large variety of choices- I just had to constantly remind them of all their color/shade combinations they could make.  4.  I was able to really reinforce the idea of clean, graphic lines, and high contrast used in the henna style- which, after all,  IS our inspiration for this project!  5.  For a teacher who carries all the materials on a rolling cart, moving room to room, this really helped keep clean up and materials management down to a routine for me and the students.  Phew!  I can't even imagine what it would have been like having a myriad of acrylic paints for each class!


Each period chose a different color ("Well, ok guys... period 3 already chose red... you don't REALLY want to be like them, do you?").  We had blue, red, green, and purple.  Students could decide on any palette they wanted as long as they used contrast!!  For example, a period 1 student had the freedom to paint their hand dark blue with white, light gray, and/or light blue line work.  Or they could choose to paint their hand black with white linework.  As a class, we talked about the various options students had.  Soon, they realized the amount of freedom they truly had and the grumbles subsided.  




While students painted, I worked more individually to help them learn how to use the acrylic paint in this process- how to get sharp lines, how to clean it up, how to make the lines skinny, how to keep the flow over a bumpy surface.  I have to admit, after the first day of painting I thought, "Oh boy.  Maybe this was not the best choice (the henna inspiration) for this project (hand sculpture)."  After the second day, I was so blown away by how well my students took to this project!  I was very impressed by how well the students did across the board.  Here are some examples!  I would LOVE to have a large installation of all of the hands together but we don't really have a secure location for this type of show.  I will definitely be holding on to many of these for our Kenwood Art Show in May- and maybe even some for next year's All City Art Show.  Enjoy!




35 comments:

  1. Wondering if you could send a copy of your power points! This is so amazing! What a blast!
    nelle3w3@yahoo.ca

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  2. I would love a copy of your powerpoints as well. I am a middle school art teacher and looking for new ideas for sculpture lessons. Thanks aselinlands@yahoo.com

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  3. I would love a copy of ppts as well. I am a high school art teacher back in the classroom after a 6 year hiatus.
    elizabeppes@hotmail.com
    elizabeppes@gmail.com

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  4. Fantastic, could I please have a copy of your ppts also? I'm a secondary Visual Arts teacher.
    natalie.phillips651@schools.sa.edu.au

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  5. Love the idea! Are you able to also send me a copy of the ppts? Art Specialist teacher in primary schools. I am also hoping whether a plaster in paris fixed onto coloured painted timber would also work.
    natz@aspiringart.com.au

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  6. I would love a copy of your ppts also! The idea is great and for my 4th graders perfect! Meredith@mvsc.k12.in.us

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  7. Hi everyone! I'm glad you are liking the projects! I'm in the works for figuring out the best way to publish.

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    1. Did you ever publish? If not, please consider teachers pay teachers.com. I'd also love your powerpoints as a jump point if they also had visual instructions and wouldn't mind paying $5 for them.

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  8. This is great! I've done a Henna Hand project with rubber gloves but I like the collaboration and the ruggedness of this project. Would love to see your Power Point. deborah.pouliot@msad60.org

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  9. How do kids best get their hand out

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    1. Hi Jamie-
      The kids apply vaseline to their own hands first. They always want to rub it in like lotion, so I just tell them to create a "thin" layer on TOP of their skin. Then, once the plaster hardens, they can slowly and carefully wiggle their hand out of the cast. Make sure they don't add plaster to the wrist area- they won't be able to remove their hand. Hope this helps!

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  10. This is my first year teaching middle school art. Thanks for posting your blog. It is inspiring. Could you please send me a copy of the powerpoint as well. Helenskwon@gmail.com. You are doing a great job teaching art!

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  11. This is the first I have seen your wonderful projects. I teach high school art at a drug and alcohol treatment facility and do so many different projects-its always a challenge to see what will keep students engaged. I do the plaster masks with the kids which is a great project for them to express their inner and outward selves or how they want others to see them-they also have to work in pairs to plaster each other. I also do the history of tattooing and they design hand tattoos....so this is a great way to marry these two mediums. Could I also get your powerpoint presentation? parkside11@hotmail.com
    Thanks for your great idea twists on these projects. Peg

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  12. Hi 'd love a copy of your power points too! susanmhorne@yahoo.com

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  13. I did Henna Hands last year with my 6th graders on stuffed latex gloves with permanent marker. Came out great except by April,the time of our district art show, they were disintegrating! Permanent marker ate the latex. I'd like to try these. Could I have a copy of our power point? I'd gladly share back some of mine! Deborah.Pouliot@msad60.org

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  14. I'd love to do this project with my 8th graders. Can I please have a copy of your power points?!? amayp@hotmail.com

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  15. I'd like to do this project with my students. Would you be willing to share your power points? Thanks so much! tamimehus@bigtimber-gs.k12.mt.us

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  16. This is a fabulous art project! I am going to try it with my class in the beginning of December. Would you be willing to email me your PowerPoints? Thank you!! :) shandrea.t@gmail.com

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  17. This project is amazing!! I've already tried out the sculpting portion and was hoping you would send the powerpoints. jeff.flaig@lakotaonline.com
    Thanks for your help...I'm new to the junior high world of art and so far so good!

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  18. Thanks Jeff!
    I just researched henna designs and had the kids make thumbnail sketches first (I always make them sketch several thumbnail versions). I also printed out a packet of line designs as well as henna inspirations to help them get started.

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  19. I would also love the power points if you have any or any resources from the day you talk about careers. Thank you! jlodolce@district100.com

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  20. This seems to be a wonderful art project. I am hoping to try this with my 6th, 7th and 8th grade art club. Would you be willing to share your power points. Thanks for sharing all your great ideas. duffyother@aol.com

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  21. I would love your power points too. You are very inspirational! My email address is gwennwds5@gmail.com. Thank you so much!

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  22. Could you share your power points with me iowaskendall@hotmail.com

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    1. Hi all- Its been a while since I have done this project, and my powerpoints have really changed over the years. I'd suggest googling images of henna art, line design, shape patterns, etc. I find that having reference packets available (or their chromebooks if you have that) really makes a difference in them seeing the sophistication of the artwork.

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  23. This sounds like a great project. Would you please share your powerpoints? dmanning.fes@wpsb.org

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  24. This sounds like a great project. Would you please share your powerpoints? dmanning.fes@wpsb.org

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  25. Thank you so much for posting. This project seems wonderful! Out of curiosity, how did you manage the class while they were waiting the 10 minutes for the plaster to set?

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    1. I was moving around the class so much (as usual) that I didn't really have any issues. Some of the kids were working on smoothing while others were cleaning up. The time is a bit of a crunch. The kids just loved (or loved getting grossed out) this so much that management wasn't an issue.

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  26. yes! please send me your power point presentation asap! my kiln broke and i have lots of plaster for casting- great idea!
    sxs1067@lausd.net
    thank you-

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  27. Are you willing to share your powerpoints, lesson sheets? lastsis@hotmail.com

    thanks so much, love this!!!

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  28. This is awesome! I would also love to have a copy of your powerpoints, if possible! anarookie@rgv.rr.com

    Thanks so much!!

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  29. Are you still sharing your resources for this amazing project? I love it!!!!

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  30. Are your resources for this project still available? If possible johneethiaw09@ggmail.com

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    1. Unfortunately, I have lost that hard drive several times over now. Ugh!

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