Thursday, February 21, 2013

Guest Artist: Working with Fiber in the Classroom


(All photos courtesy of Camilla Spadafino, art teacher extraordinaire!)

For the last three years, I've been lucky enough to work with Ian's art teacher and students on a collaborative project. There is a theme each year for the school, and the art projects loosely revolve around that theme. Ideally, each classroom has an adult "guest artist" volunteer that comes in to facilitate an art experience for the students. The finished pieces are displayed around the school and an Art Show and fundraiser is held one night each year.

When Ian was in Kindergarten, a friend volunteered me for the "guest artist" position during another event Ian's class was having in the art room. Prior to that, I'd thought myself crafty, but not an "artist". But was I? I'm still trying to figure that one out, but the process of creating with these 5 and 6 year old kids transformed me creatively, no doubt about that!

So far, my favorite project has been felted wool landscapes. The students had already studied landscapes in class, and were familiar with the concept. I brought in a poster board with pictures of examples of fiber art landscapes for the first class meeting, you can see I have my faithful sidekick Silas with me!


Ian's teacher, Camilla, already had multiple examples of abstract landscapes printed out, and we put gorgeous piles of fluffy wool roving at each table as well.


It's a bit tricky to see, and I don't have another photo to show, but before the class meeting I lightly needle felted natural brown wool rectangles, one for each student. These were their "canvasses" for their abstract landscapes.


Here I'm showing a few students how to pull the fibers apart.


There are so many reasons to love this project, the wool is such a wonderful material. It is soft, colorful, can be easily manipulated, doesn't make a mess, and until felting, children can change their canvasses if they wish.


After the students were done placing the wool on their canvas, I took each piece home and lightly needle felted the top. This helped to keep the fibers in place for the next part of the process, the wet felting!


This part was really fun: we placed each wool piece into a large heavy duty zipper type freezer bag and then squirted a mixture of hot water and dish soap inside. Then it was time to pound, squish (gently) and otherwise felt our wool



Voila! After about five minutes of felting inside the plastic bags, I took the bags home and rinsed each landscape in as hot of water as I could stand to continue the felting process. Almost all the wool roving stayed in place! It was very important to me to preserve each artist's vision as much as possible during the felting.


Here they are, hung on the wall! For hangers, I just threaded a piece of plain jute twine into a loop at the top of each piece.


Jen, I can't wait to see pictures of the art show from Ben's school! Be sure to take lots of photos.

Readers, have you participated in an art project or auction similar to this? I'd love to hear about it!


  1. What a cool class art project! I know nothing about needle felting, but this looks like the kids were really involved and the results are beautiful and unique!

  2. Angel, I love this post SO MUCH. The pictures are great and do such a lovely job showing the process and your work in the classroom. You really are an artist, and the kids' landscapes turned out absolutely beautiful! What a cool, original idea and a fun, tactile process.

  3. I am interested to know more about making things from felt. I particularly interested in felt ornaments for next Christmas. Any ideas? Thanks, Andy (Andrea) Providence Rhode Island

  4. The final results are great but I feel that using the plastic bags really detracts from the tactile experience of working with the fleece. You could have used some type of trays to place fleece in, instead of plastic bags......


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