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About a month ago, the guys did their last deep dive into printmaking. This week, it’s time for 40 minutes of sculpture talk. From materials to instructional strategies, and everything in between, it’s all up for discussion today! Join the guys as they talk about the best projects for our youngest students (2:00), some issues that Andrew has come across (14:00), and safety issues when you’re using unexpected materials (33:30). Full episode transcript below.
Welcome to Art Ed Radio, the podcast for art teachers. This show is produced by the Art of Education and I’m your host, Andrew McCormick.
Tim has been riving me for some time that we need to do a sculpture specific podcast as I must have mentioned at some point that I have my MFA in sculpture. I don’t think that I mentioned to Tim though how big and weird and kind of funky and intentionally aesthetically weird my sculpture work is, but he doesn’t know that. But it is a passion of mine to bring sculpture to my class and my students. I brought him recently and we went super long. This may end up being the longest podcast we’ve ever recorded. I need to get right to that interview, but before I do I want to remind you all again that The Art Ed Now Conference is taking place next week on August 3rd. Now you’ve probably heard that Sir Ken Robinson is going to be giving the featured presentation. You can see all the details at artednow.com.
I also want to tell you about one of the sponsors for the conference, Artsonia. You all know that for 15 years Artosnia has been committed to helping teachers get more technology into their classrooms. With just one iPad an entire class of students can create digital portfolios on Artosnia. During the conference Jennifer Sims will be presenting on ways that you can utilize those digital portfolios to showcase art work, manage your projects and curriculum, map standards, assess growth, fund raise and advocate for your program. Best of all Artsonia will be giving away two iPad minis during the conference, which is totally awesome. Make sure you register for the conference if you haven’t already at artednow.com. All right, get your blow torches and sculpt them all ready. Tim and I are going way into sculpture with this one.
All right, Tim, thanks for coming on man. We’re talking sculpture specific ideas here. How you’re doing today?
Tim: I am doing really well. I am excited to talk about sculpture. This is going to be good.
Andrew: Yeah, it seems like those media specific podcasts that we’ve been doing like drawing, prep making are really well received, so I was excited to do a sculpture one because that’s kind of near and dear to my heart. I’ll start you off right off the bat throwing you way back in the time machine. I want you to go back in time to when you were an elementary school teacher, rack your brain. What were some of your favorite elementary sculpture projects?
Tim: Oh man, that’s good. I think with elementary my kids were always fascinated when they could make something that they could use. Any time we could do clay and they could do a cup or a mug or a bowl, like an ice cream bowl or a cereal bowl, they went crazy over that kind of stuff. They always loved that that type of sculpture.
Then I would always really enjoy just having them build things out of cardboard. My kids loved to build out of cardboard. They loved doing cardboard robots, things like that. When I would be able to see a class for a while and there the classroom teacher didn’t mind all sorts of sculptures kind of taking over their room, we would do these collaborative cities. One time I taught a summer school class just for three weeks for kids, built a city, it’s like SimCity in real life where you’re actually making all the sculptures and they would build these skyscrapers and these schools and these parks and these churches and just these incredible types of things that they absolutely loved, absolutely get into.
Anything like that is so wonderful for them, but I think more than anything kids just love building with their hands because they have so few opportunities to do that, they have so few chances to experience that. So I don’t think that the project that you do is necessarily as important, just the fact that you’re giving kids those experiences and giving them the opportunity to build, to create, to do sculpture is really what you want to do.
Andrew: Man, dude, we’ve got a whole podcast here. Don’t give away the goods right away. You basically just said why sculpture is so important, and I totally agree with you. I have to comment on that before we’ll kind of keep going with the nitty-gritty brass tacks here, maker education and steam education and tinker and hack education, all of that stuff has its origins in sculpture, like making something that really exists in this three dimensional world. It’s just kind of funny that Makerspaces and Maker Ed is like so trendy or hot and popular. It’s like, dude, like get some scrap wood and a hammer and some cardboard and like and some duct tape. You got it. We’ve been doing that for a long time.
Then it kind of gets driven out as we’re all so obsessed with test and accountability and all this junk. But it’s like you’re right, kids need the time and space and materials to just mess around and make some cool stuff because they don’t get that much anymore. Okay, and I also have to call you out on this. When you said SimCity, I think you totally just dated yourself there man.
Tim: Oh man. I should be.
Andrew: I mean no it’s like Minecraft and I make SimCity.
Tim: I taught the class a long time ago and also I’m old, so whatever excuse you want to give, that’s fine, but …
Andrew: But the funny thing is you could take those same ideas of SimCity let’s make a city, and you could just like, you could hop into an elementary school right now and be like, “Hey, we’re going to make a Mindcraft village.” What does a village have, and it’d still be like the same idea of how to build with cardboard and all of this stuff and streets.
Okay, let’s move forward then. Let’s talk about favorite secondary sculpture projects you’ve ever done.
Tim: Yeah, I am in. My least favorite project but the one that is probably my kids favorite is, I don’t know if you’ve seen those figures that are made completely with packing tape, like the clear packing tape.
Andrew: Oh yeah.
Tim: Yeah, I hate those. They’re so boring. I’ve seen them so many times but my kids absolutely love the process, they love the end result, and it’s always new to them so we always enjoy doing those sculptures. I enjoy anything that has to do with kind of unexpected materials. I love just throwing some random stuff at kids and seeing what they put together or just like we’ve done sculptures out of hot glue, which is absolutely fantastic, it gets expensive so I think I did a donor’s choose to just by like tons and tons of hot glue to make all these great sculptures. But it really gets kids thinking about how to do things a little bit differently and how to craft something three dimensionally with hot glue. It’s a good challenge for them.
But then I always love doing any kind of advanced sculpture or large scale sculpture. Anything large scale with cardboard, whatever other materials work well, but it’s usually cardboard. Anything that’s like a life size or huge I love doing. I had one my kids built a couch out of cardboard, which was pretty spectacular, strong enough to sit on, like full size cardboard couch, which was pretty awesome. But then as far as advanced projects, anything like slip casting with ceramics or doing things with plaster molds. My kids go crazy for all of that kind of stuff and they really, really enjoy that.
What about you? I know you have quite the background in sculpture, which I don’t know if you bragged about that in the intro or not, but if not, you should do that in the closing. Yeah, I know you have a lot of experience. You’ve taught it forever. You’ve done it on yourself. So what are some of your favorites?
Andrew: Wait, I still can’t get over the fact that you don’t like the packing tape figurative sculptures. I mean what’s wrong with you man? That’s a cool project.
Tim: No, it is a cool project. I’m just tired of it. If you teach something for way too many years, it gets boring. I don’t want it to be a staple of my classroom but my kids do, and so you just have to keep doing it over and over even if you don’t like it.
Andrew: Yeah, I think the tape figurative sculpture is the victim of becoming too popular. It’s kind of like the pop song that you like the first time you hear it and then after the 200th time you’re like, “Oh my god, again with Bruno Mars, like gosh. Okay, I get it.”
Tim: But everybody hearing it for the first time loves that song and it’s the same way with the sculpture.
Andrew: Well, and it’s also, like it’s big, it’s flashy, it’s unusual for people who don’t have their finger on the pulse of art education to know that a lot of people are doing this now. It is funny to think about those projects that kind of get popular. I thought you were going to say the one that you hate but students love, which is another project that kind of has had a big splash and everyone seems to do it, is the coat hanger pantyhose-
Tim: Oh yes.
Andrew: and a block of wood, and then you stretch it over and you paint it. I kind of have a love hate relationship with that. I’ve never actually done it with students because I feel like it’s what I call a little black dress, like everyone looks good in a little black dress. You know what I mean. Like even I would look good in a little black dress.
It’s kind of like … Wait, now everyone is like visualizing me. Then I’m a tall dude and you know a little doughy. It’s not a good visual. I’m sorry people. But it’s like … I kind of feel like there’s no way to fail with that sculpture. I do this, I do this, I do this, I paint it. Awesome.
I remember, this is going way back to when I was doing field experience, so this is even like pre-student teaching. I had a cooperating teacher who’s like, “Well, I don’t really like your lesson because there’s no way for the students to fail,” and at the time I was like-
Tim: You’re like, “Wait, that means it’s a great lesson. Yes.”
Andrew: Yeah, you’re crazy. That means I am the best teacher ever. It’s only been, I don’t know, the last four or five years where I’ve noticed like, “Oh, I totally get what she was talking about.” This is so vacuum-sealed air-tight slam-dunk. They’re not really learning anything because it’s so safe and guaranteed hit that they’re not really going to learn anything. So that’s kind of my beef with that project.
Now I don’t mean to throw aspersions to anyone who is doing that project because I do think there are some ways that you can jazz up that lesson plan where it gets a little more interesting and a little cooler. One of my favorite projects, and it’s really weird and it’s not anything that looked cool, but it was I think really memorable and really fun and the kids had to think in like really different ways. It was kind of like my first salvo into this the idea of special effects art or costumes.
I did this project that I called The Gauntlet where students had to make cardboard armor that would actually fit a member in their class. The idea, we kind of looked at feudalism and knights and we did a drawing project before then, which was like contemporary family shields or family crest and it was kind of a fun project. I was like, “All right, now we’re going to take this drawing. We’re going to put it like on our armor that we’re actually going to make out of cardboard and you have to wear it.” I realized that students, some of them would not be into putting on armor and making weapons and helmets. So what I did was I partnered them up with like, okay, you’re a knight and you’re going to wear the armor and then you’re a squire and you’re going to help build the armor to go.
I was really into it at this time. I think I was into season four of Game of Thrones. All the houses and all of this. But it was really fun because they had to actually do a lot of what I would consider to be steam education, okay, measure this. Okay, if I cut the cardboard here and fold it here, that’s not going to be the right size, and you need to put a dart in it, and here’s what a dart looks like. It’s a triangle. We built some armor. We built some helmets. We built some weapons. We then went into the gym and I let the knights kind of beat the crap out of each other, and it was like super, super fun.
Now the photos, there were a handful of photos out there floating around somewhere, it’s not like great sculpture, it’s not like, “Oh, look at this beautiful piece of artwork.” It was a process, it was a memorable experience, and I think it taught them a lot. So that was a big hit for me. I really liked that one. I haven’t brave enough to do that one in a bunch of years because is really time-consuming, it was really a space hog, it just ate up my classroom space. I have all this armor and weapons sitting around. I actually also had a girl who got kind of smacked in the face pretty hard.
Tim: Yeah, you were talking about that. It’s like, are we safe here?
Andrew: It was mostly safe and then right at the end there was one person who kind of got stupid and smacked this girl kind of hard on accident. This was a nice kid who did this. She was kind of banged up a little bit. I took her to the nurse and I was like … I saw like my professional career going out in front of my eyes. I was like, “I’m going to get fired. My children are going to be homeless and not eat.” This girl was like the nicest girl in the world. She’s like, “Yeah, my nose hurts, but that was really fun and awesome.”
I called the mom that night and I was like, “I’m so, so incredibly sorry. I can’t believe this happened,” and that was probably stupid of me to say. It’s like I gave students cardboard weapons and let them screw around in the gym for like 20 minutes. What the hell did I think was going to happen? But she was like, “No. You are her favorite teacher. Your class is her favorite class. It’s totally fine.” I was like, “Oh, awesome,” so like danger can be a part of a classroom and we can be okay. But it all turned out well.
But I think if I’m going to do the gauntlet again I have to figure out some ways to make it a little bit more foolproof and safe and all of that stuff. Okay, I want to switch gears up here a little bit. I think from here on out, we’ve been talking for a while, I’ve been talking about that gauntlet project for too long. No more talking about ceramics. We can’t talk about ceramics. We have to only talk about sculpture that doesn’t use ceramics because ceramics is like it’s whole world onto itself with all the tools and techniques and issues that come with that.
I started using sculptamold I don’t know four or five years ago and I’d never used it before then. I didn’t know what the heck it was. I thought it was kind of weird. I am a total convert. I love sculptamold. It’s like pulverized paper that you just get wet. There’s very little mess or cleanup and it’s awesome. I really love it. It dries super hard. You can sand it. You can paint it. It’s like paper mache but way less messy, is super cool, pretty cheap. You can even make homemade sculptamold. There’s lots of recipes online about how to make pulverized paper pulp.
But here’s the thing. You have to be very careful about using sculptamold that is does not actually mold on you, because you can if you use too much or you don’t use the right armature you can basically trap a lot of moisture inside of that stuff and all of a sudden your students’ sculptures can look like a chia pet head and start growing fuzzy stuff off the top of it, and that is not good. That ruins everybody’s semester. I actually had that happen just last year. I was like, “Man, I’ve been doing this too long to make that mistake,” but students were putting it on too thick and then because we were tight for storage they were putting it away in these closets and then closing the door. The combination of that moisture and that dark, we’d open it the next day and like, “Mr. McCormick, why is my sculpture fuzzy?” I was, “Oh my god.”
Okay, here is a big take away from that. We built armatures and we are doing this figurative work and I did wire armature and then we flesh it out with paper. Then we’d put the sculptamold on the paper. Well the paper, the first layer of paper was what got moldy. If I were going to do that project again or do wire armature aluminum foil as sort of the first layer to bulk out some of the kind of volume and then put the sculptamold on because then there’s really nothing other than the sculptamold to take the moisture and to get wet. I think you would solve a lot of your mold issues by using aluminum foil instead of a newspaper armature. Man, we got really nerdy right there on armature and all that stuff, so I hope people are still with us.
Tim: Yeah. Because I’m feeling like you said the big takeaway is how to work with armatures and choosing the correct materials, but honestly I think everybody’s big takeaway is that you are a crazy teacher who lets kids beat the crap out of each other and grows mold on his sculptures.
Andrew: Danger is the spice of the art room man. You’ve got to have a little danger every once in a while.
Tim: Fair enough.
Andrew: We’ve talked elementary. We’ve talked secondary at length. Let’s talk just in general weirdest project you’ve ever done, or maybe you haven’t done a weird sculpture project but there’s like a project that you wanted to do some day and you’re just like, “If only I could figure out X, Y, Z, I’m going to do the sculpture project.”
Tim: Yeah, okay, so this actually kind of follows up pretty well with your armature idea and your figurative sculpture. With my seniors one year or actually a couple of years we did this, we looked at Duane Hanson. I don’t know if you’re familiar with him, but just these super realistic life size sculptures. It’s like photo realism but come to life in three dimensions. I had kids built these life size figures. We used chicken wire to create the armature and then wrap that with just some paper. Then over the top of that we actually went to Goodwill and went shopping for clothes for these figures. So they would just buy these clothes and put them over the figures and then shoes, socks, everything, and then the parts that were left exposed were hands and faces.
We actually did like plaster casts of the hands and then I would have kids sculpt the faces in plaster as well. We have literally these life size figures that are all dressed as normal but then their hands and their faces are made of plaster. They were just some spectacular projects and I quit doing it because it was so time-consuming. We spent literally months on these things, but they were absolutely incredible. That’s probably the biggest weirdest thing that I’ve done. I wouldn’t mind revisiting those again sometime. What about you?
Andrew: No. No. I got to hear more about these sculptures first.
Tim: Okay, all right.
Andrew: Do they still exist? I mean how does something like that go home? That’s a problem I’ve had with some of my big sculptures that are collaborative. Students are like, “Well, I don’t want it. I don’t want it. I don’t want it.” Where do those exist now?
Tim: Well a couple of them lived in the art room for a long time. A couple people took them home with them. They just get loaded up into the back of a truck and who knows where they go from there. That’s one of the benefits of teaching high school. You just say, “Hey, you have to take this home. Let’s stuff it in the back of your car and get it out of here.” Then they can deal with it from there. So who knows where they are.
Andrew: You say that they were super cool. But come on. They were a little bit creepy, right-
Tim: They were super creepy. Our custodian was really disconcerted. He’d come in the room and think there were people in there, or people who hadn’t seen us working on these sculptures would come in and just like this weird thing in the corner would scare the crap out of them. At first glance they looked like people, which is a great reaction.
Andrew: Okay, now I will tell you. I have for a number of years done a Styrofoam head zombie project that was inspired by my love of this TV show and sci-fi called Face Off, not the Nicolas Cage movie where he loses his face. It’s kind of like Project Runway meets special effects, makeup, and costuming. It’s awesome. I really love it. At the time I launched this project I think it was like season one or season two and now they’re up to like season 11 or 12. A lot of my students were like, “I’m loving the show, I’m loving the show,” and I wanted to kind of tap into that. They were really cool and really fun. I think I would still be doing it now if I didn’t have some budgetary constraints because buying a Styrofoam head that’s at most $5.00 and as cheap as $3.50 when you have a bunch of kids, that’s a big, that’s a budget killer right there.
Tim: Oh yeah.
Andrew: I’d like at some point if I’m taking that to the next level to maybe work with my IT department and say like, “Listen, can we take one positive plaster mold of a human face,” and then like, “Can we make a Styrofoam cast of that?” There is a way that you can take polystyrene beads and then mold that into your mold, which then I mean that starts getting cross curricular, collaborative. It’s kind of esteemed lesson to have students like, “Hey, this is polystyrene and it’s different than polyurethane, and we’re going to make a mold of it.”
I think at some point I’d like to morph that into it but that project is kind of like the gateway project for me thinking about special effects art classes that I want to start teaching. I’ve been doing a lot of research on special effects, makeup, how to take poly … I think it’s polyurethane foam, the stuff that’s like mats on the floor that you can step on that are kind of squishy. A lot of day care centers have them. You can heat that stuff up and then bend it and then it cools and it stays in that form. A lot of people make armor and weapons and stuff like that. So I’m back to kind of the gauntlet idea, but maybe making it a little less of a fight in the gym and more like, “Hey, let’s make super cool foam armor that would look like super cool and believable in a movie, special effects type of stuff. That’s actually where I’m wanting to go on the next year or two with some of my sculpture curriculum.
Tim: I like that. I like that. But at the same time though I feel like we’re talking about all of these crazy advanced projects. Let me ask you. What are some of the basic things that you think are worthwhile that people can dive into before they start going crazy with gauntlets and melting Styrofoam and building life size sculptures?
Andrew: Yeah. So I think just familiarizing students with reductive carving. Here’s a block of foam. Here’s a block of plaster. Let’s carve it. That can be done in clay too. I’m not going to say we can’t talk about clay at all, but that presents its own thing. But reductive, additive, let’s do a Louise Nevelson sort of three dimensional collage where we’re taking found objects and layering it together and creating space. Let’s work with some entry level sculptural materials like you mentioned, cardboard, but let’s go wire armature.
I mean you can with wire really easily morph a two-dimensional drawing into a three-dimensional drawing. I know that that’s a pretty popular project out there. Found objects, so a book sculpture, taking a book and deconstructing it and doing something with it, plaster, paper mache, the sculptamold, those are kind of some basic things that if you kind of start letting students play with, and one of the things I realized when I first started doing that zombie head, when we do two dimensional work we often have our students do what first? We have them do sketching.
In three dimensional work it’s like, “Okay, maybe draw a two-dimensional sketch of what you want to do and now do it right away.” We don’t let them have that time to like play and experiment with what would that look like in three-dimensional space. So if I had like a crazy budget I‘d have like three tons of plasticine clay, like oil based clay that you can just kind of play with and then, “Okay, that’s a model, smash it up, someone else can do it now and use it again.” I think that would be really helpful because then it’s like there’s no stress involved, you don’t grade this. It’s like, “Here is your model. You made it. Take some photos. Now see if you can interpret that in plaster or armature or whatever it is.”
Tim: Yeah, I think those are some really good ideas. If I can add just a couple basic things that I like to. I think found object sculptures are fantastic. Just getting kids the concept of taking these disparate materials, putting them together, creating some kind of a sculpture with them. You mentioned working with cardboard. One thing that I love to do is have kids create polyhedrons and we can link to this website that I love to use, but it is really simple to just have kids cut squares or cut triangles and put those together to make all of these different polyhedrons, whether it’d be as simple as cubes or like icosahedrons or all sorts of weird things. You can do them any size you want. You can put multiple polyhedrons together to create other sculptures. It’s a real simple way to get started and get kids used to just working with the material and putting the simple things together, but then you can scaffold that knowledge pretty easily and move on some more advanced things, but I think that’s always a good place to start.
Andrew: Well yeah and that’s a great time with math and geometry, which you know kids … Oh how can you like math and also be an artist? It’s like what is geometry other than like math art? Like it’s awesome.
Tim: Yes. Exactly.
Andrew: Hey man. We’ve been going on for a long time here. I didn’t know you were such a nerd about sculpture like I am. I think with-
Tim: Can I throw something out there just real quick?
Tim: You, expert of sculpture, MFA in sculpture, all that good stuff. I have a little confession to make. I got through all of undergrad, like all of undergrad without ever taking a sculpture or a ceramics class. So all of this interest, all of this development has been self-taught stuff and things that I’ve been interested after I started teaching. How crazy is that?
Andrew: Well, it’s crazy but it’s not that crazy, because I think you just spawned a new podcast topic which is what the heck is wrong with art education teacher preparation, because we’re expected to know all of the stuff in the studio, in art history. Oh, and then also by the way, let’s learn how to motivate and chorale all of these different types of learners of the education side of it. Teachers come out of teacher prep colleges with huge blind spots in their preparation. I know nothing about jewelry. If you wanted me to do some small metal stuff, I would be at a complete loss. Never did it. I never had time to do it. It’s not that weird. I think it’s awesome though that you’ve kind of upped your game kind of just on your own because that’s what as teachers we have to do.
Tim: Yeah, I think so. Yeah, I’m just, I’m fascinated. I mean this is a whole another six episodes we could do, but I’m just fascinated by what teachers don’t know coming out of undergrad. It is just trial by fire, where when I moved from elementary to high school I had to teach sculpture class, I had to teach ceramics class and I had never done that. So the first semester was pretty rough but eventually I got into it and I really, really learned to love it. Hopefully other people in that situation can kind of find their interest as well so.
Andrew: I have a couple more big questions man, but I think if I ask this we’re going to be going on the longest episode ever.
Tim: That’s okay. Hey, you know what? We do these deep dives and these studio based ones are the long episodes that we can get away with. So hit it, hit me with it. Like what else we got. All right.
Andrew: I think this will separate the true fans from the novice fans if they’re still listening at this point. I want to talk about some of the big obstacles, kind of like you’re mentioning about maybe someone who is not well versed in sculpture, why they’ve shied away from it. I think that they can be two fold. I think space, so space and storage, let’s call that one issue, and the other one would be safety. I don’t feel that I can do this in a safe manner. Let’s talk about those. Talk about some of the obstacles in storage and space and safety, and how you’ve been able to overcome some of those things.
Tim: I don’t have a lot of experience with storage because I had one of the greatest art rooms of all time and it was old but it was huge, like there’s more square footage than my house has, so we had plenty of space to just build these crazy sculptures. That’s always kind of fun. I know not everybody is that lucky, but I don’t know, but I have a lot of great ideas as far as storage goes, unless people just want to have an absolute disaster of a classroom like you do.
But as far safety issues I think there’s a lot that needs to be dealt with depending on what you’re going to be doing. If we’re doing cardboard do you need to worry about cutting, and if you’re doing hot glue or you’re melting anything with blow torches or whatever, you need to worry about kids getting burned. The list goes on and on. But I think what you need to do more than anything is just make safety part of your demonstration and part of your teaching every single time. Kids can’t have enough reminders about being safe. I think that’s probably the key, is you just need to make sure that you emphasize that in your teaching and on a day to day basis.
Then if I can add just one other thing as far as obstacles go, I think budgeting is huge. We talked a lot about cardboard and a lot of those cheaper materials you can use, but when you really want to do cool things like those Styrofoam heads or tape sculptures or hot glue sculptures, that stuff gets expensive really, really quickly and it really is kind of limiting. If you can get donations, if you can do donors choose, if you can work with your PTA to get around some of those issues, then I think that obstacle is probably a little more surmountable, but obviously you’re not in the ideal situation when you’re dealing with that as well. Let’s dive into safety a little bit more. What do you do as far as safety goes when you’re not letting kids hit each other in the face?
Andrew: Okay, that was the low point of my students safety issues. That was an all time low.
Tim: Fair enough.
Andrew: For the most part I do think I balance organized chaos and safety pretty well. I do a good job of explaining students upfront here are the handful of tools that you can use and here’s the proper way to use it. Then I just tell kids like, “Hey, like when students are using the jigsaw,” for example, I have a powered jigsaw. It’s not too hard core. I just tell the class like if someone’s going to use the jigsaw that is the place where I am going to be. I am going to be right next to that person, watching that person. So if you have a dumb little ticky-tack question about, “Does this color look good with this,” don’t even ask me that, because right now I’m dealing with people who are using power tools.
Students got pretty good at knowing like okay, if there’s a group or a student who is using something sort of out of the norm, a tool or a device that’s a little different, Mr. McCormick is going to be next to that person and don’t mess around or don’t ask them questions at that time.
I actually think ventilation and eye safety were some of the biggest things that I always worried about because when you’re talking about whether it’s spray paint or melting something or even taking apart old technology, I used to do like steampunk lessons where we would take old VCRs and radios apart. Kids, they love that, they love the destructive side of that and they’re just like,“I’m going to take a hammer to this and smash it.” I’m like, “And you’re going to have shrapnel flying around the room. So you’re going to do this outside,” and at the time I had a patio, which was really nice to get to. This last year I did not have that, but I’m moving schools and I now have a really nice patio off the side of my new art room, which will be really cool.
Tim: Nice. Nice.
Andrew: To be mindful, to be mindful of those things. Everyone needs to wear eye protection. You need to be outside. No you can’t do it that way because this is not safe. When you’re doing those projects I just as a teacher you have to be hyper alert and diligent with what kids are doing and it will work out fine. Now with eye wear, this is really nerdy, but like try to buy some or get some that aren’t super nerdy and disgusting, because kids are like, “I don’t want to wear those.” It’s like, “Well, you may not like the way you look, but you’re going to like a screw in the eyeball a whole lot less.” I did just recently buy like a set of 20 kind of sleek cool looking eye wear that my students don’t mind that much, and that kind of helped them buy into wearing them at all times when we’re using tools.
Tim: Yeah, that’s cool. That’s a good idea.
Andrew: With storage it’s tricky. I have photos of my room when it’s been absolutely destroyed and it’s getting better every year. My new mantra is I’ll clear everything. I just try to make sure that I have a ton of all clear bins with clear lids and everything is labeled really well. We try to get all the little PVC pieces go in this bin and the wire and wire cutters go in this bin, and it seems to help. I know with this talk we can be guilty of skewing a little bit secondary. I think if you’re elementary and you want to go a wire armature or hot glue gun or Exacto blades in fifth and sixth grade a little older be very deliberate and intentional about what you show them, and then maybe there are some things that they don’t need to do. Maybe they don’t need to have the wire cutters and be cutting the wire themselves. Maybe you pre-cut some of the wire to eliminate some of the side effects that might happen with that.
Again, I think it gets back to one of the things we talked about last week, which was like every teacher has to kind of evaluate their own classroom and needs and think about what is safety in your classroom and what do your students look like.
Tim: Yeah, I think that’s a really good piece of advice. If I can just tell you also, it warms my heart to know that you’re being organized and using clear containers. I just love hearing that.
Andrew: Tim, you’re rubbing off on me. I’m getting a lot better. It’s actually Alicia who’s the most … She is my guiding light when it comes to organization.
Tim: Yeah absolutely.
Andrew: All right man. Well, let’s kind of wrap this up. I want to just imagine a teacher out there who feels kind of like you did, coming out college, 3D is not my jam, I don’t have a lot of experience. We’re going to give him some sources or artists or inspirations out there that they can look at. But I want you to think a little bit outside the box. If you were to advise someone to go look at something maybe out of the norm for sculptural ideas, where would you send people?
Tim: Oh man, I don’t know if I want to go too far out of the norm, especially with people who are just starting, but I will say that the best go to is just looking at contemporary artists. There are so many incredible artists out there that have been making sculptures in the past 20, 30 years, and a bunch that are working today that just create these incredible things that can give you some inspiration for lessons you may want to put together or give your kids some inspiration for things that they may want to do like we talked about those tape sculptures. Mark Jenkins does a bunch of great things with that like Duane Hanson does some incredible things. I love Ai Weiwei and Maya Lin. We talked about some of these a couple weeks ago on the contemporary artists episode. But yeah, if you just look at contemporary artists that are out there, there is just an endless supply of ideas that like I said can work for you or can work for your students. So what about you? Where does your inspiration come from?
Andrew: Okay, so I stumbled across this guy’s YouTube channel about a week ago. He’s been a hero of mine for a long time, but I did not know that he had such an awesome YouTube channel, and it is Adam Savage who is actually not an artist, but he is one of the guys in Mythbusters. He’s actually a big fan of Art Education and hands-on practical education. He’s really interesting. He has a YouTube channel called Tested and he has a lot of one day sculptural projects. Now they’re not art so much as they’re like contraptions and props and devices. But it’s like just really cool to see sort of the stuff that he comes up with and the way that he handles things. I love that channel and I actually think there could be some really cool contemporary inspirations that a teacher could look at that YouTube channel and pull into their classroom that would really spark their students interests. That’s Tested by Adam Savage. It’s a good one.
Tim: Yeah, I like that. We’ll make sure we link that in the show notes. But I need to check that out myself as well. That sounds really cool.
Andrew: Yeah it’s really cool. Well, hey man. Thanks for coming on. I feel like I need a nap now. That was like a marathon session. I’m like burnt out on talking to you.
Tim: No doubt. But hopefully everybody stuck with us and hopefully they found it worthwhile, so thanks for having me on.
Andrew: Yeah, we’ll see later man, bye.
Andrew: I don’t even know where or how to wrap this one up. The visual of me in a little black dress, the fact that Tim hates those awesome packing tape sculptures, that I used to let kids fights in the gym with cardboard armor. I think the big takeaway is that sculpture units and curriculum can be crazy fun. It taps into our students’ innate drive to be tinkerers, to play, and they don’t get enough of that in their lives. Whether you adopt some of the big goofy weird and creepiest sculptures that Tim and I talked about, or maybe some of the more practical introductory materials and techniques, you’ll be happy you did and so will your students.
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