David Fox airbrushing. ©Susan Shie 2001.Turtle Trax Diary for March 28, 2001. Page #31

Winter Adventures in Beautiful Ohio!

by Lucky Magnolia (Susan Shie)

Page One

If you like, go to Page Two of this diary entry.

Detail of St. Q's Cookies.©Shie and Acord 2001.Topics in this diary: Our Jan-Feb residency at Tussing Elementary School near Columbus, OH; Floyd's guitar; microburst tree knockdown in our ravine; Mom and St. Quilta; Turtle Art Camp Feb 21 -27; the new Mantis tiller; Maxine's Mini-Art-Camp; and first new St. Quilta painting on matt board.

Our Tussing Elementary School residency in Pickerington, OH, was from January 22 through February 16, 2001. Our main sponsors were The Ohio Arts Council Artists in Education program and the Tussing PTO. The Ohio EPA also contributed grant funds.

In our initial time at Tussing, we gave slide talks to the student body, about our own artwork and began the painting process of 26 scenery murals about world environments. Meanwhile, the Core Group and we began making puppets of lovebirds.

Our project end goal became to create a puppet show about the two live lovebirds in the artroom, who were nesting. They would have a "Rainbow Reunion" of all their relatives from seven different environments around the globe, and show the new babies to these visitors. We'd make 27 scenery paintings to be hand quilted, to become the backgrounds for the play. And the Core Group would make 19 hand puppets of lovebirds, as well as writing and acting in the actual play. The play would be presented to the whole school, and, oh yes, we eventually threw in making coloring books to give to all the over-800 students, with each page made by a different Core Group student. And, if we'd have time, we'd make Core Group "Rainbow Reunion" tee shirts.

Rainbow is the female real artroom bird, and Lemon Pepper is her husband, beau, whatever!

Students painting murals. ©Susan Shie 2001.Once we got our ideas clear on the play's basic plot, classes began painting the murals. A class of 25 students would either start or add to six or seven murals at once, during their hourlong session with us. (Four kids at a table or floor space with one mural per group.) Here you can see the start of one of the three desert murals, as students discuss together what will go into the picture. They would have to just start painting, with no preplanned ideas. Later classes would sit down to a mural in progress and add more painting to it, until at least three, possibly four classes had worked on painting each of the 27 paintings.






Becky airbrushing. ©Susan Shie 2001.Here is Becky Lieb, one of 16 Core Group students in our project. She's a fourth grader, and the Core Group was a mixture of second and fourth graders at Tussing.

Becky was the first one to airbrush on the brush-painted scenery paintings, and she took to it like a duck... Aztek airbrushes are really user friendly, kid-proof, and forgiving! Becky outlined all the images in this City mural, including tons of windows!



Teachers bind the edges of the first mural made into a quilt sandwich. ©Susan Shie 2001.The mural on which Becky had airbrushed lines over the painting, was the first one the afterschool teachers' workshop attacked to make into a quilt sandwich. Here are Amy Wolf, Sharon England, Lonna Huber, and Mary Sheridan stitching away all together. We used one large backing fabric for each quilt, and I showed them some of the Lucky School of Quilting Techniques, to make a self border with the backing fabric. We got 21 quilts made for the play, in the end, with some help from the Teachers' Workshop, who created the sandwiching for each quilt and did some of the quilting, and with lots of hard work from the kids. There are still six more painted murals to be sewn and quilted by students and teachers together!
Lucky telling a girl how to untangle her sewing mess! ©Susan Shie 2001.Lots of one-on-one teaching happened in this residency. We almost always had me, either Mary or Kim or both of them, and the home room teacher with each class. Once in a while we even had a sub or mom included! The students were only second through fourth graders, so their sewing skills were barely beginning! Some of them did remarkably well. Some had stories about moms or grandmas who have given them sewing lessons already. Many were impressed by how hard it is to sew, and they worked hard, gaining a lot of skill in a short time. We were really thrilled whenever we got a class back, that had already sewn with us. Then we could relax more, as they didn't need our basic sewing lectures and demos this second time!
Mary and Core Group students working hard to finish one of hte murals. ©Susan Shie 2001.Most of the Core Group's work and time went into the puppets and the play itself, but sometimes they had to work on the murals, just like the peripheral groups did. The Core kids liked this a lot, and also enjoyed when they came in with their individual home rooms. Then they would help the other kids with sewing, since Core Students had learned a lot about knots, threading needles, and getting out of thread jams! I think this picture was taken when the Core Group was worn out from rehearsing for the play, and was relieved to sew instead!


Ashley airbrushing. ©Susan Shie 2001.The bird puppets, once finally done being painted and hand sewn, needed eyes and tongues. Ashley Darling, a fourth grade Core Group student, has some of the puppets lined up here, ready to add eyes and tonges with the Aztek airbrush. Painting tongues inside the beaks was Ashley's idea!

She was one of three Eyes and Tongues team workers! But each student had designed their own puppet's pattern, painted the parts, and sewn them together. Some of us adults had to be responsible for doing sewing damage control though, as the puppets took a lot of physical workout! And sewing the beaks in, so that the students could work them with their fingers, was a job for the old fogies, too!

Bradley airbrushing. ©Susan Shie 2001.Bradley, whose name spelled backwards is Yeldarb, was a second grader we pulled in for airbrush instruction, outside of our Core Group, since the Core kids met with us every day for 1.5 hours. We needed some students who weren't so involved, so we could get our work done, and all the Core kids could keep up with their regular class studies.

Bradley was really good, enjoying very much putting details into this Desert scene, such as the finer points on some cow skulls!




David airbrushing. ©Susan Shie 2001.Our second grade Core student David Fox was wonderful with airbrush learning. He had worked on the murals, but at the end, once we decided to make the Core Group tee shirts, he colored in almost all the Rainbow and Lemon Pepper bird images. These birds had been drawn with black outlines by five or six different Core Group students, and I had done the purple lettering. So, like the murals, the tee shirts were big collaborations.




The puppet show, city scene. ©James Acord 2001.February 16: The play!!!!! Here is Act 1, Scene 1: The City. To the right are the first act's Rainbow and Lemon Pepper actors, Ashley and Lauren, in the "cage" (four poles tied together with fabric strips and held up by four students, who were also different actors for each of the three acts.) In each act, the students playing the "lead" roles of the artroom birds also switched.

Jacob, Mrs. DeKay (subbing for Becky, who was sick), and Brandon were the city birds, Skyscraper, Wheezy, and Taxicab, flying in to visit the artroom birds and discuss what it's like to live in the city, for birds on the outside!

The scenery murals, all of which had about 50 poeple painting and sewing on each one, were held by Chelsea, Brittany, and Nic. Scenery holders switched for each of seven scenes, so everyone in the Core Group had a chance to do a lot of parts in this play!

The puppet show. Mountains scene. ©James Acord 2001.In the Mountain Scene, Lauren, Kayla, and Jacob held up the scenery panels, while Chelsea, Sam, and Christopher were the birds Heather, Rocky, and Cliff.

We'd rehearsed the play with scripts for a long time, if anything in a monthlong project can be called "long." I had taken students out of classes in the last few days before the play, to mentor them one on one, in speaking louder, more clearly, and with feeling. And to really memorize their lines. We were giving this play six times on Feb 16, once to each grade, and to morning and afternoon kindergarten. I knew the kids would be stage frighted and tired, but I knew we could do it!

The puppet show.  Bowing, finale. ©James Acord 2001.And we did it! Over and over, all six times, each play lasting about a half hour.

This is the cast bowing at the end of one of our performances. We had the kids all wear black that day, so their puppets would be seen more than the students themselves. Here the bird puppets are bowing, with the students all watching me, the big cat on the left end of the line, for bow coordination. Then the actors all bowed, than the puppets bowed again.

You can see a sound boom on the bottom left of this photo. Another Core Group, for filmmaking, was doing a film of our play!!!! This school, Tussing, is amazing for their respect of young students to do complicated projects! Our visual artists' residency was just one of many they've done with professionals coming in to work with them. And the whole teaching body gets involved in the residencies, not fighting them over scheduling needs, etc! (Remember we even had a group of teachers who'd come in after school and work with us, doing the sewing the kids couldn't reach, in the centers of the quilted paintings, and even before that, in sandwiching the quilts together, in preparation for sewing.) As I said, about 50 people worked on each scenery panel. Teachers and parents helped some, and many students painted and sewed on each piece! What an ideal school to work in!

Core group boys and Jimmy, with tee shirts. ©Susan Shie 2001.This was the mid day cast party, with pizza and the giving out of the Core Group tee shirts, just barely finished in time, and not yet heatset! Brandon, Chris, Nic, Sam, David, Taylor, Jacob, and of course, Jimmy, hadn't known many of each other before this project, since usually only one student came to the Core Group from each of many second and fourth grade classes. Look how close they ended up feeling to one another!



Core group girls with tee shirts. ©Susan Shie 2001.And the Core Girls! I cut off Chelsea, on the right, but there were eight of them. Remember Becky was out sick. So here are Kathryn, Kristen, Brittany, Elizabeth, Ashley, Kayla, and Lauren. With many sets of horns, of course!





Core group with tee shirts and puppets. © James Acord 2001.Here we are with the puppets and tee shirts! Everyone but Becky and Mrs. Sheridan, (Mary) and Jimmy was in this photo. Mrs. DeKay (Kim), our student teacher from OSU, is behind me. She had to take all of Becky's parts that day, and Kim didn't feel good herself!

We all got through with only poor Kayla getting really upset with stage fright, but she made it all the way through our six performances, too! We all deep breathed, consciously relaxed, tried to cool down, and made it!

You can see my airbrushed Lucky the Cat costume better in this photo, too. The head was so hot and awkward, made of airbrushed papier mache over chicken wire! I used a white sweatsuit for the body and sewed the tail. My job was to introduce the acts and scenes in the play, to keep the audience focused away from the necessary changes on stage, between sets.

City mural. ©Tussing Elementary 2001.One of our City panels. Drawn and painted on by three classes, or maybe four. Airbrushed by one student. Sewn by teams of four students each of five times, as different classes came in to work. And also sewn on by various adults. There are two other City panels, and 20 other quilted scenery panels! Each is approximately 46'wide by 36"high. They are sandwiched with quilt batting and backing fabric, then quilted through all layers with running stitches in embroidery floss.

Yes, it's a lot of work!!!!!



Mountains mural. ©Tussing Elementary 2001.One of the Mountains panels. A quilted painting of brush on paint and airbrush, hand sewn.







Tropical Island mural. ©Tussing Elementary 2001.One of three Tropical Island quilted painting panels for "A Rainbow Reunion."







Chelsea Runkle and her bird puppet. ©Susan Shie 2001.Chelsea Runkle poses with her puppet "Heather. " Each student had to create a name for their own puppet, that would reflect the environment they came from, in the play. Chelsea's puppet lives in the mountains, where Heather grows.

All the Core Group kids had to accept that their puppets and the scenery quilts would all be going away, to be on exhibit for a long time at the main Pickerington Library, and possibly even tour even after that. That's why we decided we had to find time to make the Core Group tee shirts, so the kids would each have something to take home and be able to strut around in!

And each Core Group student designed and made a page in our "Rainbow Reunion" xoeroxed coloring book. They had to pick a line of theirs from the puppet show and write it below an illustration they made, so the book would be an educational tool and reminder of the play itself. That worked out well!

I laid all the puppets in a pile on the copy machine, and the outer cover of the coloring book is a photo collage of the puppets! The image doesn't show them all, but you get the idea: there were a ton of them! It's a swarm of bird puppets!

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Susan Shie and James Acord

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