Thursday, September 24, 2009

Snow Farm Summer 2009!

After one of the best summers at Snow Farm Summer Arts Program for high-schoolers, during which I took (I kid you not) maybe 200 photographs, I managed to accidentally delete all but 4 of them.  !!!!  So, here is a visually truncated description of this year's totally fantastic session.  

(Camp Director Christine with Assistant Director Jocelyn.  Apparently, they were Just 

Almost the entire staff had returned from past summers, so we started the session like a well oiled machine.  The night before all the students arrived, Abigail and I silk screened enough t-shirts to clothe the entire staff!  Unfortunately, however impressive this show of momentum was, as soon as Mike was hit with the first water balloon we were embarrassed to realize that we had used the WRONG kind of printing ink...  washable.  All the shirts were running and staining!  Egads!  So we took all the shirts back and vowed to replace them by the end of the session.  We tried not to get too down about it and started classes with resolve.

(Photo by Abigail Heuss, metalsmith extraordinaire.)

Unlike last year's textile classes, this year we had plenty of students to fill both the morning and the afternoon class!  Plenty of ideas and enthusiasm to go around.  Susannah and I also fiddled with the content and schedule of the class- mixing up the tried and true(ish) schedule of the last two summers.  The newly written course description reads like this:  

The two week summer textiles program examines both the artistic and socio-economic life-cycle of a garment.  Students will not only have the opportunity to design and create their own garment/creation, they will also get a broader view of the global textile market.  The class will move from 2-d design into 3-d:  starting with dyeing and shibori (a highly controlled Japanese resist-dye process similar to tie dye), then adding patterns and images through silk-screening and finishing the session by using the fabrics they have designed/ printed to sew a functional garment or object.  Class conversations focus on the social, economic and ecological implications of fashion-based culture and how each student can start their own revolution by using their ingenuity to redesign their wardrobe.  Although the class is based around garments, individual students are always encouraged to use their new skills to make other things:  stuffed animals, non-functional art pieces, etc.  The more creative the better!  This is a great class for anyone who loves color, imagery, patterns and thinking outside the box.

The socio-economic part of the class was the most exciting new element for me.  I bought a huge map of the world and, as part of our daily class routine, I had the students "map" their clothing by putting a pin into each of their garment's country of origin.  It ended up being a great experiment!  We didn't even know
 where a lot of the countries were,  so it often doubled as a geography review.  It was great to see which countries ended up with the most pins:  China, Mexico, the US, El Salvador....  There were tons and tons in Central America.  Unfortunately, sessions at Snow Farm sort of hurtle to a finish and although I was hoping to be able to do some statistical analysis of our findings, no suck luck.  Oh well, next year!

(I even told them that if anyone complained about being "bored" I'd make them go look up sweatshop conditions in the countries with the most pins.  Nobody complained...)

It was the perfect jumping off point from which to have a conversation about Where Stuff Comes From and Where It Goes when we're done with it.  Our annual trip to the Salvation Army served as a perfect example of the latter part of that equation.  The Salvation Army in Hadley MA is one of the largest thrift stores I've ever been to:  row upon row upon row of perfectly wearable garments, organized by garment type, color, size.  Literally, anything that you could be looking for- no matter how specific your criteria- you can find there.  And no matter how much stuff you buy, there is always more stuff getting hung up.  The life-cycle of a garment is not simply defined by the amount of time that it is in fashion, or even by the amount of time an individual chooses to wear it.  It begins with fiber cultivation- farm to harvest to yarn, moves onto weaving/knitting and then into a factory for garment construction. It's packaged and shipped to a store all before consumers even have access to it.  Hundreds of people have touched each and every
 garment that you wear.  And once we've decided to discard clothes, they don't just disappear:  thousands of pounds of textiles are recycled, donated, and sent to third world countries every year.  

This year's textiles class had a chance to enter into that conversation and were given the opportunity to take control of their own participation on the system through new techniques for designing their own garments.  And they made some really amazing stuff!

(Myself and Jasmine in dresses that we made:  hand dyed fabric, silk screened, and patterned from a dress we bought at the Salvation Army!)

We also FINALLY got the photo emulsion with sun exposure to work this year!  We've been trying every year since I started at Snow Farm so it was so exciting to finally have success!  To celebrate, I had the classes participate in a print swap!  Each student made a screen using the photo emulsion and then printed enough patches for everyone else to get one.  At the end of the session we swapped and everybody got to go home with a piece of art from everyone else. It was awesome! 

(Left to Right.  Top row:  My Gentle Alpaca, Emily, Jasmine, Drew.  Second row:  Juliana, Juliana, Kelsey.  Bottom row:  Eliana, Chelsea.) 

One student, Emily, even decided to use the mapping project as inspiration for her patch!  She drew a picture of the globe and labeled the countries:  the size of the label reflects the ratio of production as reflected by the number of pins in the class' map.  Fantastic.  It reminds me a lot of the WorldMapper,
a project that redraws the earth's continents according to different statistics.  (Definitely play around with it if you have a moment!  It's enlightening, to say the least.)

(A terrible cell phone photo of Emily's print.  Apparently, my scanner isn't working either.  Damn.)

We also had our first male student in class this year who decided to take the class because he was interested in toy design.  He was a 2-d artist who drew these amazing characters and he was hoping to learn how to make them into 3-d stuffed animals.  It was great to try to help his realize that goal!  And he totally did it!  Nope!  I don't have any photos of it!  (Damn damn double damn.  Hopefully, I'll eventually get my hands on some and I'll add them to the bottom of this post, I promise.)  Drew added a wonderful presence to the class and although I was worried that he would feel ostricized by the girls who have a strange but undeniable commitment to listening to Disney music during class, he informed me one day that "what?  Hercules is my favorite movie."  AMAZING!  

(A stuffed monster I made with a teeth-shaped-welt pocket for eating things like the dried up fabric markers.)

Outside of classes, the session was full of fun activities!

Like cardboard robot dance battle fashion shows!

Stealing whole bowls of gluten-free chocolate cupcakes!  (Ok, that one was just me.)

Complaining dramatically about how loud the kids were at night time!

Building a pizza oven!  (Technically that was second session but I'm running out of photos..)

After the session was over and the students had all gone home (or away until second session) we had one of the most prolific silk screening parties of all time.  Seriously,  I silk screened for almost 15 hours straight!  Including!  New and improved (aka NOT washable) staff t-shirts!  

This summer was fantastic.  I'm so thankful to all my co-teachers, art friends and amazing students.  Snow Farm is one of the most fun and satisfying things I do all year long.  Hopefully, nothing will get in my way of coming back next summer!

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