What I learned in Middle School is…

A fabulous "square-in-a-square" block example is another of my fav quilting patterns. Seems as if others like it equally, too.

The joy of middle school!  Let me explain… this is the place to go, if you want to know ANYTHING.  Middle schoolers are on top of it all.  They know the most about what’s trending, popular, or not!  So if you want to know the answer, ask a middle-schooler.  My friend, Sumei, invited me to be a guest Young At Art teacher at our local middle school.  She wanted the students to get my quilt-art lesson taught from the original artist – pretty cool.  So, after passing approval from our own 7th grader, I spent 2 whole days there last spring.  In order for the concept to work, the docents have to have buy-in from the Humanities and English teachers.  We basically take over their classrooms and teach our art.  The hosting teacher can participate, or take the time to correct papers and catch up on school business.  It’s a joy to see them take on the lesson, and relax a bit, too.  The students seem to get a kick out of their role model getting down & dirty & up to their elbows in art, just like them.  I love the opportunity to be in the classroom and get a first-hand look at the dynamics.  Like the MasterCard commercials, it’s “priceless!”

If you want to learn something about popular culture, just ask a middle-schooler: YOLO: You Only Live Once!

Isn’t it amazing (or wonderful, or cool – insert your own adjective here) how this art is so organic?  You just put a pile of fabric bits in front of the students and they mix it all up in unique patterns.

More pop-culture: 1D = One Direction, the Australian rock band

No two are alike, even though the fabric patterns are repeatedly used, especially by close proximity neighbors.

Random patterning is still a "pattern" & one of my favorites.

One of the earliest quilting patterns: Crazy, is just that: mixed up and randomly placed fabric patches.

A mountain of fabric equals many possibilities!

This came out blurry… just wondering if it’s because they were in motion?  Or maybe I was?  Not much stays still, in middle school.

Sometimes the project changes multiple times, before the artist is satisfied with their work.

After I presented the history of quilting as art, I took the time to walk around the classroom and experience what the students were making.  Sometimes, the art work would change significantly, from one lap to the next.

A powerful monochromatic study in red.

Isn’t this great?  I LOVE the mix of scale, pattern and subtle color changes, while still keeping within the hues of the RED family.

A collaborative process often improves the outcome: students sharing fabric scraps to create their quilt art blocks.

What looks like a mess in the beginning, is the start of a sorting process, then further refined and narrowed into a final selection: a quilt block.

Using all one fabric genre, in this case, geometric, makes a strong art statement.

More so than the elementary students I had the pleasure of teaching, middle schoolers seem to know just the art look they wanted.  Here is an example of mixed patterning that works very well.  I wouldn’t do it this way, but that’s the fun of being with this age group, no fears.  Another good lesson learned!

When laying out the protective newspaper, I often get side tracked in the headlines. But it doesn't take away from this unusual diagonally set block.

The above sample was quite unusual and extraordinary with it’s lines set diagonally.  When I first began quilting in earnest, there was so much vocabulary to learn.  Blocks set diagonally were referred to as “on point.”  Where did this artist idea come from?  No one else had designed a block like this!

Building blocks is fun. No one is looking at the clock & even the teacher is chuckling.

This class had a substitute teacher for the day, yet they seemed to know him.  He had an easy going nature and something I envied.  He asked each class at the beginning of the period, a thought provoking question.  An example might go something like this, “Which would you prefer: to be good at only one skill, or to try many things and maybe not be good at any?”  The answers and reasons were varied as the students.  Of this question, more wanted to be skilled in one thing.  That’s a middle schooler attempting to fit in.

All smiles while working the project and moving bits around the background.

The fabric can be a huge influence, but so can the friends. Often they will use the same prints, but no two will be the same.

Restricting yourself to using only one shape can also make a powerful impact. I love how the hands are positioned, to the right, almost wanting to edit but trying to resist.

Using every last bit with style & contrast. Another successful piece.

Their facial expressions say it all, without words... their art is expressive, too.

This block uses some of the same fabric as the first one shown, but it's so different, yet equally successful.

I love how your eye travels across the above piece.  Lots of orderly movement makes an art piece “work.”  So, what I learned in Middle School is… to be open to new thoughts, ideas, methods of working and of course, having extreme patience.  I loved getting in with the students.  They seem to readily embrace new things and happily listened intently.  Compared to college age students I’ve taught, this is where the action is (and the FUN, too.)  I’d go back in a heart beat if our own middle schooler would let me!