The Orange Band began our time together in the Cloth Arc with a wealth of ideas, questions, and commentary. Students are exploring cloth and the impact that cloth has on people – through art, the sharing of culture, and establishing/maintaining/subverting social expectations.
Our shared novel, George, by Alex Gino, provided a perfect platform to tease out the complexities of societal expectations tied to clothes and gender. When people look at George, they see a boy. But George knows she’s a girl. If she is to keep her secret, George will never be able to dress or BE her whole gendered self. The story of a transgender girl navigating upper elementary school, her family, and the world around her, has given the Orange Band another entry into the conversation about clothing and the way that it marks or identifies an individual’s gender for the rest of the world to see — whether we want to tell that story or not. As part of our celebratory kick-off to read George together, students took a blank slate – a plain white t-shirt – and created their own pieces of clothing that tell exactly the story each kiddo desired to share.
In addition to critiquing the finished product, marketed and packaged for mass marketing and mind-body control, Orange Banders also looked at the beginnings of cloth. With the help of Indigo buddies, kiddos created small cardboard looms to practice different weave stitches and techniques.
As a band, we also began to build a large loom in order to experiment with material and product on a grander scale. The shop practice is also a great opportunity to dip into the shop and begin thinking about Expression projects that “loom” just around the corner.
With the intent to learn the stories that cloth may carry, Orange Band took a trip to the deYoung Museum to spend time with the gorgeous quilts of Gee’s Bend, a part of the Revelations: Art from the African-American South exhibit. The women of Gee’s Bend—a small, remote, black community in Alabama—have created hundreds of quilt masterpieces dating from the early twentieth century to the present. On a cool grey morning, we sat under and before quilts that held the stories of their makers and their makers families. It was such a special experience, with the museum nearly to ourselves, just us and the quilts of Gee’s Bend.
The notion of cloth and stories served as such a lovely example for the stories the students are writing for NaNoWriMo. We kicked off National Novel Writing Month with tea, pjs, soft music and pillows. The students’ stories range from dystopian cautionary tales, graphic novels, puzzles hidden in pages and chapters, the zombie apocalypse, to true-life narratives–perfect complements for the complexity and creativity that typify the Orange Band! Students are working on plot and character development, as well as the nuance of an author’s specific voice. Pencils and fingers fly across paper and keyboards everyday and our writing goals are always on the mind!
Our Cloth explorations have brought up questions about the impact of cloth – historically and socially – and where we see ourselves in the stories the cloth carries.