Magenta Starts BWX’s “Museum of Everyday,” Inspired by Icelandic Museum

From the earliest brainstorming sessions for the Cloth Arc, we’ve found that cloth is inextricably tied to metaphor and story — we cannot help but think of the many ways which cloth (and fabric, threads, and more) carries meaning in our conversations. The “moral fabric of our nation,” “weaving of a story or spinning a tale,” finding a “common thread” and more. To deepen our exploration of this connection, we started to discuss creating stories of meaning and how the things we wear carry meaning.

Paired Storytelling

Story of Our Clothes — Storytelling Workshop

First, we had 60 seconds to share a story about an article of clothing with a partner. After each partner had shared within their pair, we joined pairs into groups of four. In these double pairs, we shared what we remembered of our partner’s story (partially a challenge in memory and listening and partially an opportunity to hear your story told back to you). We then had a whole-band discussion about what makes a good short story and what our challenges we had in telling our stories.

Best parts of stories:

  • Unique Experiences
  • Specific Details
  • Make people laugh
  • Stories with emotions, sentimental value, meaning or nostalgia
  • Context to action (set the stage)

Problems with our stories:

  • Need to create meaning
  • Rambling
  • No context
  • Lies
  • Keeping forward motion to the story (linear action)
  • Time management and flow

Sharing stories

Museum of Everyday, Ísafjörður

Ísafjörður, Iceland and the Museum of Everyday

Ísafjörður is the largest city in the Westfjord region of Iceland, but in many ways, it is a very small town (it doesn’t even have any stop lights!). It is surrounded by steep mountains and the cold North Atlantic and it is so close to the North Pole that during summer the sun is visible 24-hours a day and in the winter it is dark all day long.

Many residents of Ísafjörður used to be fishermen, traders or farmers from nearby villages. In recent decades and after the 2008 economic collapse, both the farming and fishing industries faced many challenges and many Icelanders moved to the cities to look for other work. One innovative and new industry for Ísafjörður is using fish skins to produce medical bandages for burn victims.

Jay, a high school collaborator, traveled to Ísafjörður and was inspired by a museum he found there. In the Museum of Everyday, he found a wall of shoes with headphones for people to listen to stories shared by the owner of the shoes. The shoes and stories were collected from people living in Ísafjörður to allow tourist to learn about life in current day Iceland. We were given permission to share these stories with our students and to make our own museum inspired by their collection.

Creating our Brightworks Museum

After our storytelling workshop, we scripted our stories, edited our work with peer feedback, and then read them into our podcast kit, creating an audio file. We combined our audio files with photos of our clothes to create videos and posted it all to @bwxmuseum on Instagram.

From the History of Fashion to NaNoWriMo

We began our exploration of the history of fashion and historical events that have influenced fashion trends, with a sort of clothing trends through the centuries and decades.

After recording our personal observations of the various fashion trends, we discussed how we saw history’s impact on clothing. One thing that stood out in regards to women’s fashion was that we saw more suits or male influenced business attire in those decades affected by war such as the 1940s and 1960s when women were having to work, and a return to more “traditionally feminine” clothing in the 1950s when women tended to be back to their role of housewife.

We’ve begun weaving, but it isn’t all just fun and crafts. Rich has turned weaving into a math provocation. After creating their looms, the band calculated how much yarn they would need to complete their personal weaving projects.

Sometimes we take a moment to work on something unrelated to the arc. After learning about Jacob Thompson, a nine-year-old boy with Stage 4 high-risk Neuroblastoma, the Teal Band decided to make his wish for Christmas cards come true. These kids have such huge hearts.

Jonah crafted a pop-up card.

Jacob’s favorite animal is a penguin and Natalie put her wonderful drawing skills to work immediately.

What would the Cloth Arc be without an exploration into pattern making? After watching a video on pattern making and creating a step-by-step list of the process, the Teal Band set out to make patterns for an item of their own clothing.

After creating the pattern, the band was tasked with calculating the area of their pattern to figure out how much fabric would be needed to create their garment. They explored the various shapes that made up their shirt pattern and the formulas used to solve for these areas.

My friend Tiff, a costume designer and maker, came in to share her story and work with the Teal Band a number of others. We learned that she sewed her first successful dress at just age nine and has been designing and making costumes professionally for almost thirty years. We were certainly interested to hear about her time making a number of costumes for the Hamiton touring cast.

Viggo jumped at the chance to be turned into a living paper doll in one of Tiff’s costumes. We learned that she loves costume design because it’s often just that much more fun than your everyday garment.

They began a chemistry lab with Rich on Friday, making their own soap. (Check back for a more detailed story of this lab from Rich.)

And I can’t forget NaNoWriMo. They are writing every spare moment they have, that’s on top of the time set aside just for NaNoWriMo. I’m pretty certain they would be happy writing all day, every day if  I let them.

Sometimes it’s nice to get out and write in a new setting. This week, NaNoWriMo took us, and our friends in the Violet Band, to Maxfield’s Cafe. It’s pretty special and empowering to be writing next to a big table full of adults working on their own NaNoWriMo novels.

Project Brightworks: Green Band

The Green Band was *sew* excited to start the Cloth Arc! With a number of seasoned designers, weavers and tailors in the band, the Greenies could not have been more eager to pick up their needles.

The Green Band was so excited to get their travel sewing kits!

For the first few weeks of the Cloth Arc, we have been focusing on what clothes represent. We asked ourselves questions such as “What is my favorite item of clothing and why?” and “What can we learn from looking at someone’s clothes?” We’re currently reading a book, The Education of Margot Sanchez, in which a young girl steals her father’s credit card to buy clothes to fit in at her new school. We’ve come to realize that clothing is a very significant way for people to express themselves. This led us to our first big exploration— we studied the history and tradition of dress codes, the pros and the cons. Students picked one perspective to argue and and a medium to express their persuasive argument. As a band we created a movie, comics, a coding animation and a short essay. Some Greenies challenged themselves by arguing the opposite of their real opinion.

Lucy showing her pro-dress codes comic book.

Greenies also *gathered* together to survey the Brightworks community in order to collect some data and statistics to use in their persuasive argument. As a school with no dress code (except to wear shoes in the shop), the Green Band found that 100% of Brightworks students and staff would like to keep it that way. There was no way to *alter* their opinions. We also discovered that most people find dress codes to be sexist and unfair towards women and transgendered people, and that a majority of BWX students and staff have had a dress code or uniform at a past school.

Piper surveying Magenta-bander Aiden about dress codes.

Because the Green Band was itching to start making something, the Greenies decided to design their own hypothetical Brightworks uniforms. (Funny how nobody wants a dress code or uniform, but everybody wants to design one!) Partially inspired by an episode of “Project Runway: Junior,” students explored the school space to find inspiration for their uniform design. We also brainstormed what we look for in our favorite clothes and what we’d want to put in our uniform. Qualities included durability, breathability, and pockets, obviously!

Greenies creating their designs inspired by the Brightworks Space.

After designing our uniforms on a 9 head figure (used by professionals for fashion), students made patterns of one or two items from their uniform using clothes that they already own. For some of us, this was the first time making a pattern, and we found it involved way more steps than simply tracing your clothing item! We then hit Discount Fabrics, where students had a $20 budget to buy fabric for their item.

Piper, Griffin, Marci and Lucy at Discount Fabrics.

That’s as far as we’ve gotten so far, but stay tuned to find out what happens next on Project Brightworks.

Personal Logos

Amber Band brainstorming notes

The Amber Band started the Cloth Arc with a brainstorming session, and we realized that we still had some lingering questions on identity from the Coin Arc. Questions around personal style and perception started popping up, which led us to question the materiality of cloth as well. We grouped our brainstorm into two main categories: Cloth in Society and Cloth Production. Starting with Cloth in Society gave us a chance to build off of the work we did around symbols of value.

Left: “Carma” by Tschabalala Self
Right: Patrick traces Jared’s shadow for a simple silhouette drawing

Contemporary artist Tschabalala Self provided some great resources on how to use color and shape as symbols for identity. We looked at her work in this episode of The Art Assignment from PBS, and worked on a first iteration for our personal logos. Students started with simple line drawings, tracing their shadows, and filling those lines with colors and patterns. They worked through several simple line drawings before choosing one to build off of for their second iterations using a screenprinting technique.

Huxley, Felix, and Keyen trace their personal logo designs onto silkscreens for printing.

Norabelle and Sutchat use a screen filler method to create stencils of their personal logos on their silkscreens.

While working on their personal logos students also chose a commercial logo to conduct a short research project on. They looked at the logo’s origin story, where it came from, what it is referencing, and the iterations that it went through. Their research had them drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that got them thinking about the ways they chose to design their own personal logos. 

Students used their journals to work out the math behind logo lockups.

Looking at these commercial logos had us thinking about the math behind graphic design work. We learned about logo lockups, and how the final form of a logo includes a structure for all of its elements. Lockups work within a grid, and have a set ratio and proportion of elements to keep the composition balanced. This gridded structure gave us an opportunity to talk about fractions, ratios, and proportions.  We measured and analyzed the ratio of image to text in logos from Nike, Target, and Snapchat.

James is a printmaker that runs the shop at The Aesthetic Union and he let us take a look behind the scenes there.

Ryan shared his process as a graphic designer with the group.

After printing our personal logos, we got to visit some design studios in our neighborhood. First we went to The Aesthetic Union, where we saw a 90-year-old printing press. Then we went to graphic designer Ryan Putnam’s studio to check out the Risograph printing process he uses, combining digital and analog aspects (similar to the screenprinting process of our personal logos). Thanks to Karen and Michelangelo Capraro (Amber Band parents, and graphic designers extraordinaire) we got to get feedback from professionals on our designs, and even made plans for ways to combine our ideas into an Amber Band t-shirt design.

Michelangelo and Karen took us through an activity breaking down the range of logos from illustrative to abstract.

 

 

The Coin Arc Was a Valuable Experience

It’s pretty incredible when you take a six-week journey with eight 11 and 12-year-olds through an arc entitled “Coin” and you spend the majority of your time talking about personal value and social currency. We explored symbols of value, both those which are recognized by the masses and those we find value in individually. We wandered through the streets of the Financial District and the galleries of the SFMoMA. Taking advantage of the high supply and low demand for Giants game tickets, we took in a baseball game and a collection of baseballs. We designed our own dollar bills after exploring those from all around the globe. We found math in money in everyday life and even more when traveling the globe, converting international currencies. And as all middle schoolers enjoy, we shared our opinions and formulated arguments…just ask them if they think America should get rid of the penny.

Here is a visual journey of our Coin Arc exploration:

Exploring US Currency

Building our note-taking skills.

Along with our drawing skills, which the Teal Band certainly has.

Discovering new figures in history.

Recording what we find in creative ways.

Taking a moment to listen.

And listen some more.

Recording our thoughts and reflecting on our learning.

Finding patterns and creating order.

Making observations.

Working as a team.

Sharing with one another.

Working through multiple iterations.

Creating a final product.

Exploring our past.

Putting ourselves in that past.

Exploring old things that are new to us.

Taking note of what we see.

Continuing to hone those drawing skills.

Sending one another messages.

Just going for the ride.

Taking a moment to have some fun and take it all in.

Discovering that we really can learn anywhere we go.

 

 

Telling Stories With Cloth

Blue Band has launched into cloth by thinking about the stories told by items made of cloth. We started by thinking about the practical aspect of cloth by touring Joshu + Vela, a leather and canvas bag manufactor in the Mission. We learned about all the tools used to cut and prepare leather:

This machine makes impressions to add lettering or designs to leather.

This machine cuts leather.

We also learned about the process of manufactoring bags from making inrpiration boards to trying various samples before coming up with the final designs. It was great to see a real world example of editing and iterating!

We then tried our own hand at working with leather:

Last week we transitioned to thinking about how cloth helps create items with purposes that go beyond the practicle. In Selina and the Bear Paw Quilt by Barbara Smucker students learned how certain patterns of quilt have been developed to tell cultural and sentements stories. In the Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco we learned about the significance of passing down a keepsake within a family for multiple generations. During project time students started their own quilt squares and pillow case projects:

  

 

Today we went to see portions of the AIDS quilt project that are on display at Grace Cathedral. Students noticed how friends and family had rememberd their loveones by including meaningful images and fabrics.

90 Second Novel

Throughout the Coin Arc the Amber Band read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. In the book Junior, an aspiring cartoonist, decides to leave behind his school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend a farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. This book gave us an opportunity to talk about what Junior values, and how social currency is constructed.

 

Students broke down the big idea within each chapter of the book.

After reading the book we discussed the overall theme in the book. Students reflected on what Junior valued most:

“I think Junior values friendship most since he asked Gordy to be friends instead of punching him.” — Norabelle

“Junior values money, mainly to achieve his dreams, and the dreams of others around him. I saw this when he said: ‘But we reservation Indians don’t get to realize our dreams. We don’t get those chances. Or choices. We’re just poor. That’s all we are.'” —Oscar

“Junior views possibility as value, or as he puts it, hope. I think this is the hope of possibility. In the book he says: ‘Where can I find hope?'”—Huxley

 

Stop-motion animations require a lot of patience and collaboration.

 

Inspired by the 90 Second Newberry, we decided to try synthesizing the big ideas from this book into a 90 second video. We started by analyzing other 90 second films, like the one that the Amber Band made last year for Crossing the Wire. Students worked in small groups to draw up a storyboard, record audio, film and edit their stop-motion animations. The resulting animations showed the story of Junior, and what he values most.

 

Making these movies gave us a chance to consider the math behind stop-motion animations. We looked at the work of contemporary artist William Kentridge. In the video he talks about his process. This got us wondering, if it takes William Kentridge 100 frames to make 4 seconds of animation, how long would it take him to make a 90 Second Novel? Students worked through the problem independently, then came together to share their process for finding the answer.

 

We looked at the work of William Kentridge to learn more about his process with stop-motion animations.

 

Students came up with an equation to figure out how many frames they might need to make a 90 second stop-motion animation.

 

This project helped us to analyze the novel we read, and it helped prepare us for the work we’ll be doing all November long—NaNoWriMo! We’ve already started to discuss plans for how we’ll be participating in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and some of the Amberites even have an idea for the stories they’d like to share in their own novels.