Sunday, December 4, 2011

Susan Sargent's "The Comfort of Color"

I discovered this book at the library about a month ago.
The more and more I look at it, the more I love it!

If I wasn't a certified art teacher, I'd be a licensed interior designer.
 I am constantly re-arranging furniture in my little house
and playing with colors, texture, pattern and shapes like I did
when I was the proud owner of a delicate dollhouse that my
father made me for Christmas when I was seven years old.

This book, "The Comfort of Color" is a real gem in my collection of
design books. I really appreciate its eclectic style and bold use of color.

The author, Susan Sargent, is a nationally-known artist and author whose 
"color sense is simple and playful. She is a fan of rich, vibrant colors and
is not afraid to pair a hot pink chair with zebra print or lime green walls
with brown furniture." (

She earned her textile degree in Sweden and spent 15 years gaining
hands-on experience as an artist, dyer and weaver.
She makes gorgeous rugs that are wool tufted and hand-hooked.
Here are some of her rugs.

Aren't they beautiful!?

Susan also creates pillows, ceramics, bedding and glassware.
You can view her work at:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Eco-Artist, John Dahlsen

recycled environmental art sculptures 59
"7 Brown Foam Totems" by John Dahlsen

I noticed I had a post saved back in August that I never made public.
I decided to go ahead and put this on my blog today
as it shows some of my students' work and...

I am firm believer that
art needs to be seen!

My Master's research question focused on authentic assessment, which is
finding ways to assess student work by connecting the classroom to
real world experiences. My research questions was as follows:

"Does displaying student artwork in a public setting increase
student motivation and the quality of their artwork?"

I planned a two week unit (which ended up taking three weeks) that
focused on eco-art. My students learned about different artists who use
recycled materials as their choice of medium and then worked in
small groups to create their own eco-art.

All of the artworks are posted on my blog, except for the one that is below.
These pieces were created by students who finished early as
supplemental work. Therefore, these pieces were not originally planned
for the student art show - but I am glad they were added.

All of the works were on display at Cleveland's City Hall.
With the help of Erin Dorsey, the Mayor's public relations coordinator,
the work was show-cased with two professional artists.
We had a wonderful art opening with the mayor in attendance.
Needless to say, my students loved it!

The work below features three assemblage totems made from plastic Coke bottles,
soda cans and recycled styrofoam.

This artwork was inspired by Australian artist, John Dahlen.
Dahlsen transforms discarded items (aka litter) that he
finds on beaches into beautiful works of art.
He is one of my favorite eco-artists.

You can view more of his work at:

recycled environmental art sculptures 55
"Coke Totems" by John Dahlsen

"Primary Totems" by John Dahlsen
"Primary Totems" by John Dahlsen

Students preparing totems

Totems on display at Cleveland's City Hall

If you're curious what the answer was to my research question,
the answer was equivably, "Yes!"

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Chuck Close and Plastic Bottle Caps

I was introduced to the artist, Chuck Close, when I was doing my
student teaching at John Hay High School School of Architecture and Design.
My mentor showed me some of his art while we were studying photorealists.
I immediately fell in love with his work, especially his later work.

Here is an example of his earlier work.
Talk about photorealism - look at that detail. WOW!

Mark (1978–1979), acrylic on canvas. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York.
Detail at right of eye. Mark, a painting that took fourteen months to complete.
Close encountered a catastrophic spinal artery collapse in 1988 which left him severely paralyzed. He found a way to continue painting - with a brush strapped onto his wrist.
No longer able to paint with intricate detail, Close managed to paint large portraits in "low-resolution grid squares that were created by an assistant. Viewed from afar, these squares appear as a single, unified image which attempt photo-reality, albeit in pixelated form."

Self-portrait by Chuck Close, 2000.
Detail of Self-Portrait by Chuck Close, 2000.

I cannot remember what I was researching when I came across the artist,
Mary Ellen Croteau, who was inspired by Chuck Close. I was captivated by her work
because she chose as one of her media, plastic bottle caps!
Here is the excerpt from her web-site that inspired her work:

"Plastic bottle caps - like bags, a plastic product that can’t be/ isn’t recycled. 
I conceived of an “endless column” of these caps, after Constantin Brancussi’s iconic
modernist sculpture (see image below). One became two, and two became many. 
While making these columns, I noticed the smaller caps tended to nest
inside one another, and the color combinations reminded me of Chuck Close’s painted portraits.  So I got sidetracked and started on a large self-portrait made entirely of bottle caps.  The piece measures 8 feet by 7 feet.  No paint is used, except to delineate a few shadows where white board was showing through. 
In a few cases, the caps are trimmed in order to fit into a tight space.
Constantin Brancusi, "Endless Column" 1937-1938

"Endless Columns" by Mary Ellen Croteau

And below is the end result!
"CLOSE," a self-portrait of Mary Ellen Croteau made with plastic bottle caps

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Vibe of Portland Documentary

I was very fortunate to work for Vibe of Portland this past year, a music and art non-profit in Portland, Oregon. I served as an art instructor for their after-school programming at Harrison Park Elementary School. I was excited to work in this particular school as it reaches a large underserved population in the city of Portland. My Master in Education focused on urban education and working with low-income students, so I possess an understanding and passion for this demographic. As a former Jesuit Volunteer (the Catholic version of the Peace Corps), I am "ruined for life" and am dedicated to working for social justice.

At any rate, Vibe of Portland was interviewed by Christianity Today this past Spring and was included in the documentary, "This is Our City."  I am in part of this documentary!

Here is the link:

Friday, October 21, 2011

Lilly Employees Create Bottle Cap Mural!

I am excited to post pictures of the Lilly employees working on the bottle cap mural.
 All of the employees were so great and brought a spirit of excitement to the project.

Featured are photos of the mural in the process of being completed.
The final photo shows the mural almost done.
 Some of the caps need to be "tweeked."

After texting a photo of the mural to my sister,
who is a polymer clay artist and colorist,
I decided to change some caps so the strand of orange
continues through the whole piece.
Thanks Maggie for your keen eye.
I totally agree with your suggestion!

The caps also need to be individually screwed down to the boards
so the mural will withstand a long-term installation at the J. Glenn Smith Health Center.

Almost done!!!

Christianity Today Documentary

The trailer video below from Christianity Today is part of a national documentary which will feature organizations and people from six states who are living out their faith in the work place. The six cities include: Portland, Detroit, Richmond, New York, Phoenix and Palo Alto.

I was fortunate to be a part of this documentary - thanks to Vibe of Portland, the music and art education non-profit I worked with while I was in PDX earlier this year.

"Portland is a city of activists." Longtime resident of the Rose City and a pastor at Imago Dei Community, Rick McKinley shares about the unique character of Portland and how that shapes the community of believers.

Here is the link:

"Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary,  use words." - St. Francis of Assissi.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Bottle Caps Drying in the Sun

I don't know about you, but I just love seeing all
of these bottle caps drying in the sun.
They remind of spices displayed
at an open-air market in Morocco.

The caps were put out to dry after
being washed in a commercial dishwasher.
They are now all sanitized, clean and sparkly -
and ready for the mural!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

New Bottle Cap Creation!!

I am excited to announce that I have been busy working on a new bottle cap creation!

Thanks to LinkedIn, I re-connected with Erin Dorsey, Public Relations Manager for the Office of the Mayor at City of Cleveland. She and I worked together to have my students' Eco-Art exhibit on display at Cleveland's City Hall a couple of years ago (see other posts).

About 8 weeks ago, Erin called to see if I'd be interested in helping to create a mural project for the Eli Lilly day of service. Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical company, has their employees volunteer a day out of their year doing a community service project. They have done all kinds of projects, such as planting trees, trash pick-up, working in soup kitchens, etc. This year, they chose to create art to beautify the J. Glenn Smith Health Center in Cleveland.

Of course, I was thrilled at the chance to participate in this event. I submitted a proposal to Erin and Eli Lilly and my proposal was accepted. I knew the project called for a mural. However, I proposed a mural made out of recycled plastic bottle caps. As long as I could find enough bottle caps, Erin was on board.

After researching sources for recycled plastic bottle caps, I discovered Aveda, maker of hair care and beauty products, collects plastic bottle caps nationwide to recycle into new items. The company's Recycle Caps with Aveda program collects caps through Aveda stores, beauty salons and schools. The caps are shipped to a recycler where they are broken down and re-molded into new caps and containers.

I am in the midst of posting photos to document the process of creating the bottle cap mural. Below are some photos of the bottle caps before and after they were sorted by color. More photos to come....

Aren't they beautiful?

Monday, August 8, 2011


As I researched different techniques for the eco-art exhibit at Cleveland's City Hall, I was reminded of repoussé, a French term meaning to "push back." This technique involves pressing and hammering a piece of metal from the back, using various sizes of punches and tools, to form a design in relief. Here is a visual:

When brainstorming a material to use for this technique, keeping in mind the theme for the art show was eco-art, my mentor and I came up with pop cans. The students brought in pop cans and we cut the tops and bottoms off and cut a line down the can so that the aluminum could be flattened. The students then proceeded to practice the technique of repoussé.

This was a collaborative piece and the students divided up the piece up into smaller sections and created different designs per section. When the repoussé was complete, they covered each individual piece with black ink to provide more contrast and to make the images pop. They then attached each section by drilling holes in each corner and tying them together with red wire. Here is the piece: 

The students stood by their piece at the art show so proudly. They were asked if the piece was for sale several times. In fact, someone offered to pay them $300.00 for this piece. They were thrilled! 

Radial Symmetry/Mandalas

Another art form I explored with my students at John Hay School of Architecture and Design was radial symmetry. Radial symmetry is: "a symmetrical arrangement of constituents, especially of radiating parts, about a central point."  Some examples I showed my students were wheels, sea stars and forms in architecture. Here is a visual:

The other example of radial symmetry I showed my students was mandalas. Mandalas are "any of various ritualistic geometric designs used in Hinduism and Buddhism as an aid to meditation" Here is an example I showed my students, thanks to my mentor's student archives:

After learning about radial symmetry and mandalas, some of my students created their own mandalas. Going in line with the theme for the art show at Cleveland's City Hall, these pieces were made from all recycled and found objects. Here they are:

FYI: The middle part of this piece kept sliding down. Darn that gravity!
Technically, it should be in the center of the piece. In the future, I will
make sure something like this is put together more securely.
*Definitions taken from 

Eco - Fashion

Upon request, several of my students worked on dresses made from recycled materials as they were interested in fashion design. I quickly agreed to say, "Yes!" as the intrinsic interest and motivation was already present. My mentor had two dress forms in her storage closet - which was very convenient. The students had a really great time creating these dresses. Both of them were on display for the student art show at Cleveland's City Hall.

Here they are:

Friday, August 5, 2011

Sculptor, David Smith

While at John Hay School of Architecture and Design, I taught a unit exploring the elements and principles of design in sculpture. I introduced my students to the sculptor, David Smith (March 9, 1906 - May 23, 1965), who was an American Abstract Expressionist artist best known for creating large steel abstract geometric sculptures. Here is an example of one of his works:

David Smith Cubi XIX, 1964 
Stainless Steel
Tate: Purchased 1966 
© Estate of David Smith/ VAGA, New York, DACS 2006

Knowing it would be difficult for my students to create a scuplture using steel of such a large scale, my mentor came up with the idea of starting with small scale sculptures using toothpicks and colored paper. This idea than translated into creating larger sculptures utilizing long, wooden 1" x 1" pieces of wood found in my mentor's basement. This piece also incorporated frozen orange juice lids to add an element of movement.
Here is the final product that was displayed at the City Hall art show:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Louise Nevelson

One of the artists I introduced to the high school students at John Hay School of Architecture and Design was Louise Nevelson. She was an American artist (born in Russia) who lived from 1899 -1988. She created art from cast-off wood parts and transformed them into intricate forms grouped within box-like frames and then painted them with a monochromatic spray paint. She was one of the first artists who created recycled art! Here is an example of her work:

Sky Cathedral, 1958 Wood, painted black,
115" x 135" x 20"

Five of the students prepared a Louise Nevelson-inspired piece made from recycled and
found objects. They chose to paint their piece red. 
Here is the piece they created:

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Art Show at Cleveland's City Hall

I had the great pleasure of organizing two art shows during my student teaching...
one at the high school level and one at the elementary level.
Both of these art shows took place at Cleveland's City Hall.
The high school art show featured student work made from recycled materials.
This show was complete with an official opening featuring two professional artists
and a visit from Mayor Frank Jackson. My students loved meeting the Mayor and
 talking to him about their artwork.

Above is a picture of my husband, son and me with Mayor Frank Jackson.

I will post photos of the students' artwork soon!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Student Work

Here is one of the bottle cap pieces my students created in Portland. The students voted on this design and worked on the project collaboratively. The whole piece is divided into six smaller parts which students worked on individually. The small parts were then put together to create a whole piece.

This work was on display at Imago Art Gallery for an art walk in downtown Portland. The students attended this art show and were thrilled to see this piece and some of their other work hanging in an art gallery.

The process of putting this piece together was so fun. The students loved bringing in the bottle caps and cleaning them. They also enjoyed learning about the environment and the importance of recycling. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I Love Bottle Cap Art!

Bottle cap sculpture workshop

I was so fortunate to work this year for Vibe of Portland, a music and art non-profit in Portland, Oregon. I enjoyed total freedom while creating my curriculum for elementary students. One of the lessons I came up with was creating bottle cap art. I discovered this medium while perusing the internet. Michelle Stitzlein is the artist I found that inspired me. The photo above is from one of her children's workshops and here is the link I initially found:

Eco-art is one of my favorite forms of art (art made from recycled materials). I love introducing this type of art to my students as it presents a great teaching moment for them to learn about the environment and the importance of recycling. My students have always been so receptive to this medium!

I will be posting pics soon of the work my students did. Gotta run now. Joseph is so excited to see one of his friends from school here in Cleveland.