Last week we celebrated the 11th edition of Work in Progress, the biggest and most beloved art exhibition in our school. Ever since November, our students from primary and middle school made use of their creativity in various multidisciplinary activities. This year, our main focus has been Design in its various forms.
Students from middle school learned how to create clothes from scratch – they learned how to use a sewing machine, experimented with decorating techniques and prepared a fashion show in which they presented their final products.
Students from primary school created a pastry shop – they imagined, designed and built a product from idea to its physical form, using both analog and digital techniques and software. They experienced both digital 3D modeling, clay modeling, and 3D printing bringing together both analog and digital means of production.
It was also a great opportunity for our high school students that study Art and Design to share their projects.
Here are some words from our teachers:
Andreea Geamănu: This year’s challenge was to get all students excited about fashion design and the process behind creating a piece of clothing. All the pieces in this fashion collection were entirely created by our middle school students, from choosing the fabric, understanding how to use a sewing pattern, assembling all pieces using the sewing machine, experimenting with decorating techniques and creating the overall look. Each class created at least one item of clothing or accessory and every student had a contribution to this process. If you look at the displays next to the mannequins, you will see that there was a complex creative process behind this final product, a series of drawings, collages, magazine inspiration and you can also see some of our middle school students in the middle of the action.
The students from the Printmaking Club came up with a big challenge for themselves: to find as many ways as possible to use stencil art, a very versatile technique that they learned during our lessons. They are proposing an interior design and fashion design approach and they created a thematic wallpaper, tapestry, curtains and an outfit, all with the “Tropical” theme in mind. They decided on the theme, chose the elements, cut out the stencils and proceeded to print different types of materials. When you visit the minipark art station, expect to see a wide range of materials and get transported right away to an exotic resort. While you’re there, don’t forget to take a look at the artworks created by the Book Illustration Club.
The students from the Book Illustration Club found themselves in a fantasy world, where Santa lives in Greece and plant pots play the guitar. They created 3D paper illustrations based on the surrealist short stories imagined by students at the beginning of the school year during the art lessons. They chose to use this medium because they considered it a little different than the usual illustration style they see everywhere. Together with the illustrations, you can also see some typographic experiments. The students wrote the surrealist short stories letter by letter on paper using wooden letters traditionally used in letterpress machines.
Bogdan Topîrceanu: Before we get into the theme of this year’s exhibition, we think we must clarify the reasons behind this year’s endeavor. Usually, Work in Progress displayed an array of expressive and colorful fine art drawings and paintings. This year though, we thought we might switch gears in order to show that art can be more than just a relaxing activity.
We often fail to conceive just how important drawing and art are in everyday life, because we are used to seeing art as only something hanging on the walls of a gallery. That is what we are taught, through the prism of the institutional theory of art: that art is dependent on an art audience and an art space. But “art” is only a word which we started using 500 years ago, during the Renaissance. And drawing and craftsmanship have been present in the human experience way before that.
The oldest intentional drawings made by Homo Sapiens go back to roughly 73.000 years ago, but the oldest drawing traces go back to roughly 500.000 years ago, to Homo Erectus. Drawing has shaped the human brain in ways that might not be evident at first, but which unravel at a more serious scrutiny, by being one of the first technologies developed by our minds. And yes, we said technology, for it is the basis on which mathematics was first developed, and further on, written language, two of the main elements of human science, knowledge and ultimately civilisation. Drawing is the means through which our brains manage to turn physical elements into abstract concepts, around which we can more easily wrap our minds around. And thus, we do not think it is a coincidence, that all, and we mean ALL human made objects rely on a drawing, or a mental image of the future object we are going to build. You see, drawing is not only a sketch on a white paper, but a mental blueprint for objects not yet in existence.
Society regards the activity of art making as a child’s play, and easily dismisses artistic endeavors as unserious and maybe even pretentious, in the face of more “serious” fields, such as science and technology, regardless of the fact that both heavily rely on drawing and imagery in order to further their development. Art, theory and technology all are interwoven, and cannot exist one without the other. And this is something that we strongly believe we as teachers should highlight in our classes, in order for students to understand how the elements of our world connect to each other, and understand that what they learn in an art class, is not only a therapeutic activity, but can become a useful tool for testing and developing their own ideas.
And this brings us to the second part of this explanation.
This idea of art, theory and technology as a single organism permeated into this year’s activities. While imagining the curriculum for 2022, we had this idea of teaching entrepreneurship using art. And what better way of doing that if not by challenging the students to imagine their own brand and business. Thus students were able to gain real world skills, which they can also use outside class, and even further on, when they grow up. As we experimented in the past 2 years, children can learn in parallel how to develop both analog and digital skills in resolving the same tasks, thus gaining better control over both the immediate reality and also the digital tools at their disposal.
While brainstorming ideas for what type of business might be fun and interesting for them to do, some images of Claes Oldenburg’s The Shop (1961) popped into our minds. A collection of handmade fake pastry products, built out of common materials and painted with industrial enamels. Thus, the theme was set: a pastry shop for the students to imagine from scratch, with the main objective: to imagine, design and build a product from idea to its physical form, using both analog and digital techniques and software.
For lower primary, we mostly focused on drawing and coloring, introducing a couple of notions of typography and lettering which they used in imagining their shops’ names. For the upper primary we upped the game and expanded the project, from a few weeks, which was the regular Work in Progress timeline, to a few months. This extra time let the student experience a much more diverse learning process. Thus, they started out with a blank business canvas, which they learned how to use and on top of which they built their brand, both in name and image. They researched other pastry brands and branding ideas using Behance, they vectorized their hand drawn logos using Vectornator, they designed their 3D printed products in Tinkercad, and designed their packaging using Sketchbook, Procreate and even Notes. They learned about the difference between a logotype and a logogram, the anatomy of letters and how to build new, interesting and intricate typefaces. They experienced both 3D modeling and clay modeling, bringing together both analog and digital means of production, and also made their first attempts at building a functional and aesthetic container for their products. All of these individual activities have been reunited in one design, representing the facade of their pastry shop.
The pinnacle of their efforts: an intricate display containing all the elements they managed to assemble in the last 5 months of sustained work. This whole endeavor represents a STEAM pilot for primary, from which we have learned on a pedagogical level, at least as much as the students did following our lead. We identified both opportunities and challenges for both ourselves and the students, which we will use only to further develop and adjust the idea onto their own needs.