Birthday committees this year have been such a fantastic opportunity to really dive into the process, no matter how long, of making a gift. The language of paper has opened us up to so many possibilities, which has really been reflected in the variety of gifts the children have created. These committees have given us the chance to learn new techniques, revisit familiar tools/techniques, and really layer our work and expand our ability to work through a lengthy process.
A few days before the official committee work began, we were working at the studio table with the quilling and curling techniques that we used for Melanie's birthday (paper bead earrings). The children had been using beads with wire, so we decided to make our own paper beads to add to the wire. As the work progressed, Lochie looked up and said, "Did you know that you can put the beads inside paper. It makes things; like a design."
Elle heard Lochie say this, and she came from the message center and asked, "Are you working for Sylvie?" I was not sure why she might have thought this based on what she overheard, but when I asked, Elle replied, "I thought you would make a turtle because Sylvie loves turtles."
These comments and questions immediately reminded me of something I had seen on social media, where artists use quilling and curling to create beautiful designs out of folded, quilled, and curled paper (even turtles). So, that was in the back of my mind as we approached the work.
Committee work begins
What are your first thoughts about a turtle?
"Circles!" - Lucia, 4.8 years
"A turtle is not just circles." - Lochie, 5.2 years
"I'm doing a fun design on his shell." - Nora, 5.2 years
They chose green markers and pens.
"Do turtles have back fins?" - Nora
"Yes, they do." - Lochie
"They're all supposed to be in green." - Lucia, 4.8 years
"Some are light green and some are dark green." - Lochie
"I'm making a different design. All turtles don't have the same design." - Nora
"You know who is an expert of turtles? Sylvie." - Nora
"The tiles are rough. There's a big giant tile, that's the shell. Then there's the ones are one babies. That [tiles] keep the seagulls from pecking on it. The baby ones don't have it, so they have to go to the water fast." - Lochie [above are Lochie's drawings as he chatted]
The drawings were a great catalyst for conversation and initial thoughts on turtles. Based on their conversation and drawings, we decided that the next step was to specifically think about the design of the shell.
Second committee meeting
For the second meeting, the atelier was set up with a piece of a real turtle shell with the microscope, photos of sea turtles, and drawing tools.
Learning a new technique
In order to "put the beads inside the paper to make a design", we had to first revisit paper folding. Not only that, but we had a new technique to learn.
Can we use this technique for a turtle shell?
"Of course we can!" - Elle
On this same day, we also began to explore what our background for the turtle might look like. The children all agreed that it would be water for the sea turtle, so we had watercolors in shades of blues, greens, and purple. There were brushes and droppers. Elle had consistently added water to her drawings, so they were nearby for additional inspiration.
The next day
The next day we added the overhead with a transparency of the same sea turtle we had been looking at the day(s) before. This inspired more watercolor work.
Watercoloring, curling, and quilling
This particular day required a few different steps. In previous conversations, the children had decided that the outline for the shell should be green, but the quills and curls should be purple, green, and "bluish". They have a lot of knowledge about colors (tints, tones, shades, blending, etc.) and the watercolor techniques, so the decision was made to "dye" the [strips of] paper using watercolors. The day before, Lochie had also found a sharpie that he wanted to match; for this color, we needed the watercolor tubes to try and mix a new, much lighter green than they had picked out in the liquid watercolors [middle photo].
They immediately began to work on the strips, but did show some initial hesitation in blending the colors as they had done on their larger watercolor paper. After looking at some test strips that Jen and I had done (and curled), they were excited to blend the colors on BOTH sides of the strip; when the paper is curled, you can still see the colors on both sides. Within a few minutes, they were working as a team to decide which colors blended the best and how many strips they needed to watercolor (a lot of them it turns out!).
At this point, it was time to let the strips dry and go outside. After snack, we continued with the next step in the process: quilling and curling. This requires a lot of patience, fine motor strength and coordination, and perseverance. It was not an easy process for all of the children, but each and every one of them kept working and created some beautiful quills and curls that we would add to Sylvie's turtle.
A few days later, the strips of watercolored paper and card stock were on the classroom studio table for other children to help us get through all of the quilling and curling that we needed to do! When Marley walked up to the trays of quills she spotted a very small blue one and observed, "This one is small and beautiful." Marley was joined by Reed, Maxon, Audrey, and a few others to create new shapes and quills for Sylvie's gift. They were so excited to help create pieces of the turtle.
Folding the outline and filling it with the quills/curls
Giacomo joined us this day. This step required some negotiation and agreement among all of the children. They also taught Giacomo the technique for how to fold and shape the paper. In the end, they chose two folded pieces and adhered them together to create the outline of the turtle. You can see the learning, debate, negotiation, and agreement in the photos below.
There aren't many photos of the "filling process" because it was all hands on deck. The space was tiny, and a lot of glue was necessary! They really worked carefully to get each piece where they wanted it to be.
The turtle was created on transparency for two reasons:
1. The amount of glue that was needed would have affected the watercolors if we had used the background directly.
2. The transparency over the watercolor gave the illusion of movement in the water.
How beautiful is their work? Simply stunning.
The final day of work
At the end of our quilling work, Giacomo asked, "Where's the head?" Then Lochie and Lucia remembered that our turtle needed fins and a tail. The final day of our work was adding these elements, and painting a very large watercolored sea turtle at the easel in the atelier.
Lucia took on the task of drawing the head, while Nora chose the fins and tail.
Once Lucia finished the turtle head, she moved the easel while Nora continued working. She began by tracing the outline of the turtle. Nora offered guidance (scaffolding) and encouragement from afar while she was drawing and cutting. Later, Lochie joined Lucia, and the singing began! When Nora was finished with her pieces of the gift, she joined them at the easel. It was a beautiful, joyful celebration of finishing our work together!
Sylvie and her family have been so patient and understanding as we worked through our process for the gift. On Monday, we finally got to celebrate our sweet Sylvie turning 5!
"My whole family is coming today!" - Sylvie, 5.0 years
Sylvie's mom Katie read a favorite book of Sylvie's, and they brought two posters to tell us all about Sylvie. The first poster was from Sylvie's Brown Room birthday celebration, and it was so sweet to revisit that with everyone! Then, they shared photos from Sylvie's most recent adventures!
Lochie and Lucia explained some of the process to Sylvie and her family.
Sylvie has had five revolutions (or orbits to use the Tucker Room word) around the sun!
Make a wish!
The gift: Sylvie's quilled and curled Sea Turtle