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Collages in cloth.

Canadian artist Carole Sabiston, well-known for her monumental fabric collages, often shares her interest and skills with teachers and students. Her fabric-collage process can be simplified for very young children, or made abstract, complex and subtle for older ones. it can easily be adapted to group projects as well.

The process has three main steps: 1. Developing Imagery--introducing a theme and pre-planning; 2. Creating a Collage--arranging and fastening the fabric to a backing to create an image; 3. Finishing--adding netting and stitching.

The materials and equipment needed are: * felt (for young children), fabric scraps or pellon (interfacing) * yarn, ribbon, lace, sequins * pins * scissors * thread * netting * glue * backing fabric Access to a sewing machine allows for more complex and attractive finished products.

Many types of imagery are appropriate for working with fabric collage as long as they stress color and shape. Some suggestions are cats, butterflies, portraits, outer space, gardens and architecture. Students can draw from slides, filmstrips, biology specimens, photographs or each other to collect a variety of ideas. We have drawn from videos of folk dancers, butterfly field guides, slides of local architecture, mirrors for self-portraits, and the work of Henri Matisse.

The students make a variety of sketches to form their ideas, and select their most effective sketches to make into a collage. it might be wise to practice with a paper collage as an intermediate step with primary children, rather than moving directly to fabric.

Next, the students select a variety of fabrics that interpret the colors in the sketch. Restricting the number of colors is usually helpful. The students cut the fabric into pieces to begin composing their collages. When working on felt, background shapes aren't necessary. Using pellon requires establishing background colors first. The students should also work from large main shapes first. Don't neglect the possibility of using negative space or repetition as part of the composition. Small pieces of fabric, yarn, lace, sequins and layered semi-transparent fabrics go on last to add details. Younger children who have difficulty manipulating pins may glue their fabric in place.

When the composition is complete, place a layer or layers of netting over the entire piece. Remove and replace pins one by one, repinning in rows to indicate the direction of desired stitching. It is wise to start with a row of pins near the center of the piece, then gradually add additional rows to reach the edges. The rows of zigzag stitching can be anywhere from 1/2 to 1" (1 to 3 cm) apart. (Zigzag stitching is often done by volunteer parents.) This adds texture and subtlety to the surface of the collage, as well as strength and flexibility. The color of the netting and thread will vary the tonal effect of the piece; several layers will create subtle tints and shades.

Have students make small collages that can be combined to create a mural. Our Medieval Tapestry was constructed by four groups--one group created the background, one did the sky, one group was responsible for the life of the nobility and the castle, and one group created the peasants and their village life. As the pieces were completed, the children glued them into the scene. Additional netting and overstitching added unity to the composition. To complete, stitch on a pillowcase-style backing of cotton broadcloth or an edging of felt or fabric.
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Title Annotation:teaching collage in schools
Author:McIntyre, Jennifer
Publication:School Arts
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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