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Prints and patterns.

There might have been a bewildered look on my face when I picked up my granddaughter to take her to nursery school. The four year old who greeted me at the door was wearing striped socks, plaid pants, a polka dot blouse, and a flowered cap.

"It's pattern day today, and I'm wearing all my favorite pattern things."

As we drove to her school, I learned that patterns are all around us.

"See Grandpa, that fence has a pattern."

I also learned that patterns are formed by any repetitive sequence of lines, shapes, colors, or textures.

"Actually, Grandpa, you can count a pattern--one, two, three; one, two, three; red, white, blue; red, white, blue."

I also learned that patterns make a painting more interesting.

"Yesterday I made a painting of butterflies with patterns on their wings. The painting was really pretty after I added the dots."

I also learned that printing processes are used to make patterns.

"We're making wallpaper patterns today. My mom cut some potatoes for me. They're in my bag. We'll use them to print patterns."

It is not my intent to be bragging about my grandkids. It's just that we tend to notice, and be amused by, things about our grandchildren that we overlooked in our children. Perhaps, what I'm really commenting on is the importance and high quality of pre-school learning experiences. For even though the four year old has yet to learn that the use of pattern can be carried to extremes (and that you absolutely never wear stripes with plaids), she has obviously grasped the concept of pattern and its prevalence in everyday life.

My granddaughter is correct. Patterns are everywhere. What she will continue to learn as her knowledge of the physical world expands is that around the globe and throughout time, people have decorated surfaces with ornamental patterns. We can find patterns on bodies, clothes, furniture, carpets, walls, doors, windows, and even weapons. We can find patterns ranging from simple checkerboards to elaborate mazes. Beyond decoration, patterns are a basic human pleasure. They appeal to a need for visual harmony and order as well as a need for visual variety.

The four year old is also correct about the use of patterns. Artists do use patterns for visual interest. What she will continue to find as she gets older is that artists use patterns to enliven and enrich their surfaces. They use patterns to suggest or enhance form. They might even use patterns for symbolic meaning.

My granddaughter is also correct about printing as a way to make patterns. What she will eventually learn is that printmaking processes are varied and include such things as woodcuts, intaglio, serigraphy, lithography, and even digital printmaking. She also has yet to learn that printmaking can require far greater skills than stamping a potato.

For all I know, someone many centuries ago might have created a pattern using a sliced potato. Certainly incised blocks of clay, wood, and stone were used to create patterns with repeated motifs. Over time, the use of incised blocks to make simple patterns evolved into relief printing and other technical processes to create complex multiple images.

The articles in this issue draw heavily on young people's experiences with making prints and patterns. As we consider the various uses of these lesson ideas in our curriculum, let's remember to ask ourselves why it's important for kids to be doing these things. How can skills be improved upon? How can these experiences build on the concepts that students already understand?

The most important thing I learned the day I drove my granddaughter to her nursery school was that early learning experiences inspire further inquiry and critical examination of our visual world. As we drove down a street of row houses, she gazed intently out the window from her car seat and said, "Grandpa, I think I'm beginning to see a pattern here."

Eldon Katter, Editor
COPYRIGHT 2003 Davis Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2003, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Editor's Comments
Author:Katter, Eldon
Publication:School Arts
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2003
Words:653
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