The Difference Between “Crafts” and “ART”





    We sometimes say this person or that person is very creative, when you stop and think about it, what does that really mean?  Does that mean that you are either born creative or not creative?  I believe that everyone can encounter creativity.  However, I think it takes a mind set on giving time to create, and then creativity takes shape.  If you don't give time to just play with art, you are not allowing creativity to come through.

     Such was my experience with creativity.  When my life evolved around a daily routine of working in the home and outside the home.  Time was a precious commodity and therefore, everything I did was very pragmatic.  However, when I decided to quit my job and stay home, I had more time on my hands and I began to make things with my hands.  I took a quilting class and begin to see that I have a very good sense of color and design.  From there, I began making gifts and discovered that my family and friends pleasantly received them.  When I started a family, I discovered further, as I taught and played with my children, that I had a wealth of creative juices exploding in my brain.  In retrospect, I was able to discover that I was creative only because I had time to play and create.

     As a teacher, I find that because the new standards are so much more demanding on the students as well as the teacher that I find myself putting art, drama and play on the back burners more often than I should.  Taking this course through Lesley with the focus on learning through the arts has helped to remind and encourage me that art, creating, and play should not be put on the back burners but should be brought forth into every subject area.

      One of the most refreshing things that I learned from this particular class has been the willingness to trust the process, letting go of my need to control every element of my art work and just play with the material and let things happen.  

      I had expected to come and learn how to use all the different art mediums, but I was totally caught by surprise.  The focus was not on the material, but rather, on the process of letting art happen through the usage of different art material.

     Working with clay the very first evening of this class was out of my comfort zone.  I don't enjoy being messy, and using clay was messy in my books.  To top that off, we had to work with clay not only with our eyes opened, but also with our eyes closed!  I certainly had my reservations.  But to my amazement, the result was better with my eyes closed than opened.  This was the first lesson in letting go of control and letting the process happen.  What was even better was that the process of working with clay with my eyes closed was very relaxing.

      This class was more stretching for me than the last (Integrating The Arts into The Curriculum) because of my natural inclination toward body-kinesthetic.  But I feel that this class has helped me feel more confident to venture into other areas of art and consequently, my students will benefit as well.   The art that I do with my students tends to lean towards craft activities because those lessons are in my comfort zone.  Through this class, I am pushed to venture into areas that I am not comfortable with, such as using clay, charcoal, watercolor and making a relief.  Though I have a good sense of color and design, I cannot draw a thing.  My dogs look like my cats, like my horses, etc.  But using soft drawing pencils and vine charcoal, I discovered that my drawings are not half bad.  Using the viewfinder and drawing the negative spaces first also helped me draw so much better than I've ever done before.

     Watercolor remains the most challenging medium for me in this class.  Because of that, and because the focus of the class was "trusting the process"; I wanted to test the theory through my second week project.  I decided to use watercolor as the bases of my project.  I played with it and created a series of twenty pictures.  It was quite boring in the beginning and I didn’t like the results much, but I did not give in, I continued playing.  At picture number five, things began to change, I played with patterns and washing over it after it dried.  The patterns began to change with each additional picture and at the end; I was pleased with the result.  I put the twenty pictures into a book and as I kept flipping from picture to picture, I wanted something to tie it all together.  I thought of boxes because I collect boxes; so I drew a square box on the first picture, then a round box on the second picture, a square box on the third, and continue that pattern on down to picture twenty.  The idea of treasures came into my mind as I was drawing the boxes, so I wrote a poem about treasures and wrote part of the poem on the box lids in each picture.    I then chose my three favorite pictures and applied it to a larger project.  That was the most enjoyable part of the whole experiment for me.  I wanted to go from 2-D to 3-D in the final product, so my first large picture was a box with a lid that had been cut to open with the backside still attached.  When it is opened, you can see my complete poem written down.  The second large picture involved using glue and colored tissue paper.  I created a replica of my second favorite watercolor picture using a different medium. The third application was a shoebox; filled with artifacts that represent the treasures in my poem, painted with tempera paint the same colors as my third favorite watercolor picture. 

      I loved the result of this experience.  The theory worked.  Trusting the process and playing with art worked.  I showed my project to my students, they loved it and asked if they can do the same project.

      I have come to feel more confident in using these various materials of art with my own students because of the success of my own experimentation.  I also know that my students all have different learning styles because of their multiple intelligences.  They are not all body-kinesthetic like me, and thus should be encouraged to explore other mediums of art to help discover how they learn and where their strengths lay.  Consequently, I have applied many of the lessons I've learned in this class to my own classroom.

     The art that I do in my classroom since taking this class has changed tremendously.  We have used vine charcoal to illustrate plants for our science unit on plant growth and the students as well as parents; teachers and our principal were very impressed with these drawings.  Those who thought they couldn't draw before now thinks that they can.  We've made pinch pots with our eyes opened and closed and in their writing, my students have expressed how surprised and amazed they were with the wonderful results.  They've also enjoyed drawing blindly as well as doing contour drawings of their friend's faces.  I even find them doing it on their own during free time lately.

     My class is in the process of putting a play together from scratch, that means we are writing the script, deciding on how many characters, writing up the dialogues and then forming groups to design costumes, sets, props, music, movement and programs.  It is very exciting because I'm applying Multiple Intelligences Theory.   The students get to evaluate themselves and decide which area they feel most comfortable in working.  I've been the typist while the scriptwriters are dictating to me.  We've had great fun working during lunchtime together.   I plan to give them all the different art mediums to use when they begin to design sets, props, etc.

     We had some visitors a couple of weeks ago during our torn-paper creature project.  The energy and noise level was definitely higher than I expected but they had so much fun.  The visitors were so impressed with the level of engagement amongst the students.  One of them told me that they actually got teary eye from seeing the joy in the students.  We will take this further as a writing project titled, A Day in the Life of My Creature.

     Observing my students these last couple of months, where I've applied what I've learned through this course and the last course on integrating art, I've come to realized that I can trust the process of creativity, not only for myself, but also for my students.  I don't need to be the perfectionist anymore, where all the results are expected to come out just the way I wanted, but I can enjoy my students create and watch them enjoy the process for themselves.  One of my students said, "This was fun, Mrs. Lu, can we do this again?"  It was music to my ears.  I see so much joy in their discovering creativity within themselves that it makes me want to integrate more and more art into the curriculum.

     I'm so glad that I'm taking a course with twenty-three other teachers instead of a correspondence course.  Through our interaction, I've learned that we have so much in common, very self-conscious but at the same time, very creative and opened to sharing ideas.  I've been encouraged by everyone's process in creating their projects.  It helped me to broaden my own creativity in that I am exposed to so many possibilities in applying what we've learned.

     The lesson plans everyone passed out after they shared their students' artwork were really helpful.  This wealth of resource is and will be so useful as I apply different art medium to different subject areas.

     I'm constantly being surprised by how this Master's Program through Lesley University is affecting my teaching style and me.  I fully expected to come and learn much about using art in my classroom, but I did not expect it to change my style of teaching as much as it has.

     I have always been a perfectionist.  I need to have control in my classroom, whether it is student behavior or classroom environment.  Having such a leaning, it also affects the way I teach my lessons; plan student activities, such as field trips, art projects or even free time in the classroom.  I feel most comfortable in an environment where I have instant control when it is needed.  I suppose it may be a result of feeling responsible for twenty-eight children all day.  To change my perfectionism will not be an overnight event, I'm sure, but the courses through Lesley so far, has certainly encouraged me to trust the process of creativity more, which means not be afraid to let go of the control factor a bit more to my students.  I can see through my own experience so far, particularly through this course where I went out of my comfort zone often, that the results were surprisingly pleasant.  To push myself further, I have agreed to take on a student teacher from the University of Washington's Master in Education Program who wanted to intern under me.  I've been asked before, but again, that control factor comes in and I've always said no to the opportunity.  This student teacher has seen some of the art lessons recently in my class and is very excited about teaching under me in the fall.  On my end, I hope to pass on Lesley's focus to her so that this newfound enthusiasm in me could continue.  It is going to be another test for me in trusting the process.

     Leadership is very important.  The attitude of a leader trickles down to his/her followers, whether you intend it or not.  I believe that it is very important for a teacher to model for his/her students.  Whenever I've showed my students my own art, it encouraged them to try it for themselves. If I want to pass on my enthusiasm toward creating and learning to my students, I need to keep the momentum going by taking time out to play and create myself, otherwise, my careless attitude toward creativity will affect them negatively. 

      I have always believed that every child is gifted, just differently.  Now that I've read about Multiple Intelligences Theory, I should have a solid argument to apply it in my classroom.  However, if I keep the control factor and the perfectionism in my teaching style, my students' ability to discover their strengths will be hampered.  To foster an atmosphere of acceptance where students are allowed to explore and discover their intelligences, I'll have to provide many opportunities where they can play and create, with access to as many different art mediums as possible. I plan to make time every Friday afternoon from now till the end of the school year for them to just explore and create anything they want using all available mediums in the room.  It should prove to be a fun adventure with many revelations.

By Nora Lu