Children's Art for Children's Literature

Article excerpt

Our art department was granted a wonderful opportunity--to create a visual display heralding the connection of art and literature.

This resulted in a ceramic mural of 400 story tiles installed in our local community library. What unfolds is the story of our success from an invitation to participate, the funding, and the research, to the completion of a lasting work of art for all in the community to enjoy.

A resident of our local community contacted our school's superintendent with the idea for this mural for the new community library. She was impressed with one such story-tile mural she had seen in a library in another community, and was willing to cover the total cost of all supplies.

As with any artistic venture, it began with the idea, but the result became a deeper connection of school and community and a legacy of the union of visual art and literature.

With funding in place, and our sponsor enthusiastic that the story-tile mural for the newly constructed library would finally be a reality, we began our work. Many of our students in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade would do a tile. Ideally, having all 750 students represented would be the best, but space was limited and our invitation to start didn't come until January. Our students rotate through their "special subjects" every seven weeks and by January, many had progressed from art to music, computers, home economics, or technology education.

Creating the Tiles

The first step of the project required selecting a story that students would like to tell in a relief tile. They discussed their personal childhood favorites, classic fairytales, cultural legends, and more contemporary titles.

Each student completed four thumbnail sketches to experiment with shapes, space, textures, and forms. They enlarged two of the sketches in colored pencil to refine their ideas. Finally, they rendered their favorite as a finished drawing on 6 x 6" (15 x 15 cm) white paper. This served as the template for their relief tile. Some students cut main shapes out of their templates so this could be traced onto a slab of clay and cut out like a shaped cookie; others used a pin to pierce the outline of shapes as their pattern lay atop a rolled slab of clay. Some created relief tiles with three-dimensional shapes.

Students became more comfortable with the clay day after day. They added fine details, such as strands of hair made by pressing clay through a garlic press or tiny bows of clay made at the ends of a girl's braided hair. When the clay became leather hard, additional details were carved, etched, and refined using discarded dental tools. …