Magazine article Arts & Activities

Letter Perfect

Magazine article Arts & Activities

Letter Perfect

Article excerpt

Whenever I find a 3-D project that everyone is successful with, I feel fortunate. These papier-mache letters are one of those projects.

Before beginning this project with my students, I present a lesson on typography, and introduce them to Johannes Gutenberg (c. 1398-1468) and the invention of the printing press. We discuss the enormous impact this invention had on the availability of books and the art world--including the works of Albrecht Durer.

We look at early examples of typesetting, learning terms such as font, kerning, leading, serif, and sans serif. We view examples of contemporary art that incorporate typography, as well as Robert Indiana's Love (1966), and others.

After discussing these topics, we go to the computer lab where each student will print out a letter of their choice. They are instructed to use a "chunky" letter and that the printed letter should fill an entire page.

BACK IN THE ART ROOM, students cut out their letters, then trace them twice onto a cereal box. Once these are cut out, students take one of them and begin to build up the sides using 2-inch poster-board strips, which they attach with masking tape. (I show students how to mark and score their strips to create the neatest corners possible.)

When there is a side around the perimeter of the letter, and any cutouts--such as those within in an "A," or "D"--students then build supports by accordion folding more strips and placing them across the open areas. The letters are then stuffed with crumpled newspaper. If a letter will be top heavy, such as an "F" or "P," the leg of the letter can be filled with a weight, such as small bags of sand. Once firmly stuffed, the other cardboard letter is laid on top and secured with tape.

Papier-mache comes next. Our school's brown paper towels make a nice base coat. Once the papier-mache letters are dry, they're painted with a coat of white house paint. …

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