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What Do Materials Do?

Opal 1 students went to
the Portland Art Museum to investigate the kinds of materials that artists use in
their work. When they returned to class, the children and teachers had an
“inspiration workshop” in which they used some of the materials they observed during their
field trip. Then, they had a conversation about how materials inspire their own

Jade T: When I was done painting, I thought of some words, like
what I want people to feel when they look at it.  And like think about the things they like, stuff they did
for the first time and things about Easter that they like.  But it reminded me about Easter when I
was little.

Micah: Mine, it felt like when I used to go on trips a lot, it
reminded me of the mountains and the rivers.

Teacher Kerry: Did you find something that surprised you?

Senan: The feeling I felt when I got my canoe for my birthday.

Kaia: I made myself when I was happy and excited.  I was just going to draw some
connection to nature, then I decided to draw about my feelings in nature.

Teacher Kimie: If there are so many surprises hiding in the
materials, what does that tell us for our story workshops?

River: They give you new ideas better than your old idea.

Amelia: Materials do have a little present inside and when you get
used to one material a bit, BAM, you find out a little surprise: “OH, I want to
use these ideas in my own writing!
” Materials don’t only want to make you want
to make a story, they make their own story sometimes and tell you.

Jade P:  If there are surprises
in every material, when you don’t know that they are there, probably that means
that there are special materials you should try out that you never tried

Adaline: It was interesting to let your ideas out.

Ezra: I have an idea of what it does when you use a material: It
decides what you are doing, it surprises you!  It doesn’t let you do what you want it to do, it’s like it’s
alive! Also, if I was working on a picture of my story I remember, oh
yeah, this happened, that happened, yeah.

Senan:  It’s really
important to use materials because if you just started writing, it might not be
as interesting as if you tried dramatic play or watercolor. Because if you just
do writing, you don’t get more ideas, it’s just not interesting.

Jade T:  Sometimes you
might want to go places like maybe even to the park to find things and also
sometimes you might even want to try pictures and watercolor because it really
gives you inspirations of stories you want to do.

Ace:  Some materials
are good for getting unstuck: finding things; words; or bringing up your story.


How do the words of these children help you understand their relationship with materials?

What meaning do you make of their words?

What do you speculate is the teachers' intention? Why bother engaging in a dialogue like this with young children?

What does this dialogue make you wonder?

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One response to “What Do Materials Do?

  1. As a visual artist this moves me “Ezra: I have an idea of what it does when you use a material: It decides what you are doing, it surprises you! It doesn’t let you do what you want it to do, it’s like it’s alive! ” The arts are especially rich when we are having a dialogue with the materials.

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