Creating art from nature and natural products is something I am trying to incorporate more in to my classroom experiences. This year I was turned on to the work of Andy Goldsworthy, a British photographer, sculptor and environmentalist who creates land art using sticks, petals, leaves, rocks and other materials found in the environment in which he chooses to develop his piece.
We did some of this outside using materials the children found on our playground and we also brought numerous natural materials inside for the children to use to create art. We were not using glue and keeping the products, just experimenting with the textures, colors and objects themselves. In class, we looked at some of Goldsworthy's stunning photographs and tried to emulate his work. (sadly, my photographs of these experiences were lost)
These Goldworthy inspired learning environments left me wanting to learn even more about using natural materials with children. I was very excited to find that my dear childhood friend, Christine Orlando-Budd, is the co-owner of The Studio in Fairfield, CT and that they were offering a Goldsworthy Art in Nature Summer Camp for two weeks this summer. I was able to go and visit her program yesterday. My photographs are not the best as I was more invested in talking to her about the program and then in creating natural art myself. During each of these Goldsworthy weeks, the children (mixed age group) spend a day looking at video and photographs of his work and then discussing and sketching the artistic elements present in his signature style. The next four days are spent completely in the field: two days in the woods and two on the beach. The products the children develop are ephemeral and left where they are created, so they take beautiful photographs of the work and create slide shows of their process.
Christine and her partner, Priscilla Igram, bring some natural materials with them that they have collected, branches of leaves and berries, flowers and grasses from their gardens as well as teach the children how to collect the materials found in the area. Then the children "harvest" the materials by pulling off leaves, berries and petals and separating them into containers to use as individual elements.
One of the pieces was made from the dried beach grass that is found lying at the edge of the marsh by the beach. These artists added white petals to the dried grass.
It was a challenge for my daughter and I to create a piece of art as it was fairly windy at the beach on this morning, but we tried to use a hula hoop as a design guide as we worked on a piece using leaves, berries and grass. It gave us a good appreciation for some of the challenges that Goldsworthy must encounter as well as the necessity of adapting to challenges when creating natural art- much of our design just blew away.
I'd also love to hear from you about the natural art you are encouraging your students and children to explore.