“Our Community” at Catherine Blaine


zentangleAnother community art series with my good friend and colleague Carolyn Grane!  This time we worked with 3rd grade students at Catherine Blaine K – 8, right here in my own neighborhood, Magnolia.  (Seattle, WA)  The 3rd graders had been studying about the concept of community, what it means to be a member of a community, and how communities can be small groups of people to larger neighborhoods, cities, states, countries, and even larger, to the entire world.

In our first art session, students were introduced to “zentangle,” a widely popular drawing/doodling method.  If you’re not familiar with zentangle, check out the many inspiring images and techniques available on the web.zentangle

As this project is all about community, we played “pass the paper,” and had students draw for several minutes on one sheet of paper, then pass the paper to the next person and receive another doodle to elaborate on.  For some kids, it was an exercise in sharing and letting go.  For everyone, it was a chance to learn from each other, and to create something greater than one mind and one hand can accomplish alone.zentangle

Students finished the first art session with cutting out circles from tissue paper in preparation for lesson two.  We did not use templates, as we were not looking for perfect circles, but rather, taught the “chop off the corners of a square” method, which I thought was great practice in dexterity for little hands, and again, right-brain problem-solving.  I remember learning this technique in kindergarten or 1st grade, so I am always happy when I come across students who haven’t yet had that type of artistic learning, and I have the chance to share something useful and magical with them.

In the second classroom session, students cut out silhouettes of buildings, houses, and people shapes from their collaborative doodle drawings.  We also created the “fireworks” background on the panels, which would become a 15′ mural in the entryway to the school.  Additionally, the students made a mini version on paper that they could take home.  Their take-home piece tied in with a geometry lesson, as they were learning about shapes such as trapezoids, etc. and cut out these shapes to create buildings in their mini collage.


Finally, Carolyn and I put it all together in three panels, one for each 3rd grade class.  One class created Magnolia, an urban neighborhood near downtown with steep hills, crowded with houses and apartments.


The next class created the downtown Seattle skyline.


And the third class created the world, with dancing people all around.  The earth was created using text in the many languages that the families at Blaine speak in their homes.  There are around 15 languages spoken, and we translated various definitions of community into these languages to create a further layer of community collaboration within the piece.


We are so excited to see it installed!  A big thank you to Julie Cox, Principal at Blaine, who wrote for a grant from the Seattle School District to fund this program.  Also, thank you to the wonderful 3rd grade team of teachers, and the parent volunteers.  We couldn’t have done it without you!

Mosaic column at Lakeridge Elementary


mosaicThis project started as an after school program for youth-at-risk.  Nadine Smith and I team-taught a 13-week program in drawing, painting, collage, ceramics, and mosaic for students in grades 1 – 5.

mosaic columnUsing the students’ work as a starting point, we created a design featuring orca whales (the school mascot) and an underwater scene of Puget Sound.  The kids made clay seashells, fish, and starfish, and we incorporated these ceramic pieces into the design to add some texture and dimension into the mosaic.

We did the tile-work in our studios, and now we are installing panels of tile-work onto the column.  Once all the panels are up, we still have a lot of work to do, seaming, cleaning it up, and grouting.

It’s going to be beautiful when it’s finished.

mosaic columnmosaic column

mosaic column


mosaic column

Patterns in Nature at Cougar Ridge






Artist Residency in collaboration with Shari Kaufman and students at Cougar Ridge Elementary.  Many thanks to Cyndi Moring, Jackie Tanner,  PTA, parent helpers, and wonderful staff.  Thank you for supporting the arts in public schools.

For more about our process, see here and here and here and here

Tile installation at Cougar Ridge

CRinstallation5I keep wanting to rearrange the tiles.  All 640 of them.  And 192 filler tiles.  That’s 832 tiles on 8 boards, 3′ x 5′ each.

CRinstallationBig thanks to the many volunteers who helped us install the tiles on the boards.

Next step will be grouting and then the boards will be framed.

It brings so much color to a gray hallway, which now has become a beautiful gathering place as parents and children walk to and from the playground.  They stop and look at the tiles.  I hope they will continue to look closely and discover not only their own tile, but the beauty of all the children’s patterns in nature.

For more about our process, see here and here and here

Tile layout at Cougar Ridge

CRtiles2We’re looking at the finished tiles from Cougar Ridge for the first time.  I can imagine what it must have been like for the artists working on the original Wizard of Oz, once the colors were painted onto the films.  You’ve been working with the absence of color, and voila! Like magic, the colors appear and bring the artwork to Technicolor life.

We are in the process of designing the layout and preparing for installation.  Stay tuned!

For more on how we made the tiles, see my earlier posts, Glazing Tiles at Cougar Ridge, and Cougar Ridge Elementary.


Recycled robots at Kent Kids Art Day 2013

robot2What could be better than making stuff out of junk and duct tape?

Dumpster diving divas Nadine and Nicole were back at Kent Kids Art Day with Recycled Robots, and we brought everything AND the kitchen sink ….




Every child left with a unique work of art.


Thank you to the City of Kent for sponsoring public art in the community, and to ReStore and Earthwise Architectural Salvage for the hook ups!

Glazing Tiles at Cougar Ridge

glazingtilesIt’s magical to see your ceramic piece come back from the kiln.  The color has changed from gray to white, and the clay has transformed from wet mud to a hard-as-a-rock, but don’t-drop-it-because-it’s-fragile, ceramic pottery piece.

glazingtiles2The students are excited to see their bisque-fired tiles and to add color.

In the glazing sessions, we presented some color theory for students in making their color choices, and demonstrated a few brush stroke techniques specific to glazing pottery.

glazingtiles1The tiles will be fired a second time, and finally will be ready to layout for installation.

Thank you to Cyndi Moring and the countless volunteers who are efficiently running all these tiles (and a bunch of other clay-work Cyndi did with her students before we came!) through the kiln.

To see how we made the tiles and learn more about this program, click here.



To learn more about bringing an Artist-in-Residence program to your child’s school in the greater Seattle area, please visit www.kidscreate.org.

Is it Lakeridge Elementary or Lakeridge Elementary?

warm&coolpaintingsTwo of the schools in my weekly rotation of classes are called Lakeridge Elementary. I’ve been checking and double-checking my schedule, (which Lakeridge is it again?!), glued to my GPS, cursing suburban traffic as I try to get around my ever-expanding territory. Both schools are on Lake Washington, but one is in the Mercer Island School District, and the other is in the Renton Schools.

birdontexturedbackgroundAlthough they are separated by only a few miles of water, the two schools with the same name are a world apart.

The program in Renton is funded by a grant for schools in need.  A diverse group at Lakeridge, these kids were hand-picked as students who would benefit from an after school art program.  Most of these children have never had an art class before.  They are eager, fascinated by the materials, enchanted by the colors and the possibilities they bring.  With this group, every moment is filled with discovery and wonder.

birdshapesThis Artist-in-Residence program is a collaboration with my longtime cohort, Nadine Smith.  Through a 13-week series, Nadine and I will be creating TWO permanent art pieces at the school, featuring the students work.  One will be a mosaic column at the front entrance to the school, and the other, a collage mural, installed inside the school.

We started the series with warm and cool paintings, and let the students discover the magic of wax resist.  In the second class, we introduced the concept of drawing using shapes, and we cut up some of their paintings to make collages.  Over the next several weeks, we will continue to explore combining shapes as we learn to draw flowers and plants, architecture, etc.

The students will apply their understanding of shapes when we begin the mosaic portion of the series, scheduled for May and June.

ericcarleThe other Lakeridge

Mercer Island is an affluent Seattle suburb, set in the middle of Lake Washington. I’m teaching an after school book arts series at Lakeridge and Island Park Elementary Schools. Both series are offered through the Kids Co. after school program, and are funded by parents.  These kids have all had art instruction before and are comfortable working with art tools and materials in a creative process.  In this series, we are making paper maché pop up books, fiber arts books, and 3-d shadow box books.

Now which Lakeridge is it again?


Cougar Ridge Elementary

WP_002073While I enjoy working in my studio, it is the collaborations with other artists that energize and inspire me the most.

I’m currently collaborating with my friend and colleague, Shari Kaufman, as Artists-in-Residence at Cougar Ridge Elementary.

We are leading an all-school ceramic series, making clay tiles with over 600 students.  In March, we will create a mosaic installation at the school, featuring the children’s tiles.

WP_002060I am learning so much from Shari about working with clay.  She specializes in creating ceramic wall hanging pieces and jewelery, which she regularly exhibits and sells at the Columbia City Gallery, as well as several other Puget Sound area galleries, and teaches at the Seward Park Clay Studio.  Shari and I have taught together before and we each bring unique skills and perspective to the project.

We are enjoying working with Cyndi Moring, the art teacher at Cougar Ridge.  I first met Cyndi many years ago when she hosted workshops for artist educators.  These workshops gave me the foundation for writing curricula touching on the Washington State EALR’s, and in linking in science, math, social studies, etc.


Cyndi is the only elementary art teacher in the Issaquah School District.  Every year her school hosts a PTA-sponsored Artist-in-Residence.  Some years it is music, some years it is dance, or theater …  this year it is visual art.  For years, Cyndi had envisioned creating an all-school tile mural, so last year, with visual arts coming up for this year’s AIR program, she put out a call to artists specializing in ceramic tile installations in schools.  Shari and I put forward a proposal, and now here we are, creating clay tiles with the kids at Cougar Ridge.


Our theme is “Patterns in Nature.”  I’ve used this theme before and I will use it again!  As an environmentalist, an outdoor enthusiast, and an artist who takes my inspiration mostly from nature, I’m enjoying talking to the children about the swirl pattern of a seashell, ripples in water, veins on a leaf.  These children live in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, surrounded by hiking trails.  I am pleasantly surprised by how many have said they hike with their families.  I hope to inspire curiosity and an appreciation of beauty in the natural world through art.

WP_002080* * *

A VERY full kiln!  This kiln has a couple hundred bisque-fired tiles packed in there.

Next week we start glazing the tiles, and they will be fired a second time.

Finally, after all 600+ tiles have been through the kiln twice, we will be ready to assemble the mosaic installation.  Stay tuned!