My school district in Colorado, Boulder Valley School District, is committed to building and designing innovative spaces to promote learning and educational innovation. Part of the effort involves changing the furniture in educational spaces to promote collaboration and flexible grouping. In Finland, I have seen some very traditional learning spaces with chairs and desks set up in rows. In new schools and renovated spaces, I have seen learning spaces with a variety of innovative furniture. See photos below:
Teacher work and break spaces are as important as student spaces. In new or renovated buildings, the teacher lounges I've seen are bright, airy, uncluttered and have lots of natural light. They are comfortable and desirable places to be (and there is usually coffee ready to drink!)
Usefulness, either professionally or personally, was the guiding requirement for this project.
My project fulfills both requirements. Personally, I wanted to make a item of clothing that would keep my upper legs warm on very cold Finnish winter days. It needed to be easy take on and off when wearing a short jacket. Additionally, I wanted to do a sewing project to improve my sewing skills and to take a project from idea to real life product. Professionally, I wanted to put myself in my students’ shoes and complete a project in the way that I ask my students to complete a project. I ask them to brainstorm, research (sketch, make lists, or find visual references), prototype, make, reflect and document their process.
After deciding on the project idea, I sketched notions that popped into my head. Online, I researched clothing items like chaps, aprons, down skirts, hockey pants, ski racer shorts, leg warmers and kilts. I needed to see pictures of other clothing items to evaluate how they worked and see if they would lead me to other ideas for my project. I knew that my final product could not be pulled on over the head or legs because that would be too awkward and bulky.
For a time, I focused on modified shorts but realized they would be too complicated to make and use. I was leaning toward a skirt of some kind when I was Inspired by woolen skirts at the 2nd hand store that were on sale. I realized I could disassemble a skirt and modify it for my purposes. Many of the skirts had a lining which would slide nicely against my pants which was a practical detail I hadn’t considered. I bought a skirt that I thought would work well and begin thinking about how to take it apart. I sketched some ideas for the shape of the front of the apron and thought about adding pockets and making the conservative plaid skirt more fun and modern looking.
The sewing was challenging but I was determined to make it work and learn what I needed to make my project. I learned how to make button holes and had to practice them a lot to make them look and work properly. Figuring out how to adjusting the machine to the button hole setting was challenging because the manual is in Finnish. I was committed to making the piece with good craftsmanship and detail.
Like I said in class, I was very happy with not feeling rushed in having the solution to come together. I was pleased to stay with one idea for the solution. In the past I have jumped around with ideas which I now see comes from uncertainty with skill ability and the creative process. Overall, I was focused and relaxed, challenged and comfortable.
I am pleased that I made something new and did not remake something that I have seen elsewhere. I am pleased with the process I experienced and will apply it to other projects (crafts, art and others) and my teaching. I have a renewed enthusiasm for and experience with the creative and making process which will benefit my students when I return to the classroom.
I am a high school art teacher from Boulder Valley School District in Colorado studying craft education in Jyvaskyla, Finland. I am in Finland through a grant from the Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching program and the Fulbright Finland Foundation.