Indian Woodblock Printing

Teaching Art

My former art teaching partner, the fabulous and ever talented Claire Kirk, dreamt up this richly layered unit ladened and linked with many different levels of learning.

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With our Kindergartners participating in a unit centered around the Hindu Festival, Diwali, in their Kinder classroom, The Indian Woodblock Printing Unit was designed for students to then further explore how art is influenced by and connected to culture. Students are introduced to the intricate and symmetrical designs synonymous with Indian textiles and learn about how to create artifacts that celebrate the traditional arts and crafts of India, specifically woodblock printing.

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The unit begins with inquiry about how patterns are transferred to cloth and fabric. Students are then introduced to the idea of woodblock printing with a focus on the designs and techniques found in India. Students learn about symmetry and how to create a symmetrical design. The first lesson is devoted to practicing and creating symmetrical designs in pairs using paper shapes.

In the following lesson, students begin by planning designs in their sketchbook based on the adhesive foam shapes provided for them. Once they have created a successful symmetrical design, students transfer the adhesive foam shapes to the surface of a woodblock. The shapes are cut from larger shapes to ensure a variety of sizes are provided to make a developed design.

Ink trays are prepped by soaking felt squares in salt water before ringing them out and putting them on a plastic try. The salt helps delay the felt pads from drying out so the pads can be covered and used over and over again. Water-soluble printing ink is painting on the felt ink pads and are reinked twice within a lesson by students or the teacher.

Students practice printing on paper before they print on fabric. A great emphasis is placed on ‘hovering’ over the spot they want to print on to ensure they are being mindful about each print’s placement. Once the fabric dries, it can be used for a variety of things. From gluing it to a bag or sewing two printed pieces together, the results are luscious and lend themselves to lots of variations for creations.

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This unit is one of my favorite for its integration of culture, math, the design cycle, and printmaking. It gives a great foundation to show young learners that art is more than painting and drawing but a part of many different aspects of life and learning.

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