As you know if you follow my blog or my Instagram handle, I use any and all opportunities to dress up. So, naturally for the Killers concert this fall, I made some feathered shoulder pads inspired by the jackets worn by Brandon Flowers, the lead singer of the Killers. With Halloween right around the corner, I thought the same process could be used to make other feather themed shoulder wear and may be useful to my fellow flock of DIY costume enthusiasts.
To make the feathered shoulder pads I collected and scavenged the following items.
A small amount of thin cardboard – a tissue box, or cereal box will do
Colored felt of your choosing
Feathers attached to a ribbon for ease of gluing
A hot glue gun and glue sticks
Ribbon for trimming and detail work
Start by cutting the cardboard to the length of your shoulders or however long you would like the shoulder pads to extend. Then, cut a piece of felt that can be wrapped around the cardboard covering it like a present.
Use this as the base to glue the feather trim on either side of the felted foundation. I also plucked the feathers from the ribbon trim to arrange and then glue the individual feathers around the edge where the feathers curve around the shoulder.
Then glue the trim or ribbon to the top of the feathers to seal them in and stave off any feathered fraying.
Simply pin the felted base to the shoulder of your frock. Note that pinning is easier when not wearing the top – TRUST ME! Once properly positioned, you are ready to soar! Godspeed my feathered friends and be sure to tag me in photos of your funky feathered frocks so I can see you take flight!
I have been a massive fan of Yayoi Kusama since 2013 after I attended her exhibition at the MOCA in Shanghai. Knowing little about the artist, I was riddled with spots of inspiration and left with dots in my eyes from the kaleidoscopes of colors, sticky installations, and gourds of supernatural wonderment! I, of course, captured my enchantment with one of my first Instagram posts! With my declaration of love posted to the world via social media, it was official, I was dotty about Yayoi!
Since then, I have facilitated lessons to lower primary students centered around her artwork, life, and inspirations.
I even wrote a song about her and her love of all things spotted and dotted!
And most recently, I attended Art Central in Hong Kong dressed like Yayoi! I posed by all of ‘my’ artwork being shown by various galleries from around the world.
The reactions from children was the highlight of my disguise as they poked the polka dots on my dress and asked questions about my firey red hair. I like to think that one day, the ‘dot will drop’ for them and they will realize that they either saw Yayoi in their youth or conversed with one of her biggest fans.
My husband’s work hosts an annual Chinese New Year dinner, which always has a theme. Every year, I try to create a costume that is homemade and slightly over the top. If you marry an art teacher, this is to be expected! With the theme being ‘Around the World’ and our 5th year attending this event, I created an out of this world costume, if I may say so myself.
After obtaining a white jumpsuit for the astronaut costume, all I needed to do was add patches to make the bulk of the costume believable. This then allowed me more time to spend on the helmet.
The helmet and planet earth were made using 12-inch paper lanterns. I used papier-mâché to cover the lanterns helping make them a bit stronger. I could have actually added several more layers to help reduce the visibility of the internal wire structure to make it smoother but time was an issue. The helmet was cut with wire cutters and scissors to make the hole for the head and opening in the front. I then added a bit of foam tubing around the edging before painting it.
For the planet earth headpiece, I securing the globe to a headband with wire and duct tape before putting papier-mâché over the area where they joined. After painting it, I added a small spaceship to a piece of wire and hot glued it to make it look like it was landing on earth.
The costumes were a huge hit at the event and people appreciated the time and craftsmanship. We were over the moon when we were announced Best Dressed!
Another, annual dinner, another epic costume. I have properly secured my place as the costume queen of this galaxy and will rein to infinity and beyond or at least until the next annual dinner.
Although I was not home in the US for the holidays, ‘home’ was a theme that followed me as I celebrated both Christmas and the completion of my Masters Thesis paper whilst in the United Kingdom this holiday season. The Queen’s speech broadcasted on December 25th took ‘home’ as its theme in which she stated, “there is a timeless simplicity to the pull of home. For many, the idea of ‘home’ reaches beyond a physical building – to a hometown or city.” With her words relevant to my life as well as to millions around the world, the ideas and connotations of home are complex and emotional yet simple and comforting.
My thesis paper approached these ideas of home and presented them in the form of a unit plan to my second-grade students. With many of my students living in a country and culture different from their parents, these ‘Third Culture Kids’ explored their thoughts and emotions regarding home, place, and identity within their art. Their artwork was then used as a part of my case study to support my research.
How can artmaking help primary-aged Third Culture Kids understand and communicate ideas of how place shapes identity and self-perception?
I facilitated an eight-week unit plan where students unpacked ideas and feelings about their home. Through drawings and mixed media collages, students created an art piece that visually represented their ideas and feelings regarding their home, culture and the place in which they live.
From flags to foods, to family and favorite toys, these primary students were able to express the weighted word of ‘home’ to represent their identity, memories, culture, and people that help them to define home.
On my last day in London before flying back to my now home in Hong Kong, I went to The Geffrye Museum. The exhibition I experienced, ‘Home Thoughts: Stories of Living in London’, documented London residents’ stories and ideas connected to “home”.
The questions that the exhibition presented are questions I will always ponder and although the answers may change as time passes, for me home will always be where the heart is.
When it comes to Halloween, art teachers have to pull out all the stops! We can and will not be one-upped by the math teacher or out-did by the lunch lady! In many ways, Halloween costumes are a visual representation of an art teacher’s ability, creativity, and innovation. A pair of cat ears will not do!
My current school celebrates Book-O-Ween in which teachers and students dress up as a book, character or reference to a book. For art teachers, the crayon costume (The Day the Crayons Quit) is a cop-out, Andy Warhol (Uncle Andy) too easy, and colourful fish (Only One Me) over-done. I needed something original, out of the box and over the top. This is what I came-up with.
I decided to use the book Beautiful Oops by Barney Salzberg as my inspiration and quickly began plotting and planning with my co-teacher on how to embody the book. The book encourages kids to use their imagination to turn a spill or a tear in their paper into art.
We actually used a combination of a few pages to focus our visuals and colour scheme to purple, yellow and lime green. I would be the ‘Oops’ and my co-teacher would be the ‘Beautiful’.
We started by painting large purple spill-like shapes onto thick cotton fabric, which we would wear like a tunic. We made sure the shapes were identical so the comparison could be made.
Once they were dry, we flipped them over and painted ‘Oops’ on one side and ‘Beautiful on the other’.
Then we got started on our head pieces. For the ‘Oops’ head piece, I wanted it to look like paint was spilling out of a bucket like the image in the book. So, I first poured purple latex based paint on a sheet of plexi glass. Once dry, I peeled it off (very satisfying) and cut it into the spill shape I needed.
For the ‘Beautiful’ head piece we used an old palette and paint brushes which matched the colours of the scheme. Then we simply assembled al the parts onto head bands.
For the finishing touches on the tunic, we added details, other images from the book and of course some un-accidental oopses such as splatters, smudges, stains, and smears.
We then paired the DIY costumes with matching yellow tights, purple wigs and purple lipstick.
Once in full gear, we pull a dust bin handle across our collar bone and under our shirt to help hold the tunic out so the images and words could be seem which also made us look like a sheet of paper. Lastly, we added some look-a-like sticky notes to the back with the lines from the pages we presented.
The art themed book choice, was no accident. In all lessons in the lead up to Book-O-Ween we themed up and facilitated Beautiful Oops lessons where kids turned Oops papers into works of art. It was certainly a Halloween for the books! The art teachers have upheld their honour, validated their artistic abilities, and once again reigned in the realm of school staff stylings. In the words of Britney … Oops! We did it again!
From art cart to state-of-the-art, I have taught art in a variety of different settings and situations. This new school marks the 4th primary art room I have set-up as an art educator. Through blood, sweat, tears, and lots of spilled paint, I have learned how to adapt spaces, big and small, into functioning art rooms. In all of the art rooms I have designed and decorated, my focus is always on function, organization, and accessibility of supplies, and providing dynamic, inspiring and interesting visuals for students to use as inspiration.
While I was student teaching at Hillcrest Primary in Perth, Austrailia, I used an art cart to travel to each classroom and facilitate art lessons. Not having a water source, limited the materials and art projects I could facilitate so I started to look for other areas in and around the school where I could host art lessons. The abandoned one room school house on the grounds of the school had not been used for years yet boasted ample storage space, large tables, stools, and SINKS! After dusting off the cobwebs, organizing materials, and hanging artwork on the wall, the school now had an Art Hut!
The art room at the International Montessori School (IMS) of Hong Kong Tin Hau campus was my first official art room as an art educator. Although it was small, had two small sinks and limited storage space, it was mine and I loved it! The art room had been neglected and was very much a dumping ground for anything that was art related including scraps of just about everything. As soon as I moved in, I painstakingly went through every box, shelf, and cupboard to assess what I had and what I was working with. I spent two wonderful years in the Tin Hau art room before packing all of it up and moving it to the new IMS Stanley campus.
When I moved to the IMS Sanely campus, I was taking over for another art teacher, therefore, I needed to combine two art rooms worth of materials into one room. With a larger space and more storage, I was able to effectively organize and house all of the materials needs as well as create different areas within the room like the Lounge, Tech Hub, and the Sketchbook Cubbies. Sadly, I only had one year in this amazing space but this big bright room will always have a special place in my heart.
My new school, Hong Kong International School (HKIS), has a new, state of the art lower primary campus. With a cohort of 800 students in pre-K, Kindergarten, 1st grade and 2nd grade, there are two full-time art teachers teaching in two identical art rooms. After unpacking and organizing the contents of 185 boxes, the HKIS art rooms are ready for young learners.
In addition to this amazing space for students, the art room also has amenities just for the teachers. From an adult sink and storage area to an office that connects the two identical art rooms together, this space was thoughtfully designed for the specific needs of both teachers and students.
I am so grateful to the staff and students at each school who have shared each art room to make art, take risks, think outside the box, problem-solve creatively, learn and grow through artistic behaviors and use the space as a safe house for silliness. Whatever art room I occupy now and in the future, each school, each student, and each story will be taken with me. Rooms are just walls, albeit beautiful walls, it is what happens within these walls that define the space.
Feelin’ HOT HOT HOT! There were some heated moments in the three month long process to creating the ‘Tabasco Twins’ costume for the 2017 Hong Kong Sevens South Stand festivities. Using the picture below as inspiration, the process started as several trials, reconnaissance missions and a few failed attempts.
Originally I thought I could save some money by making a duct tape corset in lieu of buying one. However, the duct tape is too flexible to hold the shape and structure needed for the beads to lay flat and provide a flattering silhouette. In addition, the beads did not stick well to the duct tape and simply peeled or lifted off with little movement.
Emergency corsets were ordered from TaoBao, and after material costs, this actually factored to be less than a duct tape corset. BURNED! Due to time and funds, the decision was made to only bead an attachable front plate sporting the saucy logo instead of beading the entire corset.
To create the logo plate I painted the logo in green acrylic paint first and used it as a guide when hot gluing the green beads on. Then I simply filled in the negative space with the white beads. I sewed velcro strips to the corset to align with the hot glue gunned velcro on the back of the attachable logo plate.
For the Tabasco hat, I cut a hexagon shape out of card stock and then six rectangles to attach to each edge of the hexagon. Once taped together, it created the structure for the hat. Using red felt, I covered the entire hat before glueing it to a red headband.
The metallic green leggings were ordered off of Amazon, red ballet flats bought at H&M and the green wigs purchased in Shenzhen. All paired with a red lip and some attitude and we got ourselves a hot little number ya’ll!
I have once again been inspired by my hero, Cassie Stephens, to create a character that would ‘show up’ in the art room to deliver information and missions in class. The character, Venus McArtsy, was spawned from things I had in my fancy dress box and she has taken on a life of her own. Like Cassie’s alter ego, Mona Lisa, Venus is a cool chic who loves rock music and team work.
I introduced Venus to my students on the very first day of class. She delivered information to help the students complete a scavenger hunt in the art room and they absolutely loved it! Who doesn’t like a rocker chic with orange hair, right!? Next, Venus showed up to introduce the artist, Romero Britto. Another hit! Moving forward, I plan to write more songs to popular rifts about artists or styles of art, record Venus singing them and then show them in class. As we all know, kids are glued to the screen and I feel that they have remembered the information presented via song and video more so then if I would have deliver a PowerPoint.
While students listened to the song, they answered questions when Venus sang the answer. Then, as the students worked on their Britto inspired project, I played the song. By the end of the lesson they knew where Britto was from, when he was born, what style of art he creates and who he has been influenced by. Here if the worksheet: romero-britto_song-worksheet
This is Venus McArtsy, sayin’ over and out! But don’t forget Rock Stars…keep on rockin’ in the free world!
Frida Kahlo is one of my favourite artists and personalities to dress up as. I have dawned the unibrow for Cinco de Mayo parties in the past but found it much more rewarding using the costume as a tool to teach rather than use it to down Coronas.
Before getting into the education side of things, here is a recap of the Frida costume and it’s evolution from 2012 – 2015.
Cinco de Mayo 2012, Shanghai, China
Cinco de Mayo 2013, Shanghai, China
Cinco de Mayo 2015, Hong Kong, China
Cinco de Mayo 2016, Hong Kong, China
Although I definitely crushed some guac while dressed like the holy unibrowed-one, I have also used her as inspiration to teach self-portaiture, symmetry, collage and expression. Here is the lesson I did with my upper primary students.
Students began by looking at the self portraits of many artists and learned the difference between a portrait and self portraits. We then narrowed it down to discuss the components of Frida Kahlo’s portraits as she portrayed aspects of her life and how she felt in her paintings which the student who do in their artwork.
They then sketched a self-portrait in pencil using a hand mirror to observe their features. After outlining them in black marker, students coloured them in with colours pencils and began creating a collaged background that expressed who they are as a person or how they felt when they created the self-portrait.
The last words that Frida ever uttered were, ‘I hope the exit is joyful and that I never return.’ Sorry Frida, but I plan to bring you back every year. However, I will make sure it is to tell you story of pain, passion and painting. until next year Frida, adios chica!
When I was notified that my friend’s birthday was 80’s themed, I immediately started plotting and planning costumes for it. I have always wanted to pull off a Ghostbuster themed couples costume and now I had the perfect opportunity. My husband as Venken, and me as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. My poor husband. He just wanted me to be a sexy aerobics instructor or Madonna dressed like a virgin, but I was having none of it!
I began the marshmallow head by shaping chicken wire for the head and hat. I figured out that I needed gloves while doing this only after I had suffered several chicken-like scratches. Ugh.
I used wire to bind and shape the structure before paper machéing the entire thing. Two layers of paper gave it enough strength for the final form.
I used felt to create the bib as well as the band around the hat, the ball on the top and the ribbon hanging down. For the STAY PUFT writing I simply used acrylic paint on the felt which worked well. I hot glued a headband on the roof of the structure so it would stay stable on my head. Lastly, I added detail to the face.
For the Ghosterbusters costume I created the logo out of felt and sewed it onto a khaki shirt and paired that with khaki pants and hiking boots. I did make one more and added it to my bathing suit to give a teaser to our costume during the day at the pool.
For the backpack I used just that, a backpack as a frame and then constructed a box that fitted over it. To create the shape of the box, I taped a few together, paper machéd it and then painted on details. I then used a vacuum hose as the busting gun.
The googles were the easiest. I glued two toilet paper tubes to a pair of science googles, paper mashed around the area where they joined and then painted them.
It was an amazing weekend and I have extreme satisfaction in accomplishing a costume I have always wanted to do. Thankfully the marshmallow head survived and will live to see another day because bustin’ makes me feel good!