Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Stick Forts as Art Forms: a project inspired by the work of Patrick Dougherty

photo by Bill Franz
You may recall me going on an on last summer about an artist by the name of Patrick Dougherty. Well, I'm about to go on a little bit more. This week in After School Art we hosted another visiting artist, Dan Croswell, who assisted Dougherty in his installation at Wegerzyn MetroPark last year. The piece, entitled "A Wiggle In It's Walk" is pictured above. Dan is a sculptor himself, and after giving students a brief presentation on the work of Patrick Dougherty and other sculptors of a similar nature, like Deborah Butterfield, we went outside to try making our own large scale stick sculpture. Read on to see how our project turned out after the jump!

 First Dan gave the kids a general idea of how structure works with these sculptures. We had decided beforehand to make a four-sided teepee like structure, and he showed the students how to set up the four main structural points with some large sticks he had brought. He then wired these together at the top to hold them in place. Next, he outlined the perimeter of the structure on the ground using four more sizable sticks, this time ones that had forks in them. The forks he used to hook around the base of the structural branches and then laid them on the grounding a straight line connecting them to the next post. After this was done, he wired together all the bottom corners and used metal stakes to secure the whole thing to the ground. Once this was done, it was the students turn to step in. They learned to wedge and weave in large branches vertically to give more structural support to the piece. Once that was done, they wove in fresh willow which Sean and I harvested from a nearby willow stand the night before.

The students were allowed total creative freedom once the general structure was up, and they decided they wanted to be able to go inside their creation, so they made a small doorway in front, with just enough room for one to sit inside at a time. They also came up with some cool ways to decorate it. One student pulled bark off a young stick and wove it in like a ribbon. Other students collected flower branches from a nearby bush and wove them in as a mantel on the door.The students accomplished all of this in an hour and a half and I could tell were really impressed by what they had made. We were so glad to have Dan come and help us and to get outside and learn to use new materials. Building forts and things like this is pretty safe and easy as long as you have adult supervision, so if you're looking for a new sort of project to do with your kids, find some willow, gather some sticks, and go for it! It was definitely one of our favorite projects of the year. -hil

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