Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
So, I’d like to introduce two people who have become quite special to me. Meet Miss Bonnie E. Snow and Mr. Hugo B. Froehlich, co-authors of The Textbooks of Art Education (1905), Art Education for High Schools (1908), The Progressive Drawing Book (1910), The Industrial Art Textbooks (1917), The Theory and Practice of Color (1918), and, of course, A Hundred Things a Girl Can Make. Their books laid the foundations for public school art education in the United States in the early decades of the 20th century.
Miss Snow grew up in Batavia, Illinois, where she also started her teaching career as a public-school art teacher. After a stint teaching art in Aurora, Illinois, she served as supervisor of art in the public schools of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
It was in Minneapolis that Snow gained a national reputation for her work, and she came to the attention of the Prang Educational Company, the leading publisher of art education textbooks. In 1903 Prang hired her as an editor, along with Mr. Froehlich, and their fruitful collaboration over the next two decades produced numerous books and articles.
However, by the early 1910s, Snow expressed her dissatisfaction with her field. “Something is wrong with our methods of teaching Art,” she concluded in “A Supervisor’s Confession.” “In making my course of study have I considered the citizen and his needs? I have not!”
“What shall I do with my course of study? First and foremost I believe it must be made to fit the needs of my community. The needs of my community are industrial needs, and therefore point to Industrial Art, which is based upon Design. Design is arrangement. That arrangement must be orderly and beautiful. In Design we deal with lines, shapes and colors. We work toward construction and decoration, rather than toward representation. Why then, begin with representation of the clover blossom or the seed pod? Why not begin with the simplest forms of arrangement and the definite study of color?” --From Industrial-Arts Magazine, Volume XIV, April, 1925, No. 4, p. 143.
Snow’s vision of art education is a departure from earlier times when only the upper class could expect to pursue training in art. And it’s certainly different from today’s perspective in which art is appreciated as a form of personal self-expression.
Snow was a product of the Progressive era. She firmly believed that art could help improve society. “I believe in the service of Art,” she wrote. “I know that all Art has relation to life, and I am convinced that The life of Art is to be found in service.”
Art was definitely put in service to society during the first World War (1914-1918; the United States entered the war in 1917). The United States mobilized an army of millions of American men, and civilians patriotically united to support the war effort. In classrooms across the country, schoolchildren knitted afghans; sewed clothes, bags, and other items for soldiers; constructed furniture for camps and hospitals; assembled and designed books for convalescing soldiers; and designed posters to promote War Gardens, Liberty Bonds, Red Cross drives, and military enlistment.
In “War-Time Activities in the Schools,” Snow and Froehlich encouraged wartime efforts but also advised art teachers to keep aesthetic issues a central part of their objectives:
“All articles made in the school must be well constructed, of suitable material, and as beautiful as it is possible for those articles to be. This applies to a loaf of bread, a hospital cot, a dress for a Belgian baby or a poster. While attempting to meet the demands of the time, the schools can render the highest kind of patriotic service by keeping ever in mind their right to educate. In our zeal to accomplish we have often forgotten to train taste, to cultivate judgment and to develop skill.” --From Industrial-Arts
Magazine, Vol. VII, October 1918, No. 10, p. 370
During her very full life, Snow was able to combine her teaching with her personal creative efforts. In 1915, Snow achieved her long-held dream of opening an art studio in her home. Perched on a hill in Millburn, New Jersey, and surrounded by gardens, the Snow Studio became a gathering place for friends and teachers. I can imagine it as an ideal spot, with its views stretching all the way across Newark Bay to the Atlantic Ocean.
During these years, Snow continued her public role promoting art education. She edited Everyday Art, a magazine for public school art teachers, and contributed articles to the Industrial-Arts Magazine, some of which were later incorporated into the Hundred Things book. In addition, Snow spent the winter months giving lectures and her summers teaching art teachers at the School of Industrial Art.
On January 9, 1925, Snow chaired a meeting of the Art Section of the New York Society for the Experimental Study of Education. That night, she died in her sleep, a peaceful end to a life in service to art and her community.
“If today the teaching of art in our schools has reality and purpose, if we recognize in our teaching that art is universal and has a universal appeal, if art’s message of beauty is going out through the children, not to the privileged few alone, but to every life, it is due, in very great measure, to the clear vision, the strong belief, the enthusiasm and unselfish devotion of Bonnie E. Snow.” --From Industrial-Arts Magazine, Vol. XIV, March 1925, No. 3, pg. 116.
Next post: Mr. Hugo B. Froehlich
Friday, July 25, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Thursday, July 17, 2008
The authors gave specific tips on how to appeal to buyers:
"In offering for sale any of these simple articles, let us remember that it is the fine choice of color that first makes an appeal to the eye. After attention is thus caught, a further inspection must disclose some use for the article, whatever it is--and finally the quality of the workmanship must "stand up" under the closest scrutiny. Uneven stitches, faulty seams or any indication of carelessness in making, will not and should not attract customers.
These are points which must be borne in mind when home-made articles are entered in the commercial field." (p. 13)I can only imagine that the wooden window wedges shaped like birds (shown above) would have had commercial appeal in the 1920s. They certainly would have been a decorative way to keep the windows from rattling during a wind storm.
What's most appealing about this project is the use of wood for the material. "It is a mistake to suppose that girls are debarred from the pleasure of making anything of wood," argued Froehlich and Snow, "simply because they are girls."
"As a matter of training, girls need practice in the handling of tools, in measuring accurately and in the manipulation of materials other than cloth, threads and yarn. There is no reason for confining their hand-work to sewing, knitting, embroidery and the general crafts of the needle." (p. 59)
Although we may not have much use for window wedges these days, I still find this project refreshingly modern. The simple shapes of the birds are timeless, and I think that this project could be adapted for other uses. Wooden bookmarks, anyone?
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Here are some highlights of the lesson:
"It is well to have a clear idea of what is meant by a composition, and to know in what ways a "composed" picture differs from a free sketch or drawing. When we sketch from nature or from objects for the purpose of gaining information, our chief aim is to study the main lines and their directions, and the proportions and values or colors of the masses, setting these facts down in a way that will express all the natural beauty and character of what we see. But when we have the idea of a composition in mind, we think, rather, of the problem of adapting and arranging what we see in such a way that beauty will result. . . .
. . . In the drawing of the poppy, some arrangement was desired that could be used in a decorative way. Accordingly, the shapes seen in the plant were simplified; the lines of the stems were made to cut the space in a pleasing way; the few values used were flat; the background shapes were so related to the shapes suggested by the growth that balance was secured; and, finally, all shapes were outlined with a strong definite line, which added to the general effect of flatness and simplicity. . . .
From a suitable plant growth, make a decorative composition. The shapes may be carefully drawn with pencil, and the composition studied and corrected. Then the lines may be traced with brush and ink on Japanese paper, and the shapes filled in with flat tones of neutral gray or color, as suggested in the illustration."
I'd love to see what you come up with by following this simple lesson!
Monday, July 14, 2008
My father is like that. My dad grew up in the brush country of South Texas, where patches of dusty chaparral and cactus stretch across miles of ranch land and farms. When we were young, he took us on walks through this harsh country, with his eyes always on the ground. He could spot an arrowhead or a fossil rock after looking at a patch of sandy ground for a few seconds. When he walks in our heavily wooded neighborhood, he is always on the lookout for deer and other creatures. On one of our summer walks, he spotted a hidden space under an evergreen where a mother deer rested with her fawn. (I would have walked noisily by pushing my son in the stroller if my dad hadn't pointed out what was right beside my feet!)
My husband is the same way. He can pick out a four-leaf clover in a small patch of clover while I've just barely registered the mass of color. He can also spot a black raspberry bush growing along the side of the road as we walk or drive by. With his expert eye, he's been a great guide for me on fossil-hunting trips.
I've come to appreciate this way of seeing, and of how each treasure that my dad and my husband finds opens up a whole chain of associations in their personal histories as well as to geological and natural history.
For me lately, it has been finding special vintage books that has given me that thrilling sense of finding a treasure that illuminates a trail of inspiring ideas and connections that lead back into the past. I introduced the book, A Hundred Things a Girl Can Make by Hugo Froehlich and Bonnie Snow, in my last post, and I've included some more images from the book here to give a sense of the artistic connections that the book has opened up for me.
The 1920s saw the culmination of several important trends in art and art education, and this book opens a window to several of them. The clean, geometric lines and nature-inspired motifs of the Arts and Crafts style appear in many of the projects in the book. The authors stress handcrafting as an important skill and give general guidelines about line, forms, and patterns. The instructions are clear but general enough to allow the individual crafter the freedom to head off in her own creative direction.
Related to the Arts and Crafts movement was another movement known as "Art in Everyday Life." This movement showed that art was not limited to fine art--nor to the upper classes--but could be found in the everyday objects that surround us in even middle-class homes. Not only should we appreciate their beauty, but we should also embellish our surroundings to make them more beautiful. Froehlich and Snow show how to adorn even the lowly clothespin with the Arts and Crafts aesthetic. Don't you think they could be seen as precursors to the Martha Stewart Living phenomenon?
The 1920s was also a decade in which Progressive ideas about education influenced how art was taught. American philosopher and educator John Dewey was the leading proponent of Progressive educational methods. Dewey essentially promoted learning by doing and using knowledge and skills to improve students' lives and communities. Influenced by Dewey, art classrooms became more process-oriented and activity-based, with students experimenting with different art forms rather than merely studying and reproducing paintings. Art educators increasingly emphasized self-expression and creativity rather than copying, an attitude that infuses the projects in Snow and Froehlich's book as well.
It's given me a little thrill to uncover all of these themes in this little gem of a book. Many thanks to pearljr., an antiquarian book seller who lists on ebay, for sending me off to explore several very fruitful research strands. So many of the themes in the book influence art and crafts today, and I think it's useful to explore their origins and appreciate the context in which they came about. The book is rich in inspiration for today's creators, and I'll focus in on some specific projects in upcoming posts.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
When I opened the book, however, the illustrations drew me in. The influence of the Arts and Crafts style was clear, and I knew that this was not the average craft book. Although it's true that many of the projects in the book are related to sewing and the home, the emphasis of the book on design, creativity, and new materials would likely have appealed to the independent spirit of the "New Woman" of the Roaring Twenties. And, in fact, the book's style and emphasis are refreshingly modern.
In the preface, the authors criticize "the so-called 'art' needlework of the day" for providing girls with "little opportunity for invention or self-expression":
"She follows the standard set by the pattern she has purchased at the department store, and she devotes endless time and patience to the production of articles that should never have been imagined nor created!"
Instead, the authors encourage "The Girl" to go beyond just copying a pattern to become a creator. The projects in the book challenge young women's creativity by emphasizing art and design principles and by incorporating new methods (for example, tie dyeing and woodworking) and materials (felt, cardboard, wood, and modeling clay).
So, from the illustrations and the preface, I could tell that I had in my hands an important book. I was so intrigued by the designs that I had to find out more about the authors.
What I learned about the authors confirmed my guess about the book's importance. Hugo Froehlich and Bonnie Snow, both artists and art teachers, co-authored the book, which was published in 1922 by Lippincott. Through the many books they co-authored in the early decades of the 20th century--including the popular eight-volume series Text Books for Art Education (Prang Educational Company, 1905)--Froehlich and Snow were instrumental in professionalizing the teaching of art in public schools. They infused the design and handcraft ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement in all of their books.
The late 19th century witnessed the birth of art education as its own subject, and Froehlich and Snow were both in the thick of this movement. Froehlich taught in the Fine Arts department at Brooklyn's Pratt Institute, which was founded in 1887 to promote manual and industrial education. Froehlich started teaching there soon after the school's founding, and Snow was a Pratt graduate. Snow later went on to serve as Supervisor of Drawing in the public schools of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and director of Normal Training at the New York School of Fine and Applied Art.
As you can see from the folk elephant design on the door stop above and the organic, nature-inspired designs on the lamp and pin wheel, the projects in the book would not look at all out of place in an Etsy shop today. My daughter was very intrigued by the book, especially the chapter on woodworking projects, so the book's appeal seems to have weathered the changeover to the 21st century quite well. I'll be sharing more of the designs from the book in my next few posts.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
I have hit a bit of a dry spell in my blog (you clever readers will likely notice the photographic metaphor above shot by my stringer photographer/daughter in drought-plagued Texas.) .
I have missed blogging so much, but my brain has been devoted to a work project, so that leaves little time for making, researching, or writing. But I just wanted to stop in briefly to say that I'm still here and reading all my favorite blogs and ooh'ing and ahh'ing over all the wonderful things that people are creating out there (even though my comments have been sparse lately).
Here are some of my favorites from the last few days, so be sure to check them out:
**Photo inspiration from maya*made's trip to NYC. I love the bright, saturated colors of the MOMA floor and her cool finds in the shops and on the streets of Brooklyn. Her street art mosaic (above) is a work of art itself!
**Textile artist Sara Lechner's new blog, The Revisited Stash. Lechner is chronicling her process as she creates a beautiful throw out of her astonishing, decades-worth "stash" of buttons, fabrics, and trims.
**Das Kaninchen's lyrical piece of paper, photo, and fabric art that she created for a button (!!) swap. You must check out how she was inspired by the fabric she chose to create an assemblage of items that represents the idea of home.
**Kathyrn Ivy's "myriad mushrooms" patterns to knit up. These are not the run-of-the-mill kawaii softies, they are the real deal--organic-looking and more botanically accurate.
**Resurrection Fern's textile-and-nature art--mushrooms, snails, and more, oh my. Her delicate crocheted designs cover rocks almost like virtual hugs for the natural world that she sees so clearly and protects so fiercely. Leave a comment on her blog today to get a chance to win one of her lovely creations.
Resurrection Fern's photograph (above) of a ladybug at the beach (a lady needs a vacation every now and then; tending the garden is hard work!) segues nicely into a fun--and environmentally important--project for the whole family.
The Lost Ladybug project, headed by Cornell entomologist John Losey, asks kids to go outside and search for ladybugs. Kids can then email photographs of the ladybugs they find to the project. This citizen science project will create a population survey of ladybug species and help researchers figure out why native species of ladybugs have dwindled--invasive species, habitat loss, and pesticides are possible reasons. The site shows kids where to find ladybugs and how to catch and photograph them safely.
Ladybugs are nature's alternative to chemical pesticides and are great to have in your garden to eat up all those nasty aphids. For other ways to "green" your garden and lawn without pesticides, check out the National Coalition for Pesticide-Free Lawns. Canada seems to be leading the way in North America for banning pesticides on lawns and public parks, and Resurrection Fern has been part of that effort. See The David Suzuki Foundation (ladybug image above courtesy of the Suzuki newsletter) for ways to connect with this movement in Canada (thanks for the link, Margie!).
Hope you are having a happy, green summer!
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Our wet spring has carried over to an equally wet summer, and we seem to have toadstools popping up all over the place.
This one above was my first attempt at a toadstool for Lucykate Craft's Toadstool Swap.
As you can tell, the design is all over the place. I tried to go for the bell shape of the American Lepiota. And those pearl buttons are to dress him up like a Pearly King.
It's nice and shady underneath our old oak tree, and, look, here's another toadstool, this one in oranges and purples.
It looks like it could be one of the common forest mushrooms from the genus Boletus.
This one was my second attempt, and I followed the pattern to the letter (to the extent of my abilities, that is). I had a hard time getting him to stay standing up, but my son thinks he makes a great lovey.
And what's that peeking out behind the ground cover in our side yard? Could it be the toxic and quite hallucinogenic Amanita muscaria?
Let's push back those leaves. Yes, indeed it is. And a lovely mother-and-daughter pair at that.
They're more used to hanging out under conifers, so my photographer let them take a rest in Hoot-Hoot's crabapple tree for a change in scenery. The little one is nestling close in to mom.