Cats, a cheetah and Stevie Wonder. Those are just a few of the items created by Aiken Middle School pupils using fiber art.
Marilyn Patel, an artist-in-residence sponsored by the South Carolina Arts Commission, said she began the program, which ran Jan. 23-26, by teaching pupils to spin wool fibers into yarn.
Ms. Patel said she enjoyed discussing with pupils how the art form touches upon other subjects such as folklore, science and social studies.
"The art itself is important because it is self-expression," Ms. Patel said. "I like to integrate it and see it make connections across the curriculum."
Organic materials such as onion skins, eucalyptus leaves, lichen and poinsettia leaves, which some found in the woods near the school, were used to make natural dyes to color the yarn.
Ms. Patel also taught the children about felting - compressing the wool fibers by rolling them in soapy water. Pupils used needles to position the fibers into the design of ladybugs, clowns, butterflies, cats, a cheetah and Stevie Wonder.
Aiken Middle School Principal Randall Stowe said Ms. Patel was helping to preserve an art form through her workshops and classes.
"She's trying to show the kids and keep alive some of the things the settlers did 200 years ago," Dr. Stowe said.
Lucy Fabrick, the school's art teacher, said Ms. Patel's visit enlightened pupils about another aspect of the region they live in - the cotton belt.
"Fibers - cotton, wool, linen - are such a vital part of our lives," Ms. Fabrick said. "There's definitely the aspect of, 'Hey, I could make a living doing this,' but it also gives them another way of showing options for their futures. Even if it's not becoming a fiber artist, it's an approach to life."
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