One of the most stress relieving, intense, and coolest projects I’ve done with teens has to have been string art. I had seen it done online, and wanted to do a really neat hands-on project that would appeal to a wide variety of teens, geeks, romantics, everyone, and string art seemed to fit the bill. We weren’t getting asked to do STEM/STEAM based programs at the time, it was more just starting to focus on getting library programs to dovetail with school initiatives at that time. However, string art can easily be incorporated into your maker and STEM/STEAM programming, such as:
- SCIENCE: string art is actually using fractal and image science and sequencing, and scientific theory and thinking
- TECHNOLOGY: use of computers and other devices to research and locate images
- ENGINEERING: using engineering techniques such as carpentry, precision, and time management to develop and create the art
- ART: letting creativity go and not get lost within the STEM principles
- MATHEMATICS: finding the precise angles and measurements for impacts and locations of nails
I did my programs with wood and nails, but I’ve seen other programs that used paint canvases and pushpins, cork and straightpins, and other variations on the theme. We took over the computer lab for about a half hour so that they could print out design shapes that they wanted, and then went to the program area where I had everything set up.
I had the local hardware company precut the sheets of wood (so much cheaper than getting pre-cut fancy wood from the craft store), and grease pencils so that teens could see their outline while they were hammering their art. I also had rulers, compasses, and other design implements in case they wanted create freehand with arcs, curves and circles.
I asked for donations of string and yarn, and got a bunch of various kinds from knitting yarn and wool to cross-stitch embroidery string, even some cooking twine that one of my teens wanted to use. I supplemented that with what I had in my craft supply, and used some of my crafting budget as well so there was a variety of materials and colors. We supplied the hammers and pliers so teens didn’t have to bring their own (thank you, library staff!), and I bought the nails at the same supply store that cut the wood for us.
The program lasted about three hours from computer start to end of the evening, and those that weren’t finished I let take home the string material they were using to finish up their design. I spent $17 at the hardware store, mostly on the nails as it takes a bunch to get the patterns correct. The guy at the hardware store found some warped thin wood that wasn’t going to split on us for what we wanted, but wasn’t going to be useful for anyone else, and gave it to us for practically nothing. I had a coupon for the craft store, and with the educator discount got the bits of color yarn that I wanted for around $3. Obviously your cost will go up or down depending on what materials you use, what’s on sale, and what your local vendors can do for you.
Below I’ve pulled together some of my favorite inspirations for string art from around the web. Share yours in the comments!
Over on A Turtle’s Life for Me, Natalie has a wonderful tutorial for her Batman string art. With Free Comic Book Day around the corner (May 7th) along with the cornucopia of comic based movies coming out, there’s no reason that you couldn’t take Batman and replace his icon with Thor’s hammer, Captain America’s shield, Black Widow’s spider, or any other super hero’s (or villain’s) icon. They went the extra step and painted the wood before starting the project, which I didn’t do as it would have added extra time to the program, but it’s definitely an option.
Over on Crafttuts+, Lisa created this really interesting OK sign that just keeps capturing my attention and makes me want to actually try it. While in real life it’s HUGE for a library project (almost 2 feet square) there’s no reason why it couldn’t be scaled down.
Remember what I was saying about letting teens loose with rulers, graph paper, and other things to make their own patters? Over at ArtClubBlog, they discuss a little about how they introduce math into the art of string by using equations and dividing sections, etc. They have pattern links for a variety of waves as well.