Saturday, April 21, 2012

Project 2 - String Lamps

The craft club is certainly generating interest among the students and staff, academic and administrative alike) - and this week a few young men stopped by my office wanting to join the craft club.  So to keep the project more gender neutral project and ensure it be fun and challenging, I planned the advent of the great string lamp making marathon.  Who can resist a gorgeous lampshade in earthy textures and natural colours. The organic shape and texture is hypnotically drawing. They have the look and feel of luxury.
There were a few problems right from the outset.  I could afford to make one string lamp - but the supplies needed for a group of 15 - was a little out of my range. 

At this stage, the running costs of the project fall entirely upon my shoulders - this might be a problem in the future.  Anyway I had to come up with a plan to bring the costs down, which has had implications for the overall projected success of the project as you will find out later on.

But onto the project itself.  Once more we met in the Boardroom, generously lent to us by the Department of Philosophy.  Students were asked a week earlier to bring with them various items needed for the project if they could.  They arrived eager and curious to find out how they were going to create a string lamp from the odd assortment of things they were asked to bring - which included among other things - a balloon, petroleum jelly, string and glue.

I had a feeling that they were not going to bring either right glue or not be able to find the right type of string.  So I decided to bring along half rolls of string, the half container of white glue that I had lying around the house and wallpaper paste.  My rationale was that wallpaper paste holds heavy wallpaper to a wall so it should be able to hold together string nicely right?  WRONG!

The students however were excited and loved that we got to get really messy squishing glue and string and blowing up balloons in one go.  It couldnt get any more childishy joyous than that.  We must have generated a lot of happy noise, because as we working, various members of staff came in t have a look at what was going on.

 All was going well, the instructions were so basic that it didnt take long to explain the method. The students began their projects - everyone was rather happy until they started running out of glue, and we needed lots of it. So my idea was to mix up the wallpaper paste with water and use that as the glue. It seemed to work well. I left the students to themselves - and went to do some admin work with the other staff members in our department.

There was a soft knock on the door - the students had come to call me to have a look at what they had come up with so far.  One of the best things I love about teaching craft is that you never know what creative idea will arise from the original technique.  I entered the room and was bowled over by the variations of string patterns and designs that they had independently come up with.

Anyway, we wrapped up the project with string lamps in the raw form, wet and squishy-like.  They left them in my office to dry - I assured them that the lamp would be rock solid like the example I had made before the class to show them.  A week and a half later - what we have are still very wet and squishy strings.....apparently the wallpaper paste did not work as intended.  But being the great sports the students are - they all reckon - it is not such a big deal because they main thing was that they learned how to make a cool lamp and they learned what NOT to use as the glue!  What a great bunch of people they are!

It was a rewarding and succesful meeting - a few students stayed behind later to tell me that it was the most amount of fun they had since arriving on campus.  For me that was a huge boost of confidence - the craft club beats out the wild parties on campus - YEAY for the craft club. 

Since I began work at the University, I have been wanting to do something meaningful with the students, something different and something that I am passionate about.  My colleague who watched me get ready for the club on Monday remarked on how "lit up" about it I was.  I have to admit, that this project has been the most rewarding thing that I have undertaken since beginning work here.   I have such a great vision for where we can take this - and I hope that we will be able to inspire other students and staff to initiate similar initiatives on campus.


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