4th Graders complete & present their Ainu creations

After much preparation, planning, and hard work — in all their classes — the fourth graders finally completed their study of the Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan. In art class, the culmination of their efforts was the completion of their Ainu-inspired garments: large fabrics displaying abstract, symmetrical designs and patterns, using motifs based on some of those used by the Ainu in their traditional clothing and others created individually by the students themselves. Though some of the designs resemble thorns and swirls (“ayus” and “morew” in Ainu) like in a plant or vine, the students learned that the images are not representational and do not symbolize anything or have a particular message. Rather, they were interested to learn that the placement of the patterns they created (near the openings of their clothes) is intended to keep evil gods or spirits from gaining access to the Ainu’s bodies.

The students worked hard in practicing, planning, and developing their projects, beginning with sketching and drawing in their sketchbooks. Some patterns were created from colored cloth (which they traced, cut, and glued); others were drawn and colored with pastels and/or fabric paint. Some students used rulers in order to achieve perfect symmetry. Once completed, the students displayed their garments to their parents and classmates during their performance and sharing in the auditorium.

A short video clip of one of the Ainu dances, in which their garments were worn:

Grade 4 artists create their personal Ainu garments

The Grade 4 students began the year discussing and creating patterns, noting that patterns are things (shapes, pictures, lines, motifs) that repeat in a regular manner. These activities were a warm-up toward creating the art project of their first unit: a study of Ainu culture. The unit’s central idea is that people continue to migrate for many reasons. The students have been studying the Ainu’s clothing design as a method of developing designs of their own to use to create wearable garments during their presentation for their parents. Our concept focus in art class is ‘change’: how the study of another culture’s artwork can affect and alter one’s own ideas and art.

The students designs are inspired by the actual garments worn by the Ainu people of northern Japan. Students have been looking at patterns — both those of their own creation and also that of M.C. Escher, a Dutch artist who was inspired in his cross-European travels to Southern (Moorish) Spain — and they are basing their designs on the various motifs used in Ainu culture and are also adding an original motif of each student’s own design. The students noted similarities in all the Ainu clothing: patterns which are symmetrical and abstract, and which always occur at the openings of the garments (ask your favorite Grade 4 student to explain why!!).

The children are using their sketchbooks to plan their ideas and are now beginning to construct the garments. They have been working hard on turning their plans for individual, Ainu-inspired garments into reality. Based on their sketchbook designs, the students have been using paper stencils to make colored cloth motifs, which are then glued onto variously-colored muslin cloth (white, brown, black, grey, or dark blue) to bring their own designs to life. It has not been easy to translate small, colored pencil designs on paper to large, cloth patterns, but the students have persevered and hope to have their garments ready for their November 12th presentation — during which they will wear their garments during a performance celebrating the learning about the Ainu they have been doing thus far this year.

4th Graders finish their Ainu-inspired garments, perform for parents, & reflect on themselves as learners

After much preparation, planning, and hard work — in all their classes — the fourth graders finally completed their study of the Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan. In art class, the culmination of their efforts was the completion of their Ainu-inspired garments: large fabrics displaying abstract, symmetrical designs and patterns, using motifs based on some of those used by the Ainu in their traditional clothing and others created individually by the students themselves. Though some of the designs resemble thorns and swirls (“ayus” and “morew” in Ainu) like in a plant or vine, the students learned that the images are not representational and do not symbolize anything or have a particular message. Rather, they were interested to learn that the placement of the patterns they created (near the openings of their clothes) is intended to keep evil gods or spirits from gaining access to the Ainu’s bodies.

The students worked hard in practicing, planning, and developing their projects, beginning with sketching and drawing in their sketchbooks. Some patterns were created from colored cloth (which they traced, cut, and glued); others were drawn and colored with pastels and/or fabric paint. Some students used rulers in order to achieve perfect symmetry. Once completed, the students displayed their garments to their parents and classmates during their performance and sharing in the auditorium.

A short video clip of one of the Ainu dances, in which their garments were worn: