Water Etching with Mod Podge – A New Obsession

I am always looking for new ideas for ceramics. It is just one of those mediums that inspires experimentation. I have recently signed up for the fantastic newsletter from Ceramics Art Daily and came across this demo on water etching. Since I’m not a big fan of wax or shellack for high school students, I wasn’t so sure if I’d be doing water etching in the near future. But I, was definitely wrong. The folks at Atlanta Clay have done a spectacular job showing off this great technique using Mod Podge. I bought 1 gallon of it at Dick Blick ($30-$40 or so) and I’m pretty sure it will last me all school year too.

Check out this awesome demo. I am incorporating mod podge water etching soon. I’ll for-sure post the results!

-Shalanah Dawson


MLK Day Shalanah Backus High School Art Project

For MLK Day, I had my classes design a printed mural to commemorate MLK Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Students were responsible for creating single letters or blocks with designs on them. We then assembled those blocks into excerpts from Dr. King’s famous speech.

Despite some minor hiccups, I love the way it turned out. Each letter in the image above was made from a 3.5″ x 3.5″ MDF block. Students then carved letters into blocks (remember to have them reverse them!). We then inked and printed them. If you’d like to give it a go sometime, I am supplying my letter sign-up sheet, actual text and a brainstorming sheet in a Word document.

I Have a Dream Woodcut WKSTs (.docx)

Give this a try next year, or use the idea to create a mural of your own!

-Shalanah Backus

Wycinanki Paper Cutting Project – Guest Art Teacher

Rachel and I both graduated from Bethel University with Art teaching degrees. Recently, I noticed some of her students work online and was extremely impressed. I asked Rachel if she would be willing to guest-author a post for this blog, and I’m grateful that she was. Read on to learn more about her fantastic “Wycinanki” Paper Cutting Project.


“Wycinanki” Paper Cutting Project

My 8th grade students studied an art form from Poland called “Wycinanki” – Polish for “paper cutting” – that has been around for centuries. When Polish shepards felt their homes were too boring and plain, they would use huge sheep shearing scissors to cut elaborate designs into tree bark or leather. Eventually, they started using colorful paper. As time has passed, techniques, colors, and styles have come to vary between regions of Poland.

My students were given the choice between creating an exact (mirrored) symmetrical design or a radial symmetrical design. Then they were shown different folding techniques they could use to get an array of patterns. The students then chose from a variety of thin, colored papers. The students were encouraged to create a design first by drawing it onto a folded up piece of paper, then cut on the lines by using scissors and xacto knives. Students were given lots of images to use as inspiration, but they came up with their own unique design. The process is a lot like making paper craft-snowflakes but is, of course, more complex.

To start a radial design:
(If you are doing an exact “mirrored” symmetry design, only fold the paper once in half, then follow the same steps)

  1. Fold one corner of a rectangular piece of thin colored paper (or origami paper) over to the edge:
  2. Cut off extra strip in order to create a square piece of paper:
  3. Fold one acute corner to the opposite repeatedly until you get whatever number of “pie pieces” you desire. We usually folded to 8-12 “pie pieces”:
  4. When you cut, never cut from one edge to the other, or you will sever most of your design! The skinnier your cuts, and the more of them you do, the more complex your design will be:
  5. Open carefully:
  6. Next, we spray adhesive (extra strength) all over the back, and stick it down carefully to a different colored piece of paper (roughly the same size as the opened radial design).
  7. We then used an X-Acto blade to cut “windows through each opening, leaving a border of the second color showing, and glue to another layer:

9. Repeat until you achieve the look you want! I also encouraged students to glue small pieces onto the top layer as well.

About Rachel Saarela:

DSC_8935a (2)Rachel Saarela has been teaching middle school art for four years in the Anoka-Hennepin School District. Currently, she is teaching Ceramics/Sculpture 1, Painting 1, and Art Lab 1 at Anoka Middle School for the Arts, an arts magnet school in Anoka, MN. She loves getting kids excited about what they are capable of when it comes to art. In her own time, she loves painting and photography. Her undergraduate degree is from Bethel University. She currently resides in Andover, MN, with her husband, dog, and two cats.


Creating a Drawstring Tote out of an Old T-Shirt (Sewing Required)

I have gotten very crafty recently with my new class “Applied Arts”. I was looking for a really usable drawstring bag. I had a hard time finding one, but then I came across this excellently explained and great video. I made some very minor changes to the how-to video. Below are some quick diagrams that I will be using for students the next time we do this assignment. You can sew by hand or on machine. It does take some time if you do by hand. They are really fun. Try one yourself!


First off, when the t-shirt is right side out, you’ll see Mona Lisa in full color. When the t-shirt is inside out, you’ll see a faded Mona Lisa in reverse.

1. To start, cut off sleeves of a t-shirt.
I recommend a medium to large sized t-shirt (not kid sized and not XL). You can use small but you want a good length in the shirt.

2. Cut along top seam near collar.


3. Shows the t-shirt without sleeves and top seam cut.

4. Turn shirt inside out and sew sleeves back up to 1″-2″ from the top.

5. Get two pieces rope. Put the ends together of each length of rope to form a loop.
Each can be around 5 feet long. It is good to have more rope than less (can always cut down).
Skinny rope works best. You can buy it at Home Depot or make rope out of another old t-shirt. I show the rope as two different colors to help the diagrams.

6. The above diagram shows what you will soon do around the shirt to close the top of the bag. (Don’t need to do yet!)


7. Place each loop of rope around the 1″-2″ not sewn top. Put the loops around the top of the t-shirt (both sides) and in opposite directions.

8. Fold one side the top part of the shirt over both strings and sew.
Do this to both sides – but do not sew through all 4 pieces of fabric — just front flap to front of shirt and back flap to back of shirt.

9. Turn right side out and pull on drawstrings. Try bag on and cut to desired length bag. Once you are done with that, mark where the strings should hit the corners of bag with a permanent marker or masking tape.


10. Turn bag inside out. Cut small triangles off the bottom of bag.

11. Put ends of drawstrings through the inside of the bag (the right-side out part of the bag) and out the cut corners at the bottom. Sew along the bottom of the bag and through the rope to secure it. Cut off any extra string.

12. Turn right side out and use at the beach, to hold your wallet, for soccer practice, or to hold some good books.


-Shalanah Backus