ashley bryan : luminary

Inspired by the work of Maine poet/artist/illustrator/storyteller Ashley Bryan, I created a luminary project for yesterday’s ArtLab StoryLab at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art. It’s obviously the time of the year to light candles, and Ashley’s silhouette-based illustrations for African spirituals, so alive and compelling,

translate seamlessly onto lighted glass. Below is the prototype I made, after testing out many approaches to creating a silhouetted collage onto glass. Read on to see how it was done, and to understand why this project is a huge crowd pleaser, with the childrens’ wide-open-excited-eyes and big oohs and ahs, filling up the room.

We began as we have for this series of StoryLab workshops, with the story, read by librarian/author Liza Walsh.

 Then the children began drawing and cutting out black shapes for their luminary.

One-by-one, they were called up to the front of the room, where I had set up an electric grill (!), with a bowl of peeled crayons.

They drew on the warm grill, which, as you can imagine, is a mesmerizing thing to do. (Grill from Goodwill, $5. It should, quite possibly, be a staple for every art room.)

The children got lost in the sensory thrill of feeling and watching the crayon melt into pools of color. Some, like Daphne (above), really tried to design with the liquid wax.

And now comes the moment of oohs and ahhs. We carefully set a piece of thin white paper onto the melted crayon to make a monoprint.

The children took the print back to their seats to add the black silhouettes (with Mod Podge),

 and then mount the completed strip onto the glass (with Mod Podge as well).

You can imagine how the children (and their parents) felt when we placed votives in the luminaries, lit the candles, and turned out the lights.