In my experience, art with kids is a messy endeavour. Whether it’s beautiful or not is often a question of perspective. Are you the one cleaning up the mess? Ahh, then you understand. Enough said. My kids are older now, and their ability to clean up after themselves has also improved, albeit not proportionately. I don’t mind a bit of a mess. If you look at my house, you may even think that I have a high tolerance for it. Perhaps that’s more a reflection of my housekeeping skills, but I digress. Let’s just say that I have a certain appreciation for art activities that are high in fun, but low in mess. Enter the Sharpie tie-dye activity. It’s been floating around Pinterest and I thought I’d give it a try. Click here and here for detailed tutorials.
I did the activity with the 20 kids, aged 6 to 9, from my daughter’s class. When I’m not at home, you can generally find me volunteering at the school. The art table in her class needed a bit of sprucing up, so I thought it would be great to make a Sharpie tie-dye tablecloth. In my head we were going to draw pretty flowers. I was inspired by Alyssa Burke’s tutorial that you can find here. To my great dismay (read horror), the kids in the class picked a space theme for our art project. On the outside my demeanor was open and accepting. “That’s great!” I told the teacher as I smiled. You know that smile you practice for photos. You just whip it out and paste it on your face. That’s what I was doing. I may have held it there for an unnatural amount of time. I don’t know. On the inside I was panicking. Space theme? Yuck. We were going to do flowers. I had an image in my head of what I wanted it to look like and space wasn’t the way to get there! I constantly have to remind myself that art is about the process, not the result. Deep down I know this. Deep down I really, truly believe this, but the perfectionist in me loves to disagree.
I had photocopied some circles so that the kids could practice their designs before we started on the fabric. I think that was helpful. It gave them an idea of the scale they would be drawing at, and also gave them a chance to practice drawing in a circle. As a rule, people tend to draw on square or rectangular surfaces, and it can be a little bit strange to draw in a circle. I asked them to draw the main outline in black. Once the alcohol is added, the black tends to retain the shape of the original drawing better than other colours, and makes it easier to see what they were trying to draw. If you’re doing purely abstract drawings then it doesn’t really matter. For me, the outline is a matter of preference. Once the outline was done, I instructed them to add dots, lines, and swirls of colour, but to leave a lot of white spaces. By leaving a lot of blank spaces, you allow the colours to spread out more when you add the rubbing alcohol. We used paintbrushes to apply the alcohol, but the kids needed to be reminded to use them as a “dip and drip” tool, and not as paintbrushes.
Before doing the project at school, I tried doing a few designs at home, to see if it worked. It was fun, easy and even a little addictive. I thought it would make a great gift and so I put together a little kit, with a pillowcase to decorate. I made the pillowcase and if you’re hankering to make your own as well, here’s an easy tutorial. For those of you wanting to put together your own kit, you could always use a white t-shirt instead of a pillowcase, but do you really want the kids wearing their art? The answer to that question just depends on whether you’re about the process, or the results. For your convenience, I’ve added a photo of the “detailed instructions,” but I forgot to mention heat setting. It’s best to iron your creation before washing it to ensure that the colours don’t wash out. Even if these are permanent markers they do fade a little. Iron when the fabric is completely dry and move away from the rubbing alcohol! Have fun!