Monday, July 18, 2011

Buttons, Buttons Everywhere!

I am sure we art teachers all have little (or overflowing) stashes of invaluable donated materials. One of mine is a HUGE bag of gold-tone, shank buttons given to me by a parent years ago. I have used these for countless projects and STILL have hundreds (maybe thousands) left. I have decided that this is the year to see the pile dwindle!
This is just a handful of my treasure bag of buttons!!
2nd graders have content standards addressing warm and cool colors and radial symmetry, so I have been thinking of ideas to meet those goals AND use the buttons. I also want to have kids make decisions during their art making (like real artists do) rather than present them with a "how to.." lesson. So, here goes...

We'll start with 6" square pieces of foam core board (also donated!) and three buttons. Students will decide where to position the buttons so that they are far enough away from each other so that the radial designs have room to grow and far enough away from the edges so that the designs don't immediately run off the page. I want them to push the shanks of the buttons into the foam core, marking the three spots.

Then, using a ruler and pencil they'll draw an even number of lines out from those center spots.

Next comes the drawing of line motifs with a permanent black marker, branching out from the center pieces. I would like there to be variety in these designs and students will decide how to create that. Another artist decision they will have to make will be what to do when the 3 radial designs "bump" into each other. I am going to have students figure this out for themselves.

I am going to ask kids to use warm colors (crayons) for the radial designs to contrast the final watercolor resist wash, which will be blue liquid watercolor. I am making that decision because I ordered an abundance of that color watercolor last year and I want to use up all those bottles!!!

The last step will be to glue their buttons into place and then we will probably mount the work on black a black mat board.
 I am already anxious to see what the kids come up with.
As soon as I finished working on this lesson, I, of course, thought of 2 or 3 other ways to use up these buttons. One is to use them as centers of flowers and another is to have them be hubcaps in a James Rizzi inspired landscape. Maybe these will be future posts. Hope everyone is having a fun summer!!


  1. I have lots of buttons but never knew what to do with the shank ones. I LOVE the idea of punching them into foam core - why didn't it occur to me? I think I'd glue them in with a low temp hot glue gun, as I think it holds the metal buttons better than Elmer's.

    I like the idea of centers for flowers, or wheels on little cars (maybe on a Rizzi street scene?) or bulging bug eyeballs, or even a "not a button" challenge based on the book Not a Box.

    One thing I have used the buttons for, and expect to do this winter, is for a closure for woven pouches.

  2. I am sort of visualizing a Rizzi-like scene with skyscrapers in the background, car with button hubcaps in middle ground and silhouettes of people in foreground (or something like that). I'll have to play with it a bit!

  3. Your ideas look like a lot of fun for your 2nd graders! I too have an overabundance of these kinds of buttons.