Fine art, celebrating life, fun, family and color.

The Elephantworks Studio

Designing a leaf or a butterfly body:

Kids made their own designs. I gave some size limitations for the leaves and I did offer patterns for the butterfly body--kids could design their own too.

See the great job grade 3+ did on the wings--all painted by the little little people!

The Caterpillar: each part made by one student, a collaborative soft, sculpture, made by all. THE PIECE WAS STOLEN FROM THE SHOW, RIGHT OUT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN-FLINT ART GALLERY, SUMMER 2018. ... so was the little leaf....

The Chrysalis: each student wrote 10 things, people, events that have influenced their lives. Visitors to the show were invited to write and add their own thoughts to the community art project. 

There are bullet shells in the bottom to honor our lost 5th grader and chocolate, for we need to remember the sweet parts of life.


Birth, new life, wanted/unwanted


unprotected, can

die and not

develop beyond



Leaves to cover the rims, (donated so kindly by Assenmacher's of Flint)  the butterflies will hang from the rims..


eating, collecting,

experiences, learning,

observing; can die

and not progress

beyond this stage

The Cycle of OUR Lives...

"The Cycle of OUR Lives" opened the door for some great conversations, skill development and a peek into the everyday lives and concerns of students in a poverty-stricken, urban school district. The processes can easily be adapted by any group to share personal voice. Please contact me if you have any questions.

The next step was teaching the kids how to sew by hand.  This included, instruction on the tools, a needle thread (or in our case embroidery floss), straight pins, and felt.  One could assume that kids should know what  a needle is the differences between a needle and a straight pin. One could assume that middle schoolers should know how to use a straight pin---by many (nearly all!!) of my students, did not. So they all had to complete a sewing sample with two stitches: running & blanket; kids had to learn now to make a knot at the end of their floss and they had to learn how to tie the thread off when finished.  Those that completed this task successfully, were allowed to go on to the next step. 

Then the kids made a community, collaborative piece of art out of all the samplers that allowed them to get new skills in sewing. 

Butterflies:  Some butterflies get full beautiful wings, full of color and life-ready to face the challenges of the world. Others are not so lucky, they tear a wing as they emerge from the Chrysalis, destined to not soar quite as high in life; and some, some never get there wings. They just have their bodies but never take flight, dependent on others for life.

6th graders made the "eggs" which were raw, wet felted wool --made into small spheres of dense wool. They had fun and the eggs are really interesting.I just have to say that middle schoolers are just dramatic little creatures!


Mature, grown, development of skills, or not; older but not necessary intelligent, or having wisdom from experiences, can be weak and die, can die without having offspring


Compression of

experiences for good

or bad; influences mature

regardless of intent,

can die at this

stage and not


The Eggs: some eggs get nourishment, love, protection-the chance to grow in safety. But some eggs do not...they are neglected, hated, ignored, experience sexual abuse, forced to live in toxic stress and endure years of trauma.

My friend above liked to walk and sew--how could I refuse? It was so awesome check out tools and watch every child sew! They worked as a team, a wonderful, hard working team!

This project was created for students, by students to share their voice.The supplies were graciously accepted from THE DREAMING ZEBRA FOUNDATION, (thank you!! ) of Portland OR. 

The project included grades 3, 6 & 8 from Holmes STEM Academy in Flint, Michigan. Students were  different-abled, young, some dealing with trauma, cognitive challenges, toxic stresses in the home,  some were fun and happy, some were dealing with anger. During the process of making all the little parts of the installation, my students had to deal with the violent loss of a 5th grade peer, who was shot and killed, as two families had escalating drive-by shootings to deal with a disagreement. This loss rocked our school an you may note in the "chrysalis" there are brass bullet shells to symbolize this young boys death.

In addition, some students from  Potter Elementary grade 7 & 8 participated.

Here's a break down of who did what:

Grade three: (Ms. Kildee, May-Henley, & Hutchings and a mixed-grade classroom of exceptional learners with Ms. Sebastien-Kady) these little people painted all 220 of the 8x12 sheets of watercolor paper. We added an element of math. As each painting was completed kids had to go to the board and keep a running tab.

Directions: paint any colors you want but 1) fill the page and 2) colors can only TOUCH, not OVERLAP--control the colors.

 I do want to note, this activity was completed with buckets of water, NO SINK...Which made for interesting art making, not only was the water still toxic, we could not prep or clean up in our room in a sanitary manner--both the art rooms were without water and water had to be carted by hand. .. yet we made voice-filled art!