Waters Today: Where did you grow up? Has art always been a big part of your life?
Ms. Vecchioni: I grew up on Big Blue Lake in Michigan. My front yard was a lake! It was a wild place. I learned so much from observing plants and animals. I was in and out of the water all day and would only go inside at dark. Most of my early art experience came in the form of making lakeside seaweed and mud pies. If I played in the woods, it would be elaborate fairy houses out of old stumps, flowers and stones. In winter, there was plenty of snow and ice to make stuff with. A life-sized snow unicorn with an icicle horn was a favorite…I was always making things as a child—but did not have formal exposure to art until high school. That said, art is a huge part of my life and always has been. Most of what I created as a child was ephemeral. I was always remaking it, so I never was too attached to the finished product. That starting over and over again is what I think draws me to art—I have a lot of energy!
That’s an understatement! So if for some reason you couldn't teach art, what would you do instead?
I don’t know! I learn so much and have so much fun teaching art! When I was little, I wanted to be an archeologist at Giza—I was a huge fan of the then-famous King Tut exhibition. I’d like to make a picture book series for children or create art adventure camps, so maybe that? I also think it would be cool to be a folklorist or oral historian too…I love listening to stories. Brené Brown says she’s a researcher storyteller, and that sounds fascinating.
What kinds of things do you create at home?
I work a lot in 3D media and have a good-size copper enameling kiln set-up in our laundry room. I feel like a modern-day Hephaestus sometimes! Teaching is my favorite art form though, always!
We suspect you have other hobbies, though we can’t imagine how you find the time…
Yes, I grow orchids and cactuses, I love to garden., I knit and enjoy board games…and I’m thinking our new Milkweed & Monarch Club is becoming a favorite hobby too.
You do such a great job showing kids that art is about creativity and self-expression, not perfection or even talent. Why is that so important?
My favorite visual art concept is wabi-sabi. Imperfection, impermanence and incompleteness are what make beauty in art. A crack in pottery is painted gold and celebrated! I share with the children that there isn’t a prescribed perfect, but a perfect for you. Creativity is a life skill we all use every day! I think talent is often mislabeled hard work, study or practice. I avoid praising product and focus on effort and intention. I love listening to students express themselves and explain their choices in a project. As students talk and share, they create a safe space for self-expression together. (I just keep track of the time!) Ultimately, I always go back to nature: there isn’t any perfect existence, there are just unending interpretation. We take risks in the art room and celebrate every iteration.
Love that so much. Lots of people think that fostering a love of art in their kids requires having an entire room filled with art supplies, which is expensive and intimidating! What do you recommend having on hand?
I think it’s best to ask your child what kind of art they like and/or would like to create. Often, we can build an art kit from those questions. A lot of youth are interested in new illustration media and have specific requests. Younger students may need some suggestions and/or options.
Some Quick Tips:
Paper: One thing that I think is always important is a lot of good paper. It needs to be heavy stock (thicker than printer paper) and matte finish.
Wet Media: My favorite watercolor paint set is 24 Washable Colors by Crayola. Great colors!
Dry Media: Crayons are really the best media for most of us---such range of color and mixing potential. A black marker or Sharpie is great for any form of definition and a set of markers is a great option. Older students often enjoy illustration markers and watercolor pencils.
3D: I like cardboard, scissors and 3D adhesives such as clear tape, glue stick and other tapes. A couple other great supplies for 3D construction are brass fasteners and tempera paint sticks.
(Our next Cardboard Challenge: 01.29.21!)
Great tips, and the challenge is on our calendar! What advice would you give to your 10 year old self?
Be YOU. 100%.
And now for the Art Teacher Quickfire Round! What's your favorite...
Museum: NEUE Galerie: Museum of German and Austrian Art, NYC, Gli Uffizi, Florence, Italy, Peggy Guggenheim Museum, Venice, Italy.
Artist: Oh My! I have so many…Three artists that are always inspiring to me: Yayoi Kusama, Frida Kahlo and Wassily Kandinsky.
Work of art: 3AGAIN…Lady with Ermine, Leonardo da Vinci and Tree of Life, Stoclet Frieze Gustav Klimt, and all of the many biomorphic installations of Ruth Asawa!
Place to travel: Santa Fe, Italy & the Yucatán!
Band or musician: Jorja Smith (current), Johnny Cash (classic) and Billie Holiday (all-time favorite)
Movie: Bladerunner (Ridley Scott)
Book: I love Russian literature--The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoevsky. And I still love my first favorite book too--Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell… Right now, I’m reading We Make the Road by Walking by Miles Horton and Paulo Freire—Excellent!
PHEW! Thanks so much Ms. Vecchioni! We’ll take some of that boundless energy to go, please!