Presentation Matters!

If there’s one thing that I learned in art school, it is that presentation matters! As an art teacher I carry this wisdom with me and am constantly looking for ways to apply it to my students' work.  I teach art at a smaller size school for children with special needs and oftentimes the work they create isn't, let's say, “traditionally beautiful.” Let me be very clear, however, in saying that does not mean it is not valuable and that does not mean it shouldn’t be displayed.  I consider it my job as the art teacher to show off my student’s effort by displaying their pieces in the best possible way to highlight their creativity.

One of the challenges in working with Sculpey in the classroom is that finished pieces can often be very small or oddly shaped.  This can present a struggle when wanting to display the pieces in the school building.  Not to be deterred, I have discovered some easy ways to show off student Sculpey projects that can be done with materials that you probably already have lying around your art room.

We made Caterpillar Color Wheel Pendants, a beginner level color mixing project (lesson plan available on the website).  To display the necklaces, I used a piece of oak tag and a piece of black construction paper glued together.  Black foam core board would also work if available. On the back I cut diagonal slits and set the necklace inside making sure to secure it on the back with a piece of tape.  I then attached the entire display to the wall. I used staples because I find that when removed properly, they do the least damage.  If your school has a policy against using staples, I recommend using foam tape to hold the weight of the piece.

For smaller sculptures I use painted boxes or trays to create a shadow box feel. They can be adhered to the surface using glue dots or a glue gun which can be later removed if students want to take their pieces home to play with. (Pic 4 & 5) I often like to use neutral colors, dark on white and light on black, so that the piece itself is highlighted, but making a colorful display can also help liven up the school halls. Although it is not yet complete, I am working on having a student combine pieces and create a background to create a diorama effect with their Sculpey creations.

My younger students also created marbleized pinch pots which were a nice alternative to sending my students home with hard clay pots that can easily break. These are great to save for the end of the year student art show where I use a black tablecloth covered table and boxes to create different levels for the work to be seen at various angles.  For showing the work sooner or without a proper surface, I created small podiums by simply using a white cup and a piece of black construction paper attached to the wall. This creates contrast and emphasis for the small pots which can be secured to the cup for display and later removed to be sent home.

Displaying the student’s artwork with respect and dignity is so important for the student’s sense of efficacy which can be co-beneficial in the children's creative ambitions and their empirical reality.  When a student sees their Sculpey piece being displayed and admired by others, they gain a sense of confidence and ambition that will fuel them to keep trying new things!

By Sarah Swanson, Sculpey Teacher Ambassador

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