Unit VII Material Culture: The Stuff of Life
Lesson 6 Louisiana Crafts and Domestic Arts
I bought the whole workshop from an old man. He raised twelve kids and provided for his family by making a living from the making of furniture and putting hide-bottoms in chairs. . . . There is a doctor in these parts that was raised in Mississippi who says he was twenty years old before he knew that there was any other kind of chair. That was more or less the way I was. We just always had ‘em.
--Herman Davis, Sabine Parish
English Language Arts, Social Studies
Purpose of Lesson
The term material culture refers to a vast array of objects and activities that people make and do traditionally. Diverse crafts and decorative arts are made and practiced indoors and outdoors throughout the seasonal round all across the state. Students learn about traditional Louisiana crafts and decorative arts of the past and the present through research, and they identify crafts and decorative arts in their own communities. They learn the meaning of material culture and find examples of traditionally made things in their own lives.
Lesson Objectives/Louisiana Content Standards, Benchmarks, and Foundation Skills
1. Students learn the meaning of material culture and find examples in their own lives.
2. Students learn about the traditional crafts and domestic arts of their own and other regions of the state.
3. Students identify traditional craftspeople and artists in their own communities.
4. Students investigate regional housetypes of the state.
2-5 class periods
If your students will be doing fieldwork, you may need digital cameras, audio recorders, or video recorders in addition to notepads and pencils as well as appropriate fieldwork forms. Print out and duplicate any worksheets or rubrics that you will be using.
Background Information for the Teacher
Students and their family members have learned to make many things traditionally by observation and imitation. Some have attended arts or crafts classes and learned to make something in this academic setting. And some have learned through popular media such as magazines and other media. This lesson focuses on the many traditional crafts and decorative arts of the past and present that may be found in every region of the state. Students learn how diverse material culture is and study some examples. Seeing and handling a craft and meeting a craftsperson are the most memorable ways for students to learn about mastering the making of things, so consider fieldtrips to regional museums or residencies by local artisans. You'll need to plan and obtain funding to do this effectively. Students' fieldwork research may also yield names of local craftspeople who may come to class. The 8th Grade Extensions and Explorations suggest several activities to include in older students' study of crafts and decorative arts—house types of Louisiana, for example.
Read About Louisiana Crafts, Fait á la Main (Made by Hand) and other art listed in Technology Connections above. Print out and bookmark those you will be using. Think about what crafts and decorative arts might be found in your community. Consider inviting someone who is good at making something to class to demonstrate and teach your students. Or, consider a field trip to look at the effects of people on the landscape or to a museum with a traditional crafts show. LouisianaTravel.com lists fstivals and events. Print and duplicate the Research Self-Checklist and, if you are using it, the Oral Presentation Rubric. This lesson relates to Unit VIII Lesson 1.
4th and 8th Grade Activities
1. Divide the class into two teams. One will research outdoor crafts or crafts used outdoors, and the other will research indoor crafts. Ask students to study and examine various crafts and decorative arts in the Creole State Exhibit, on the Internet, in the library, and through community fieldwork. Students may use the Traditional Crafts and Decorative Arts in Louisiana Worksheet to access the sites listed in Technology Connections above easily. Each team should identify some crafts to research further. Possibilities in each category include the following, plus many more:
2. By talking with family members and other adults, including school personnel, students should identify people who make both indoor and outdoor crafts and decorative arts and arrange to document the artifacts and their makers through photography, videography, and interviews. Students should decide what they want to ask the makers - for example, does the seasonal round affect their art? They should also decide how they want to document the artifacts (see Unit II and Unit VII Lesson 1). Distribute the Research Self-Checklist and review it with students. Explain that they should use it to guide their research process to make sure that it is accurate and complete, and that you will use it to assign a grade at the end of the lesson.
3. Work with students to decide how to present their fieldwork findings: portfolios, computer slide shows, a webpage, exhibits, a school-wide event, or a publication, for example. If desired, use the Oral Presentation Rubric as both Process and Summative measures of the presentations. Either complete the blanks yourself, or have students work in their groups to decide what topic will be explored, how findings will be presented, and who the audience will be.
4. Students should research crafts in other regions of the state through the Creole State Exhibit, Fait à La Main (Made by Hand), online articles, and the library. Gifts from the Hills: North Central Louisiana Folk Traditions, He's The Prettiest: A Tribute To Big Chief Allison "Tootie" Montana's 50 Years Of Mardi Gras Indian Suiting, Vieux Carre Creole Neighborhood, and Splitting on the Grain: Folk Art in Clifton, La. include information about Louisiana craft traditions. Students may use the Traditional Crafts and Decorative Arts in Louisiana Worksheet to access the sites listed in Technology Connections above easily. If these are written above your students' reading ability, refer to Adaptation Strategies for ways to adjust and modify them to levels that students can understand.
5. If engaged in a regional culture exchange with another class, compare crafts and decorative arts traditions of your regions. Share photographs, research, and interviews about local material culture (see Unit IV Lesson 1).
6. Invite a craftsperson to the classroom. See Unit II Lesson 3 on ways to take advantage of this learning opportunity.
4th Grade Explorations and Extensions
1. Draw or paint a picture of a craftsperson in your community. Then draw a picture of an artifact he or she made. Mount the two artworks side by side in a classroom exhibit or computer slide show.
2. Read one of the Louisiana Folk Artists Biographies of an artist who makes a traditional craft, then summarize it. Draw a picture of the artist or his or her handiwork to accompany your summary. Teachers, if these are written abouve your student's reading ability, refer to the Adaptation Strategies for ways to adjust and modify them to levels that students can understand.
3. Quilts are a major craft in every state of the U.S. Every Louisiana parish has quilters. Study quilts in your community. Try to find quilters who can come to class. Bring family quilts to class and make a tag to safety pin on each, identifying the maker, date, materials, parish, and any other information you can glean. Use some of the questions in Documenting Quiltmaking to guide your work. Compare your community's quilts with those in Quilts and Quiltmaking. Teachers, see Adaptation Strategies if you need to adapt these to your students' reading level.
8th Grade Explorations and Extensions
1. Learn to make a craft from someone in your community. Document your effort as though you were an apprentice to a master craftsperson. Keep a journal about the experience. How does this kind of learning experience differ from learning in school? What are you learning besides a craft? See Unit VI Lesson 3 for more activities on intergenrational learning.
2. What evidence of local crafts and decorative arts do you see on the landscape of your community? Outside homes or businesses, for example a "mufflerman" in front of a muffler shop or decorated mailboxes? What evidence do you find inside homes and businesses, mounted fish trophies or needlework? What could an outsider tell about your community from its crafts and decorative arts? Photograph some local crafts and decorative arts for a computer slide show or portfolio.
3. Use Uniquely Louisiana: Historic Preservation Education to compare housetypes in different regions of Louisiana. Do you find similar housetypes in your community? Divide into teams to survey and, if possible, photograph housetypes in several areas of your community. One option is to photograph the front of a house, then seek permission to photograph the back of the house. By interacting with residents and examining the more private space, you can learn a lot about landscape, land use, and individual sense of beauty, or aesthetics. Share work with students in another region if you are conducting a regional culture exchange. Louisiana Architecture: A Handbook on Styles provides photographs and details about structures.
4. Read about bobbin lace maker and NEA Hational Heritage FellowRosa Elena Egipciaco or auctioneer Andrea (Henry) Licciardello in Passing It On, by Rita Moonsammy. Use this lesson to model an investigation of a traditional craftsperson artist in your community. Find a craftsperson by asking around or checking out websites that include craftspeople such as the Creole State Exhibit, Fait à la Main (Made by Hand), and the Louisiana Folk Artists Biographies. If the craftsperson's contact information is not online, contact the Louisiana Division of the Arts Folklife Program. If you can attend an auction, compare your experience with what you've read in this article. An auction provides excellent fieldwork opportunities, and you could document the event and share results with classmates.
5. Pretend you are a Louisiana craftsperson who wants to start marketing your handmade work at festivals in the state. How will you know how much you would have to charge to make a profit? Is it even worth your time and effort to enter this market? Use the Pricing Your Craft Worksheet to guide your decision.
6. Many factors affect how craftspeople decide to price their work. Sometimes the items are made as a hobby, without planning to sell them. Sometimes a craftsman's reputation for excellent work makes buyers willing to pay more than the price that has been placed on it by the craftsperson. Read the worksheet Factors That Affect the Final Price of a Craft to find out some of these factors, then answer the questions. Then consider all of the information on both worksheets to write an essay explaining your own feelings on this issue and your decisions about how you would price your craft.
7. Use Architecture and Interior Design for 20th Century America: Photographs by Samuel Gottscho and William Schleisner, 1935-1955 to explore and compare public and private buildings in your community and others around the country.
8. Explore craft traditions from other states and cultures. Wisconsin Folks - Crafts features student pages on Judaic needlework, Ukranian eggs, Oneida Indian corn husk dolls, Norweigan carving, and others. Crossroads of the Heart features Choctaw basketry, Vietnamese boatbuilding, carving, and more from Mississippi. The Masters of Traditional Arts Education Guide features folk artists who have received the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellows. Visit New Hampshire Folklife's Learning Center / Folklife Traditions to learn about craft and food traditions there.