Madison teens collaborate with local artists on projects that revolve around sewing and mending.
After following the lead of her students and completing the year-long project to design a Metro Panthers mascot & murals in each of the four Juvenile Court classrooms, one of the Dane County Jail teachers, Tina Geier, reached out with another request based on what she started to hear more frequently from her students after posing in front of the new murals for their graduation pictures. Some students were sharing that they didn't always feel connected to their regular school and it often felt weird or misplaced to wear a graduation gown donning the colors of their "home" school when much of their positive classroom experiences leading up to graduation came from their time as a Metro Panther.
So when Tina reached out to see if the Bubbler might have the resources or connections to artists in this realm, we were excited to introduce her to Emily Popp, Jennifer Bastian & Bird Ross. One student was pleasantly surprised to see Bird come in on the first day as they initially met while Bird was leading Making Justice sewing workshops at the Juvenile Court Shelter Home a few years prior.
LEARNING & CREATION PROCESS:
Over the course of one month during the winter of 2023, Emily, Jennie and Bird worked with the students to learn the basics of using patterns and sewing machine to create a graduation gown "first draft", and then moved into the final stage of creating a re-usable leather Metro Panthers graduation gown.
While needles and other sharp objects are not allowed within the Dane County Jail facility, Tina's relationship with Dane County Sheriff's department was already in place to discuss and eventually co-design a safe plan to bring sewing machines and other sewing equipment into the Jail only while working on this student-led school project.
On several occasions, former Bubbler Artist-In-Residence, Bird Ross, went out into the community to work with Bubbler Teens in a series of sewing workshops. Backpacks are a easy and useful object to make. Who wouldn't rather pick out your own fabric to make a personalized bage versus just choosing what is on the shelf at the store?
One teen loved two designs so much that she asked Bird Ross to teach her how to create a reversible backpack.
On several occasions, former Bubbler Artist-In-Residence, Bird Ross, went out into the community to work with Bubbler Teens in a series of sewing workshops. By far, the project that garnered the most excitement and never got old was making pillows. Pillows are a very simple and intimate object to create and can be given as a thoughtful gift or kept as a comforting object.
Create and cutout a design template.
Use the template to cutout your fabric.
Use a sewing machine to start attaching both sides of the pillow.
Stuff the pillow to your preferred firmness.
And finally, hand-sew the pillow shut on the final side.
And did we mention that due to Bird Ross working with these teen groups, some of the site staff have started their own pillow making companies with family members?!?
Bubbler Artist-in-Residence Bird Ross guided participants through sewing and problem-solving projects that focused on the concept of making repairs.
In their first session, Bubbler Teens and University of Wisconsin-Madison students partnered up to make sewing kits.
Bubbler Teens also learned to operate Bird’s sewing machine. Using recycled fabric, participants designed, stuffed, and stitched their own pillows.
Bird also encouraged participants to think about repurposing and problem-solving. During one session, Bubbler Teens were given survival scenarios such as living on a desert island or escaping from a volcano. Each teen worked with a partner using miscellaneous supplies to build tools to help them survive.