Messages Looking & Learning
Review with students how messages can be conveyed
through clothing and ask them to recall examples from
their initial exploration. Have them consider the Blouse
with Insignia for RAAF and RAN motifs and the Nigerian wax-resist textile. Explain to them that both artworks convey messages about ideas important to their
Have students design symbols that represent ideas
important to them. In a process similar to wax-resist, students can transfer their designs onto fabric, using washable glue. Allow the glue to dry and then dye the fabric
or paint it with tempera. When washing out the dye or
the tempera, the glue should wash away, leaving behind
the students’ designs. Afterward, have students share and
explain the messages conveyed by their artworks.
After fulfilling its use for holding feed, fabric like
Kent’s Cloth of the United Nations was often reused to
make household items or clothing, in a manner similar
to the Blouse with Insignia for RAAF and RAN motifs.
The Strip Quilt was made from clothes worn by cotton-field workers of the Deep South. Once the clothes were
worn out, they were reused to make a quilt—a process
that transformed the fabric from one purposeful existence to another, while communicating messages from
As students work, they can use stamping, embroidering, or wax- or glue-resist dye processes to add personally significant designs that convey multilayered
messages. Once they finish, ask them to reflect upon
ways that the process of repurposing can bring forth
deeper meaning in their art-making.
Considering artworks such as the young boy’s “Gunken”
haregi from Japan or the Lady and the Unicorn tapestry, review ways that symbols can send messages and
convey important ideas. Have students design symbols
that convey messages that are important to them, and
discuss how symbols can be repeated to make patterns
Have students carve or cut their symbol designs out
of foam sheets and glue them onto a stiff backing to
make textile stamps. Before using their stamps, discuss
with students ways that they can repeat their symbols
on an article of clothing or other piece of fabric to make
patterns that are both visually pleasing and personally
meaningful. Then, with textile ink, have students stamp
their patterns onto their selected fabric items. Afterward, have students compare and contrast their artworks
to the featured artworks.
Developed by the Kutztown University Looking and Learning
Team, with Dr. Marilyn Stewart, professor of art education,
and graduate students Zoe DeHart, Amanda Deibert, Cassie
Langan, Ellen Pados, and Rhonda Tomel.
Authored by Rhonda Tomel, art teacher at Governor Mifflin
High School; and Marilyn Stewart; with assistance from Karl
Cole, Curator of Images at Davis Publications.
Ask students to rethink a textile through the practice of
repurposing—a process that converts the use of a material from one function to a different function. Explain
to students that items can carry inherent meanings and
messages that can be transformed through such processes. As they plan, have students consider the Kent’s
Cloth of the United Nations and the Strip Quilt.
Dr. Jacqueline Atkins, author and curator of Wearing Propaganda: Textiles
on the Home Front in Japan, Britain and the United States 1931–1945.
Jacqueline Atkins, Wearing Propaganda: Textiles on the
Home Front in Japan, Britain and the United States
1931–1945. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005.
Additional examples of African textiles
Quilts of Gee’s Bend
Additional Digital Images