Explore Fiber is a collaborative website showcasing and exploring fiber as a fine art material.
This is a great story from an elementary art teacher that spreads fiber art joy as random acts of kindness and gets her whole school involved in this great Octopus tale…
It all began a few years ago. I was wandering the Natural History Museum in Washington D.C. and walked into a dream – a dream that I could never have imagined! There was every color, texture, size, shape….all there, crocheted together as a coral reef! It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen! If there is a heaven, this was mine!
At this point in time, I only knew how to crochet a blanket and was not so great at following directions, so I abandoned the thought of making my own. Eventually I figured out how to make hats and decoded following a pattern. I began to teach myself how to crochet sea creatures – fish, manta rays, octopuses, coral, plants, cuttlefish, crabs, sea anemones, the list goes on. I was obsessed! In a very short time, I had crocheted enough to fill a 55 gallon fish aquarium.
I took it to the elementary school where I teach and my students fell in love too. I tried to venture off into other creations, but there was something special about the coral reef and it’s endless possibilities. I began to make small octopuses and was having fun experimenting with all the different color possibilities. That started to take over my home art studio. Having no idea what to do with all of them, I decided to share them. I gave several to friends of mine and they were giddy. Their faces lit up and they became children again, wearing them as finger puppets and talking to each other through their new friends. I felt so much joy watching them.
This is when I decided to start giving them away as random acts of kindness. The idea was to hide them with a tag that said “free to a good home” so that people knew they were up for grabs. Hopefully it would bring joy to others. I started this at school, along with an art station called Random Acts of Kindness. The kids were making bracelets, bookmarks, toys, flowers, sketchbooks, and were spreading kindness beyond the walls of school. They were able to see how their own art work could bring joy to someone else.
I never set out to make almost 5oo octopuses! I started with giving one to each teacher for a classroom pet, so that each student could feel like they had some type of ownership. The very next day, a class of 3rd graders had already created a beach scene for theirs, along with a beach chair, umbrella, and miniature toys from home. I felt giddy! My inner child was beyond excited and felt like this was living my creative dream! I had created characters in high school and had planned to make a whole city for them to live in. This was watching that dream play out.
Over the next couple of months, I randomly found the octopuses new homes. Sometimes, a child was having a bad day and it brought joy to their face. Another wanted to give one to his dying grandmother to make her happy. One little boy gave his to a classmate because she was sad. He decided that he wanted it back, and so she created a custody schedule for the octopus, deciding who got it on weekends and holidays. Her parents were going through a divorce and this was her way of making sense of it. She finally got her own octopus and beamed with joy!
Each child felt special and seen as they were given an octopus. Some wanted to know what they did to deserve one and I told them “nothing – I just care about you and want you to have one”. I want them to know that they are loved, no matter how they perform or how they behave. They are valuable just as they are & each and every child is special to me in their own way.
And, here are the kinder drawings of their class pet octopus – Pinky! They were on the thank you cards they sent.