Anni Albers is, perhaps, the most well known textile artist of the 20th century. She was a weaver, and, as an educator and writer, shared her ideas surrounding materials, design, and art.
Her thinking about the power of materials, and exploration and play with those materials, strikes a chord as an analogy for those of us focusing on the power of materials for children's explorations. What materials can we provide, and what makes them playful? How are we - without even knowing so - restricting the creative experiences that children can have with materials?
In a world of finished products, Albers was well known for her creativity and detail. She was deeply interested in the process of creating with materials as well, writing philosophically on the subject.
The selected writings of Anni Albers include two short but thought provoking pieces: Work with Material (1938) and Material as Metaphor (1982).
"Material, that is to say unformed or unshaped matter, is the field where authority blocks independent experimentation less than in many other fields, and for this reason it seems well fitted to become the training ground for invention and free speculation. It is here that even the shyest beginner can catch a glimpse of the exhilaration of creating, by being a creator while at the same time he is checked by irrevocable laws set by the nature of the material, not by man. Free experimentation here can result in the fulfillment of an inner urge to give form and to give permanence to ideas, that is to say, it can result in art, or it can result in the satisfaction of invention in some more technical way.
But most important to one's own growth is to see oneself leave the safe ground of accepted conventions and to find oneself alone and self-dependent. It is an adventure which can permeate one's whole being. Self-confidence can grow. And a longing for excitement can be satisfied without external means, within oneself; for creating is the most intense excitement one can come to know."
What strikes me most about Albers' work is the value that she places on the process, and the understanding of the language that is being explored. Whether in drawing, printmaking, painting, or weaving, her mentality as a designer is insightful: as educators, we design curriculum and spaces; we curate materials and experiences. Our understanding, via playful exploration and experimentation, has as much meaning and value as the explorations of the children we serve.
I am inspired by Albers' mentality on design and materials, the creative process, and the role of making and creating. Spend a little time reading Albers' writing - she offers an approach to learning with materials that will ring true for any constructivist classroom. She saw the potential in the everyday - asking materials to do things they are not typically asked to do, stretching their limits and possibilities.