Monday, December 12, 2011

Celtic Knots and Radial Balance

I wanted to spice up my Celtic Knot project that I've done several years in a row, because so far it just hasn't met my expectations.  Previously, I'd had the kiddos use their initials to make illuminated letters with Celtic imagery (which I'd photocopied from my Dover books and passed out in resource folders).  Most students just didn't really puzzle out how to draw the overlapping knots.  So I thought I'd make it easier by having them draw the knots with a Zentangle pattern.  Here are the steps for the pattern:

Original link here:  Tangle Patterns

So I showed them that step-by-step on the Elmo.  I expected a train wreck.  I told them this was an experiment, and I was going to see how they did before we even worried about turning this into a project or anything.  I expected tears, and crumpled papers flying across the room, hitting me in the head.  But, y'all....They did it!  They got the pattern in one or two tries.  Even the more challenged kids picked it up and were very satisfied to see that it worked for them!

Then I started showing them my work in progress.  I told them I was going to have them draw 1/4 of a Celtic knot, and "cheat" to make the pattern transfer onto the other parts of the paper.  I haven't tried this with the kiddos yet, so I'll keep you updated on how that goes.  This would work even better if you are willing to let the kiddos use charcoal pencils to outline their knots as they are transferring.

But here's what I did for my example:

 Fold the square paper in fourths and draw design in one corner.  Trace over it hard with an ebony pencil or other soft lead pencil.

 Fold and press with your hands, or a wooden spoon to transfer the pencil lines onto the second quarter of the paper.

 Open and you should see a very faint reverse image of the knot you drew.  Trace over it dark with the soft pencil. 

 Fold and transder the first half onto the second half.  (Good way to review factions, too!)

 Trace over the pencil lines darker. 

Connect the lines where they may be slightly mismatched, and begin coloring however you wish.

I think I'll make another fancier one as I go along, but I think the above example works well as an illustration.  Our state's standardized test has evidently got symmetry on it, and the kids aren't scoring so well with that.  In that case, I can actually help!  I've been stressing symmetry with all the grade levels this year.


  1. Hi! I found your site through Pinterest and wanted to say thanks from one art teacher to another!! I especially love your Celtic knot lessons and plan on borrowing the idea for my kiddos! On Pinterest I am momteaches art, check it out!
    Thanks again, Catie Haase

    1. This is not ART (I see art teachers mentioned), this is doodling, just craft. I believe that art teachers should focus more of teaching the real art, not on crafting/copying patterns, because this copying gives nothing to the students, but dead brains. And this obsession with doodling really can damage the students intellectuality. This is more suitable to older women who are in their 60s-70s or couch potatoes who kill time daily.

    2. The second comment here might actually be the stupidest thing I've ever read. The act of drawing is always an intellectual exercise. Please explain the difference between "real art" and "doodling." Are the Book of Kells or the Lindisfarne Gospels real art, or are they mere doodles? They certainly include quite a few celtic knots. Are old women and couch potatoes incapable of making art? How so? I rarely comment on things I read online except in cases of egregious ignorance, but this was laughably stupid.

    3. I agree.

      Previous Anonymous, what is your definition of Art, then? And what qualifies you to impose this definition on college educated art teachers? What evidence to you have to support your claim that doodling gives students "dead brains?"

      Even if this were a cookie-cutter style project (which I don't believe it was, given that each child came up with their own composition and had a unique result) that doesn't reduce its status as art. Andy Warhol created his works in a studio he dubbed "The Factory" and his were intentionally mass produced images of mass produced subject matter, which were often created by his assistants, not himself. He's no less of an artist.

      Furthermore, there is a mountain of scientific evidence to support the fact that doodling increased retention of information, and encourages creativity by placing the doodler in a low-pressure situation, allowing them to create without being intimidated by the end result.

  2. This is brilliant! You are obviously a teacher who understands art is sn integral part of a child's development. Children who are exposed to art get better grades in math, science, reading, etc. Perhaps the second commenter should check out This is just one of many websites that show the importance of art. The process is not as important as the result. Wikipedia defines art as "a diverse range of human activities and the products of those activities". I am a fiber artist, but according to your definition I am just a craftsman. Art is anything one wants it to be and if a child is motivated by this simple method to create anything he perceives as art, then let it be so! Carry on, Missa Katie! We need hundreds more just like you!

  3. What a wonderful way to make a three strand Celtic braid! I've been working on it, and have gotten pretty good at it, the hard way, but this! Zig-zags and curved lines, and matching it up...brilliant!