Skip to main content

{Kids Get Arty} Discovering Molly Upton, A Painter Who Worked in Cloth

I truly love participating in Kids Get Arty, a bi-monthly project created by Red Ted Art to encourage the exploration of great artists with children. Since my boys are 3.5 and not-quite-2, selecting an artist and art project they can understand and emulate, even a bit, is sometimes a challenge. However, I enjoy the challenge and enjoy that, often, the projects are family art projects that all of us create together. 

This month when I was contemplating our artist for Kids Get Arty, my mother was visiting. My mom is a quilter, and I was thinking about quilting as an art. So, I did some handy internet research and discovered Molly Upton. Scott Ruescher, in an Arts Editor article writes of an Upton show at Wellesley and how it gave him the "..the opportunity to see how the quilts make art of craft, supporting the claim that Upton was a painter who worked in cloth." 

As I looked at the quilts, I couldn't help but agree. I also thought of the quilts that fill my own life. You see, I am honored to have a mother who is a talented seamstress and quilter. I wish I had stunning photos of each of her quilts to share (and of the quilts that have been in our family for who knows how long), particularly of the quilt that she made me for my 18th birthday. She saved scraps from EVERY dress and/or garment she had ever made me and included them all in a beautiful quilt. She selected the quilt pattern with her grandmother (my great-grandmother). The name of the pattern, I believe, was Road to Indiana, the state of my birth. My sons also have quilts made lovingly by her, which we treasure and enjoy. 

The Upton quilt that struck me the most was Forest Fire. I loved the artistry and story the quilt told. I truly saw in it what Ruescher saw, which is that Upton painted with cloth. 
Image from Arts Editor

This quilt inspired our Upton art project. My mother brought with her when she visited a container full of fabric scraps. With two young boys to involve, I thought actually quilting or sewing the fabric would be a bit too challenging, so we decided to create a quilt-inspired image on cardboard by glueing fabric onto the cardboard. At first, I put out a rather large box, thinking that might be easier. However, I discovered that it made it hard for Wild Thing to grasp the importance of putting the cloth pieces near one another to evoke any type of image, story or art piece. It became very much a process experience, which both boys enjoyed, rather than a product experience. 

He did add more pieces over time, but the spacing remained much like this.

The boys were focused and enjoyed it and asked to do it again. This time, I set the activity up with a smaller piece of cardboard, and we looked at the Upton quilt talking about how she put different shades together representing the sky, the fire and the grass. 

My husband took this photo of us with his phone. In this particular image, Wild Thing is enjoying telling Mommy what to do! 
Providing the smaller "canvas" or "quilt frame" (so to speak) for them and talking about matching colors made a big difference. Wild Thing also became obsessed this time with covering the entire piece of cardboard, so that nothing showed through. I'm quite fond of our end result. I think rather than Forest Fire, I think we created Flowers in Spring.

I send gratitude to Red Ted Art. Kids Get Arty this month led me to enhance my understanding of and appreciation for quilts and to discover a very talented artist whose quilts and tapestries truly demonstrate the creativity, skill and imagery that can be created from mere fabric scraps.

 You might also like: 

Kids Get Arty: Romero Britto
Kids Get Arty: Inocente


  1. What a wonderful project! I love the artist you chose and how you made it so accessible for your kids!

    Thank you for being inspirational and joining in with Kids Get Arty!


  2. I love the look of this project-- so bright and colourful! Hopefully I'll get to do something similar with the kids in my library's Summer Reading Program. Just wondering, did you use straight clue, or did you mix it with water?


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Happy Very Hungry Caterpillar Day: Celebrating 45 Years with Caterpillar and Butterfly Crafts from The Kid's Co-Op

March 20th is Very Hungry Caterpillar Day with celebrations and programs being held around the world to honor the 45th Anniversary of the book. 

We love The Very Hungry Caterpillar, so of course we're joining the fun. Plus, my youngest son's blog nickname is Caterpillar, after the book. Just as Wild Thing is my 4 year-old's nickname inspired by Where the Wild Things Are. 

Today, we'll be doing another Very Hungry Caterpillar Food Drive. We did our first one for Eric Carle's birthday last June and called it a Very Hungry Caterpillar Virtual Food Drive and loved hearing that the virtual part worked, as others were inspired by our online shares and also did VHC-inspired food drives.

P.S. The Very Hungry Caterpillar Virtual Food Drive post 
also features 40+ Activities Inspired by the Book, so you'll definitely want to check it out.
For our VHC-inspired food drive this time, Wild Thing will be helping me write the grocery list for food items to donate as we read the boo…

{A Season of Giving} 12 Days of Christmas: Celebrating through Giving

Stacy (the Great) of Kids Stuff World brought to my attention the 31 Days of Service/Giving Calender (and great e-book) from Mom It Forward. 

Having gotten to know Stacy really well through our joint Moms Fighting Hunger effort during Hunger Action Month, I was all too happen to jump on board and take on 12 Days of Christmas, the action prompt for Dec. 4th.

The e-book describes the prompt in this way:
Choose another family in your area to be the recipient of 12 days of gift giving. Try to think of a family that may be struggling financially, emotionally, or with health problems and might need a boost during the holiday season.E ach day, starting December 13, leave a gift anonymously on the doorstep of your chosen family. Involve the kiddos in your secret acts of service. Your gifts can relate to the “12 Days of Christmas” song verses (i.e. partridge in a pear tree, turtle doves, French hens, etc.) but it’s not necessary. Try to choose or provide handmade gifts, drawings or tre…

Ten for Tuesday: Activities for Fire Prevention Week

October 7-13 is Fire Prevention Week, so I am sharing 10 Fire Safety Crafts, Activities, and/or Books to help kids learn about fire safety and to encourage them to have some fun too! At our house, fire trucks and fire fighters always get Wild Thing excited so engaging with some new activities was a lot of fun.

1. Get Inspired through Books - We loved reading Alphabet Rescue and creating a fire truck from a juice box that we drove our letters around in, just like in the story. I have loaded up our library list with many of these other fire truck and/or fire safety books. Felix the Fire Engine gets great reviews and No Time for Flashcards has a comprehensive list of 20 firefighter books. I also have to share this great PreK Fire Safety Pack from Royal Baloo!

2. Make a Shape Fire Truck - We previously shared this great one from No Time for Flash Cards and here is another one from Teach Preschool.

3. Abstract Art Fire Trucks - Using red, black and yellow tape, Teach Preschool shares som…