Edgefield County students take a bite out of art

(Courtesy the Edgefield County School District)

JOHNTSON, S.C. – Visitors to Johnston-Edgefield-Trenton (JET) Middle School may be forgiven their initial confusion.

Immediately ahead of them, when they exit the front office area and enter the building, are tables filled with great-looking foods of all kinds – steaks, shrimp, burgers, chicken, fries, waffles and more. Yet, there is no smell. 

What gives? Well, the “food” is really not food at all, but art.

Avis Tuttle teaches art at Johnston-Edgefield-Trenton Middle School. Edgefield County School District photo

JET Middle School art teacher, Avis (Jordan) Tuttle, wanted to try a new project with her students she felt would stoke their creative juices, be fun, and instructional all at the same time. 

“The students worked very hard,” Tuttle said. “This was a new project this year. I’m a part of an art teacher’s group on Facebook and a teacher in another state was trying to find another way to do papier-mâche because that can be costly. She used toilet paper, water and watercolor paint, and it was very inexpensive. Most of my students used less than a roll of toilet paper and you could really tell a difference in their interest. The students were really engaged in the class.”

She says the hardest part of the project for the students was coming to grips with the water and toilet paper and finding the right mixture. Once the students found the correct blend, they were off to the races.

“It was a little difficult for them at first because they had to get used to the texture,” Tuttle said. “Sometimes they would use too much water and they would have to start over. Once they got that, it was game on.”

The project pulled together a number of art standards – three dimensional sculpturing and color mixing among them.

Students made food sculptures out of toilet paper. Edgefield County School District photo

“A three dimensional sculpture should be a good design all the way through and on all sides, so that’s why I wanted to stress to them that no matter what you may see on the outside, a three dimensional sculpture needs to be painted and completed on all sides,” said Tuttle. “Using watercolor paint was also a new medium for a lot of the students. They thought the first layer was going to be bright and beautiful and they had to learn how to mix colors because watercolors are very transparent and opaque. Instead of using just yellow for French fries, for example, they had to learn how to mix colors together to get a true color for the French fries or whatever food they were creating.”

For Tuttle, the performance of her students on the new art project – from introductory to advanced level students – exceeded even her most ambitious expectations. 

“When you challenge the students, most of the time they rise to it and in this case they did,” Tuttle said. “They did not waste their materials, either. They saved parts of their projects and shared them with others. What may have looked like trash wasn’t trash to us, so they had to work together. I was very proud of them.”