How do you capture your favorite holiday tradition? Most people just snap a photo. But 14-year-old Ethan spent a month brainstorming, cutting and sewing to show his love of New England winters in a tactile piece of art.
“I like wintertime because it’s all cold and I get to go walking and sledding in the woods,” said Ethan, a student in Perkins School for the Blind’s Lower School. “I got to express something I really like to do.”
Ethan’s hard work paid off – his artwork was selected by Perkins President and CEO Dave Power to appear on this year’s official Perkins holiday card. Ethan’s tactile creation, constructed from various kinds of cloth, depicts snowflakes falling on a forest.
“When I found out I was chosen, I was like, ‘Oh, wow!’” he said.
The annual holiday card, a long-time Perkins tradition, is sent as a thank-you to donors, supporters and volunteers. It’s also available for sale to the general public, with the money raised going to support Perkins’ programs and services for children and young adults who are blind.
Ethan’s original artwork will be framed and presented to him at Perkins’ annual holiday concert in December.
He created his winter scene with help from art teacher Rocky Tomascoff, who works with students who are blind or visually impaired to bring their artistic ideas to life.
“A lot of people think that art is just painting, but everything we do is about the textural and the tactile,” she said. “Art offers ways for our students to be creative in terms of communication and self-expression.”
At the start of the fall semester, Tomascoff picks a few students between the ages of 7 and 14 to create holiday-themed art. This year, she chose two. They can create a collage out of paper, as 8-year-old Brayden did, depicting himself putting Santa on top of his family’s Christmas tree.
Or, they can choose to work with fabric, like Ethan. After he cut out the multicolored pieces he wanted to layer, he worked side-by-side with Tomascoff to sew everything together. He operated the sewing machine’s pedals while she ran the fabric under the needle.
“Students use a variety of different kinds of art tools and materials,” Tomascoff said. “In doing that, they’re also strengthening and increasing many different skills: their independence skills, fine motor skills, problem solving, following directions and more.”
In addition to creating the image, students also write a short statement about the piece. This year, Ethan composed a haiku, a style of poetry with Japanese origins. He and Tomascoff came up with a long list of winter-themed words, and then arranged them to fit the classic haiku format.
Capturing the chilly experience of a winter walk in three lines of five, seven and five syllables, Ethan wrote: “Cold air on my face / Each snowflake is different / Holiday wood walks.”
When people see his artwork and poem together on the holiday card, Ethan said, “I hope they feel excited!”