Weaving Native Symmetries

Author
PLIX Team
Published
November 30, 2022

Weaving Native Symmetries at the ATALM Conference

In late October 2022, PLIX teamed up with Pamela Van Halsema of Makers in the Library to offer a hands-on workshop at the ATALM (Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums) Conference in Temecula, California.

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Ada from PLIX shared the outcomes of our Rural & Tribal Toolkit Project, a project funded by MIT J-WEL (Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab). Pamela shared the Makers in the Library Toolkit. This toolkit includes a wealth of resources to create a community makerspace on any budget. There are easy-to-fill forms and templates to build community support, fundraise, budget, train staff, and learn the process of making and prototyping.

Our audience ranged from library professionals, to museum curators, to cultural resource specialists. They learned about the PLIX creative learning pedagogy, reflected on the toolkit’s list of Challenges and Opportunities, as well as our 4 remix strategies. They were also introduced to Mary Jo Parker’s Quilt-making Beautiful Symmetry Remix, and tried their hand at their own cultural remix on the Beautiful Symmetry activity.

Hands on Cultural Symmetry

When we introduced the prompt, “create a symmetry that reflects your culture,” there were many blank stares. This is a common challenge when introducing creative learning pedagogy to audiences unfamiliar with it. In the PLIX community, librarians have shared their difficulties in getting their young adult patrons to try open-ended activities. At older ages, they found that people were more familiar with step-by-step instructions.

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In our workshop, craft materials were scattered on tables for small working groups, and though some participants declared that they were not creative people, they were encouraged by their peers to dive in.

We invited the participants to use photo elicitation, to look through the photos they’ve taken on their phones for inspiration. What stood out to them? What symmetries did they find?

With their photos in hand, the participants began to weave together their interests and shared stories with their tablemates. From their stories, they also wove together the materials to share their cultures. Here are some of the creations below!

Combined patterns inspired by farming, flowers, seasons, and wind.
Combined patterns inspired by farming, flowers, seasons, and wind.
The spiny agarita shrub is native to southwestern United States and northern Mexico. The Apache, Chiricahua, and Mescalero tribes use its fruit, wood, and flowers for food, medicine, and dye.
The spiny agarita shrub is native to southwestern United States and northern Mexico. The Apache, Chiricahua, and Mescalero tribes use its fruit, wood, and flowers for food, medicine, and dye. Mahonia trifoliolata - Wikipedia
Symmetries of reflection, rotation, and repetition in this paper rug that also combines coloring, cutting, and gluing.
Symmetries of reflection, rotation, and repetition in this paper rug that also combines coloring, cutting, and gluing.
Raymond Rehaume proudly displays his woven paper art with glitter borders.
Raymond Rehaume proudly displays his woven paper art with glitter borders.

By the end of the workshop, participants had a newfound appreciation of open-ended creative learning, tools for starting a makerspace, and a bag full of craft supplies to continue their playful explorations!

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