Lee Expressive Arts Elementary students get colorful on tie-dye day

Friday, September 30, 2011 | 7:54 p.m. CDT; updated 8:18 p.m. CDT, Friday, September 30, 2011
Michael Bledsoe, 10, shows off his hands after tie-dying three T-shirts at Lee Expressive Arts Elementary School on Thursday. Every fall, students screen print and dye their own shirts.

COLUMBIA — It was a beautiful Thursday as teachers and parents hustled kindergarteners into tie-dye stations behind Lee Expressive Arts Elementary School.

Olivia Watts, who turned 6 on Wednesday, carried her T-shirt in a tray and quickly walked to the spot where the yellow and blue dyes were lined up.

"I like to use different colors," she said as she kneeled on the ground, frowning. "It's sad there's no pink."

Bright colors make children happy, said guest artist Karen Pummill-Neal as she coached them through the tie-dye process.

Lee Elementary holds a tie-dye event every year for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Pummill-Neal said it was her second time teaching the tie-dye process to children at Lee. The local artist has been dedicated to creating tie-dye art works for more than 30 years, and is now selling her work and teaching tie-dye workshops once a month at the Artlandish Gallery downtown.

"A lot of them are wearing their shirts from last year, and it's always great to see that," she said.

It's always more fun to teach children, she said, looking at the students' work.

"The kids don't act like they know everything, but adults do sometimes," she said, laughing. "And the kids are just like sponges. They just soak it all up."

To make the tie-dye creations, student-teacher Adair Stokan said the T-shirts were folded and tied, then soaked in a soda-ash solution for two hours the night before to make the dye last longer on the shirt.

Students retrieved their T-shirts the next day and squirted dye to personalize the designs. The dyed T-shirts were then placed in a big plastic bag to be cured. The finished products would need to be rinsed thoroughly before being worn.

At the students' tie-dye station Thursday, 5-year-old Audrey Habermeyer stood under the bright sunlight in her father's black T-shirt, which hung to her knees.

Her mother, Jenna, said Audrey comes home every day with paint on her clothes. She said she was impressed with what her daughter learned in the art projects at Lee.

"It's also a way for children to express themselves in art," she said.

Across from Audrey, classmate Henry Lee seemed thrilled to spray tubes of dye onto his shirt and all over the newspapers underneath.

"I'm excited because I'm about to wear it soon," he said.

"Every kid in this school is creating something beautiful today, and so they can have pride in that and feel good about themselves," Pummill-Neal said.

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