Pencil-case and paper as a studio

Pencil-case and paper as a studio

As we are in our second Lockdown in Israel. Zoom is the device to gather the children as a group. Before that, many art studios in schools were used as ordinary classrooms. They were not allowed to share instruments such as brushes, scissors, etc. This is why all art materials needed to be individual for each student in their own classroom.

From such harsh physical limiting conditions, we came up with a procedure that works well for many in this challenging time. Many art educators and art therapists use it these days.


Pencil-case and paper as a studio - nona orbach


Pencil-case and paper as a studio - nona orbach

Students organize their pencil-case as a studio, 10- years-old    Helit Shacham, Michal Liberman

Such a process works incredibly well, especially with independent children, used to create in a studio and make their own art process choices. We call it an open studio setting. This is similar to choice-based-art.

Many art educators in my group [Studio visits on FB] share that they are surprised to see the more in-depth work children are doing now with limited materials. They are concentrating for a longer time; they are more engaged and more daring.


The pencil case is represented as a magical took for creation.

Each student decides and chooses the essential tools and materials he desires:  What crayons, pens, scissors, they love the most? The tools one is attached to will be more powerful to produce the magic of capturing the imagination, creativity, and variety.

The pencil-case is a tiny studio that they are responsible for.

helit shacham

The above image is the pencil case as a studio; the lower image is the art in progress. Helit Shacheam

The procedure
–  The student is asked to organize their magical tools on the table. It is a delicate and essential ritual of creating a tiny studio.

–  When they are done, you give them paper.

–  You might suggest a hint for a few who have no idea.

–  Perhaps there will be students who prefer to engage in displaying the artwork their friends are doing? [curating]

– Maybe there’ll be students who want to document instead?

Pencil-case and paper as a studio - nona orbach

Again, studio and artwork, Helit Shacheam


Paper is the primary material you’ll serve.

Here is a list of actions that can be done with paper.

Paper and hands alone: fold, tear, wrinkle, scroll, rub, cut out.

Paper and more tools and materials: paint, draw, paste, cut, make holes, and what else?

Any action upon paper can be a research process.

Notice that every child will create something else under the same term, “tearing,” for example.

Pencil-case and paper as a studio - nona orbach

An accumulating presentation answering a question: what can your hands do with the one paper only? Sharon Musafi

The more you notice and verbalize the specific actions, qualities, and details in their artwork, the bolder and more creative they will feel and become.

You can also propose to explore over time:

  • Types of tearing
  • Types of folds.
  • You can suggest a colored paper to choose from as the process deepens. 
  • A suggestion of a strange, unusual format.
  • Do not flood them with sud suggestions – the more THEY invent, the better. 

Notice that each kind of paper will create other effects. Talk about it. 

Pencil-case and paper as a studio - nona orbach

These are all suggestions. Please choose what is best for your students, and when.

Be sensitive and try to feel what their need is!

Your interest in exploring and questions about their works are essential.

These are the deep secret that will encourage further deepening.


Here are a few examples of inquiries:

– What else can be done with it?

– Try to surprise yourselves. Play with it some more.

–  How does it look from the other side? Go there. 

Take pictures from different angles until you discover something that interesting.

  • Do you have any other ideas, even weird ones?
  • Would you like to create a stop-motion?

Pencil-case and paper as a studio - nona orbach

A presentation answering the question: What can you do with paper?  Michal Levy


It’s also an opportunity to go deeper into art’s language and show how infinite diversity it has.

Phenomenological terms are valuable as part of your language: line, color, shape, composition, texture, substrate, image, text, abstract, realistic, comics, ornamentation, background relationship, etc.

This approach allows every boy and girl to have a unique and contributing place within their classroom.


Art History: Prepare a presentation with examples that are related to what the students have created. Find artists that used paper as they did. You can add to the artists’ presentation next to the students’ art. This will create great empowerment and joy!

Create an ongoing exhibition of the experiments and research. A few students can do it as their project.



The Good Enough Studio book on Amazon


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