What Shall I Bring Him?: A children's mosaic for Epiphany

Our children’s ministry team wanted to provide an opportunity for the children of the church to offer their gifts in worship in a visible way. Elizabeth Henstock, a member of the team, developed the concept of creating a collaborative piece for Advent using the fourteenth-century fresco Adoration of the Magi by Italian artist Giotto. The children were told and shown the story of how the magi brought gifts to Jesus. They enthusiastically agreed to work together on a large mosaic as their way of also bringing a gift to Jesus.

Working in small groups, children and their leaders spent a number of weeks prior to Advent creating a fabric mosaic representation of Giotto’s fresco.

With the help of others, Elizabeth prepared the canvas and the fabric pieces ahead of time to the point where the children’s groups and their leaders could work on the mosaic for a number of weeks prior to Advent.

The Giotto image was projected and drawn onto a background canvas that measured five feet square. The canvas was then cut into eight pieces, one for each group of children. Donated upholstery fabrics were coordinated to match the original fresco colors and cut into one-inch squares. Each children’s leader was provided with the necessary colored fabric squares to match the shapes on each section of the mosaic.

The finished work is beautiful; it hung in our sanctuary the latter part of Advent and into Epiphany. But much greater than the joy of seeing it was the process and participation of the children and their growing excitement as the colors and shapes began to take on recognizable form. The banner now hangs in the children’s gathering space and continues to be a joy and inspiration.

Original Art (left):

Adoration of the Magi, Giotto (1304), Scrovegni Chapel Fresco, Padua, Italy.

Mosaic with some of the kids who worked on it. From left: Hannah Vanderhoek, Christopher Ruiter, James Vanderhoek and Kyle Ruiter.

 

Excerpt
Making the Banner—Step-by-Step

Each church school group leader was given the following background information and instructions for how to make the banner.

Materials

• One section of canvas with image (15"x30")
• Fabric squares in Ziploc bags
• Bottles of white glue (one per pair of children)
• Newspaper (to spread over work surface)

1. Set-up
  • Cover work space with newsprint and tape down image. Set out materials listed above.
  • Count the number of shapes on your canvas image and assign one shape to each pair of kids. (If you have eight kids, you’ll have four groups working in separate quadrants of the image, which will give each group room to work.) For younger children (ages three or four) do not assign pairs. You will be the primary worker, and the children will place the fabric squares down where you tell them to.

2. History, Demonstration, and Hints
  • History. Begin by showing children the printed image they are working with, Adoration of the Magi. Explain that they will be “painting” one section of it with fabric squares. Tell them a little about the artist who painted it. Giotto (c. 1267-1337) was one of the greatest Italian painters. His greatest paintings are about the life of Jesus and his mother Mary. Giotto painted them on the plaster walls of a church in Padua, which is in northern Italy.
  • Demonstration. Choose a shape to fill and find the appropriate bag of fabric squares. Spread white glue on the canvas in approximately a 3”x3” area. Take one square at a time and fill the glued area with squares.
  • Hints. Canvas should not be visible between fabric squares; entire canvas should be covered when complete. Try to stay within the black lines of each shape. Overlapping squares is OK. Use a small amount of glue—you’re not gluing down an elephant!
  • After sharing hints, children begin gluing squares down (for three- and four-year-olds, see Set-up, above).
  • Bring canvas image to designated room where it can lay flat to dry.

3. Clean-up
  • Dispose of newspapers.

Note: You have three Sundays to work on your project. Please include the history, a quick demonstration, and read the hints out loud the first week because the success of this collaborative project depends on clear communication to the children. You may want to repeat the hints in the next two weeks since children may forget from week to week and there may be new children present. Allow a good five minutes for clean-up. (You may want to have additional helpers for these three weeks.) Be sure to try this process ahead of time so you can demonstrate it effectively; a sample bag of scrap canvas and fabric squares is provided for this purpose.

 

Jenny DeGroot is a member of the visual arts ministry team of First Christian Reformed Church, Langley, British Columbia. Her e-mail address is ddegroot@direct.ca.