What do you get when you mix Ms. Frizzle, Martha Stewart and a passion for teaching children all about the wonders of art? It’s got to be Cassie Stephens, the whimsical and creative elementary school art teacher behind the blog cassiestephens.com. Stepping into Cassie’s technicolor world of handmade dresses inspired by famous works of art, it’s no secret why her students can’t wait to get to class. Today she’s stopping by the blog to show how a recent Spoonflower purchase inspired a complete classroom transformation and a one-of-a-kind outfit to add to her me-made wardrobe.
Take your seat and sharpen those colored pencils because art class is now in session!
Cassie: As a part of my Back to Art Teacherin’ routine, every school year in late July, early August, I make a new dress. I actually kinda sorta sew A LOT of dresses to wear while teaching all things art. I’ve got a light-up van Gogh’s Starry Night dress, a Munch’s The Scream dress, an Andy Warhol Campbell’s Soup Can dress…I even have a dress made from fabric that the kids drew self-portraits all over. You could call me the Miss Frizzle of Art Teacherin’ (I’ve been called worse). It’s what I do because it combines the things I love: creating, teaching and art.
At the start of this school year, I knew I wanted a really bold and bright print for my dress. After searching Spoonflower for just a hot minute, I found the fabric of my dreams: this paint-drippy, rainbow-trippy number – aka Rainbow Paint by dmitriylo. Nothing says Art Teacher like this melted rainbow! I immediately threw three yards of Basic Cotton Ultra into my shopping cart and hit buy.
Having sewn many dresses for myself, I know what feels the most flattering for me: a fit and flair. Nearly each dress I make is a combination of these three patterns: a vintage Simplicity 8087 because I love the bodice and waistband; the Anna Maria Horner circle skirt pattern; and Simplicity 0320 for the cap sleeves and the pocket pattern. Sometimes I venture down other avenues when sewing but this combo is my solid standby.
I know you’d never guess this by my youthful complexion (ahem) but I’ve been teaching art to elementary aged kiddos for close to 20 years. I’ve had the good fortune to have a huge art room for the last 15. Having been in the same space for a long time, I’ve grown a little tired of staring at the same posters, decorations and, well, junk. While working on my dress, I decided I wanted a change. Something brighter and happier. I wasn’t sure what that change was going to be but I was excited by the idea.
It was then that I got the most amazing addition to my art room: a Rainbow Tree! Once that tree entered my life, it was game over for my drab and tired art room. I tore down the old decorations, cleaned the painting from my window and decided to paint my walls…just like the fabric of my dress. In fact, I took a swatch of my dress to the local hardware store and asked for matching cans of paint.
“What are you going to paint, ma’am? Rainbows?!”
His eyes only widened and he shook his head when I responded with a “Why yes! Melty ones! How did you know?!”
Without asking permission, I attacked my school walls one Sunday while everyone was out of the building. Having lived in the South the last 2 decades, I’ve learned that the Southern way is not to ask permission but for forgiveness when busted. Thankfully, my principals are huge fans of my rainbow makeover. I mean, how could they not be?!
But the biggest fans are the kids. They’ve dubbed that area of the art room The Rainbow Lounge and love to go there to build, read and draw. “This place is paradise!” I overheard one say the other day. My heart may have exploded a little bit.
I had so much fun stitching up this dress that inspired a room makeover…but I gotta be honest: I’m a little afraid to lurk on Spoonflower anytime soon. A new amazing fabric will have me redoing another portion of my art room if I’m not careful!
What do you remember most about your art teacher? Leave us a comment below to share your favorite memory!
Originally from the cornfields of Indiana, Cassie Stephens moved to Nashville, Tennessee on a whim after being offered a teaching gig at an elementary school nearly 20 years ago. Not long ago, she taught herself to sew and has been wearing her wild and crazy handmade ensembles to school since. Her students often times don’t know what to think and have taken to simply calling her the Crazy Art Teacher. Follow Cassie’s classroom transformations and get a closer look at her me-made wardrobe on Instagram!