Recently fellow art ed blogger, Mr. E, posted about his frustrations with several art materials. We have all been there-bought a name brand product, lots of them, only to be disappointed in a change in quality, size, or cost.
1. Pencils-If money was limitless I would order Dixon Ticonderoga pencils for my students. My runner up are Staples Brand pencils. They don't break, sharpen easily, and the erasers don't leave marks behind. Oh, and they go on sale for a penny each summer. 10 pencils, 1 penny, no guilt. Check out my Pencil Solutions for more!
2. Colored Pencils- Even though I am elementary I invest in PrismaColors colored pencils. I had a stock pile when I came to my room and now just refresh the colors individually instead of buying sets. They blend and mix beautifully, especially for my intermediate students who are learning to make gradients. I am also a HUGE fan of Crayola ColorSticks. These are essentially woodless colored pencils that don't need to be sharpened! Repeat-they don't need to be sharpened! I bought 12 pack and 24 packs that include skin tones for portrait projects. They are wider and difficult to get details with, but if I don't have to sharpen pencils it is worth it!
3-Washable Glue- Yeah, I don't get washable glue either. Regular glue washes off too. Invest in a gallon of Elmer's Glue All, get the Elmer's glue pump and refill your 4 ounce bottles (Staples also has their own brand on sale every summer, more here Glue Bottle Battle)
4-Scissors- Wescott Wins! I won this caddy a few years ago and they have been going strong since. They haven't gotten loose and they are antibacterial! They are just the right size for all my students (a intermediate version would be awesome!) Don't forget to invest in a scissor sharpener to keep your scissors sharp!
5-Watercolor Paints- The previous art teach in my room order several class sets of watercolor paints. Every time I moved something or opened a cupboard there was another box of watercolor paints! Ack! Unfortunately most of them were cheap-pale, lacking pigment, and not kid friendly. There were however some Prang watercolors which worked well- bright colors and they didn't wear down too fast. Of course not a single on of these sets was complete, each one had colors that were empty and needed to be refilled. One June, I condensed the incomplete sets down until I had 30 complete sets for my students and threw away the empty watercolor trays. Now I just order the oval refills(which is cheaper and environmental friendly!) See how I manage my watercolors with my Simple Watercolor Organization post!
6-Crayons- Can't help you here, I have never ordered crayons for my classroom. I put used crayons on my wish list on my newsletters and they show up by the bag full. I have 2 copy boxes full of crayons, plus what my kids use that are stored in my supply cabinet. I do a recycled crayon project with my 4th graders each year to use up my supply. I prefer Crayola for their quality when we do use crayons. I do know you can snag a box of 24 Crayola crayons for a quarter at back to school sales at many stores!
7-Pencil Sharpeners- Wescott Wins Again! I won the the Westcott iPoint Pencil Sharpener with AutoFeed and Auto Stop. Seriously, put the pencil in, it takes it, sharpens it, stops and spits it back out. No more over sharpening or having to twist a pencil because the sharpener is only sharpening one side. These have a year warranty as well, so if yours doesn't make it through the school year, call them up and they will replace it.
8-Masking tape- I don't know if it is the long,cold winter and the heat being on more or my greasy tile walls (I swear my custodians use furniture polish on them) , but I can't get a thing to stick to my wall this winter. I blame part of this on the heavy watercolor paper I am trying to hang up. I also have been having an issue with tape shredding, coming off in skinny strips instead of one inch widths like it is supposed to! My favorite is Scotch High Performance Masking Tape #232 which I am currently out of which is part of my tape problem! It is on my order list for next year and I am going to try some of this wall putty from Scotch. Check out the Art of Ed post on it!
9-Rulers- Those skinny little metal strips along the edges of wooden rulers scare me. They are sharp, the get loose and then you end up with well not straight lines. I do perspective with my 5th and 6th graders and these rulers just wouldn't do. After my first year and invested in 18 inch metal rulers(no cork on backs), wrote explicit instructions on them "DO NOT BEND ~Mrs. Gorham" in sharpie and let them know the cost of replacing a ruler if the did so. There is also a Ruler Rules chart that the students recite before they use rulers. "This is a tool, it is not a sword, drumstick or noise maker. If I abuse this tool I lose it. I will have to use a piece of cardboard instead. I promise to follow the ruler rules."
10- Felt -Not a big felt user, but I feel your pain with the thick and thinner areas. I (once again) stumbled upon Smart Fab at a conference. I order several rolls this year. Smart Fab is a non-woven (easy to cut) fadeless fabric. I ordered several rolls of SmartFab in bright colors to decorate around the room. It can be used for projects too! It is super easy to use because it won't wrinkle or rip while you hang it.
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