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Origins of Ensworth Traditions: Mrs. Pickel

Polly Bibb Douse
The upcoming Ensights magazine is all about tradition. In preparation for its launch, we have arranged four blog posts that delve into the origins of Ensworth traditions and the people that make them so special. This first post is about tradition in the arts - specifically with Mrs. Pickel. Enjoy!
For the past 59 years, Ensworth has been cultivating traditions. These special rituals revolve around academics, arts, athletics, and service learning. They span from Patchwork guests, to batiking, to Field Day, to the First Grade Pet Show, to black and orange teams, and more. However, the most fundamental threads that weave throughout every Ensworth tradition return to the same common foundation - the people that began the tradition and those that have carried out these traditions over the years.
In her 39th year of teaching art at Ensworth, Mrs. Pickel describes her time at Ensworth and the batiking ritual that she has integrated into the Grade 8 curriculum, “I was a parent at Ensworth for four years before I became a teacher. When I entered the school for the first time, I was amazed at the student art that literally covered most of the walls. I knew immediately that this was a children’s place.” She continues, “I love it here and I treasure all of the memories from my time spent in the art room. I was fortunate to have a mentor in Kate Haven, who was an amazing artist and teacher. She is the person who taught me how to batik and also made sure I included it in my curriculum. Batiking is a tradition that Kate started at Ensworth with the older children, and I am just continuing her legacy. It is a centuries old art technique that involves dye and wax resist on cloth. The students enjoy it, and it is a keepsake for many. In fact, Brooks Corzine and Tim Wallace did batiks with me when they were in my class a ‘few’ years ago.”
Mrs. Pickel also created a new tradition for Ensworth with Grade 6 students. She wanted to introduce them to a wider knowledge of what artists create. Students spend time studying Alexander Calder and drawing contour drawings before the project culminates with a wire structure. “A new tradition I started several years ago was teaching about the sculptor Alexander Calder and creating wire mobiles of the sixth grade students’ faces. They are not easy to make, and the students must do several contour drawings before they begin the wire process. From their experience with sculpting the wire, the students learn that art is not just one dimensional and static.”

Mrs. Pickel gives each tradition the utmost care and attention to ensure a close-knit community. Year after year, students share a special bond due to their batiks, wire-sculptures, and love of Mrs. Pickel.

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