In the 1980s I was eating vegetarian dinners over hours-long Scrabble games in Miami with my friend Elizabeth Vitale. This was long before I knew I’d one day live in Boston, and before Liz became an art teacher. She’s been teaching art to South Floridian junior high and high school students for many years now. One of her latest projects in Broward County has been guiding students in the Nova High School National Art Honor Society to create necklaces from Scrabble tiles. I was instantly charmed when I saw this photograph of some of their tiles lined up together in a tin box. I can imagine what a pretty mural this would be painted across a long wall.
The National Art Honor Society is a group of artistically talented students, grades 10 through 12, who perform art-related services to enhance the aesthetic well-being of the school and community. Student members learn about different artists and styles, and do projects to enhance their own artistic growth. (To be eligible for NAHS, students must have completed at least one year of high school art with a B average or higher.)
There are ten to fifteen students involved in the Scrabble tile necklace project, and right now there are about 160 Scrabble tiles in various stages of completion. When they are finished, each students will have about ten tile necklaces to sell. Proceeds from the sales will go to a children’s charity.
I asked Liz about their process for making them. They make a template by cutting a square hole the size of a Scrabble tile into an index card. When Liz shops for paper (Japanese washi paper, origami paper, scrapbook paper, card stock, gift wrap, or lightweight recycled greeting cards), she uses the template to see if the pattern will fit the tiles. The tiles were bought from Hasbro at $6.50 for 100 pieces. There are also copy tiles available in Michael’s Art and Craft stores, and Liz finds those even easier to work with because the wood is a little softer, making the corners easier to file down. The tile is glued to the paper using Tacky Glue, then sealed with Mod Podge. The Mod Podge has to be applied with a brush to ensure smoothness and a good seal. When the Mod Podge is dry, Diamond Glaze is applied to give the tile a glassy coating. This is done with the tip of the bottle so that it pools over the top of the tile. Some students adhere small “gems” – little facet-cut crystal appliques – to accent their tiles. A silver finding is glued to the back of the tile, allowing it to be suspended from a thin ribbon – a pretty, but inexpensive alternative to a chain. The findings are “sterling silver Medium Aanraku pendant bails, ” purchased on e-bay in quantities of 50 or 100. These very affordable fun necklaces are sold for $5 each.