Festooning Brings Us Together @ Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh

Festooning for the Mattress Factory’s summer ARTLAB was a huge success! Our little honeybees impressed Maria with their patience and dedication over 4 days as we experimented with new ways of learning and working together. Below are photos from our various activities, the workshop proposal and brief outline of our lesson plan for those who are interested!

Fes-toon*ing Brings Us Together

In this series of workshops we’ll experiment with a basic playful form, the Festoon! This structure hinges on the idea that individual parts may link together to form more complex and energized systems. We will use our bodies, words, and creative materials to investigate the festoon as a tool for interdisciplinary learning, social interaction and celebration. Touching upon topics from entomology (the study of insects) to electricity, etymology (the study of words) to ornamentation participants will be sure to outgrow their thinking caps!

DAY ONE // Anagrammatists: Exercise in Etymology

One day one we discussed the idea of Etymology (study or origin of words) and used the internet to look up the meaning and history of various words we were curious about. We talked about how words break down and the way different parts are linked together. Then Maria introduced the concept of a festoon, presenting a supplementary slideshow that showed an array of structures and systems that call themselves a festoon, from dentures to party balloons, draped fabric to honeybee chains.

Following this lesson and brainstorming/drawing session Maria passed out nametags allowing students to scramble their names to form new chains of letters. This exercise in anagramming earned us professional titles as anagrammatists. We then tackled the larger project of making a beautiful festoon of flags to decorate the room for our workshop. Using the letters in “Festooning Brings Us Together” these witty anagrammatists rearranged them to spell “Stone Rugs for the Big Night Song” which became something of a motto ; )

DAY TWO // BEEing the Festoon

On Day two we discussed more specifically the Etymology of Entomology (insects!) and it’s categorical reliance on segmentation. We passed information like honeybees pass wax and pheremones by tweaking classic games like telephone. After some warm up and brainstorming, tried an exercise Maria invited based on Telephone to create a collaborative drawing- passing our designs via sense of touch. 


Day three was very informative! Maria delivered in-depth explanations of the honeybee’s daily workload, between foraging, keeping the home clean and making food for themselves. We discussed pollination and the characteristics of raw honey source from wild blossoms, tasted treatment-free honeys from around the country, and made beeswax festooning models of teeth and madeleines. We then prepped a sweet batch of honey popsicles to prepare for the following day’s workshop and held a beginner’s tutorial and training for waggle dancing.


Together we talked about the sugars that make up honey, chowed down on the honey popsicles we made on day three and then arranged our bodies to mirror the chemical makeup of glucose and fructose. After we snapped photos of these diagrams, we festooned on the ground with heads on one another’s tummy’s to feel the energy and resulting laughter as sugars broke down in our bodies.

Listening to minimalist composer Terry Riley, we discussed drone music and the repetition of sounds and vibrations as they relate to bees who rely one the vibrations of the waggle dance inside of their dark homes. After a group stretch session, festooning-style, we perfected our waggle dance form and played a little honeybee hide and seek in the main gallery. Students then received the Festooning Honeybee Badges they’d worked hard all week to earn!




  1. Beth Molteni

    This looks like such a fun way to learn. Thank you for sharing the pictures!

  2. Allison and I loved this! Thank you to Maria and to the Mattress Factory. I can’t stop telling people about this awesome experience!

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