Wednesday, July 14, 2010


This came from left field but is proving a popular and versatile activity.
In a couple of weeks I'll be delivering it for the fourth time in 4 months.
It started as an activity the whole school could have a go at, delivered during a High School 'North America' festival and is being repeatedly requested. There is no doubt the kids enjoy making dreamcatchers - so I discovered do the oldies

If you are delivering it as a 40min-1hr workshop (especially if it's across 3 days to 5 groups a day) it does require enormous amounts of prep. Each dreamcatcher has to be pretty much in kit form.

For each participant, you need to provide a hoop, fabric for wrapping, string/cord/wool for weaving and various bits and bobs (fabric strands, feathers,beads) for decorating. This defines the three stages of making.


After a general introduction I have found that the workshop is best delivered in three stages, calling the group round you at each stage and demonstrating what to do next. It means
(a) that everyone can get going promptly
(b) there is only one set of instructions to remember and act on at any one time.

This has been delivered to Y6
Main stream High School
Moderate Special Needs School
Elderly persons Social Group
Next - Community multicultural festival

Noahs Ark

A whole school Primary project. This time a Catholic School with a specific request for 'Noah's Ark' to adorn the back hall wall. It was a big bare space, high up with the complication of pipes running down. My initial thought was MDF panels but they're heavy and involve a major install. Instead I opted for a 3x2 metre canvas (tab topped) which could be hung from a large wooden pole.

I went into Assembly to talk about the project. I had already decided that I would design the shape of the work but that the animals would be work-ups from the pupils drawings. I had prepped some work sheets. There were 20 different ones asking the kids to draw me their take of a specific animal and also an animal of their choice. That way I ensured enough variety.
The school gave over a lesson to this and I had the best response ever. There must have been 200+ completed worksheets!

MATERIALS The canvas came at 2mtrs wide so the only prep necessary was to hem raw edges, attach tabs and prime. I used household emulsion for this and acrylic paint for the artwork.

TECHNIQUE Again I chose to work up the school starting with the tinies sponging the background and whiting out & working up the years as the requirements became more complex.

I used a large camping groundsheet to protect the floor, dispensed paint in small amounts, sourced aprons and made foam squares for the kids to kneel on.

They LOVED working on the big canvas. We talked about things getting smaller and paler in the background. How to mix colours, best ways of holding a paintbrush...

We wondered at the size and shape of the ark and the problem of predation ...... but tried to focus on the beauty and wonder of the natural world.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


This was probably not much more than a two hour session with an elderly social group of around 60 (mainly) women.

It has developed into a twice-yearly routine. A local school I have connections with provide a day of activities, entertainment and food in the church hall where they meet...... and it also seems to have become part of this routine that I am asked to deliver something 'arty-farty'.

There are usually 8-10 Year 9's (14 year olds) who go round and help - and this is really what it's all about. This is also where the arty-fartiness comes into its own. Awkwardness is soon put aside when there is a task at hand and once everyone relaxes the chatting begins

Most of us once assured and comfortable get some satisfaction from making and putting our opposable thumbs to use. The tricky bit is to come up with the right activity: something that young and old can do together, that plays to the strengths of both.

For this last workshop I decided that everyone would make something individual and personal but that put together would make one work.


  • Each person to decorate a square of paper (we used felts but it might be nice to get the watercolours out if there's drying time)

  • On the blank side of the paper to write the name of someone, or a group of people, they would like remembered

  • The name is then folded within an origami peace crane

  • Strings are attached to the birds which are then hung from a painted branch to become a tree of peace and remembrance

NB A few of the participants became upset with the remembering - but I didn't think of this as a negative. They very much wanted the names written and their birds included.

The folding was mainly completed by myself and the students although half a dozen or so wanted a demonstration and folded their own. (Which reminds me I promised to drop instructions in)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Foundation Course students

We looked at my practice and where I thought it fitted in with things. I was making a chandelier out of chicken bones at the time see and the students had a go at some chicken bone sculptures. They were short of 3D work for their portfolios.
I Have to say it was a very easy gig this one.
A short presentation. A big box of bleached chicken bones and they were away!

Big Paint

This gig was at short notice. A Primary School head had just taken over as head of art and was concerned that the only art her pupils were involved in fitted onto an A4 sheet of paper. She wanted them to have the experience of painting big.

Because of the short notice the design was mine. I looked at what they'd been studying and Rainforest, Natural forms and Bold colours informed what I came up with. We worked on cheap hardboard with readymix school paints and a bit of acrylic medium applied with hands, fingers, bits of sponge and only as a last resort brushes.

Technique With whole school Primary painting projects where the age and ability of the pupils is so disparate I arrange to work up the school. The tinies sponge in the background first (HANDY HINT if you want a large area covered speedily and effectively with sponged paint get a gang of 4 year olds onto it). I then white out the next stage and so on.... I find this works pretty well and although some work inevitably gets covered as we move from background to foreground everyone has 'had a go'

junk jewellery

I've run this workshop a few times. Schools (especially all girls High School's) like it as a summer festival activity. It is undoubtedly very popular. You need to have gathered loads of stuff together; begged defunct bicycle inner tubes, used train tickets, old keys, broken pencils, small plastic bottles....... whatever you can think of well as beads and wires - and be well planned, very well planned.

3 x 2 metre mosaic for school entrance

This was a whole school Primary Project- There must have been between 200 and 300 tiny pairs of hands involved in its creation.

I went into Assembly, made my pitch and asked the pupils to come up with possible final designs.
The finished piece was to measure 3x2 metres and be the first thing to hit your eyes on entering the school
I chose what I could from their work and painted the final design in acrylics onto mosaic webbing so it had become a sort of tile by numbers. We matched the colours of the tiles to the colours of the paint. As it was so big, using the mesh meant we could work on sections, easier all round....tiles are heavy!
I chose 1x1cm glass tesseral and at this stage we glued them on with a decent PVA decanted into syringes. Everyone got about a 20min session - enough for the smaller ones. The older ones could have taken more and been useful, but part of the rationale was for everyone to have played a part so everyone did.

There is a lot of sourcing/prep and finishing to a project like this. You have to complete it / fix it to its substructure/ grout it and arrange delivery if this has been done off site.

WOULD I DO IT AGAIN Yes BUT maybe work out a final piece that is in sections or insist on on site completion

Everyone was more than happy with the end result though!