Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Working with schools

I ran the first school project on tuesday this week, in partnership with Claire Wintram. It was the first of two sessions with children from a special needs school, with severe learning difficulties. I've worked years ago with SLD children, and with adults with more moderate learning difficulties more recently. It's always a challenge to work with groups whose abilities and communication skills vary so much, but I felt the session worked out fine. Claire led the morning session with a story and we used various handling objects from Craft Play and from the gallery's own craft handling collection. A visit to the Craft Sense gallery was a great hit, with lots to touch and explore. I particularly enjoyed using the huge wicker basket with the children. It is nice and sturdy for handling, very textural, child-height and made from a familiar material. It was useful to relate the wicker to the trees we could see out of the window. I also showed the children that you could see through some of the wicker, especially if you got up close to it.

After lunch I worked with the children to make a big picture of the story characters and we used recycled and scrap materials to decorate it. The kids enjoyed the cutting and sticking aspect of it, but I think the connection to the story was lost. I wonder if a more simple and tactile creative session would have been more effective, even though it wouldn't link with the story so much. We are doing a repeat session for another group next week, so we can try doing things a slightly different way. I think I might go back to plan A and run a creative session where the children can each decorate a CD with recycled materials to make into a brooch. I think given the time available and the abilities of the various children, it might work better.

The original plan I had for a story / illustration session was for a primary school with more able children, and it wasn't ideal for this group. I would like to try out that idea another time, and continue to explore the options of working with Claire on stories, as it is creatively exciting and enjoyable to work with someone else with different skills and experience.

On a general level, I'm really enjoying working with other people on projects and am keen to keep this up in the future. I've enjoyed the couple of sessions I've done with Jennifer, but wish we could have done a lot more together.

Two school projects start tomorrow, for three or four weeks. I have come up with projects which I hope will be exciting and produce some good work for the showcase.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Monster workshop

This is me advertising the make a monster workshop - and a couple of the samples I made for it. And yes, the doll is not a monster, I know.

This month I have run a couple of workshops for young people. In one we made corsages, both fabric and leather ones. It was interesting that the leather ones were by far the most popular. There seemed to be a reluctance to sew among the girls. Some of them could sew, but most couldn't, and refused to try it out. I think this was mainly due to a confidence issue - they perceived it as something they couldn't do, so they wouldn't even try. It was a real shame, but a useful lesson for me in my expectations! These brooches have been really popular with other young people, but the dynamic in each group is different, and it only takes one objection to influence the rest of the group. The leather brooches involved cutting and glueing, rather than sewing and they all got on quietly and happily with this one. It probably is easier, and there was nothing in the process than they felt they couldn't do. Also I suppose leather is a more interesting material which they hadn't worked with before. I think I'll develop some more workshop ideas which use scrap leather as it goes down so well.
I want to make a piece for the end of project exhibition using leather - I was given some great silver leather scraps last week, which is really inspiring. I had a play around with some ideas last week and something is formulating.

I did a short session for 13-year old boys who were in the process of returning to school following exclusion. I was somewhat unsure how this would work, but it went really well! I printed lots of images onto heat transfer paper.

I used my own images of roof tiles, lichen, leaves, cotton reels and other details which were cut up to create abstract patterned designs. Despite my best efforts, all the boys wanted to put their own names on their t-shirts, rather than do anything abstract! However, the eco-style exhibition did manage to inspire them a little - this tv image is based on a Howies t-shirt print.

Next are two half-term workshops on 15th February at Bantock House, and 16th February at Bilston.