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Thank you to Abigail Martin for the photographs.

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ImageThese were the posts that my super dad made for me to attach the work onto. I initially placed them around the room to see what shape i’d like the work to be displayed. 

 

ImageThis was my interactive area for the children to replicate the idea of large scale drawing but with giant pavement chalk – love the stuff! 

ImageThe images from the workshops were played on a slideshow to show the parents how the artwork was made. I liked the simple stage-process that the whole project took, it made it easier to digest and in terms of my uni work gave me space to think in between about formatting the events into my own pieces of work.

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This is the finished display. It was a very fiddly job to put up, but once it was up it looked great. The double sided feature meant people could walk all around and see different work, the fact that the sheets of paper were worked on from all around the edge, caused half the work to be ‘upside down’. This was fun watching the audience tilt their head to view it.

I will post some photographs taken from the event, which were taken by the lovely Abigail Martin from our school, Bath School of Art. Her email address is abimartin@live.co.uk. 

 

The workshops were run over a week with up to two classes in a day, the classes were accompanied by the teachers and support staff who stood back and let the children get on with it. I proposed a question to the children before they began on the large reel of paper i put before them, ‘what would you like to change about your playtime’. I thought this would spark some thoughts about experiences rather than ‘things’.

These workshops were a opportunity for the whole school to say what they wanted to change about their playtime.

These workshops were an opportunity for the whole school to say what they wanted to change about their playtime.

The imagery that i was left with after each workshop was just, beautiful. The contrasting colours and mark-making was so uninhibited and ‘in the moment’, you could see how how the flow of the creativity keeps going when looking at the children at work. They are absorbed and it made the teachers appreciate that they NEED this time in amongst the pressures of working in the classroom. Some of the children had tests on one of the days i was there and they said they felt so good after painting that when they went back to class to do their test they felt great.

The artwork was used in The Playtime Exhibition (see next post) to show parents and siblings how important the playground and time they have to play outside is to them and the school as a whole. The head, John Snell wanted a stronger ‘play culture’ within the school and him and the staff were keen to make changes.

I designed a way of showing the work in which made it interactive, the design enabled the children and visitors to wander around the long peices and see the front and back of the ‘walls’. The wall was at child’s eye level so the parents would have to get down to view the work and be shown by their children which bit was theirs.

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??????????????? Year 1 (1) Year 1 (13) Year 1 (17) Year 2 (4) Year 2 (6) Year 2 (10) Year 2 (11) Year 2 (14) Year 3 (7) Year 3 (14) Year 3 (15) Year 5 (9) Year 5 (12) Year 6 (4) Year 6 (5)

Its a shame that there seems to be a certain exclusivity to art. In regards to personal feelings I mean, I’m not going into taste and class in the art world. Depending on the context I think many people are conscious of creating something visual. Is there creative types and ‘non-creatives’? Or are we all creative beings who just need to find that little gateway out of the consciousness? Its this self awareness that keeps us from some things we would do when we have that voice in our head saying “people will see this”, “what will they think?”, “they’ll think you are unskilled”. I say ‘depending on the context’ because of the many conversations I have with people who work with children saying they’re rubbish at art yet support children in their creative play everyday.

When I make work, I’m self-conscious but when I’m being creative I seem to lose myself, whether that be writing something, moulding something out of clay or even just playing around with Photoshop. Play is full of moments you have as a child that is considered innate, driven by natural curiosity that needs feeding. But as you grow older as a self-aware, responsible adult the ‘non-creative’ may feel they’ve grown out of it or never had it in their blood to begin with. Its not inherited completely obviously, we are conditioned as children to take/lean towards preferences or steered away from some, depends on your teachers/parents/environment etc. But as I was growing up the focus was on ‘its in the blood’. “You take after me, so does your brother”. But this isn’t right! I feel so sorry for those kids who would express themselves/experiment/play/feel through art but just didn’t have the environment or opportunities to do so. Yes mum, you did have a flare for drawing until you had that bike-ride accident where you severed your finger and then was told you had to learn Latin instead of art at school, ripping your dreams from your clasp. Then there’s inspiration. I had my brother growing up to watch, admire and I had a duty to turn out equally as creative, if not more. Now I’m older and have learnt to appreciate myself as an individual rather than want to be anyone else but myself (as you tend to do at that mouldable age). I have learnt to appreciate also the talents of others and celebrate differences. My brother Sam is a fantastic artist and I love the drawings he makes, the songs he writes and sings, AND the films and scripts he writes/directs/stars in. A multi talented English graduate, whom I hold so much respect to and am so proud to have these links to him. But this must mean in my case it was probably more nurture than nature, as Picasso says, “We are all born artists, the hardest thing is to remain an artist”. We must fight the urge to say ‘No I’m ok, I’ll just watch you draw because you know what your doing’.

At the National Play Conference last week I ran a workshops that was on-going for the two days. The canvas I had was pinned up on up-right boards that you could wander around, with paints and charcoal sticks available to use at your disposal. The canvas was for anybody attending to create images of children playing, with me floating around to be of assistance. I made it clear to those who read the catalogue of the conference and to those who approached me with queries, that this was not ‘representational’ so I didn’t expect any actual images of children playing. It was an opportunity for expression, words that needed to be said, colour that when applied hits that spot in your tummy where its feels ‘right’. Symbols or interpretations of those words I gave. Some were itching to have ago, and I love meeting those people who snatch a brush out the box and just get cracking. Now, to be really honest I genuinely believed the canvas would be a hotspot and there would be overlapping, layers of form, colours and mush. But is this because I’m USED TO PAINTING WITH CHILDREN?????? This was fresh in my mind when I attended the conference because of the previous children’s workshops I had ran at a school the week before. I would shriek “Go!” and the kids would just go for it diving in with brushes and crayons, either ignoring this middle-man in their thought process of being conscious or anxious of what they’re about to make on that paper, or that middle-man may not even exist.

The canvas wasn’t a splurge of imagery and colour with abstract shapes and some relatable form amongst it all. I’m not dissing either approach, and I don’t want to seperate children and adults too much, because this contradicts this whole self-awareness issue I have with working with these self-labelled non-creatives. I would never label anyone with this. The canvas instead was calculated, considered imagery that had been thought about, some maybe not so much, I don’t know. But it was a fascinating experience for me who had never done something so expressive with adults before. I felt fuzzy inside when I went over to a lady at the conference asking if she’d like to paint something, her reply was that she wouldn’t know what to do, she can’t paint and she was bad etc etc, she laughed nervously as she claimed her lack of artistic experience. But my response to that was “you work with kids yeah?” she nodded. “So when a child says to you that they can’t draw or paint or make anything, what would be your response to that child?”. She kept smiling and her face changed to of somewhat agreement and empathy. I told her, pretend you are that child and you needed someone to reassure you of your capability and restore your confidence in just letting go. If you can create alongside a room full of children and instill that confidence in them, why not do the same for yourself?

So an hour later, just as I was about to pack up, she approached me with open arms saying she had drawn something after speaking to me and I’d made so much sense to her make her realise she was holding back when there is no child to be creative ‘through’. As a playworker the messy, arty stuff tends to be just part of the job. Its standard, you work with kids you can’t stay clear of PVA and poster paint. So when you are faced with a creative opportunity, be the best playworker you can be for yourself. Playwork yourself. Be supportive and an advocate for your own creativity, if you struggle just think of what you tell that child who says they’re rubbish at everything.

I’m currently led here feeling sorry for myself in the aftermath of running 13 miles yesterday. A day I’m very proud of and will definetly repeat next year but I’ll be sure to train with longer runs and prepare my leg and feet muscles better! The buzz of the crowds keeps you going and the ranges of emotions you go through is quite amusing. I am on my way to £300 for my employer SWALLOW who support adults with learning difficulties. I’m unable to walk normally and am bum-shuffling down the stairs unable to go back up again. Which isn’t too helpful today when I have a workshop to prepare for tomorrow and haven’t packed my bags yet. My washing isn’t dry and half of its not even been washed! Waddling to the salon was embarrasing as I had pensioners overtaking me on the pavement, a reminder of yesterday’s race.

Despite the moans and groans I am very excited about tomorrow and Wednesday’s Conference in Eastborne. I will be facilitating an on-going artwork of images of children playing on a very, very large canvas using charcoal and acrylic paints. Hopefully I’ll be able to pop along to some talks and will have to be part of the Ireland Study Tour talk on the Tuesday morning. I’m a real foody so I always find meal times to be the most joyous part of the day! Since being a ‘pesky’ since September I’m looking forward to seeing what veggie options they’ll have on offer.

Right, so to get organised I need to peel myself off this sofa and start to use my muscles again.

I have been facilitating workshops all week and I can truly admit I was grateful for a little lie in today, I think its been tiring mostly because I was running 2 classes between 9am and 12pm and then walking home, getting in the car and driving to uni where I’d be until late into evening! The workshops have been great and actually worked out just as I’d imagined. The adults I spoke to during the process were supportive and believed it to be an important aspect of their school day and learning experience. The play-time is usually just considered as a ‘break’ to get fresh air and for kids to let off steam, yes this is very true, but this time shouldn’t be taken for granted. I have tried to incorporate a running dialogue whilst facilitating the painting workshops, with the adults present as one TA had quite rightly pointed out as soon as I’d met her, that its the adults that we are teaching here not the children! That was refreshing to hear also learning that this lady had a lot in common with myself and we both have worked at Fosseway (a special school).

Welton Primary has been very supportive and welcoming this week and it shows that I am acting as a catalyst rather than someone who is ‘teaching’ them about play. The teachers seem to agree that the children need more from their playtime and they involve as much opportunity for the arts, PE and playfulness to their classroom environment. When observing the playground, the children will huddle round in groups, play group games and run around with a football. But with the fantastic space that they have there could be so much more variety.

When running the workshops with the huge rolls of paper and paints I have managed to keep the task in hand whilst giving them the freedom to express in various ways. I explained what I was asking of them and insisted on the ‘opportunity’ for them to say what they want to change. A lot of them especially little ones drew pictures of characters from games they play ie Spiderman or extravagant items like swimming pools and death slides. I think there was a confusion of distinguishing between what they already do/like and what they want/need from their playtime whether that be stuff/space/projects/equipment. Then its distinguishing what stuff would be useful to them or what WE as adults would consider useful to them, teachers and playworkers may have different ideas about usefulness.

The younger children, I gave a longer rein for ideas and as the ages got older I would start task off with an explanation about how these ideas couldn’t cost a lot and that they’d need to think about spaces and experiences rather than things/equipment/toys alone. The initial approach I took was the design of a poster given to each class that aimed at getting them thinking before the week. It asked “What would you like to do in your playtime? Let’s see your ideas through art!”

I started the project thinking that all the kids would ‘care’ about their playground. But I realised why would those who don’t care about school in general, care about one hour out of their frustrating day? The teachers assisted with these situations where some would draw offensive sketches or sentences that were not related to the task, so this was when I was out of the equation and the teacher would step in. Working in a school you are constantly reminded that these children are not being let to ‘play freely’ or allowed to test authority like they would be allowed to in most play-settings. Their freedom is limited as there needs to be a certain amount of control at all times, when in the playground their learning is not tested but they are being watched, and when breaking a rule there are repercussions. So, when working in a creative bubble of my workshops, I tried to give as much freedom as I could but was noticing the need for recording by early-years teachers and the reinforcement of learning outcomes not only by the teachers but by myself. One example of this was, “When you share a piece of paper you need to respect the space of other’s and ask when you want to move and work in a different area”. Thus teaching team-work and respect. I didn’t mind being part of the ‘schooling’ as I had to remember I was in a school.

Apart from these external elements of control, the children were free to express what they wanted on the paper. I enjoyed seeing what was made with their hands, crayons, colour and the use of words. Also it was interesting to observe how they interacted with each other during the process. I overheard one boy say to another, “That’s silly because it would be so expensive!”

When I’m back in the school the week after next, the large peices will be presented as one tapestry, (one tutor at uni seen this as brilliant – I was inspired by Grayson Perry’s work – but another tutor recently queried why I called it a tapestry when it wasn’t fabric…grrr!) and I hope to curate a show for the children to display these vivid paintings for a time to reflect, interpret and discuss changes to the current environment between the children, staff and parents.

I will upload some photos of the work when I get a chance, got a busy day today preparing for tomorrow’s Flying Saucer conference and next week in Eastborne. 🙂

L x

A blog for those of you in the Play field who are experiencing troubles with cuts, please share

Lots of love
L x

Play and fine art has been a collaboration of mine for a while now, the street play day was a success and I was able to document it effectively. Process is priority over product throughout, especially when working with children and the community you cannot predict or I wouldn’t like to control what the outcome of the work will be. The next brief I’ve set myself is a series of workshops running in a local primary school that I have already worked with doing my scrap sessions. The workshops would be a class at a time, setting the children the brief of designing what they would like added/changed about their outdoor space at school. This is a rare opportunity for the children to collectively brainstorm ideas and to make decisions that are usually made without them. Its not a competition, its a chance for them to be creative and remind the adults that the playground is their territory, its important to them, their recess and their learning. They have a large space outside and some concrete area, a grass area, a corner hut to sit in, a shed with equipment in (I also donated my scrap to them last year so don’t know if its still there) and a climbing trail. I am not setting out to criticise the school at all, I thought it’d be an interesting way for me to facilitate play in a structured environment and promote the importance of play in schools. The workshops would have a ‘template’ of a piece of paper and materials provided to make, draw and have fun. I thought maybe if I have a couple of moments to make observations through drawing rather than in the standard method of play-observing in words. At the moment before the events begin I have been urging myself to play more myself, make and draw every day and general playfulness. This week I have been observing my course-mates in their studios at ‘work’. A tutorial the other day made me think about how those that ‘survived’ education and coming out the other end with creativity still at the forefront of their learning are surrounding me in my workspace. This is both work and play, we are part of a collective notion that we are there to work, think and produce. But we are ‘at play’, doing what we love and enjoy. It would be madness and a waste of money and time, to be doing a fine art course if you did not enjoy what you were doing.

I hope to use the art from the workshops to produce a tapestry displayed in both the school and my university. We all have that final image in our heads of what we want to end up with, but the trick is not to be logical about it and rather just let the art take you somewhere you didn’t expect, that’s where the fun is.

L x

“Oh my god its really hurting now!”

The girl screeches as her hand develops a pinky colour. A game I used to enjoy as a child whilst riding in the car but to me it wasn’t a game as such, I suppose it was something I just did. Testing my pain threshold, seeing how far I could push it, I would dangle my hand out of the car window. Driving along the wind chill would hit my little fingers hard, enjoying the relief when bringing it back inside the warm and saying “feel how cold my hand is!!” to my fellow passengers.

Today the two children in the back-seat were delving in a bit of ‘deep play’. Their father is confused at his children’s game when the girls boasts about how cold her hand is, “Ok, that’s weird”. Yeah suppose it is to us adults, I don’t reckon I’d want to do it now, I wouldn’t feel the need to. But as a child, there is a need for it. The children in the back are creating a game ‘Who can keep their hand out the longest’… I’m driving but listening in, glancing at the little hands flapping around in my side-view mirrors. I smile as they say things like, “It really hurts but I really want to win!”, and “You put your right hand out…the window…you put your right hand in…the window, and you shake it all about…you do the hokey kokey and you turn around…that’s what its all abouuut!”

I keep a watchful eye to make sure their arm isn’t hanging out too far, but I keep my mouth shut. We get near home and I say “who wins if we get home in a minute?”

“Well we will just wait and see!”

“Ooh you better watch out your hand may drop off!” I teased.

“Will it actually…fall off?” She takes a look at the now, very pink hand.
“No of course not!”

Bet your wondering who won this weird and wonderful test of pain and willingness. Well neither, because as I pointed out they both had to leave the car at the same time. So was it all in vain? No course not, they’re play is valuable, whatever it is.

Adding this to my research

PlayGroundology

Just as food group giant Danone starts its evian ‘live young’ branding swing through London (see previous post), New York City is getting ready to wrap its own art swing happening that’s been pulling in the crowds at Manhattan’s Park Avenue Armory for the last month.

GlassSwingingComposer Philip Glass coursing through the air at Ann Hamilton’s ‘the event of a thread’. Photo credit – Ellen Knuti. Source – Park Avenue Armory

This weekend is the last chance to have your toes kiss the sky at Ann Hamilton’s ‘the event of a thread’ which closes Sunday, January 6. From the New York Times to twitterville’s vox populi reviews are soaring on this participatory installation that fills the cavernous armory space with billowing motion.

A field of swings, a film of suspended fabric, pigeons, manuscripts and readers, a writer, broadcasts and song all come together to recreate at each instant a new…

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