Playing with colour

pembridge hall 2019

This week I spent a day teaching 5 and 6 year olds to create beautiful simple, colourful pieces of felt. They told me how they’d enjoyed each part of the process, selecting and laying out colours, overlapping the wool, getting soapy and rolling out the finished felts. A beautiful simple way of learning to felt.

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A nonny mouse


Thanks to an anonymous bidder for purchasing this artwork, ‘Others’, which I submitted  as part of a secret art auction to raise money for my daughter’s school. I’m delighted that we raised over £10,000 towards transforming the Brutalist Grade II listed assembly hall. Contributions were kindly offered by students, local artists and more well-known ones including Anish Kapoor, Gavin Turk and Turner Prize winner Mark Wallinger who is currently the school’s artist in residence.

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The art of science

This floral frenzy grew in a Camden Town oasis where I guided 40 busy pairs of hands to create felted flowers. The theme was Science Week so we focused on colour as a means to pollination as well as exploring felting as a transformative process.

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Can a line be art?

Would you rather eat a worm or be bitten by a spider? Is it always wrong to tell a lie? What if you didn’t have to go to school? Last week I ran a Philosophy for Children  (#P4C) lesson at Gallions Primary in Tower Hamlets, a primary school in a run down area of Tower Hamlets. To get there you take the DLR train to the end of the line, within sniffing distance of Beckton’s sewage treatment works and along litter-strewn estates.

Inside, the school the atmosphere is calm and the children are focused.  I attended a training for artists there a few months ago and learned how the school hosts a resident gardener, artist, musicians, poets, and a chef (with an MA in food ethnology) as well as investing in children from nursery age upwards with weekly philosophy lessons. Behaviour has turned around,  playground bullying has declined and children’s attainment is improving which is a major achievement anywhere, moreso here in this difficult area of East London. Deputy, Lisa Naylor, who is passionate about P4C explained to me that these developments have taken years to achieve. In exchange for the training, artists are invited to bring in a piece of their art which is a stimulus for a philosophical enquiry and which is donated to the school.

For starters Year 4 Calypso class chewed over warm up questions, swapping places if they preferred school dinners to Macdonalds or thought swimming was better than football. For first course I offered them a ‘playful ponder’: “You have a super power for 24 hours. You can choose to be invisible, have super strength, be able to fly, build anything of your choice or to make people happy when you touch them”. The children jump onto a circle I’ve prepared, to make their choice, then justify it to the whole class. Calypso are patient, impressively listening to each other reasoning and articulating their choices. They have the opportunity to swap places and explain how their thinking was swayed. Then onto mains. I presented the children with my artwork, Colourfield, and asked the children to draw how it made them feel. Their answers varied from ‘confused’ and ‘happy’ to ‘inspired’ and a profound ‘it makes me feel like anything is possible’.

can a line be art

The thrust of these enquiries is that they are child-led so the children debate a question they have formulated themselves and chosen to discuss. I invited them to ask the artwork a question and then had the tricky task of categorising them, for example “What are you made of?” questions, “What are you about?”, some more random queries and then this gem… “Can just a line be a piece of art?” The children and teachers voted for this as their discussion point. Arguments were eloquent and I was blown away by the children’s patience and clarity. It’s evident these 8 and 9 year olds are well-versed in debating and to the possibility of disagreement and a range of valid opinions. Inspiring indeed.

So can a line be art? Calypso think so, by a vote of 16 to 8, but they’re open to suggestions.

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The rule of three

I have just read a fascinating article suggesting that things that come in threes are ‘inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things’. And so it is with pleasure that I present this triptych of felt artwork on the theme of Celebrating EC1. These pieces were created by primary and secondary students from three Islington schools and will be exhibited later this year alongside work from 2 other schools so watch out for the perfect fifth later this year.

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Keeping Red, Yellow and Blue green

Apologies for the break in blogging. Here are some images from a wonderful recycling themed day working with Year 2 pupils at a Hanwell School. Thanks to Gail from @eastsidelondon for her brilliant organisation.

More posts to follow but possibly in jumbled date order!

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Celebrating EC1

The Barbican at sunset, a cow’s head, a cello, a church, shoppers at Spitalfields and a nurse’s uniform, all recreated in handmade felt. These highly individual works are part of a Celebrating EC1 banner project I am working on with several Islington schools. It’ s been a delight to work with talented 9, 10 and 11 year olds at Prior Weston Primary who produced these striking pieces in only two after school sessions.


Please contact me for more information and if you would like me to run a feltmaking project for your school or community group

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