Creative routes

Here’s a sneak preview of some work I’m creating with Year 3 children from Barnet schools as part of artsdepot’s annual Creative Routes project. The work is based on the theme of Outer Space and is inspired by an opera for schools devised by the English National Opera about Laika, the first dog in space. We’re re-imagining the tragic ending by designing a planetary space where Laika has escaped to.

Laika space dog  Laika space dog Felted shibori  Laika space dog

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Thinking with your hands

I’m thinking about other accessible felting methods for adults or children with poor dexterity so I’ve been playing around with felting scraps of commercial felt cloth onto needlepunch felt. I love using the negative shapes left over from previous projects. The one on the left is my daughter’s who’s always pleased to be my felting guinea pig.  We discovered that assembling is great fun, but the felting itself is extremely tricky as some of the commercial felt is synthetic so it won’t become entangled with the woolly base. But I’m going to see if we can try again using tiny wisps of merino fleece to secure the blocks of colour.

experiment with felt

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Felting and dementia

Kathleen tells me for what could well be the 100th time that she used to like colouring-in books. Next, she points to a colourful piece of handmade felt with her name on. “Well I don’t know who made that” she tells me. “Somebody must have made that and put my name on it,” she laughs. In fact Kathleen has just spent about 45 minutes carefully making this artwork with me. Jennifer is also nonplussed. She doesn’t remember making the felt either, but decides to keep the one with her name on as a souvenir. This has proven to be just one of the many challenges I’ve met on this 6-week project working with residents of an Islington care home, many of whom have severe dementia or have suffered strokes.

felting and dementia

It’s not the first time I’ve run feltmaking sessions with the elderly, but this time the levels of need are very high. As well as memory loss, many of the residents have limited dexterity and the support staff I was promised must be on their tea break. Luckily, I’ve taken some advice from fellow felters and decide to try felting the wool in a ziplock bag. It must be a very strange experience for my elderly friends, place the wool into a bag and, once I’ve poured in some warm soapy water, for them to rub it till it felts together. A very strange experience indeed, but for some, hopefully, a pleasant one at least for a fleeting moment.

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Lollipop, lollipop, ooo lolly lollipop

I made these with a zillion children at Harrow Arts Centre’s open day last Sunday where I had some amazing help from volunteers and lots of eager little felters were born.

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Felting with your feet

I’ve been wanting to do this for such a long time… shoes and socks off, let the soapy felting begin! This wonderful project took place at Fitzjohn’s Primary school with an exceptionally talented Year 1 class (5 and 6 year olds). They began helping me to create a wool oak tree before felting it with their bare feet, a massive hit! The next part involved working with a partner to make these incredible felt drawings of creatures which live in or near oak trees. I’m staggered by their beauty and delicacy.

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Good things always come in threes

Thanks to a longstanding technical hitch which I’ve finally ironed out I’m bringing three posts for the price of one tonight. First of all, photos from feltmaking at the Keats House Festival:

The second luscious set of photos comes from Sarum Hall school where I worked with a very calm class of 8 and 9 year olds to create these felt pouches today:

I also taught the children how to make felt ropes so they can create some handles next week.

Part three is the piece de resistance and deserves a post all of its own…

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My alter ego

botanical drawing cacti and succulents

botanical drawing cacti and succulents

This week I’ve been busy wearing one of my other caps as  freelance teacher at Kew Gardens. The gardens are looking truly stunning at the moment as we prepare for Incredibles, our Summer festival which celebrates edible plants, complete with a dyed blue boating lake by designers Bompas and Parr. Yesterday I took groups of Year 5 children round the glasshouses for Art in the Garden workshops and couldn’t resist sharing some of their beautiful drawings. I began the session in the Palm House, amongst the tropical rainforest plants, with warm-up drawing activities: continuous line drawings, left-hand drawings (or right if you are left-handed) or blind drawings, before we concentrated on more formal sketching. Then we moved to the dry tropics which are home to barrel cacti and other succulents and I showed the children how to draw with oil pastels, working heavily before scratching into them with skewers to pick out details (sgraffito), which is always a massive hit. Such a satisfying day then, especially as I had spare clipboards so managed to get all the adults to join in.

rainforest pencil drawing Kew

rainforest pencil drawing Kew

barrel cacti drawing Kew

barrel cacti drawing Kew

cactus drawing Kew

cactus drawing Kew

agave

botanical drawing mini exhibition

botanical drawing mini exhibition

 

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