Theatre Royal Festival Launch

Today the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds launched their annual Children’s Festival and we teamed up with theatre educator David Whitney to offer some activities for local schools.

We’ve been developing ways to tell stories or investigate ideas through integrated performance and visual arts. Today we took short written excerpts from a play to be staged at the festival and worked with the children in fast moving activities that used freeze frames and drawing to imagine what happened before and after the event described.

On June 11th there will be a full day of visual arts activities and theatre exploration for families.

Art Club, winter twigs

p1010013Storm Doris left us with a trail of winter twigs with early buds strewn across roads and gardens and plenty of ideas and materials for this terms art club.

We started with The Woodland Trust‘s winter twig ID sheet. The twigs were tricky to identify at this time of year but the close looking helped observational skills noting layout of buds, presence of catkins and, the children’s favourite, the stickiness of the horse chestnut bud.

I had prepared long scroll lengths of paper and supplied brush pens filled with diluted ink (a new tool for the children) and watercolour pencils and encouraged them to make observational drawings of the twigs using the length of the paper.

Some of the children used magnifying glasses for close looking identifying patterns and an array of colours within the bark and buds.

In the second session I brought short cut lengths of twigs that would be painted and become a material to use for 3D work the following week.

We started with some colour theory, mixing bright primary colours in acrylic then set to the painting. This simple painting task offered a calm time to talk about the relative vibrancy of colours, how the paint transformed the twigs (would we look at them differently) and what size and shape twigs would we need to make the 3D work.

As the children finished painting I asked them to look at the underlying paper: what shapes and images could they find; what happened if they turned their paper?

The following week I demonstrated joining the twigs with wire and talked about making a hanging or free standing structure. The children joined their twigs to create tree or birdcage like structures using the more pliant materials to create curves. I was very impressed by their achievements but photographing the delicate structures proved very tricky against the classroom backdrop.


Great Barton Primary School Art Day


We were invited to make art with the entire school of 220 students for a whole day this week. This is part of a week dedicated to art in the school so we were wanted to allow each child a day of making. Logistically it would be impossible to spend much time with each class so we decided to set up three activities that we would introduce in the classrooms and invite the children in small groups to draw on the background and gain an overview of the larger artwork taking shape on the wall.

The theme of an ‘enchanted forest’ was one of the school’s suggestions and we created a narrative for this by asking the children to imagine a forest growing out of thrown away plastic. We asked about the material starting a discussion about what plastic is and where does it go when we’ve finished with it. They worked with collected plastic milk containers cutting intricate patterns to create foliage. Next they studied characteristics of native birds seen around the school grounds and made preparatory sketches. In the last session we asked the children to imagine how these birds might adapt to their new surroundings and to create a bird for the installation a wide array of printed cardboard and junk mail that they had brought from home.

It was difficult to communicate collage techniques to this amount of children: some favoured small torn pieces of paper to create a texture while others could envisage images and patterns used in a new context. One of the youngest children recognised a large swirling camouflage print as a perfect beak for a ‘jungle bird’. The children that worked with the small pieces became frustrated with the slow progress and were happy to be encouraged to work with larger shapes or to focus on areas such as eyes or beak to let the image read as a bird. It’d be interesting to try this activity again in the small art club group.

The artwork was installed the same day against a backdrop of small drawn images of things that might be floating or flying in the forest air.

After School Art, rocks

This term our art is taking us down a geological path, maybe visiting some soil science along the way. The children unwrapped and examined a collection of rocks picking out surface textures and patterns. On a long sheet of brown paper we used chalks and charcoal to explore how these materials could be used to explore the rock surface. In some cases the chalk was applied to the rock and the rock to the paper. The rocks were also used as tools to grind the chalk into powder. This might be an interesting way of thinking about rock particles in the soil.

We moved looked at other ways we could make surface textures, preparing papers to move the artwork in a new direction next week. We used oil crayon resist with ink wash on crumpled, pleated and punched surfaces. The children learnt about the amount of resist needed and how dilute the ink should be to expose their layer of texture.

We talked about how we could make 3D rocks from our paper. Origami was mentioned: it sounds challenging and we didn’t have an expert in the room. I’ll have to do some research.


Enchanted Heath, West Stow


Enchanted Heath at West Stow Anglo Saxon Village launched the newly installed Beowulf Trail and Rojo Art offered interpretation and art activities for the day and evening events. During the day we invited people to explore natural materials from the Brecks to make imaginary landscapes inspired by the local environment. Our participants, mainly under 5, got stuck into the clay and used local flints, cones, sand, chalk, snail shells, bark and bones amongst other things to work with. Thank you to Breaking New Ground for these photographs as we didn’t have a camera with us.

In the evening we transformed the education centre into a lantern making workshop and worked with 300 people to make lanterns that would alert the inhabitants of the woods to their presence as they set out on the night time trail. We worked with collected milk containers which were cut to allow the light to shine through and embellished with willow sticks and ivy.

Art in the Park

A morning introducing printing as a way of recording and exploring the natural world of the copse. Sun prints showed fascinating silhouettes and roller printing exposed the intricate patterns and edges of leaves and feathers. To capture the textures of immovable objects such as tree trunks we took a lump of clay (recycled from Florian’s casting workshop) for a walk  pressing this into surfaces to make an impression and then  using it as printing block.

This same clay  was reused in the afternoon session, modelled into woodland creatures with the materials of the woodland floor forming spines, feathers, fur and scales.

Oasis Day Club, Saxon House , Age UK

Also our first session in Age UK this week. we were starting to think this work might never happen as we’ve been looking for funding for a year. The members at the day club are looking for an activity that offers the opportunity to make something as a group and create an identity for the club.

In consultation meetings mosaic has emerged as a technique that the members were most interested in and felt they could learn. Maybe this is because its going to be new to everybody with no preconceived ideas about capabilities.

This week was about getting to know people and place, having a go at mosaic making and starting a dialogue about what might be possible.



Art in the Park, Outdoor Studio


First of six art sessions with families in Nowton Park, exploring and engaging with a woodland copse through art making.

The morning started with feltmaking on the woodland floor adding in natural materials, sometimes on purpose and sometimes accidently. We looked for good textured surfaces onto which we could roll, or full, the felt. The tree trunks were a perfect solution. Feltmaking in the outdoors appeared to offer more opportunities to experiment and felt a much easier process.

The afternoon was a more experimental session than the skills-led morning. I offered small notebooks and materials and equipment for observing, recording and collecting. The children set off into the copse with a ball of yarn to mark their trail through the space and found places where they could sit and closely observe.

I imagined the yarn trails would be the starting point for a follow up activity making maps of their journeys but they proved to be a good starting point to encourage exploration and spatial mapping.

Some fascinating field journals emerged with notes written on leaves; poetry inspired by trees; careful measurements of found specimens; secretive collections and innovative visual records.