Category Archives: Workshops

Grace’s Woodbines and other stories…

graceI’ve just spent the afternoon at the Greenwood Centre, Hampton with some delightful ladies – members of the Will and Way Club (a craft and social club for seniors). It’s all part of The Frame community art project I’ve been working on all year with Sue Edkins for the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames’ Arts Team, and we have now reached the workshop stage.

Two hours flew by chatting, eating some delicious home-made bread and jam brought by one of the members, and making motifs to form a border around the three images we’ll be making for Diamond Jubilee Gardens, inspired by Twickenham’s role in WW1.

With a pile of coloured collage sheets and some reference pictures for inspiration, the ladies went to work making all sorts of items, from vegetables representing the allotments dug in Richmond Park to help feed a hungry population, to one of the tobacco tins Queen Mary issued to every soldier at the Front. The star item for me was a tiny packet of Woodbines made by Grace, who remembered people talking about ‘Woodbine Willie’ the priest who offered cigarettes as well as comfort to dying soldiers during the war.

This week we’ve also been working with St Stephen’s Primary School making work for the project, but I’ll report on that in a separate post.

Colour confections and Belgian delicacies…

coloursThe project I’m working on at Orleans House Gallery with Sue Edkins is taking shape: we’ve started sketching out how the content of our big panels might look. The three panels are all inspired by Twickenham’s WW1 stories: the largest will look at The Front, while the other two will be based on the East Twickenham Belgian community from 1914-1918, and the role of Richmond Park in the war as a training ground and home of a military hospital.

We’ll be working with St Stephen’s primary school, where children will help make the ingredients of the work – drawings, monoprinted textures and sheets of colour for collage. Their challenge will be to create a range of colours using a very limited palette – we’ve been experimenting to see how many shades you can make with just white, blue and yellow.

On Saturday April 25th we’ll be holding a free drop-in event where families will be able to help make motifs to form a border around the work – we’ve been experimenting with some inspired by our main themes. More on this soon!

Shapes and textures for ‘The Frame’

Four weeks ago I started an exciting new project – a public art commission, with fellow artist Sue Edkins. As I reported in a previous post, we have the luxury of a studio just behind Orleans House Gallery for the first couple of months of 2015, and we have been using it to develop our ideas and experiment in the medium of collage.

We’ll be working with community groups to produce three large framed works, to be installed in June at Diamond Jubilee Gardens, Twickenham, all on a theme of WW1 and local stories connected with the war.

twick1The last few weeks have been spent researching local history – fascinating stories about local heroes like Frank Edwards and Billie Nevill, who are associated with raising morale through football at the front. We’ve also visited the Hearsum Collection at Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park, to get an idea of what the park was like during the war – it had a South African Military Hospital as well as a huge training camp, and it was also the site for some top secret anti-zeppelin experiments.

twick2We’ve got a wealth of material but needed to develop a visual language for the work. The Imperial War Museum’s current exhibition, Truth and Memory, was very inspiring, particularly Paul Nash’s paintings and drawings of ravaged landscapes and torn trees. And although he was to become a war artist for a later war, John Piper’s loose torn paper collages from the 1930s seemed to trigger some ideas. Working with monoprint to create scratchy, rough textures, and prepared painted sheets within a strict colour palette, we are starting to work out how the work could look, and how school groups can play an important role in making the work.

We’ll be developing our ideas further next week, and visiting the Richmond Local History archive, as well as the Rugby Museum. We’ve also welcomed a new person to the project, Ruby Maddock – a recent graduate looking for experience in the field of community art. Thanks for joining us, Ruby! And many thanks to the arts and education team at Orleans House, Robert and Lauren at the Hearsum Collection, and everyone else who has been so helpful so far.

Under 5s art projects

dingdangdo_ideasOnce a week I run a one-hour art class for under 5s. It’s attended by a group from a local nursery, and there is no nicer sound than hearing the children laughing with excitement as they come along the corridor towards my room. It’s great fun to spend time with three-year-olds – they are such charming, funny and entertaining people. It’s lovely to dip into a world where the only problem is whether to play ‘Wheels on the Bus’ or ‘Bananas in Pyjamas’ at the end – this choice seems to be loaded with a great deal of emotional significance and has been known to cause tears.

I’ve filled a noticeboard in the room with past projects – they are usually collage-based and inspired by a different picture book each week, which I then read to the class. Can you spot work inspired by Petr Horacek, Jenni Desmond, Karin Littlewood, Leigh Hodginson, Ed Vere, Yasmeen Ismael, Neal Layton and Chris Haughton?

I make a lot of use of novelty hole punches from Blade Rubber, a shop just near the British Museum – they have a tremendous range to choose from, with leaves, stars and flowers being especially useful.

Be honest to yourself…and other plates with a message

plates_with_a_messageI’ve had another lovely afternoon with the “Recycled Teenagers” – the Over 55s group at National Trust property Sutton House in Hackney. We were making decoupage plates with a message, loosely inspired by the campaigning work of Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon (Doreen Lawrence). I invited everyone to think of a simple campaign slogan expressing something close to their heart, and create a suitable background with images from magazines. The results were fantastically varied and very inspiring.

This special place fills us with love…


A few weeks ago I spent the afternoon with the Over 55s group – the ‘Recycled Teenagers’ – at Sutton House, the wonderful Tudor National Trust property in Hackney. They meet once a week to tell stories, dance, write – and sometimes to do art projects too. It was Valentine’s day, so we focused on what the group loved about Sutton House, with everyone suggesting ideas which we formed into a collective sentence reflecting the feelings of the group. Since the house used to be known as ‘The Bryck House’, we also had a brick theme, so we recycled some old foamboard to make a brick for each person, decorated them with woven paper, added a gold border and then the words, before fixing them to the wall in a proper bond pattern. I think the sentence they came up with is really touching and lovely – and the bricks look like precious objects or possibly luxury chocolate bars…

Koppelflutes and Clarions


What has nearly 8000 pipes with names like poetry and makes a sound as humungous as an elephant?

The answer is the spectacular organ at the Royal Festival Hall, which has spent the last two years being restored and is ready to play again from next week as part of the Southbank Centre’s grand gala launch and Pull Out All The Stops organ music festival. The Southbank Centre asked me to work with two schools, Telferscot Primary in Balham and Annfield Plain Junior School in County Durham, to create a children’s guide to the organ, for and by children, and the guide will be given away to visitors to the festival.

I got the children to imagine the organ as a living organism, a community of different animals making different sounds, and then I put their drawings together and matched them up with the different types of pipe (which have the most marvellously evocative names). We also invented a board game, which is on the back of the guide and can also be downloaded here, and instructions to make your own organ, which you can download here.

You can watch the two fantastic films the children created with animator John Harmer and film-maker Samantha Harrie, explaining how the organ is made, and how it works, here. It’s been a very exciting project to be involved with, and I am looking forward to seeing all the children again at the launch – they were very inspiring to work with and had so many brilliant ideas. Many thanks to all the children and staff at both schools, to Alice from the Southbank Centre, and to John and Sam for being such fun to work with – and of course to the organ itself!


A multitude of miniature organs

Mini-organs by Telferscot Primary

All through this term I have been working on a marvellous project celebrating the wonder that is the Royal Festival Hall organ. In my last post I talked about a visit to the workshop where the organ was made and restored – and to complement that here are some brand new organs, all invented and hand-built from cereal packets by year 5 at Telferscot Primary School in Balham.

I set the class the challenge of creating an activity that families visiting the RFH could do at home, inspired by the organ – and they all immediately started to fizz with ideas and brilliantly creative solutions. These mini-organs feature all the elements of the real thing – a console and keyboard, many many pipes, pedals, a soundboard, blowers – and of course seats for the audience and in some cases a luxury box for VIP visitors! One of them even comes in its own carrying case – the perfect portable organ.

I’m going to be compiling all the children’s ideas into a takeaway activity sheet full of tips on how to make your own organ, ready for the Pull Out All the Stops organ festival in March 2014.

Mary Seacole’s Medicine Boxes

Mary Seacole's Medicine Boxes

I’ve just finished the last of a series of workshops at National Trust property Sutton House – the oldest house in Hackney. Each workshop was themed around one of nine Influential Black Londoners, and the final one was inspired by Mary Seacole. A very knowledgeable Year 5 class from a local primary school set about making little cubes to represent Mrs Seacole’s life and work – and wrote instructions to go inside on how to nurse soldiers the Mary Seacole way. Her combination of kindness and bravery, together with her blending of traditional Caribbean herbal medicine and European medical practice proved very inspiring for the class, and their little medicine chests are decorated with bandages, blankets, warm food and medicines, as well as some Jamaican flags to represent her birthplace.

It’s been a wonderful project to be part of. Many thanks to Gemma, Gina and the team at Sutton House as well as all the volunteer helpers – especially Daisy.


Enjoy a block of bread

The exhibition I have been creating with local Hackney Primary Schools at National Trust property Sutton House, inspired by Influential Black Londoners, is continuing to grow week by week – it’s a fantastic place to display children’s work, so much more interesting than a gallery. Last week we focused on Ignatius Sancho, and transformed the Tudor Kitchen into a grocery shop. Each child created their own product and made some original packaging for it, complete with some marketing information – I like ‘Have some fantastic peas and sweet corn, also dry beautiful beans’ and ‘These peas taste amazing, they are the best in the world’ as well as ‘Enjoy a block of bread’.

This week we looked at Francis Barber, and inspired by his connections with Samuel Johnson as well as his teaching work, I asked the children to think of their favourite word, make a printing block and then print onto a tissue collage background. It was interesting to see what words they chose: the girls – nice, love, pretty, happy; and the boys – fast, hero, amazing…

This week’s class also made a library of miniature books – my favourite is Francis Barber’s Christmas, where he is given a large parcel by Samuel Johnson. What was inside? A lovely dictionary!

The exhibition will continue to grow week by week until the end of November.