So, for our first Summer Art Camp it was a bit of a throw back to a ‘crafting activity’ popular in the 1960s – String Art!!!* Perhaps a bit of a strange choice for a bunch of 8–13 year olds for a 5-hour art camp. But I had my reasons. First off, this time last year we made ephemeral artworks (weds and sat) based on ideas from artists such as Andy Goldsworthy, and one of these sessions including weaving on to logs with yarns and various flora. One of the lasting lessons I took away from this workshop was the young artists desire to make their own shapes with the nails – I had pre-prepared the logs by hammering nails into a simple shape which echoed the shape of the logs they were working on, so they could create the warp and weft with yarn into which they could weave. The second was they were disappointed that they couldn’t take their finished creations home with them, although each artist went away with a framed montage of photographs which documented their beautiful creations they had made over the 3-week block.
So, on the back of this I decided to give them an activity which would allow them both of these things – thrown in with a lot of planning, and really quite hard physical work to help them realise their designs.
The process started with lots of sketches,planning and developing ideas, playing with the designs and making decisions about what may or may not be a successful image. Once they had come up with a design they were happy with, they measured, counted, plotted the design on to their bamboo board, and then with a lot of pure tenacity, they spent a long time carefully bashing nails into the board so they were evenly distributed, sturdy and accurate enough to do the design merit!
It was a great example of showing the young artists that careful planning and preparation are key in implementing a good design, and if early preparations are not of quality it may affect the finished piece – and this process can take a lot of time! The physical aspect of this activity was great as it required both careful skill and brute force!!! This part was quite intense, but everyone stuck at it and did an ace job! And I know some of the artists LOVED this part – there is something quite satisfying about hammering nails into wood!
The fun, colourful and really creative part came when the artists chose their yarns and planned which colours to use on their designs. It was great to watch little fingers work their way around the nails with the yarn, playing with the patters and effects that could be made. This retro activity was brought into the 21st century with, among other designs, the Double Helix and emojis!
Everyone did so well – they worked SO hard, I don’t think I’ve ever had such a quiet, determined and focused bunch of makers before. Amazing! And beautiful artwork.
*String art has its origins in the ‘curve stitch’ activities invented by Mary Everest Boole at the end of the 19th century to make mathematical ideas more accessible to children. It was popularised as a decorative craft in the late 1960s through kits and books. So there you go!