I designed the Spring term workshops after discussions with the children to ensure they had a role in developing ideas and the type of making they wanted to do. Model making, painting and freedom to explore their own interests were amongst some of the suggestions. Using this as a starting point I developed the theme of the Spring workshops as ‘Well-being and Wishes’ – looking at the idea of designing a sanctuary space – or an imaginary ‘wish’ space.
This theme links into an area I have an interest in – the idea of sanctuary is something that I explored in my Master of Fine Art dissertation. At the same time I was studying, I was fortunate to work as the project coordinator on a series of events to celebrate the opening of Frank Gehry’s Maggie’s Centre. The Centre provides a form of sanctuary for its users, with the kitchen at its heart – where people can go to talk and have a cup of tea. The architecture connection also links to my recent work at V&A Dundee – the architect Kengo Kuma wanted to create ‘a living room for the City’ with his design for V&A Dundee. And while we weren’t going to create a kitchen or living room in the workshops – we did look to create an imaginary space that could provide us with a similar feeling of safety that ‘home’ should give us.
We kicked off the workshop talking about spaces we either already use or would like to create if we had infinite resources to create our wish! This could be an imaginative space for creating, a den for playing, a quiet space for reading – it could be a solitary space or a communal space…
Each maker got to decide what kind of space they wanted to make and what its purpose was.
Using a whole load of simple materials from my studio, the young creatives used model-making skills to create a sanctuary space that could bring feelings of happiness, safety and well-being.
The second week we created characters which could be placed inside the sanctuary spaces. We looked at the tradition of Guatemalan worry dolls. According to legend, Guatemalan children tell their worries to the Worry Dolls, placing them under their pillow when they go to bed at night. By morning the dolls have gifted them with the wisdom and knowledge to eliminate their worries. This was our starting point – but it could lead off into any direction the young creatives wished to take it. They might want to create comic book or super hero characters, or a family or groups of friends, or a collection of make believe creatures to put in their sanctuary space.
The third and fourth week we explored the environment in which our sanctuary spaces could be found – if they built a tree house – where was it, perhaps in the woods? The children were free to decide the place their spaces could be found. We used paint to explore these ideas – using large pieces of paper to play with ideas and marks, and an additional sheet once final ideas and compositions had been decided on.
The children were encouraged to use a variety of materials over these 2 weeks – starting off with paint and working into this with pens, pastels and pencils to create a mixed media artwork.
As part of this process each participant also created a few postcard sized artworks to submit to the Postcard Project at the Tatha Gallery.
The final week we finished off all the elements of the project and photographed the completed artworks – with the paintings forming the backdrop for the models. Each creation was unique to the maker and explored a range of ideas – from climbing walls and slides, to rainbows, clouds and unicorns. Tree houses, caves and hammocks to swings in the woods. There were even under-the-sea dens and an Ewok tree house!