Creative learning

Early Years

  • Unique Transformations

Unique Transformations

I have been working as an artist with young children since 2006, when I was first invited to work on a Creative Collaboration project for Manchester Education Partnerships. 

Taking inspiration from the Reggio Emilia approach, Creative Collaboration aimed to encourage creative development within the learning environment as young children, artists, children's centre staff and families worked together to develop rich, meaningful learning experiences through artistic practice.

From this experience, I learnt that to allow oneself time and space to open up, explore, play and question how things work is to take yourself on a wonderful journey with unexpected, beautiful outcomes. The key is to learn how to look for and respond to that which is often overlooked, ignored or deemed to be unimportant.

 

Creative learning

Early Years

  • Capturing Me, Capturing You, Capturing Me

Capturing Me, Capturing You, Capturing Me

As part of my ongoing practice as an artist working with Early Years groups, I am particularly interested in carrying out action research and considering ways to document with young children. 

The questions that underpin my approach are (i) how do we make visible the different voices of young children? and (ii) how do we work with young children to co-construct meaning and rich learning experiences?  

Creative learning

Early Years

  • Castles & Islands

Castles & Islands

Taking indoors activity outside always has interesting results when working with young children. 

Here, clay exploration is moved to the outdoors and lumps of soft terracotta clay are moulded together to form magical 'islands'. Children make full use of their environment as, unprompted, they begin to hunt for interesting leaves and objects around the garden to enhance the islands. Leaves turn into trees, wood and stone into houses, castles and caves. From this point a rich imaginary narrative develops. 

Early Years

Creative learning

  • Clay Artefacts

Clay Artefacts

The display of children's artwork on a presentation table outdoors quickly attracts a younger audience. Here one of the artists comes out to keep an eye on her work and explains each piece to the others.

Early Years

Creative learning

  • Capturing the Moon

Capturing the Moon

Learning journeys and cameras:

Armed with a camera, I spent time with this young girl who declared she wanted to "go outside to take pictures". She had an interest in a tent that was pitched outside and began to talk about "a giant" and his tent that had been left behind for the children the week before. She preferred to photograph the tent's interior, capturing symbols sewn to the tent walls - silhouettes of stars and winged creatures. "I'm taking the moon now," she told me. 

Creative learning

Early Years

  • Fireworks & Gunpowder

Fireworks & Gunpowder

The 'Midas Touch' was an Early Years pilot project developed to run for four weeks in an empty shop in St.Helens, Merseyside. It was inspired by the ReMida project, a creative recycling project linked to the Reggio Emilia approach in Northern Italy. The aim of the project was to use reclaimed or recyclable materials and objects in a way that was open-ended and child-led. 

'The Gunpowder Plot' was a learning journey about two young boys who participated in the Midas Touch project over the four weeks. It highlighted the importance of risk-taking as the two young boys used real tools to interact with materials in the space. 

In particular the two boys were drawn to a hammer which they would share and use in a number of ways. The hammer became a tool for construction, role play, mark-making and noise-making! 

 

Early Years

Creative learning

  • Tidy Up Time

Tidy Up Time

A young girl stops to watch herself vacuuming in the mirror at the Midas Touch project in a former clothes shop in St. Helens, Merseyside. 

In total, seven groups visited this creative space each week for a month. Here, they were invited to play and engage with a range of objects and materials. Each week, a different theme of materials was introduced, i.e. 'plastics', 'wood and metal', 'blacks and whites', etc. The children used the interior of this empty shop fully and participated in the upkeep of the space, displaying their transformations in the changing room booths and shop window, they also volunteered to help clean and tidy the space - hence the vacuum cleaner!

Creative learning

Early Years

  • Large-Scale Imaginations

Large-Scale Imaginations

I worked with textile designer Hazel Hewitt to develop and deliver a creative skills project for adults attending a job club, on behalf of Lime Art. Adults were invited to join our drop-in sessions to try out different techniques and make artworks which could be displayed as a final piece within an outdoor structure. Some adults also brought their children along who also began to immerse themselves within the creative corner we had set up with the college. Participants of all ages worked on different techniques: printing, sewing, painting, collage, card-making, book art, surface design, experimental mark-making, drawing and building small installation spaces.

Creative learning

Early Years

  • How the Body Works

How the Body Works

As part of a creative learning project with a nursery group in North Manchester, we explored different artworks, drawing techniques and the basic principles of photography and light. The project aimed to build on creative ways to develop speaking and listening.

Here a young boy explores drawing onto acetate as he looks through a glass wall at Antony Gormley's suspended 'Filter' sculpture. When asked what the children could see in the sculpture, different children saw different things: "legs", "feet", "bum", "his back", "blood inside", "brain", "heart", "circles", "squiggles", "metal". When asked why they thought you could see through the sculpture this boy replied, "to show how the body works."

Early Years

Creative learning

  • Watery Worlds

Watery Worlds

Mini Art Club feedback from parents:

"I like the fact that it's run by artists and people who work in the arts, which I think is really important. We do creative activities at home but we only use the basics like paper, crayons and glue, so it's great that we have the opportunity to use different materials here." 

Mum of 2 boys.

"Once we did the angry sea, working with objects and sound in the gallery and then exploring this idea of movement with paint on the studio floor. I thought this was really good. I think Mini Art Club should run more often."

Mum of 1 boy. 

 

Creative learning

Early Years

  • Lighting Up the Dark

Lighting Up the Dark

The first families to enter our specially created light and dark installation at Mini Art Club:

"There are so many different materials to choose from and if we run out there's always something different to do. There's more freedom here. It's good to do different things. It's difficult to find this kind of thing elsewhere."

Parent of 1 boy. 

 

Early Years

Creative learning

  • On the Gallery Floor

On the Gallery Floor

Since early summer 2012, Tate Liverpool has been working on an Early Years partnership project with Kensington Children's Centre and Everton Nursery School. The project aims to create an environment where young children and their adults can feel comfortable, using the gallery as a resource for play, experimentation, fun, learning and risk-taking.

Early Years

Creative learning

  • Seeing the Light

Seeing the Light

I have worked as both freelance Artist-Educator (since 2012) and then as Early Years & Families Learning Curator at Tate Liverpool (2013-14). In this time I have developed, delivered and evaluated different aspects of the Early Years and Families programme. This includes running regular gallery-studio workshops for different groups, co-producing a self-led rocket backpack resource, developing an Early Years exhibition and a playful, interactive installation within a main exhibition space

One of the main areas for focus is how to make Tate Liverpool a more playful, family friendly place that welcomes visitors of all ages in all its spaces, including in front of precious artworks that aren't allowed to be touched!

Early Years

Creative learning

  • Splash, Swirl, Dribble

Splash, Swirl, Dribble

I co-created a series of summer workshops for families, responding to Tate Liverpool's Turner Monet Twombly exhibition during summer 2012. Each week we explored a different theme connected to the seasons and key themes within the exhibition ('floating worlds', the 'vital force', 'fire and water' and 'lost at sea'). 

As part of the workshop series, participants were invited to follow a series of instructions which prompted different actions, movements and exploration of mark-making. A collective, action painting wall was created within the studio which quickly began to evolve as a mass of coloured marks, dribbles, splashes and swirls. This provided a connection to the exhibition as participants could explore the abstract language of colour, marks and paint. 

Creative learning

Early Years

  • Forest of Wonder

Forest of Wonder

Young children and their adults spend time inside Manabu Hangai's beautiful paper 'Wonder Forest; in the 'First Cut' exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery. This was part of a Mini Art Club session I run each month.

Activities planned within gallery spaces for young children and their parents need to allow space for open interpretation, in relation to the lives and experiences of participants involved. Discussion should be open-ended and dialogic, allowing participants to enjoy and learn from each other in a space that stretches the imagination and promotes creativity.

Early Years

Creative learning

  • Heavy & Light

Heavy & Light

Three generations come together to experience different materials laid out in response to the curated space of an art gallery.

Activities in non-tactile spaces such as galleries need to be engaging and stimulate both the mind and the senses. The gallery environment needs to support and make accessible such learning experiences, in order to accommodate opportunities for parents/grandparents to a) support their child's learning through play and b) re-discover their own desire to play and explore. 

Creative learning

Early Years

  • Colourful Corner

Colourful Corner

After a couple of years developing and delivering Mini Art Club at Manchester Art Gallery, I recognised that although workshops were specifically aimed at and popular with children aged 2-5 years and their adults, it was clear that there was a gap or a lack of activities aimed at children aged 0-2 years. As a result, I began to create a second installation environment which would provide a cosy, intriguing space for multi-sensory stimulation, creating sharp and subtle contrasts of colour, light and shadow, sound, textures and smells. This aimed to accommodate our youngest participants with a more suitable environment with plenty of space to explore, encounter and spend quality time interacting with their parents / carers away from the TV!

Early Years

Creative learning

  • A Curious Selection of Objects

A Curious Selection of Objects

What kinds of things will children do when left to their own devices to encounter and play with objects?

Here, in our recent Clore Art Studio space, free play with domestic objects, ribbons, materials and deconstructed furniture was encouraged.

Watching these young girls construct dens to hide in, cars to go on journeys in and corners to make the dinner in, I could see a stream of imagination, turn-taking, co-operation and group interaction, as they worked together to complete each new project.  

Early Years

Creative learning

  • Interwoven

Interwoven

Watching children interact and play with different materials, we can never fully understand the thought processes that are fluidly occuring between the body and the mind.

Phoebe spent a good 10 minutes 'making dinner' for her mum and friends as she played with colourful domestic objects in the blue storage unit. As she stacked some blue teapots on top of one another, her mum Philippa asked, "Ooh, what are we cooking now, Phoebe?"   "Oh Mum, I'm not cooking silly, it's a sculpture!" Phoebe replied.

Early Years

Creative learning

  • Do It!

Do It!

'A black not straight line is drawn at approximately the center of the wall horizontally from side to side. Alternate red, yellow and blue lines are drawn above and below the black line to the top and bottom of the wall.'

Sol LeWitt (2001)

This was my artist's instruction to follow as part of Do It, an evolving exhibition made up entirely of artists instructions and the 'activation' of these instructions in gallery and non-gallery spaces. The photo here shows the beginning of a multi-sensory environment I created especially for Baby Art Club at Manchester Art Gallery - a space for babies who are not yet crawling to experience through all the senses.The installation was designed to promote quality interaction between baby and adult, and also encouraged physical and emotional development through the encounter of different objects, materials, light, sound and smells. 

Creative learning

Early Years

  • Barefoot Artist

Barefoot Artist

What do fine, precious glazed ceramics, sieves, flour, paint and young children have in common?

My mission is to interpret delicate and precious artworks and artefacts in galleries and develop a highly creative, experimental and, more importantly FUN response! In other words, this means making the untouchable totally touchable. It often takes a lateral thinking mind to do this.

It is so important for young children to connect the outside world with the entire body and the inner mind. It is this process of experiencing an object, an image, a space, an action, a sound, a sensation, an experience through the body and then the mind, which builds upon our capacity to develop as human beings from a small baby all the way through life. The more unexpected, slightly surreal and provocative ways this can occur the better.. including sifting flour, adding it to paint and then walking through or sitting in it!

Early Years

Creative learning

  • Finding Our Shadows!

Finding Our Shadows!

"Children are perceived as communicators from birth and as they develop in their early years they discover many ways of representing their feelings, theories and imaginative ideas. Their communications can be expressed as words, drawings, 3D constructions, movement, music - indeed through any symbolic form. In Reggio, the artists and educators aim to give children the opportunity to use as many different 'languages' as possible. These various forms of representation strengthen the development of mental schemas and allow every child a voice." 

Fawcett, M. and Hay, P.  

Early Years

Creative learning

  • Projecting Paper

Projecting Paper

There's something so simple, yet exciting about the interplay between light and shadow, positive and negative, black and white, heavy and light, solidity and fluidity, dense mass and untouchable light projections, and all the tones and shades of grey i between. I am particularly interested in exploring contrasts, oppositions and the space 'in between' in all of my creative learning environments, installations and artworks. There are always at least two sides to every story... 

Early Years

Creative learning

  • Snail Trails

Snail Trails

I have a passion for capturing images and viewpoints as an artist, creative thinker, observer and documenter. Photography provides endless opportunities to create and explore snapshot glimpses into narratives and different perspectives. I feel there is much we can learn from handing a camera over to children to gain an insight into their interests and ways of seeing the world.

In my recent work, young children have taken the lead in taking their own photographs to record and communicate their experiences (either at school, home, or in a children's centre environment). This has proven to be a simple yet effective way to gain a sense of the world through the eyes of a child. It has also proven to yield some beautiful unexpected, expressive and powerful results.