Following the first stage of delivery at Greenfield Primary School I embarked on a shorter one week residency at Thistly Meadow School in Blaby (after a much needed catch up week at my desk!). This was set to be an interesting test of the workshop model as it was on a smaller scale, working with less classes and also less of an intro to the project with the pupils before they came to me for their full workshops. The first difference in this school was the placement of the dome. A somewhat waterlogged playing field meant a hard standing pitch was needed and due to a lot of forecast wet weather a spare classroom space was found so I could create a combination of in class and outdoor delivery. At first I was a little dismayed I wouldn’t be “within nature” out on the field but the first half of the first day still created the intrigue within the school about why exactly a bearded man was building a transparent igloo in the playground! And the opportunity to be firmly in the mix of the hustle and bustle of school playtime was a great experience in the end.
In fact some of the comments I overheard whilst setting up inside the dome were brilliant, “Woah it’s a bubble”, “No it’s one of the COVID testing centres, look he’s got a doctors coat and a visor on”, “Is that a scientist?” “It’s a doctor.” Being housed on the playground also allowed more opportunity for passing groups of pupils to look in at other groups and see what they were doing whilst in the workshops, giving them an insight into both what they would be doing when they took part and also sight lines into the work of an artist. I had been reflecting after the first series of workshops on the wearing of a lab coat. Whilst keen to keep the notion of “art meets science” alive, I’d noticed a lot of participant feedback had focussed more on the science, especially using the chemicals. I decided to “jazz” up my lab coat with patches referencing art and photography, this seemed to work and caused a few points of discussion with some of the groups.
The sessions during this week ran fairly smoothly, largely due to the amount of testing and tweaking at the previous school. My first workshop of the week though yielded some interesting points for reflection. I worked with a small group of pupils with a range of educational needs. This was quite a challenge, not because I felt out of my comfort zone, but for the incredibly different ages and abilities within the group. It really hammered home the importance of differentiation when session planning and on this occasion made me realise that in future more pre discussions with school staff about the nuances of particular groups would be incredibly helpful. It also reinforced my earlier plans to develop different tiers of workshops to offer in future, a session tailored for an SEN group would be a good addition to this portfolio.
The discussions and questions were fascinating during this week. During one groups session we spoke about experimentation in art (which lends itself well to the cyanotype process). We agreed that it’s ok to try things out, things don’t have to be perfect. I added that art is about process and takes practice to develop your skills, reinforcing that there is no right or wrong when we’re being creative. With this in mind I’ve been experimenting again this week with toning prints using tea leaves. Washing a blue printed cyanotype in what is essentially a giant cup of tea alters the chemicals in such a way that you end up with a sepia toned print. I’ve been planning to experiment with making my own negatives on acetate and I think that the ‘tea toning’ would be an effective process to use with this approach. More of that in future weeks!