!!!! Irish Myths & Legends
Tell us the story of your project – What was the impetus? What was it about? Who was involved? How did you begin?
CRAFTed aims to provide skills for life through positive, collaborative and joyful engagement with craft and design processes. By emphasising the making journey rather than finished products, CRAFTed allows space for experimentation, active learning and personal growth. It focuses on harnessing the creativity of every child, valuing individual creative expression.
Inspired by their chosen theme of Irish Myths & Legends, 3rd class children of Scoil Bhríde explored the fabric of storytelling with fashion designer Aoife Thomas and arts enthusiast-teacher Mandi Mc Daid. In project development, the group explored processes of weaving, wet felt making, block printing, applique and relief casting within the classroom. In discovering new processes, the group had new means of illustrating and bringing to life elements from the Irish Myths & legends they were covering in other subjects on the curriculum.
Aoife Thomas, Designer:
Our approach to the CRAFTed project at Scoil Bhríde was to explore the children’s chosen theme through the fabric of storytelling. As designer/ maker, I would share knowledge of design and craft processes. Through first developing thematic, cross curricular work in class with teacher Mandi Mc Daid, the group was equipped with the stimulus to generate authentic, creative work. They would illustrate their individual thoughts and ideas around the chosen theme in process led classes.
Mandi Mc Daid, Teacher:
The students collaborated with Aoife and I at the initial meeting stage and offered their ideas as to what theme they would like to work on for their CRAFTed project over the term. There were many similarities in their suggestions and they tied in well with Irish Legends, three of which I planned to cover during the term. So, the theme was set. We embarked on class trips to Glenveagh and Drumboe woods to back up class lessons, collecting natural woodland materials for learning about in class and for use in various art, craft and design activities.
How were the ideas developed and how did the young people, artist and teacher work together?
Aoife Thomas, Designer:
The group compiled visual research, visiting Glenveagh Castle and Drumboe Woods in Donegal as inspiration for our project. Like Finn Mac Cumhaill the group foraged, collecting items of interesting shape, texture and colour: leaves, cones and bark. Alongside studies of three Myths and Legends, the class created drawings, rubbings and studies of their visual research. We incorporated the items collected at a later stage, adding as surface decoration to a large scale group-weaving piece developed by the children. The group imagined the woven piece to represent the cape worn by Finn Mac Cumhaill, hunter gatherer and leader of the Fianna. The project grew and developed in ongoing discussions and through a reflective process, focused around the theme of Myths and Legends. Each child could choose what element of the theme they wished to focus on whilst actively learning a new process.
Mandi Mc Daid, Teacher :
The children studied a selection of Irish Legends in preparation for our work with Aoife. These included Setanta – CúChulainn, Oisin and Niamh in Tír na nÓg and Fionn MacCumhaill.
Aoife supplied materials for each visit and for learning a new process. Aoife explained the creative processes involved, in steps. As teacher, I clarified these instructions where necessary and together, Aoife and I supported the children as necessary in their work.
What was your personal experience of the project in terms of successes and challenges?
Aoife Thomas, Designer :
The success of this project for the collaborators lay in the group’s exposure to a number of new ways of sharing and illustrating individual ideas. The children could see that there were new and interesting ways to create work by hand in fabric and fibre through learning a new process in a supportive and encouraging environment. The teacher had a great relationship with the children which I think laid the foundation for the child led development of the project.
Meeting the children and teacher Mandi Mc Daid prior to commencing our project in order to have a group brainstorming session, allowed the children to direct the project from the outset. It offered a chance for each voice to be heard with support from the designer and teacher when setting the aims of the collaborative project with the children.
Having created initial work on the theme through complimentary studies, the children had many ideas for what they wanted to create or illustrate when learning a new process. As a group, we moved forward together in steps in active learning. This method allowed time for the teacher, classroom assistant and myself as craftsperson, to support individual children as needed when working on the ‘next step’ in the process. This approach gave the children an opportunity to help and support each other as equal collaborators and contributors on this project.
Documentation of the process led approach was challenging at times. The approach was child centred with a focus on each participant being happy, content and engaged in their process led work within a supportive environment. Due to this, at an opportune moment we would capture elements of the process led environment through photography.
Mandi Mc Daid, Teacher :
It was lovely to see the children expressing their knowledge of the Irish Legends in such a unique way, exploring textures, fabrics and fibers; experimenting with skills that were new to them. I have gained knowledge and confidence in new art techniques that I will be able to use in my own future teaching also. It was lovely to work with Aoife, an expert in the area of fabric and fiber, which is an area of the arts curriculum that sometimes feels neglected due to lack of resources, ideas or expertise.
What was significant for you about the project that is worth sharing?
Aoife Thomas, Designer :
As an arts and craft enthusiast in the classroom, Mandi was interested in gaining knowledge and inspiration for the Fabric and Fibre strand as it was an area she wanted to build upon personally. For this reason, our aims and objectives for the project included that each child would explore a number of different processes, and that teacher Mandi would gain inspiration for delivering future lesson plans in fabric and fibre.
The children were familiar with voicing their ideas and were familiar with creating their own individual work. They could question and suggest ideas with confidence. This allowed for us to explore many different processes in an authentic and meaningful way.
Due to Mandi’s cross curricular approach in the classroom, the children could bring together knowledge, ideas and creative process to illustrate their thoughts using new found methods within a process led environment.
Mandi Mc Daid, Teacher :
Following the showcase for CRAFTed along with other schools and artists in the Regional Cultural Centre in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, the children have since displayed their project work in our own school to share the project with other classes and teachers. In this way, the ideas and skills developed in our classroom were made accessible to all other classes. It gave the children a chance to review their work and explain about how their work was created and the processes involved, to the other children in the school.
The CRAFTed experience was very enjoyable and educational for all involved in our school.
Has anything changed in your work as a result of the project?
Aoife Thomas, Designer :
Each interaction in a learning environment has an impact on my personal practice as I am constantly learning regarding methods and approaches to take forward.
From gaining newfound inspiration in working with a new group on a particular process or gaining inspiration from the sheer enthusiasm from participants when discovering the output as they learn a new craft or design process; working on creative collaborations has a profound impact on my professional practice and continuing professional development.
Each collaborator shares their own experience and approach when working on a project, meaning there are resounding benefits in every new collaboration.
In particular, with this collaboration I benefited personally from working with Teacher, Mandi and her 3rd class group. Teacher Mandi Mc Daid had a child-centred focus established within the classroom and this aligned with the aims of CRAFTed in enabling each child to develop their natural abilities in a supportive and fun environment. Providing all those who engaged with the project with skills for life through positive, collaborative engagement.
!!!! Opportunity for Schools: Sybil Connolly Fashion workshops at The Hunt Museum
The Hunt Museum
Until 31st May 2018
As part of the Hunt Museum’s Sybil exhibition programme, primary and post-primary schools are invited to take part in a series of curriculum linked workshops at the Museum. These will enable students to examine Sybil’s highly innovative use of traditional Irish fabrics, including linen, lace, tweed and her design processes.
Sybil Connolly was the first Irish female designer to become successful internationally. She took her inspiration from Ireland and its people, creating “clothes using Irish fabrics made by Irish hands.” The Friends of Limerick Lace will introduce students to Limerick and Carrickmacross lace which are used in her fashion designs. Students will then learn how to create some basic stitches.
Using the Past Projections Future Fashion display in the exhibition students will also create a Sybil inspired t-shirt design which must give consideration to the importance of technology and ethics in contemporary fashion.
For further information go to www.huntmuseum.com/sybil-workshops/
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 061 312 833
What was the project about?
This project took place between St. Mary’s National School in Blessington, Co Wicklow (teacher Judy Lawler) and artist Ciara Harrison. Please see attached Appendix for background and further details of the workshops.
The project is part of the CRAFTed initiative run by the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland. The main media we are working with is fabric and fibre, experimenting with fabric dyeing, tie-dye, embroidery and printed textiles. The project is process-led enabling the children to explore and experiment at their own pace through facilitated workshops. We decided jointly that the project should be documented both with the use of photography and film as well as through the children’s reflections, thus enabling the children’s voice and thoughts to be heard and seen throughout this project. This was done in the form of notebooks or artists journals, including text and drawings as well as samples from workshops.
Who was involved?
It was a collaboration between twenty four senior infants of St. Mary’s National Junior School, Blessington, teacher Judy Lawler, and artist Ciara Harrison.
How did it get started?
The collaboration came about through the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland (DCCOI) CRAFTed initiative. This is an arts-in-education programme, specifically for primary schools where a craftsperson is paired with a teacher and students of a primary school.
We initially met at a collaborative evening organised by the DCCOI in the Kildare Education Centre. The evening was facilitated by a craftsperson, who gave us a presentation on the work of CRAFTed, its ethos, aims and objectives. Teacher and Artist were then paired together where we were given time to brainstorm a theme for the project and potential activities which could be undertaken.
The idea is that the craft project theme coincides with the Social, Environmental and Scientific Education curriculum in the school (history, geography and science). We decided to base our theme on native plants, animals, trees, leaves and insects as the students were learning about these throughout the year.
What aspects of the project made you smile?
On the first day of the project I presented a PowerPoint to the students. This included images of my work along with text to describe my processes. I also introduced the children to the land artist Andy Goldsworthy and images of his work. The children’s reaction to his work was of awe and enthusiasm. Their questions and interpretations of the work created huge energy and in turn inspired the children in their activity afterwards. That was a very precious moment for me.
Ciara brought along fabric samples of her work, which were passed around the classroom. Touching and looking at the fabrics was lovely for the children and it introduced them to some processes they may encounter during future workshops. The group work went well, children were collaborating and cooperating during the process and they generated many ideas through the discussion.
What aspects of the project made you feel challenged?
As I had not done these workshops with children of this age before I was unsure of the level of language I could use with them and how in depth I could or should go with terminology.
As it was a large group to be working with it was at some points challenging to give assistance to everyone. We did a stitching workshop one day and as this was a new activity for all the children they required a lot of one-on-one assistance. I found by pairing up the children who were more able with ones who were less so meant they were explaining the process in their own words and I think the children appreciated having that responsibility.
There are certain materials such as bleach, which I use in my work to create effects on fabric. This would not have been an unsafe material to use with the children so we had to brainstorm alternative products that would be suitable. It was very helpful to have Judy’s assistance for this as I was in charge of getting the materials for the workshops.
What insights from the project are worth sharing?
The presentation and talk that took place on the first workshop was a very important time for the students and Ciara to become familiar with each other. It was also very important for the students to air their thoughts and interpretations and ask questions of the work they were being shown. Plenty of time was given to allow this to happen.
The talk and discussion that took place about the work of Ciara and Andy Goldsworthy inspired the children in their activity afterwards. Within the activity the chalk outlines gave form to the children’s temporal designs, using natural materials to collage their designs. The activity itself and the materials used are very accessible to children and many will be inspired to incorporate this art making into outdoor play.
The children also enjoyed the novelty of using special fabric crayons, fabric markers, fabric paint and material dyes. They were very enthusiastic about using these new materials and were very engaged in the process.
Throughout the process the children have learnt descriptive vocabulary to describe both their work and the work of other artists. It has been wonderful to hear this in the classroom. It was very interesting to look for the learning experiences in each art lesson and to learn what the children are gaining from the process.
I think the process was spurred on by the timeline that Ciara and myself were working within. We planned the workshops as we went. We would set certain objectives to achieve for the next one. Workshops were high energy and highly motivated – lots of fun for the children.
Judy and I stayed in regular contact by email in the lead up to the project and we continued this throughout the project. This allowed for evaluating the workshops and learning from eachother what we felt worked and could be improved on. It is also now a source of documentation, which can be used for future workshops as we will both have learnt the best ways to go about the activities from experience. Regular contact has been a very important aspect to the project.
Although Judy and I came up with a structure for the project at our initial planning evening we allowed for flexibility within this. The children’s level of participation and enjoyment was what determined how long each activity was. At the beginning of each session I explained to the class what activity we would be exploring that day e.g. tie-dye, stitching, drawing and we allowed for time for questions and stories from the children. Sometimes this introduction would be accompanied by a PowerPoint. Other times it was simply a conversation. This gave the children an opportunity to express their own ideas in what we hoped was an informal setting.
I think an important aspect of the collaboration between teacher and artist is the respect given to each others’ expertise. As Judy was most familiar with the children she could look after the discipline of the classroom and time-keeping of the activities while I could set up the workshops and assist the children in their making. This was an essential part of this project being such a success.
Has anything changed as a result of the project?
The children have used the skills they have learnt and developed, in particular with the chalk and natural materials as a form of outdoor play in their own time. The project has been a means of enabling the children to gain confidence in their own ideas and abilities.
This was the first time I ever endeavored making an artist’s notebook ‘woodland diary’ with the children. I thought it was very successful and it was an activity, which integrated totally with the English and SESE curriculum as well as the art curriculum. The children gather lots of natural materials and found objects for the class and the nature table throughout the year, I am more aware of the possibilities of reusing these objects in creating art. This way the gathering and collecting becomes more purposeful and meaningful for the children.