I returned to Nursery for a week. No ordinary nursery as St Anne's is one of the oldest in London established in 1908. It is conveniently sited just at the end of the road where I have my community artist studio. Also chiming with the themes of my residency, the nursery is going to amalgamate next year with Avondale Park school and will move into a brand new building. The listed building they are vacating will probably be converted into flats in due course.
What an experience and many thanks to all the staff and children. The 3-5 year old's were delightful and very engaging. They coped well with my ambitious programme of inter-related art: drawing, painting, playing with an architectural model, watching short films, making houses and tower blocks from paper. The emphasis was on being creative and having fun.
Here are four things I learnt from the children.
1. Little hands, big hearts.
In preparing material, I had not factored in the tiny hands of the children. Tearing a piece of paper was not as easy for some as I had imagined. Most did not have the motor skills to apply the requisite amount of pressure for using crayons on acetate sheets. The fact that they managed to create window displays on this material was herculean. Art can be hard work and physical.
2. We need to learn how to draw a house.
I had naively assumed that the children would already be able to draw an outline of a house. As if this was somehow programmed in their DNA. No. They had to learn to connect lines that would form a wall, roof, door, windows and finally a house. This is where tracing or transparent sheets come in handy.
3. Practice makes perfect
We would often start each session by returning back to basics. How to fold a paper once, twice and then open up to discover a sheet with four folds. How these could be bent in a variety of ways to create structures. Where to cut a door? The slightly more tricky way of cutting a window. Practice, almost perfect.
4. An artist has to enter the spirit and be transformed into a crane.
Having built a paper house that could contain 4-5 children at once, we didn't have a door large enough for them to crawl in or out of. The logical solution was for an adult to act as human crane and lift the children in and out of the house.
I look forward to returning back to St Ann's over the coming months. We will fine tune the art work. The completed cityscape will feature in my end of residency display at the V&A Museum from 6-8th February 2015.
Nearly forgot to mention that the nursery children also took part in a recent unveiling of art work at the building site of More West. Over the summer, I had worked with other artists and children in producing two of the display panels. Great to see these finally in situ.