Wednesday 22 January 2014

Felted Wall-Hanging inspired by Monet's Waterlily Paintings- a fantastic School Project

This impressive felted wall hanging was made in a day by 24  four and five year olds (120cm W,  85cm H)
It’s great that I love working with children! 
One of my fun days last summer was working with 24 Reception/Year 1 children at Beech Street Primary School in Eccles (on the outskirts of Manchester). 

Teacher and School Arts Week Co-ordinator, Gill Douglas, contacted me and asked if I could help and of course I said yes! 

We decided that the children would make a wall hanging inspired by Monet’s waterlily paintings. 

Working in schools is interesting as there is always so much going on but often the logistics of fitting in and around things (like pirate parties and PE lessons) can be a challenge. Luckily for me Gill had left me with some fantastic staff who helped me to sort the children into smaller groups and to work out timings for bite sized chunks of felting throughout the day.

Working with six children at a time I gave them a simple introduction to Claude Monet. I had taken a selection of library books and had also printed off some relevant pictures. Even though the children were aged just 4 and 5 I really wanted to give them some interesting information and images of Monet. 

Well Monet had a BIG beard and he had a BIG garden! 

and he painted big paintings too!

Although I had photos of waterlilies I would really have loved to have been able to take a real waterlily flower into the classroom!

I explained that Monet was an artist who made his pictures with paint but we were going to make our wall hanging using colourful wool fibres. 
At this point it is always better to just get started with the physical act of felting. 

I had separated the wool fibres into greens for the waterlily leaves and pinks and purples for the flowers, so with each group we either made flowers or leaves. 
Wool fibres laid in a swirl; a simple way to make felted waterlily flowers
Softly felted waterlily flowers made by the children
We made lots of these flowers and leaves and laid them out ready for the afternoon. 

At lunchtime I got the classroom ready for making the big wall hanging so that as soon as my first group came back from their pirate party they were ready to go! I definitely wanted to make sure that every single child had taken part in every stage of the process.

Once the table was covered in a layer of white wool fibres we then changed to a pallet of blues and purples. This was fun as the children really do enjoy breaking the wool into small tufts. (This part of the felting process is called ‘laying-out’) and they were pretty impressed that we were working on such a large scale.

We used a range of blue coloured fibres to lay over the white layer (these were laid at right angles to the white layer). Now we had a ‘pond’ and next we had to decide where all of the waterlily flowers and leaves had to go. I showed the children Monet's waterlily paintings again as I felt it was important to remind them of what we were doing. The felting can all get a bit exciting  and I just wanted to remind them of the ‘big picture’ ie our Arts Week project.

One of Claude Monet's waterlily paintings
Again I feel that it is very important for the children to take ownership of their own art so I let them place the felted flowers and leaves on and then together we adjusted the position of some until we were happy with the composition. At this point I was really pleased that the teaching assistants felt happy to tell me their observations and they helped with the composition too.
Next I stood up on a chair and looked down at it to give the design a final check.

Once happy with this we got onto the big job of wetting, soaping, rubbing and rolling.
The laid out design completely wet and soaped with Olivia olive oil soap
Logistically this is the hardest bit of making a large collaborative piece of felt as there just isn’t space for 24 children to roll at once. 
Miss Morris, my fantastic teaching assistant, came to the rescue; as the children took turns with the rolling she and the rest of the children launched into a cavalcade of songs. They were absolutely fantastic and the singing made the rolling all so much easier and lots of fun, especially for me!

Rolling the wet and soaped design up in a bamboo mat
We stopped and admired our felt. Wow! There was no denying it, it was pretty impressive and all made by 24 children aged just 4 and 5.
Finished felted wall hanging (120cm W, 85cm H)
It is still damp here so would look even better once dry.
Before I left Beech Street school I hand-sewed a strip of cotton fabric onto the back of the top edge of the wall hanging. Then I threaded a length of dowelling through it and left it with two hooks ready for the school's brilliantly helpful janitor to hang up once it was dry.  

And finally how lovely to get this e mail from Gill Douglas, the School Arts Week Co-ordinator. 

"The work produced is fantastic and the wall hanging has already gone up! 
Thank you for your wonderful work & enthusiasm - everyone had a great, productive time!"

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