Thursday, 8 May 2014

Alexis Rago Making the Complex Simple - Teacher Training event

You may remember our Education Officer hounding teachers and schools to attend a truly unique teacher training session with one of our exhibiting artists, Alexis Rago. Well, here are some fabulous photos and descriptions of how the day panned out.

We began with an artist led tour around his exhibition, to gain a better understanding of how Alexis' creative output communicates with his audience.

Alexis' exhibition Chaos Contained uses clay and repeated shapes patterns and symmetry, to introduce us to chaos theory.  The work is exquisite and looks beautiful in the Chancel Gallery, with all the original church windows and features.


Back in the Education Room, Alexis spoke of his journey through the arts, as a student, as a practising artist and as an artist who teaches.  It was a very interesting introduction to how an artist would start their life and career path.

An example of fired clay, which we were to all recreate using well practised techniques and clay rolling skills.

At each stage, Alexis pointed out ways in which these skills can be embedded in the classroom, continually reminding us of how a child's brain may work a lot simply than we remember as adults.
Once a shape is simplified, we notice that all 3D shapes derive from a sphere, even large pointy cones.  

Combining the shapes we'd made, teachers were then given the chance to decorate their creations. It was important for teachers to notice the marks made by various tools.

Once delegates had completed their star fish, we moved on to use a different clay; one we used to make ourselves a pinch pot.

The careful hand movements were difficult to master and reminded us how it felt to have to learn new muscle movements with having no experience. It was reassuring to know that each of us felt the need to concentrate, as the skill didn't come naturally.

Some of the final outcomes were really interesting, as each individual had a different take and understanding of the material. This is a quality we often forget as teachers, that children have their own individual vision and interpretation of a materials and their chosen outcome. This is something that we should perhaps celebrate and nurture more in our pupils, which was something discussed around the table.

"[The delivery of the session was] very information and practical. Good teaching of skills that can be used to teach the children." - KS1 teacher

"Clear step-by-step instructions. It was friendly, relaxed, clear and interesting. It was a great session with good transferable skills." - KS3 teacher

"I will be sharing this with staff in school!" - KS2 teacher

Overall, the afternoon gave the teachers a chance to work directly with an artist to better understand a material used year in year out in every classroom.

Alexis' exhibition Chaos Contained will be on display in the gallery until the end of Summer Term, meaning there is ample opportunity to take advantage of Self Guided Tours, Guided Tours or booking a related workshop, so your pupils can learn from the skills passed on by Alexis.

To book any of the above mentioned, please contact our Education Officer on 01724 297070 or email

What did Red Riding Hood find in Frodingham Infants' Garden?

When Frodingham Infant School called us to tell us they had Red Riding Hood on her way to see their school garden, we thought we better help them out with decorating it.
Over two days the school's year one classes came into 20-21 Visual Arts Centre to visit our one week special exhibition Flowers In The Gallery. The exhibition is a selection of flower arrangers' artworks that respond to various pieces of artwork in David Hancock's Cosplay exhibition.

We were a very lucky group this week, as one of the flower arrangers was spending some time in the gallery, ensuring the exhibitions were tidy and well watered. Caroline Jackson is a member of NAFAS which is the National Association of Flower Arranging Societies.

Caroline answered lots and lots of questions about Flowers In The Gallery:

"Why do flowers need water?"
"How many types of flowers are there?"
"Why do we need flowers and plants?"

"Where is Red Riding Hood?"

All very important and interesting questions, we thought.

When we were finished grilling Caroline on biology and the wonders of life, children were set the challenge of becoming Red Riding Hood and finding themselves a creature made out of wire that had been hidden amongst the exhibitions. These wire creatures had been made prior to the visit, for children to decorate into beautiful butterflies. The children had excellent observational skills and displayed exceptional team work to help each other find their bugs.

Using the wire frames, we covered tissue paper strips in glue and wrapped the softened paper around the frame, making solid wings.

We thought a lot about symmetry, repetition and colours to make sure our butterflies looked just right.

We decorated the wings with sparkly bits, so the bugs and butterflies shine in the sunshine.

Children were extremely creative and loved learning new words and methods of crafting.

Below is a very happy young man who worked tirelessly all day to smile and ask lots of questions about the gallery.

Some more shining examples of boys enjoying making butterflies and bugs for their school garden.

Below is the drying line that we hung our creations on to dry, while we got started on the next part of our project.

While our bugs were drying, we started creating some HUGE flowers that we could carry around with us in the classroom. We used tissue paper and basic craft techniques to create fans that cleverly turned into flowers. 
Lots of careful and quiet thinking time. 
Here we with all our bugs, crafts and flowers. Let us know what you think! Scroll down for some of our thoughts on the day.

"10/10 I likt it when we did flowers." - Alice aged five
"10/10 I love all of it." - Megan aged six and a half
"10/10 it was fantastic! I liked the extabishun" - Jaydan aged six years old.