Tuesday was the last day of working on a wonderful "Seeds of Ideas" project with my good friend Kathy Holowko at Art Play in Melbourne. Kathy had been fortunate to receive a City of Melbourne Art Play grant to run the project with 100 students, and had very kindly asked me to be involved to talk about seeds and plants. There was a lot of collecting of seed, natural materials, and anticipation, and the project has kept me very busy over the last few weeks. The fact that I don't live in Melbourne made the kid/work juggle extra challenging.
The weather was perfect and we looked set for a magical last day.
We had the Grade 4/5 school children for a day the week before, and they had learnt about seeds, patterns, art, sculpture, aerodynamics, nature, ideas and metaphors. The children made paper seeds and watched them fly, then created boats out of natural materials.
Here the children's boats are patiently waiting by the Yarra River to be set free. The best laid plans don't always run as smoothly as you might like. The children's bus arrived over 2 hours late, the bus company had forgotten the booking, then had to deal with vomit and tardy schools before finally picking up our children. There was a lot phone calls and anxious re-bookings. City River Cruises were amazing, and allowed us to change plans three times. The class teacher was also wonderful and very understanding.
All the while the boats caused no fuss and stayed looking their gorgeous selves. I am amazed what children will create when given some natural materials and the directive to make a boat. No two boats were the same and each school group produced a new technique or unexpected result.
Finally we arrived at our destination, Herring Island. I've never been so pleased to see a bunch of kids, they only just made it to the last ferry.
We held a small ceremony on the jetty, reading out the seeds of ideas that the children had created. We then gave them a small envelope to put some seeds and their message inside, these were tucked carefully in the boats.
A swan watched over proceedings and the launching of the boats. It managed to score a few seeds from enraptured children.
Most of the boats floated well, the children watched them anxiously as much bigger boats threatened to crash into them.
After launching the boats we went for a nature walk on Herring Island. Children were given a list of things to look out for, like Eucalyptus seeds, mushrooms, and birds that eat seeds. This succeeded in sparking their curiosity, and they kept finding new things and asking what they were.
Willy wagtails were frolicking around the Seaberry Saltbush.
Herring island is an environmental and sculpture park, Kathy explained the art work on the Island and pointed out other artists use of patterns in their work.
Photo credit & link to some great pictures of the Island visit http://www.lizzieknz.com/2011/05/herring-island.html
Andy Goldsworthy (for more on this artist and some great examples of Earth Art http://www.morning-earth.org/artistnaturalists/an_goldsworthy.html) is one of the sculptors whose work can be seen at Herring Island. Above is a cairn he created to represent growth (Herring Island is artificially created). After visiting his work Kathy discussed Land Art and Earth Art. We then pulled out the non weedy materials we had brought from home so the kids could create their own piece of Earth Art, they also made use of natural materials that were lying around, with the instruction not to pick things as this was an Environmental Park and we didn't want to harm the plants.
Some children worked alone, some in groups.
A few of the students wanted to take their work home, and struggled with it's transient nature. It was interesting the way different children tackled the work.
I had a go at making a piece and a couple of boys sat with me and helped me finish it. Too sweet, the rose petals were added by one of the boys. I think the kids enjoyed watching what we would do (I'm not an artist so this is well outside my comfort zone), and not being watched over while they worked. It was a pretty hot afternoon and this was a great restful activity.
How lovely to work with one of my oldest and dearest friends. We're scheming new things for 2012, hoping to make use of our awesome seed collection. Kathy has all manner of projects on the go and was busy scheming how to create an installation in her house when I left her, seeds on plates might have been part of the design.
In the end it was a magical day, and an incredible project to be a part of.