Category Archives: Creative Connections

Catch-up Time

Many things have happened over the past 5 days. In fact, many things I would like to delve into more deeply. However, I also have no time to do so. I have a preview next Friday night in London (please come please please please please come) and my most pressing matter at the moment is learning all my lines. I mean, I know most of my lines. But ‘most’ is not ‘all.

So, without further ado.

THURSDAY
Walked from Goodge St to Angel. Here:

Jenny's walk 27th June

Jenny’s walk 27th June

It was nice. Highlights included: Russel Square, where I saw the final rehearsal for an open-air Shakespeare play (which I was unfortunately unable to attend); Corams Fields, which included some kind of community garden that had a GOAT (a freakin’ GOAT in the middle of the city!); and, my personal favourite, the ‘Goodenough College’. I mean, that’s just inspiring isn’t it? ‘Where are you sending him?’ ‘To the Goodenough College. Because we don’t want him to get too smart.’ I just googled and apparently it is a residential college. Which makes it slightly less funny. But, still!

FRIDAY
I was given a free sample of this:

 

Verdict: AWESOME. I will buy it! I will search if out in pubs! Excellent work with the free samples Jack Dainel’s, because there is no way I would have bought it on my own!

(NB I have heard that the bees are dying at alarming rates. And that if they die we will follow pretty quickly after. Can someone fill me in? The Jack Daniel’s lady didn’t address these particular concerns. And I know not drinking Jack Daniel’s honey most likely won’t stop the bees from going into extinction, but I still feel like making this my drink of choice would be like buying your first 4WD just as peak oil is discovered. Just a bit dumb, you know?) 

SATURDAY

I went to Ireland! I was flown out by my Creative Connections ladies to come and perform at the Cork Midsummer Festival. I don’t know how I’ve been so lucky to have been so welcomed into this group and to be so connected with this festival (I have now performed at the Cork Midsummer Festival three times), but I don’t want to talk about it too much just in case someone realises that they’ve given me too much already and they should stop now and include some other artists.

No! Keep bringing back the random Australian girl who used to live in Cork for 12 months! We want her again! (I have plans to go back again next year when my UK visa is up. We’ll just see).

SUNDAY

The day I actually performed with the Creative Connections ladies at Cork Midsummer. This was what I wanted to talk about a little more in detail. The ladies had created a live art durational performance piece. So, on Friday, they stood on the quays as people went to work and help up giant logs which had ‘The Family Name’ burned into them. They did it for 4 hours as people drove to work. The next day, they sat in a graveyard and chipped away at the blocks in a graveyard for 4 hours. The final day, it was meant to be all the secrets pouring out. They were back in the graveyard, all doing different things. One woman was wrapped in cling film and attempting to bandage a broken vase back together. One was dressed in white with a plastic bag over the top of her and standing on a pristine white tile. I was the only one coming in and out of the graveyard and in the end, I would sing to them and draw them ‘out’. In the meantime, I came in at 15 minute intervals and cut off my friend’s hair and then attempted to shave her head.

It was a pretty intense experience. As the performance went on, I got more and more involved in the process. It was a strange feeling. We had spoken before about the fact that shaving a woman’s head in public is a very ‘heavy’ act. It has echos of witch trials and religious persecution and the treatment of women who slept with Nazis during WWII and mental patients. Even though I was doing it for my friend, we didn’t speak. Those images came up inside me and I felt very cruel. To make myself feel better and to communicate to my friend that I didn’t want to hurt her. I would brush the hair off her shoulders and her head and face. It certainly made me feel better, I don’t know how it felt for her. In the end, I wasn’t able to do such a great job because the tools we had weren’t particularly good.

The thing that was interesting from a production point of view, or no, not ‘interesting’, bloody irritating, was that Cork City Council, despite knowing that this performance was going on, decided to lock the gates of the park early. At 8:30pm. Which was a good hour and a half before we had been told they would lock the gates. Which meant we lost our audience. And we suddenly had to change our performance. It meant the ending was not as strong or as definite as it could have been, which was a real shame, because I could feel that we were building up to something amazing as the hours went by in the graveyard. Still, you live, you learn, I suppose. And it makes it clear you really need someone outside of the performance to be ‘caretaker’ or ‘producer’. We were lucky, we had Mark Storor with us again who managed to sort out a compromise, but it really shouldn’t have happened.

MONDAY

We were all kind of exhausted by Sunday night. Me not so much as the other ladies, as they had been working for months and I just swanned in at the last minute and cut some hair and sang some songs, but we were still all tired. The alcohol and the staying awake until 4am of course didn’t help matters. So, Monday we spent the day in bed pretty much. There were about 4 of us who climbed in and out of the same bed for several hours, plus one of the women’s children. So, actually 6 in total. It was very oddly comforting. Like a sleepover, but different. I realised one of the saddest things about London is that my group of friends (whilst lovely) is pretty much exactly like me. Most of them are Australian, many of them are on a two-year work visa, they are young, travelling, having adventures. What was nice about my social group in Cork was that it did include women who were at different stages of their lives, who had families of their own and it was wonderful to feel a part of that. You felt a part of a wider community than in London. For all its diverse people, you can live in a very homogenous little bubble in London very easily.

It means I have no opportunities to do this:

Storytime

Storytime

And that’s a real shame.  Because my friend’s kids are gorgeous and fun and happy. And they have soft little bellies and arms that are probably  the best things in the world.

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Filed under 29, Cork Midsummer, Creative Connections, Ireland, London

Ireland: The Return

Two posts in one day! I think this actually gets me up to 6 posts for November and its not even the end of the month, which must be some kind of record for the London blog. Poor ol’ London blog, suffering from a general blog-tiredness on my behalf. Its not because I love you less than the Ireland blog, I swear.

Ironically, however, this is a post about returning to Ireland and not actually about London. But, don’t read too much into that fact, London blog. I love both places equally. Really. Truly. In fact, I unthinkingly called London ‘home’ when I was in Ireland, insulting my very good Irish friend who was insisting that I was actually in the process of ‘returning home’ to Ireland and not taking a holiday from my home, as I had suggested.

Anywho, back to Ireland. I had two days off in a row last week from work and I thought I would take the opportunity to flit back over the Irish Sea to visit some friends and also pick up a few last bags that various friends had been storing for me. It has actually been 4 – 5 months that I have been abusing their kindness in this way, so I thought it was fair enough that I come back for my things.

I left fairly early on Thursday morning from Stansted Airport. It was fairly foggy on the ground, but we were soon up above the clouds and despite my usual moments of complete and utter panic when the plane would lurch or seemingly free-fall for a few seconds, or when I convinced myself the engines of my particular plane actually sounded like a lawnmower (I mean, that’s not good, is it? Surely you need an engine bigger than the ones you find on a lawnmower to keep you up in the air? Yes?) I thought I would be landing at 10:20am as scheduled.

But, Cork Airport had other plans.

See, the airport is actually built in a bit of a valley, which, according to my first Irish host father, is kind of like a fly-trap but for fog. If there is fog anywhere in Cork, its going to be hundred times worse where the airport is. And, even if its sunny everywhere else in Cork, the airport may still be cloaked in the thickest of pea soups, as if it was actually generating the fog itself. A week or so after I arrived in Bandon last year, an airplane crashed at Cork airport because of fog. And the very first time I even went to the airport, it was so surrounded by fog that I couldn’t even see the building until we actually pulled up next to it.

So, though it was lovely and sunny up in the sky where the plane was last Thursday morning, Cork Airport was completely hidden by the thickest and greyest of fogs. We ended up circling the airport for an hour and twenty minutes, during which time we weren’t allowed to use the toilet or any electronic goods in case the fog suddenly cleared and we had to make an immediate landing (that didn’t stop the woman next to me texting people on her mobile, however. She seemed to think that if she kept the phone up her sleeve, no-one would know what she was doing. She was also praying under her breath and I couldn’t help wanting to point out that if she was so worried about dying in a horrible, fiery crash, she should possibly take all recommended precautions and SWITCH OFF THE BLOODY PHONE). Of course, I was in a complicated twist of emotions, going out of my mind with boredom and frustration whilst we circled above the clouds, and then every time we dived down into the fog and I saw how thick it was, I’d panic and attempt to psychically contact the drivers with messages of caution and questions of whether or not they were absolutely certain they could really land the plane in such conditions and to please think of all the people in the plane who would really like to live just a little bit longer, thanks ever so much. We finally got down, just as I was thinking that they might end up diverting the flight to another airport, effectively turning my flying visit to Ireland into two days of constant travel and no friends.

As soon as I was on the ground, things picked up. My good friend was there to meet me at the airport, which I hadn’t expected, as I’d missed her message before I’d gotten on the plane. We headed into Cork had a much needed sandwich (egg mayo and cheese at O’Briens – so many Irish memories) before heading to the FAS building, where my friend was running art workshops with some of the Creative Connections crew for the afternoon. I tagged along and ended up helping with the workshops, which was so lovely and so weird all at once. It was so strangely familiar and comfortable and I felt like I slotted right back in to the group and the work, even though I’d been away for four months and had been in a completely different country only that morning. I helped to make many giant ’80’s themed props (giant Rubix Cube, giant Pacmen, giant cassette tape), which looked unbelievably cool at the end of the afternoon and was such a pleasant (and random) thing to spend a few hours doing. When practical, crafty things like that work well, I don’t think there’s anything more therapeutic or calming. Certainly beats the TV.

It was a full ‘Creative Connections’ day with workshops in the afternoon, a meeting in the evening, dinner and then drinks that night with some (or all) of the crew. I’m not the only one who has moved on. We’ve lost one of the women back to her home of South Africa a few weeks after I left and one of the other women is now in France on her next project. Still, some of the women are still trying to keep things going in Cork (in whatever form that takes) and I’m hoping to stay involved as much as I can (in whatever form that takes). Its really sad and also odd to think that in all likelihood I’ll never be able to go back and settle there again, despite feeling so comfortable and at home there. It did also make me realise that whilst things have been easier in London, I’m still not established here in the way that I was by the time I left Ireland. Its not surprising, of course, feeling at home in a place takes time and I’ve only been in London 4 months so far. But, it was interesting contrasting the feelings I have in the two places. I’m hoping to head back again soon and some of the women might come and visit me in London. The most exciting thing that we’ve decided, however, is that we’re all going to go to Amsterdam in April (look at those lovely capital A’s, you can tell its meant to be), which is probably going to be the best thing ever ever ever. Because I love Amsterdam and I love these women and it is going to be SO MUCH FUN. We are going to hire bicycles and buy materials at the awesome Amsterdam material market and eat amazing cakes and shop in the incredible vintage stores and I cannot cannot wait.

Friday was another busy day of appointments with various friends, until I left on the bus for Dublin that afternoon. That evening was a lovely (and boozy) dinner with my old housemate and her friend, during which we planned many road trips to Cornwall and maybe even the USA (where I am I going to get the money or the time off work for all these amazing sounding trips??? A fair question that I choose not to answer at this particular time). The next morning it was another early (but not as early start) in order to get back to London for work that afternoon. After many stresses involving fitting bags into each other and some last minute throwing out of clothes and junk (how did I get so much STUFF??) a taxi ride to the airport that I wasn’t sure I had enough euros for and a grumpy Dublin Airport lady who made me wait many a minute to check-in even though it was almost at the point when they were going to close check-in for my flight, I made it home with enough time to even have some lunch and TV time before heading off to work.

All in all, it was quite the lovely, delightful and easy jaunt, so I’m hopeful there will be more visits in the new year when work allows.

 

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Nothing to do…

So, I’ve still got very little to report to you all. Life has taken a distinctly cozy, relaxed turn. Well, kind of. I mean, sometimes, I’m all for the cozy, relaxed-ness, and I sit on the couch and watch videos on youtube and feel relaxed and happy, and then other times I turn around and go, ‘Oh, God, I haven’t done anything all day! I’ve just been watching videos on You Tube! OH MY GOD MY LIFE IS SLIPPING THROUGH MY FINGERS, BEING THROWN AWAY, GOING DOWN THE DRAIN AND VARIOUS OTHER METAPHORS BECAUSE ALL I AM DOING IS WATCHING VIDEOS ON YOU TUBE.’
So, its taken on a… I don’t know. I don’t know what its taken on. A schizophrenic, multiple personality disorder edge, I suppose. I haven’t been unemployed for a good 10 years. I’ve always had some sort of job or study to be going on with. And the emptiness is more than a little terrifying. Its certainly good to be not doing things that you don’t enjoy or that are stressing you out, but then, I guess, with me, it gets to a point when most things in my life stress me out, especially the things I technically *like* to do, meaning that all that is left is watching videos on You Tube.
Mind you, I have watched a lot of good videos on You Tube. You know there are entire movies on there? Like, if they’re not big blockbusters, if they’re not with the big studios, so they’re not constantly being checked on or searched for, you can find little gems of entire movies on there. Constantly going through the oeuvre of David Thewlis, my new current obsession, and there are some sweet films on there. I recommend ‘Cheeky’ as an offbeat, black comedy rom-com. Highly enjoyable.
Anyway, I have done some bits and pieces. Applied for a few programs, done some writing. I’m trying to write a story every day using these ‘Story Cubes’ that I bought in Galway last summer. There’s nine cubes with little pictures on them, and you throw them and then have to write a story using all the images. Its quite fun. I’ve been trying not to pressure myself with the stories (ie, not to sit there going, ‘If its good, perhaps I could turn it into a novel, and then maybe I could send it to an agent, and then maybe s/he’d send it to a publisher, and then they’d publish it, and then maybe it would win the Pulitzer Prize and sell a million billion copies, and I could buy a castle in Scotland and never ever have to work for the rest of my life, and just watch You Tube videos, secure in the knowledge that I could win another Pulitzer if I really wanted to, but there wasn’t really much point.’ Which inevitably makes me feel a little low when said story turns out to be about a purple turtle).
I’ve also started back with Creative Connections, which is great, though as also been a little emotional. We had one session last Thursday to talk about the book we’re writing (we’re writing a book!), where I got a little fixated on an idea, and was making an argument out of nothing, and then I got upset when I realised I was making an argument out of nothing, and tried to move on, but by then everyone else was upset, and was trying to make me feel better which made me feel worse, and it ended up with me, at home, on the couch, watching the end of HP7 Part 2 and bawling my eyes out for a good hour and half until I was so tired, I could barely walk to the bed. All my own issues, of course, and linked back to the unemployment thing, but, anyway. Not the best start back to something that I really adore.
The weekend went a bit better. We’re working with an incredible artist, named Mark Storor, for the Cork Midsummer Festival this year, and we had a weekend workshop with him. It was exhausting, a lot of storytelling, a lot of crying (though, not from me this time), a lot of food and a lot of love. By yesterday evening, I was wrecked, but very happy and thought I would sleep as soundly as a baby (unfortunately, sleep was completely interrupted by dreams of David Thewlis… not quite sure what is going on there. Think he must remind me of someone. But, I’m not entirely sure who, at this point…).
Anyway, back to the YouTube videos, and, if you’re interested, you should look at this series of films on ‘The Fat Girl Gets a Hair Cut’, which is a show Mark did with teenagers at the Roundhouse in London.

It seems to have similar themes and aims to that Dutch show, ‘Once and for all we’re going to tell you who we are, so shut up and listen,’ except less… directed? Forced? I really enjoyed that show, but I remember someone commenting afterwards that it seemed like the title of the show should have been, ‘Once and for all we’re going to tell you who other people think we are…’ which was a fair criticism. Anyway, Mark’s show seems a little bit more inspired by what came out of the teenagers’ lives and stories, creating a very quirky and unique piece. There’s 9 videos about it up on Youtube, and I suggest you watch them all (come on, they’re only 2 minutes long, that’s do-able even if you have gainful employment!), but if you don’t have time, look at 1 and 8, as they are very beautiful and give you a sense of the sort of stuff we’re experimenting with. Mark creates beautiful things out of ordinary things, which is very exciting, and is very interested in performance. Some of the women, I think, are finding this a little intimidating, but I cannot wait. Typical Actor.

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Filed under Cork Midsummer, Creative Connections, Ireland

Apparently, I’m an Art Teacher now.

Yesterday was one of the best days I’ve had in Ireland. No, strike that, yesterday was one of the best days I’ve ever had.
As part of the ongoing Creative Connections course, we, the participants, have to pass on some of the skills that we’ve been learning to the general public. So, over 6 weeks (starting yesterday) we have to run 6 public workshops for 60 women and children, both from Ireland and from other countries. These women would be broken into 3 separate groups according to the age of their children, and each group would be facilitated by a group of Creative Connections ladies. So, yesterday (Saturday) was our first workshop.
We had been planning for the workshop for two weeks, but, of course, as these things go, and it being our first time ever running an official workshop, we were still woefully under-prepared and disorganised come yesterday morning. I had volunteered to be my group’s team leader, as I am missing a huge number of workshops that are coming up in the next few weeks, due to work responsibilities of both the au pair and theatre types.
As team leaders, on the Saturday, we were meant to organise the running of the main activity for the day (printmaking), give a demonstration, locate and organise materials, schedules, and be on top of what each other member of our group would be taking responsibility for in the running of the day. All preparation had to be done on the Thursday before our Saturday workshop. For a while, the Thursday session went quite well. It was interrupted briefly to allow everyone to have a chance to ooh and aah over the 2 week old son of one of our group members (it is a group of women, after all), but we were having a great, if somewhat sleep-deprived hysteria induced, time for the first 2 hours of Thursday. Unfortunately, due to a variety of confusions, not least of all, what exactly we were meant to be organising, we didn’t realise the majority of the things that we were expected to have organised by the end of the session on Thursday. This meant that at 9:15pm, with the session finishing at 9:30pm (and my last bus back to Kinsale leaving at 10pm, with a 10 minute drive from the Mayfield Arts Centre to the bus station), the three team leaders were running around anxiously, not quite sure what to do or who to talk to, or where things should go.
Oh, ok.
I was running around like a headless chicken, picking up materials, putting them down, demanding people help me, telling them that I knew what was going on and they didn’t (when I really didn’t have a clue), and generally panicking about how I was possibly going to get this all under control as well as get the 10pm bus, so that I didn’t have to cop a 40 Euro taxi charge to ensure I got home in time to sleep and get up to start work at 7am the next morning.
I left at 9:35pm, with the assurance of our own group leaders that everything was under control, that we’d all be fine and things would work out on the day. I remained unconvinced, gripping my hands anxiously all the way to the bus station, sitting up bolt upright on the bus home, and devouring a strange concoction of baked beans and pasta when I finally got back to the house, my stomach rumbling due to 3 hours of anxiety and adrenaline. 
Friday evening I was babysitting, and I also spent an hour or so on Skype with a dear friend, babbling away about various things that had happened to us during the year, including my recent decision to leave the au pair business and figure out ‘something else’ to do. Whilst this was lovely, added to my already frayed nerves surrounding the Saturday morning workshop, my buzzing mood practically made it impossible to sleep. To get to Cork on time, I had to get up at 6:45am on Saturday. I eventually convinced myself to get into bed and read at midnight. 45 minutes later I was still sitting bolt upright in my bed, flicking back and forth through Vanity Fair and biting my nails. Convinced I was never going to get tired, I switched off my light, lay down and closed my eyes, hoping my body would get the idea.
It didn’t.
I woke up at 6:45am having had approximately 5 hours ‘sleep’ that had been consistently interrupted by anxiety-induced nightmares. I dragged myself out of bed and stared out into the darkness that is Ireland at 7am these days. I got into my clothes, got my bag together and snuck out into the kitchen. Little Man was already sitting up on the couch, watching the telly, with his poor mother fast asleep next to him. He took one look at me and demanded, ‘Where are you going?’ waking his mother up straight away. Whilst I felt guilty, the upside was that she said her sister (and our next door neighbour) would be driving to work in Cork in 15 minutes, and she would be able to give me a lift. So, I got a very comfortable ride into the city in a BMW, which included my very own, personal seat warmer. My bum has never been so toasty.
The problem with being so efficient getting into Cork, however, was that, when I arrived at 7:45am, absolutely nothing in the city was open. I hadn’t had breakfast yet, I was in desperate need of a tea, and I was freezing cold and being rained on, but not a single store was open. Not even the markets were set up yet. I did a couple of laps of the city, searching for anyone, anything, that was open, and, then, giving up hope of finding anything, continued to do laps so as to prevent my knees from freezing together. My sleep-deprivation and anxiety made me irrationally angry and I blamed the lack of open shops variously on a combination of the crap economy and lazy Irish people who drank too much on a Friday night and, therefore, didn’t get up early and go into the city on a Saturday morning for coffee and a bagel, hence no stores or cafes opening before the hours of 8:30 or 9am (dear Irish people – I don’t think you’re lazy or crap. Well, your economy isn’t great at the moment, but I’m fairly sure you were already aware of that. And I do not blame you at all for this occurrence. Well, maybe your politicians. And your bankers. But, not you, dear Irish person. Do not take my sleep-deprived, hunger-induced insults to be my actual view of the world).
Eventually, a cafe opened up and I managed to get myself a pot of tea, improving my mood immeasurably. After a crepe filled with olives, sun-dried tomatoes and feta, the whole world seemed brighter, and everyone, including my exceedingly surly and grumpy crepe lady, who charged me 50 cents more than her menu said she should have for my crepe, was my best friend and could do no wrong.
I got myself a few snacks for the day and then headed to the workshop location for set-up. Anxiety kicked in again. Once all the materials were out of the car, we had to start setting up. As the workshops were up to us to run, our trusty course supervisors were attempting to stand back and let us organise things. We weren’t given directions as to what needed to happen next, or what things should go where. An overall group leader hadn’t been decided on, so we were all standing around, debating what should be done. Eventually, I picked up a variety of things and started dividing them out amongst the tables. Other women started over jobs. Before we knew it, it was 10:20am, and women were arriving with their children. We (well, I) attempted to ignore them, keeping my eyes to the floor, continuing to organise materials, looking at the schedule and talking to my fellow group members about various activities. ‘Who should run the name game?’ ‘Where should the round robin be placed?’ Our group was looking after the women without children, and those women with children in the 0 – 2 years bracket (those a little too young to participate), but it soon became obvious that the group gathering around us were women with children aged 6 – 12. Our participants were starting to get a little tetchy, seeing that things weren’t quite under control, and that we weren’t quite ready to start at 10:30am, as had been promised (but, hey, this is Ireland, people never start anything on time here – except buses – so, what could they really expect?). We ran around, checking with people, until it became obvious that the age groups we had been expecting were different from the ones that had been organised. Things were put right again, and we were given our group of 10 – 12 women, plus one 2 year old boy with blonde cherub curls and a darling 1 year old girl with the biggest blue eyes seen this side of Hobbiton.
The mix-up with age groups and materials meant that I hadn’t had a chance to check with my group who was doing what and in what order. I asked one of the ladies in my group if she would run our first activity, a name game. She said yes, but then started off on a tangent about all the singing and dancing games she had for us to play. I said that was great, but what about the name game? She said she would like to give us a singing game to play. Before things got completely off schedule only a minute into the workshop, and showing my control freak side perhaps a little too early in the day, I took over and ran a quick name game. It was possibly too quick and too rushed, due to the fact that I hadn’t planned to do it, and that I was anxious about how things were going to be organised from then on, but, at least we had started going.
I then handed back to my original assistant. She started to show us a very simple song and dance call and response routine. It was completely different from the schedule that had been agreed upon on Thursday night, but as the aim of the activities was just to get people loosening up and moving, I decided not to get too precious about the whole thing, and just joined in. It turned out to be great fun, and a good starting exercise, because everyone was working as a group, and had to give up their inhibitions, trust what was happening, and not worry about the purpose and meaning of it all (or was that just me? No, I’m sure it applied to everyone…). Afterwards, I quickly ran through the planned games, and we ended with another song and dance.
After our warm-up games we went into our first art activity, which was a round robin pastel/charcoal drawing. The women all gathered around a table and started drawing a picture. At a designated point, they had to leave their picture and move on to the next one and start drawing there. The idea is to get everyone loose, working together, feeling free and not too precious about their work and activity. It went very well, was run by one of our other group members, and we ended up with a beautiful, colourful mural at the end.
Then it was my turn to take over. I was introducing the main art activity of the day, which was screen printing. I first of all showed the women how to do a basic trace mono print, which was similar to the technique we learnt at the start of our course, but without the printing press, and with some simplified materials. The women were delighted with the quick demonstration I did and went straight to work making their own prints. Every 10 minutes I introduced another technique, and the women experimented with the the images, the printing and all the materials that we had on offer, coming up with some truly lovely prints.
Before we knew it, it was an hour and a half into the workshop, and time for a quick break. Most of the women didn’t want to stop, so I let them go, whilst I went to the tea room and drank a gallon of water. I couldn’t get the smile off my face. My instructions had been simple and easy to follow, and the women had instantly jumped in and started to work. It was wonderful to watch how delighted they were with the results, many of them asked for the names of the materials so they could buy them and continue working with them at home. They were working together easily, talking, making friends and giving each other ideas of what to do next. Occasionally, you would jump in and make a suggestion of what could improve a print, or if they’d forgotten a step, or to complement a print, but it was mainly standing back and watching what happened, offering advice if needed and enjoying the enjoyment the women were getting out of the activity.
After a quick warm-up exercise, we did another 30 minutes of printing, with one more technique thrown into the mix, as well as showing a quick and effective way of displaying all the prints together. This was by making an ‘accordion book’, which is basically just paper folded up between two bits of wood and cardboard, so that it can be closed up flat, or opened up and displayed on a mantlepiece or table. Some of the women got all the prints displayed, whereas others took home materials to finish it during the week.
After the workshop, the Creative Connections ladies had to do a quick evaluation on how the whole day had gone, and, after that, some of us went for lunch. We were on such a happy, exhausted high, that we ended up sitting in the cafe for 3 hours just chatting about how it had all gone, our lives, what was coming next, anything that came up. We also learnt that the group had been granted funding to write a book about the experience of the course and what we have created within it, which is incredibly exciting, and we start work on that from December.
Anyway, the main point of this post is just how wonderful the whole session made me feel. Talking in front of groups, and teaching, is something that I find very easy, and its something I really do enjoy. You’d think, then, that I’d be much happier about my Master of Teaching, and the prospect of potentially being a high school teacher. Ah, not so, young Skywalker. See, one of the reasons I think I truly loved the workshop was because all the women were there wanted to be there, and they wanted to learn. Also, there was no curriculum, no expected outcomes. It was all about experimentation, about expression what you wanted to express, and there is a real joy and excitement in that. People so rarely let themselves feel that in their day to day lives. Its all about, I should do this, I have to do that. To be able to create a space and run a workshop that was nothing to do with making money, losing weight, learning useful things, getting fit, finding your ‘soul mate’ etc. but just about learning a technique for the sake of having fun and making lovely things, well… that was just delightful. I think I would be most happy running workshops like this, outside of the school curriculum. Of course, there is an argument to say that schools should be like this, that a talented teacher would be able to teach the curriculum in such a way that meets required standards through students’ experimentation, exploration, enjoyment and individual interests. But I’m also aware of how much harder it is to walk that fine line in a school scenario, finding the balance between the bureaucracy and the joy of learning.
So, yeah. The problem is that, if I’m honest with myself, I only really want to teach kids who want to learn. I’m kind of scared of the other type. I don’t know how to encourage them. I do have fantasies of being a Robin Williams-type in ‘Dead Poet’s Society’, or, even better, a Michelle Pffeifer from ‘Dangerous Minds,’ but, at the same time, I have enough sense to realise that just wearing a leather jacket into a Western Sydney school isn’t going to suddenly make them want to read Shakespeare with me.
But, who knows. Yesterday gave me hope that perhaps teaching is something that I could do, could do well and may even enjoy. Now if only I could get through the bloody course without going crazy.

Highly accurate depiction of how an art teacher looks according to Mattel. The brightly coloured skirt and kooky scarf evidently show how bohemian, left-wing and non-conformist art-teacher Barbie is.

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Filed under Creative Connections, Introspection