A Reflection on the First of our Seedlings Early Years Workshops

Artist Lucy Hill reflects on her first workshops in her year-long residency at The Ark as part of our John Coolahan Early Years Residency.

During her year at The Ark, Lucy will be developing and leading of a series of workshops through our new Seedlings early years programme. The first Seedlings workshops for ages 2-4 took place over the May Bank Holiday weekend and were presented as part of Bealtaine @ Temple Bar, organised in partnership with Age & Opportunity as part of the nationwide Bealtaine festival. Grandparents and older relatives were encouraged to bring the children along and get creative together. Here are Lucy's reflections:

The key words for thinking about, containing and framing this initial engagement were:

Grandparents - Gentleness - Generosity - Movement - Relationships

Materials: Cabbage leaves, powder paint, chalk sticks, small sieves, pva glue, dyed rice, turnip slices, dyed sheep’s wool, primrose petals, bluebells, mint, loose chai tea, rosemary, lavender leaves, food colouring, orange oil, flour, vegetable oil, lemon juice, stubby brushes, charcoal, burnt willow sticks, gorse petals, white paper, card & brown packaging paper.

  • Grandparents – Age and Opportunity's Bealtaine festival was a wonderful way to begin this residency. I enjoy the idea that different generations can be so energised by each-others company. Playing artfully together is one way to activate this.
  • Gentleness – A sometimes underestimated but powerful force for finding creative feet. For myself I wanted very much to ease my way into the residency and space, to create a workshop where everyone felt that care had been taken, that thought had been allowed space to wander and change direction, that the materials would be evidence of this and be our point of contact and exchange. The May-day tradition of laying flowers on the doorstep in my home place of Mayo also played into this (a furtive Mayo takeover maybe?). Through the materials we could introduce ourselves to each other in easy and diverting ways and always with room for quiet forms of good natured deviance and defiance to emerge.
  • Generosity – It felt important that there be plenty of everything (and yet somehow unexpected things ran out!), because un-planned excitements can happen in spaces of excess and overflow, so I decided to lay out the space a little like an invitation to a dinner party buffet – posh – ‘ladies and gentlemen please do help yourselves’ (politely!).
  • Movement – First, in through the dramatic doorway of the Ark, then clamber onto the enormous beanbags to wait for everyone to arrive, then up the turret like stairways into the sunny workshop to feel the excitement at the expanse of the space, the invitation to meet on the floor for a few minutes, then to move up to the tables, to explore the materials, to play with, combine, mash, sprinkle, drop, slosh and then carry to the display area before returning to explore more. Co-motion and material movement in multiple forms really matters for thinking and learning.
  • Relationships –Between children and adults, the comfort of holding hands up the stairs, the pleasure of showing, of sharing, of chatting, of gathering up and bringing home presents, but also the relationships between the mixed up combinations of materials. Who would have thought when pleasure, thinking and exploration are the aim that paint & turnips, sheep’s wool & runny glue, flowers & flours, cabbage leaves & glitter would turn out to be such willing and happy partners?

The next residency workshop will be a take-over of the theatre space for an experimental 'Paper Playground' on Thursday 31 May & Saturday 2 June. Find out more.

Lucy Hill is The Ark's Early Years Artist in Residence. A visual artist, educator and researcher with particular interest and expertise in the area of early years visual arts education, Lucy has exhibited nationally and internationally and has won several public art commissions and awards. You can see some of Lucy's work at her website: https://www.lucyhill.ie/