Dr Natasha Mayo is a lecturer who practises and researches ceramics. Mayo is also a freelance writer and is well recognised and regarded for the teaching methodologies that she has developed. (Please click here for CSAD’s more thorough portfolio detailing Mayo’s academic and professional biography.)
Drawing is a significant aspect of Mayo’s work
As a figurative sculptor, Mayo’s work displays a fascination with skin surface.
“…if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein
“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple. The philosophy is kindness.” – Dalai Lama
“…time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” – Marthe Troly-Curtin
“If it’s true that our species is alone in the universe, then I’d have to say the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little.” – George Carlin
Child’s Own Studio is a company that produces custom made dolls based on the child’s own drawings.
More images available here and here.
On Tuesday 19th November I attended Barlestone Church of England Primary School to gain work experience as an early years primary school teacher. I was working with foundation stage 2 children (4-5 years old) under the supervision of their teacher Mrs Teresa Fowkes.
My main task for the day was to build robots with the children. I was allocated a table and the kid’s took it turns to come up in groups to make their robots. The robots were made from toilet roll tubes which I had previously covered in aluminium foil. The children then added sequins, pens and cut out paper for the buttons and face, plus bent pipe-cleaners that they stuck on top to represent the antenna.
As an artist, I felt there was a lot that I learnt from spending time being creative with the little ones. At first, I was more concerned with trying to encourage them to work orderly – as I was looking after a table full of kids, I wanted to try and show them step by step how to make the robot, keeping us all at the same stages to hopefully produce the best results. (Plus I hoped this way I could keep them engaged so that they didn’t run riot. With my little experience of working with large groups of children this was a prospect I found quite daunting.) However, I soon found that this is not how kids of the ages 4-5 years old work! They were far more interested in putting as much sequins on their tubes in the most random ways… not at all remnant of a robot! However, when Mrs. Fowkes came over, she was ecstatic with the results and spoke of how much the children had enjoyed themselves and how although the tubes might look like a bit of a mess to us, we can observe the characters of the children through the differences between the robots. Some robots were just covered all over in an abstract array of sequins and scribbles, Some had two faces and just a couple were very like the intended result of the instructions.
Then it clicked, for the kids, enjoying the process of making the robots was the most important factor. I began asking the children questions about their robots, (What does it do? How does it move? What’s that sequin for?) and soon I was able to see their creations through their eyes more clearly and the results in my mind shifted from being frustrating to intriguing and inspiring!
I have always considered myself an artist who works for catharsis, yet my university projects are often so rigid and concerned with the final result that any enjoyment is quickly sucked out of the work. Working with young children has served as an important reminder that my practise should be more free. That the most important aspect of my artwork is my enjoyment, because although the results might not always be perfect compared to how I imagined them, they will always be a display of my expression. With a interest in psychology and sociology, the autobiographical and anthropological aspects of art fascinate me and these aspects will always exist regardless of intent. Often what we see as our artistic imperfections can actually create a sense of self. They display our individuality in a way that cannot be learnt or copied. It is no wonder that I find my work frustrating and tedious when I am so concerned with suppressing these aspects. I am not a photo-realistic artist and sometimes my abilities are inadequate to my mind’s eye. But that’s OK… my abilities will develop with time regardless.
In my previous post ‘Artistic Regression‘ I outlined two possibilities that I could explore to give meaning to my work: Reconnecting with the inner child artistically, or philosophically. Here, I will expand upon each idea.
The idea of expressing an outlook of positive nihilism stems from the observation of differences between how children and adults think and what we can learn from their naivety. Cause of upset for young children is much more instinctive – If they are hungry/thirsty, are uncomfortable (too cold, too hot, soiled nappy etc.), lonely or in immediate danger (for example, maybe a big scary dog barked at them.) You do not see young children worry about the way they look or whether they have been productive enough for the day. Young children do not comprehend racism or sexism and they don’t care if their peer is less intelligent than themselves so they do not limit their social interactions.
As adults, there are many things we worry about or give strength to that are simply not necessary or absurd so the idea of positive nihilism is a reminder to release ourselves of the un-necessary stresses we put on ourselves due to societal or personal pressures. It is a reminder that in the great span of the universe we share, our lives are insignificant and meaningless, that there are many things we do not know – if there is an afterlife or correct religion. Thus, we should embrace the potentially short life we have and live as happily as possible and in harmony with our habitat and peers. It is illogical to worry about the things we do not know and it is daft to debase our experience of life with un-necessary upset.
The website below defines the stages of critical thinking development.
The imagination of the child is perceived as being much less limited than that of an adult. As adults, we are more likely to be perfectionist and/or curb our artistic limits to the perceptions of others. We often limit our expression with notions of beauty, sanity and directly observable skill. However, give paint to a child and they will happily scrawl away. A child could be at the age where they are only able to produce nonsensical scribbling or at the age where they are starting to be able to depict content. Either way, they appear to find more joy in the process than the finished artefact. As adults, we have far more life experience, we have observed more arts and potentially had more surreal dreams. [1.] Thus, the content of our imagination should surely be more expansive than that of a chid? Perhaps then, it is simply our inability to access our imagination without disruption that leads us to believe children are more imaginative?
Mica Hendricks is an illustrator and graphic artist who describes herself as a ‘busy mockingbird’. Mockingbirds will employ the birdsong of many other species to create their own, unique performance. In this way, the mockingbird rearranges reality in the same way that the artist creates. Similar to the mockingbird’s ‘art’ (audio,mimicking other birds), Hendricks is not bound to a specific subject, but does work within one media (2D visual arts) and displays a strong theme throughout her work (portraiture).
One of Hendricks’ projects is her on-going collaborative work with her 4-year-old daughter and this is the work that interests me. The project came about when Hendricks’ daughter caught sight of the brand-new sketchbook that Hendricks was doodling a face in at the time. Typically of children, her daughter was immediately filled with an overwhelming desire to also draw in the book her mother was using. Cleverly tricking Hendricks with her own words “If you can’t share, we might have to take it away if you can’t share.” her daughter convinced Hendricks to allow her to finish the doodle she had been working on. Hendricks told her daughter that she was going to draw a body for the lady, to which her daughter exclaimed that she wanted to do it. The result was unexpected and fantastic. The previously perfectionist Hendricks had leant her work to the limitless imagination of her young daughter and in doing so found a way of letting go of her own controlled nature of working. Much to the excitement and critique of her daughter, Hendricks finalizes each image herself. After Hendricks’ daughter started to ask to complete more works, the collaboration soon became a fun regular activity for the pair. (Hendricks describes the whole process on her website here.)
Hendricks’ artistic tool kit for this project includes:
- Ballpoint pen (standard quality, used for base and finishing touches)
- Sharpies or Prismacolor brush-tips (Used for colour blending)
- Acrylic Paint (Used for highlighting)
- Watercolour Paint (Used for highlighting)
The motives behind the project were purely recreational fun with her daughter and Hendricks keeps all of the original images to give to her daughter when she grows up. For this reason Hendricks seldom takes commissions for the project. (On her website Hendricks states “…we’ve decided not to put the pressure of custom work on her at age 4. We have so much fun with these, I would hate for it to seem like a job for her.”)
It is important to express and consider the motives behind any collaboration to avoid any unethical impressions being expressed, such as exploitation. (In particular, artists who collaborate with others are often accused of exploitation for fame or profit, so it is extremely important to ethically consider every aspect of a project in order to maintain artistic and professional integrity.)
The original image that sparked the project.
The above image is particularly interesting in showing the way unlimited aspects of a child’s imagination: The red surrounding the caterpillar-woman is a chrysalis.
The above image shows how the imagination of children is not concerned with things such as notions of beauty or artistic challenge. This slug-lady provoked comedic joy from Hendricks’ daughter.
(Source for all images: http://busymockingbird.com/2013/08/27/collaborating-with-a-4-year-old/)
I have decided to focus on making tea bowls as I feel the procedure of drinking from one embodies a sense of tranquillity. The tea bowl demands much more attention than a mug/glass/cup as they are typically held with both hands. Therefore, the user is much less likely to multi-task whilst drinking. Thus, the tea bowl is more likely to engage the user and be able to effectively portray the desired reminder of the importance to take time to relax.