All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.
– Pablo Picasso
Nestled upstairs in the Greenbank Pub, Karen Davies and Alice Hendy of Let’s Make Art are busy creating a pre-school art class with a difference. This week’s book is The Tiger Who Came To Tea and the children are making tiger balloons and tea cups. The atmosphere is relaxed and cheery and if they lose interest in the activity (these are toddlers after all!) there are tigers and tea sets to play with too. Once everyone’s finished creating, we read the book together with the children clutching their new artworks proudly!
Karen and Alice draw inspiration from a variety of artists to create really unique pieces of art with the children. For these classes the projects are based around a different book each week and are a great mix of classic, abstract and funny.
There is also a Let’s Make Art after school art club and they pop up all around town doing one off workshops for the RWA and Bristol Energy Hub as well as events like Jump Around and the Christmas Speigeltent. Last year they put on Doodle Day where children and artists spent the day busily drawing together.
In our first BAM interview, we found out what makes them tick…
Why did you start Let’s Make Art?
We started it up in 2012 because we felt there was a need for high quality arts workshops in Bristol that exposed children to contemporary and classical artists. Children are natural artists and deserve more than cutting and sticking. We both have a background in the arts (textiles, photography and sculpture) and felt we had a lot to offer.
Why do you think your classes are so popular?
We think it’s because our ideas engage both children and adults. The planning we do and materials we use lead to works of art that children are proud of and parents want to display.
How would you rate the arts education in our schools?
It’s mixed. Art educators are doing their best with limited funding and a subject that’s being marginalised. We applaud schools that are making interesting cross curricular links and incorporating the arts where they can. It would be fantastic to have more artist visits in schools to inspire children.
What’s been your favourite project so far?
We had two highlights last year. Our Boxhead workshop for the Southbank Arts Trail was a development from our Papersack Costume workshop and worked beautifully. It was a lot of fun and the children’s imaginations made it a brilliant event. The other was Doodle Day which was part of The Big Draw in October. It was the most adventurous and the biggest event we had ever done, but we had the support of so many talented artists giving their time for free along with local independent businesses and volunteers – it was a huge success.
Who are your personal art throbs?
Alice: John Berger, Marina Abramović, Christian Boltanski, Sally Mann, DeeDee Cheriel… I could go on!
Karen: I am very privileged to know lots of talented folk from way back to my college years like Anna Marrow, Will Barras, Mr Jago, Damien Neary, Steve ‘Block 9’ Gallagher, Mark Murphy and John Bennett. Then there’s Picasso, of course. Also, I love the work of Nick Cave, an American fabric sculptor, dancer, and performance artist who is best known for his Soundsuits. And there’s the Watanoha Smile Project, where Japanese children made sculptures out of debris from the 2011 tsunami.
We have workshops in the pipeline inspired by a few of these mentioned – very exciting times ahead!
What’s your favourite piece of public art in Bristol?
Alice: The derelict Parcel Force building near Temple Meads
Karen: I love The Bear in the Bearpit and also the foam scaffolding protectors that popped up on various sculptures around the city last year. The Call in Sick/You Look Tired graffiti on the temporary Princess St Bridge always makes me smile too.
Some of Karen & Alice’s art throbs: