Artist Maisie Maris and Mayflower Primary Art Coordinator Ben Jones worked together with a steering group of Cultural Ambassadors from Years 1 to 6 to lead an exciting sculpture and enterprise project: Made in Poplar.
Ben tells us: “The project was very much a collaborative process. It was important to me that we used the expertise of everyone to make the project as successful and meaningful for the pupils as possible.” The pair had similar ideas for the project as Maisie explains: “Ben and I were very keen to push the boundaries of creative thinking and to embed our interest in to the sessions.”
Maisie and Ben started with a visit to the Barbican Centre to collect sketches, rubbings and photos inspired by the brutalist architecture of the building.
Back at school, Maisie introduced the children to sculptural processes and different casting techniques, working with concrete, jesmonite and plaster. They were encouraged to experiment with the materials before deciding on the products they would design, make and sell.
The collaboration had a profound impact for both Artist and Teacher. Ben tells us “It felt important to introduce the idea of being an artist/maker as a vocation”, and Maisie adds “I have taken so much from our time working together and feel more confident as both a teacher and artist because of his teaching and support.”
Drawing on their own areas of expertise, Ben was able to “ensure that the project was linked with a whole school focus” while Maisie “brought a wide range of technical skills and material knowledge to the project.”
Ben believes that Maisie’s “enthusiasm for the project and its themes and outcomes was one of the most important elements of our partnership.” Maisie describes how Ben’s “experience and knowledge of the pupil’s capabilities helped us to shape the project accordingly whilst also enabling a high level work to be made.”
The project culminated with a visit to Bow Arts and the Nunnery Gallery where the group set up a stall and displayed their collection for sale. The children approached gallery visitors explaining the background and processes behind their artworks and encouraging them to purchase their product range.
The Cultural Ambassadors then delivered a casting and moulding workshop for Bow Arts staff and artists. Ben says that the children “have become ‘experts’ in the casting process and will now be able to teach others how to create a range of products.” Maisie adds, “I felt a huge sense of achievement as I watched the pupils deliver their own CPD/skills session. Listening to them explain each stage of the process while beautifully executing each step was a real testimony to their engagement and determination throughout the project.”
The Cultural Ambassadors will attend the Poplar Consortium Celebration event in March to celebrate all of their achievements across the year.