Working With Artists & Creative Practitioners

A cre8us legacy site

The end and the beginning June 17, 2012

Filed under: Background,Cre8us — purpleclaire @ 11:14 am
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My work on this blog site has for now come to an end but please do keep using it and passing onto others.

This site has been set up as part of the legacy of Cre8us and the amazing work from artists and creative practitioners who worked as part of the Creative Partnerships programme in the Cre8us area.  The case studies blogged and within these pages are for you to be inspired by, learn from and ask questions.

Please do get in touch if you’d like anything more from this site or have something to offer.  Please post responses if you wish and pass onto others that you think would find helpful.

I hope that for those who have been accessing the site you have found it helpful and will continue to do so.

Thank you to all the people who have contributed, read and forwarded onto others.

It’s the end of the regular posts looking back at Cre8us and Creative Partnerships but I hope very much its the beginning of something else.

Claire Marshall
Creative Agent for Cre8us 2007 to 2012


Sally Harper-Kenn – Collaborative Approach to Outdoor Spaces April 11, 2012

St John the Baptist Catholic Primary School.

A collaboration project with Year 1, Helen Dixon & Kate Kinnay (class teacher& TA) and Sally Harper-Kenn (Creative Practitioner)

‘How can we develop a creative approach to teaching and learning using the outdoor environment to foster creativity?’

From our initial discussions and planning meetings it was apparent that there was a need to develop the outdoor setting as a creative hub of investigation and child centred learning. The outdoors was not utilised and the space was large enough to use during lesson times and to develop a source of stored materials. From the schools point of view they were interested in promoting independent learners, developing an exciting space outdoors and encouraging a hands on, practical approach. Did we achieve this? Yes in some ways I think we did! We reflected well and we definitely were effective risk takers.

After a planning session with the class teacher, we decided to give the children a great starting point by collecting lots of scrap and recycled materials, which would be permanently stored outside the classroom. The children were offered the chance to work with whatever materials they wanted and with who ever they wanted to work with for the first session. They worked well in small groups and their imaginations ignited when offered several buckets, boxes and bags full of recycled materials. They enjoyed working in groups and their conversations were about cooperation and investigation, which was a positive start. The materials were arranged outside the classroom in large containers (there is now a bunker for everything to be stored) but this was a task in itself to keep it tidy and organised as the children were so excited about using it and most of it ended up scattered around the outside area. From the first open-ended session the children developed houses and dens, motorbikes they could sit on and even a rocket larger than them. They talked about their constructions in great depth, explaining how they had made it and the story behind it.

Some children found the experience a little overwhelming, given the open space, the fact that they were outdoors and to them, given free reign. For these children they needed a little more guidance to progress, so over the next couple of visits the children worked individually in the morning learning how to join and connect how to imagine in 3D and inspiration for building structures. This seemed to work very well and gave all of the children the knowledge to build and construct for themselves.

As the sessions developed it was obvious that the children were not only enjoying the making and building but also the feeding back of information. In the afternoon we would work for an hour to finish off outside then the remainder of the afternoon was set aside for evaluating and developing ideas for the next session. As this idea progressed the children got much better at telling their story, being able to articulate to their peers their ideas and reasoning for their work. I think the class teacher was inspired by this and started to include this into her model of teaching on days when I wasn’t there. From these plenary sessions the children developed ideas to build dens and houses (this tied in with the theme running through their learning for that term) and this then progressed into ideas for housing in general resulting in animal and bird houses created from the recycled materials.

So while these sessions were taking place could we document other areas of learning? With the structure building came about role play, the children started to make up stories about who lived in the buildings and these characters they brought to life by dressing up in some of the fabrics collected with the recycled materials. Some children were more interested in the mathematics of getting the buildings to stand, adding windows and developing construction techniques.

To push their learning on further and to develop other ways of using the outdoors the children were offered different materials to experiment with. As the maths coordinator, the class teacher was looking at different and interesting ways of using the outdoor space which she could then use and adapt for future sessions. To give the project the sustainability and assurance that the space was going to be utilised we designed a set of tasks for the children to work with linking it to the building they were already doing and to link with curriculum tasks. The weather had impacted a lot on our sessions, often working in the rain or being very cold. To utilise these effects we set about creating rain gauges and looking at the transfer and flow of water using drain pipes. Each activity was documented and the children recorded and shared their findings. This also started a discussion about environmental issues and we returned to our original discussion about the use of recycled materials.

As a frequent visitor in different schools, this was a great opportunity to work with a class teacher and TA who were keen to try new ways of working and to not plan for every second of the session. They were open to new suggestions and ways of developing the children’s interests and ideas, they were also very good at communicating ideas in between session via email, so I had an idea of what learning had taken place when I wasn’t there. I learnt a lot about how children use spaces and why and given more time to develop the project we could have utilised these findings more.

Before the project finished Year 1 invited Year 2 to come and join them for an afternoon of sharing ideas. The area became alive and a hive of activity with year 1 explaining what they had done and how and working with year 2 to create new structures and to rebuild some of the original structures from the start of the project.

The materials, once the project finished were still available for groups of children to access and were stored in a bunker to keep them in easy reach which will hopefully keep inspiring the children and staff to utilise more of their outdoor space and to develop the children’s interest further by offering open ended activities.

Sally Harper-Kenn



Barbara Jones – Second Skin Project January 16, 2012

Barbara JonesMy involvement as a visual artist working with Cre8us/Creative Partnerships started in 2005 with their early years pilot project ‘Second Skin’ which explored and developed innovative ways in which creative learning environments can stimulate learning. At the outset, I was unaware of the significant impact it would have on my future creative practice, just relishing the chance to work collaboratively with eleven other artists from a range of art forms, alongside teachers and early years practitioners and children from five schools and a Children’s Centre in Coventry. We were offered two old classroom spaces (called ‘The Lab’) and our shared creative enquiry involved experimenting with ideas to create multi-sensory creative learning environments which could be adapted and transferred into early years settings. Groups of children played and tested out the environments and showed us their interests and ideas and what worked and what didn’t engage them. It was a big move away from more product-led conventional ways of working as a visual artist which generally involved me in workshop sessions in schools where children explored materials and made a piece of work which was often valued above the learning process.

Barbara JonesIt also opened up a whole new world of resourcing for creative environments and children’s play using more recycled, everyday, found and natural materials and objects which added meaning to my own, ongoing, enquiry into multi-sensory communication. Instead of acquiring workshop materials from art and craft suppliers, I was inspired by visits to recycling centres like WEAVE (, charity shops and general scavenging!

A vital part of the shared ‘Second Skin’ approach involved observing and ‘listening’ to children, letting them lead, capturing the process through photos, film and written observations and reflecting using this documentation, which had always been integral in my work but which found new meaning in it’s power to show and share learning. The work was influenced by the internationally renowned Reggio Emilia Children’s Centres in Italy and the project enabled me and fellow artists and teachers to share a study visit to Reggio, an experience that has had a huge impact on my thinking and practice, particularly informing reflection and environment work.

The project work evolved into early years settings where I still had chance to work closely with other artists, including Tracie Farren (Theatre practitioner), Anna Ryder, (Musician and sound artist), Matt Shaw, (Structural Visual artist) and Louise Bardgett, (Movement and Dance practitioner). With the early years practitioners we took risks, shared skills and developed confidences together to try new things, learning most from things that didn’t work, but the process of reflection and documentation captured these learning moments and gave us evidence and confidence to share and learn.

Barbara JonesThrough the project I learnt much, especially about the value of time and commitment to building relationships with practitioners and a shared understanding of creative approaches to learning. There were times when things were tricky and highly challenging – when the work seemed to be going backwards, not forwards. These were often when new people joined the project or lacked the mutual understanding of what we were trying to do, such as times when staff would just look for tangible adult-led, art products as evidence of creativity, not seeing how the process had developed children’s confidence, creativity and learning across many areas of the curriculum. The Cre8us way of reflecting, documenting and evaluating offered vital evidence as well as informing us how to move on in our own learning journey. The journals and project documentation I have built up has provided a powerful tool to show and share my work.

Barbara JonesThe innovative nature of the ‘Second Skin’ project created wider interest and I was involved in showcasing the work across the Midlands, London and Manchester, providing opportunities to deliver cpd for practitioners as well as spreading the creative approaches to learning. It opened doors to many more years of collaborative early years work and gave me a supporting network of artists and practitioners who share the vision and have helped create opportunities to develop my early years specialism. This has led to work in many schools and children’s centres in Coventry, Leicester and across the Midlands, where collaboration with families has been an exciting development and new learning experience. It has involved working with families in ‘Stay and Play’ type groups as well as an especially memorable opportunity to work with Valley House Children’s Centre and artists Anna and Matt in creating a multi-sensory creative learning environment for children and families, called ‘The Cabin’. The chance to offer creative learning ideas which parents can take home and try out to extend children’s play and learning has been highly rewarding. Parent reflection – Looking back, I believe I have gained more ideas for more natural play and that pretty much anything is a learning activity.

Barbara JonesThe value and impact of the work persuaded Children’s Centres and Schools to find own funds to work with me (and other artists) as a creative partner. I have worked extensively with Radford and St Augustine’s Children’s Centres, Coventry, who now see me as part of their team. The chance to continue developing mutual practice has had many rewards – especially the collaborative nature, (compared to past, more isolated visual arts work). Also of great value is the ongoing relationship with a setting where you see practitioners’ (and parents’) confidence and creativity grow through what they do and say. Here, my role has evolved into one which is more like a critical friend.


Barbara JonesAt some point, part way through my involvement with Ce8us, I came to better see that this creative educational work is my practice and the collaborative making and ideas invested in the projects with other artists, practitioners, children and families is what I find most meaningful and rewarding as an artist and a person. This shared vision has driven me and fellow artists Anna Ryder, Matt Shaw and Louise Bardgett to set up ‘The Very Idea’, our artist collective to try and continue developing our practice by setting ourselves new challenges, experimenting and playing collaboratively with ideas and stuff, supporting each other and creating new work opportunities.

‘I know I’ve grown in my development about being in the garden, so I’m likely to be more creative in setting-up.’
An early years practitioner, Radford Children’s Centre, about developing outdoor environments.

‘It helped parents and children work together to act out the story in a fun way.’
A young parent, St Augustine’s Children’s Centre, about creative ways to bring children’s story books to life




Phone number: 01455 220081/ 07712 015232


Barbara JonesBarbara Jones