Sunday, 19 July 2015

Blarney in Bloom Festival

Although this year's Blarney in Bloom festival turned into a bit of a washout, there was still a high volume of people around the Arts & Crafts area and the added attraction of being covered over definitely helped!

Liz Spillane for provided a very popular and interesting workshop using felting and oversized knitting techniques. Both adults and children alike thoroughly enjoyed the experience with many people coming away from it feeling the benefits of its therapeutic effects. It was great to see people from all ages get a chance to experience such a unique crafting skill and many were amazed of the shear simplicity in the creation of a beautiful piece. Liz has also very kindly donated the finished piece to the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind for them to auction off to help add to their fundraising efforts.

There was Trojan work carried out by everyone who helped out with the set up on the Friday, especially as they have now practically doubled the willow tunnel. 

As per usual, the tree cosies make for an excellent talking point and never fail to create interest from all the Castle’s many visitors.

It's always great to get the opportunity to work on a larger scale creating pieces for the outdoors in such a beautiful setting. Karin Kempf added to her fuzzy fungus from last year and created even more weird and wonderful pieces this year, her talent knows no bounds!

Martina Carroll made a provoking web made using crochet that fitted in perfectly in the arboretum and looks like it was always there.  Martina also made and interesting creeper-like hanging piece that fits in perfectly with the poison garden.

We moved the walk-through installation to the large rose walkway this year where it made for very colourful photographs.

There were some interesting ideas floating around from everyone on the day for next year’s festival so I look forward to seeing what people come up with. 

As per usual, we can always rely on the weavers and spinners to help to give the wow factor and they definitely delivered this year by bringing along a full untreated fleece which was a brilliant talking point with everyone who stopped by. It's always great for the public to get a chance to see how yarn is made from start to finish, and by doing so, helping to keep this traditional craft alive and well. I look forward to seeing what they can bring to the event next year! 

There was plenty going on in the crating area as we had several activities available for everyone who came our way. There were plenty of busy little hands at work making paper beads to create their very own necklaces and bracelets.

The wool corner was as successful as it always is with all sorts of woolly creations being made by little and big hands! There were people learning to crochet, knit, make pom poms, woolly men, magic eyes and dreamcatchers.

The previous two years we charged for the more intricate workshops and donated this money to the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind. This year we decided to focus on just providing great free activities for the public to take part in and in doing so help make the festival an attractive day out for families as all the money taken on the gate is given directly to the charity. In doing so we were able to encourage more people to take part in our activities and hopefully in turn generate more interest in traditional crafts such as these and the amazing skills that are displayed by all of the talented  members of the Cork Textiles Network.

I look forward to coming up with new exciting ideas for next year's festival.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

The Blarney in Bloom Launch Day

Once all the pieces had dried fully from painting, the only thing left to do was to varnish everything to ensure they would be protected from the Irish weather! I used Yacht varnish for this as it has proved to be the most resilient to wet weather. 
Once everything was varnished it was time to put the finished pieces into place in Blarney Castle Gardens. The space we would be using for the installation lent itself well to the project as it contains a large oversized picnic table made form reclaimed railway sleepers.
In the trees surrounding the table the smaller cups that the children had made were hung using fishing line and they gave an ethereal feel to the space. They looked fantastic when all together especially as they were all blue and white.
There was a lot of excitement when the students got to see the finished installation in it's place and we had lots of fun pretending to drink tea and eat large cakes!

As it was the launch day for the IGD fundraiser that is Blarney in Bloom there was also a Guide dog present for the occasion which was big hit with all the children. We also had a local councillor in attendance which was brilliant to help to give the whole event as much coverage as possible

Now all that was left to do was to prepare for the festival itself as the Cork textiles Network will carry out it's annual colourfication of the gardens by adding some woolly fun to different areas of this already beautiful space!

Finshed project

I'm a bit late in posting the final details of the Mad Hatter Project but with all the goings on for the launch and then the Blarney in Bloom festival itself it was difficult finding the time. 
On the last day of the workshop in the school we worked with the 3rd & 4th class and took them for the full 2 hours as the 5th & 6th class was unavailable on the day.
This actually worked to our advantage as we could get all of the painting completed in the one day. We also experimented with an attempt at making lampshades using balloons and doilies but this did not work out to plan! The balloons were not strong enough and they were exploding from the merest touch once blown up regardless of how full they were. Seeing as this was not part of the original plans it didn't affect the rest of the project.

It was great to see the students get the chance to get creative with different aspects of the project and there was a very productive table working on the signs that are familiar with the Alice in Wonderland story.

The painting of the hat took on a life of it's own and the finished result developed organically with the students scraping shapes into the thick layers of paint applied that day. 

We were very impressed with all the hard work of all the students of the school, especially during parts of the process that may not have been the most appealing..........applying the glue by hand was not the most popular of activities! The thought of the end goal was enough to keep them focused on the task at hand and there was a lot of excitement building in the school as all of the children would get the chance to see their finished work in place at Blarney when they would all attend the launch for the Blarney in Bloom festival the following Thursday.

It was a thorough pleasure working with all the different ages and abilities for such a continued period of time and hopefully we will be back with the school for some future project.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Firday 12th June

I never got round to writing up the blog from last week, but it involved the 5th & 6th Class and 3rd & 4th Class. They were carrying out the last of the paper mache on the large items for the installation. All the pupils were glad to hear that it was the last workshop doing that technique and were looking forward to painting all the objects.

We started with the 5th & 6th  class and it was their job to decide on designs for the different items. For the teacups and saucers they worked in pairs with one person doing the teacup and the other the saucer. We had some images from printed out of the most familiar characters in the story to give them a starting point on their designs. The different character that we had decided to use are: Alice; Cheshire Cat; Rabbit; Queen of hearts; Tweedle Dum & Tweedle Dee; Caterpillar. The hat will already be representing the Mad Hatter so there was no need to include him. 

It took a bit of figuring out and they were able to practice first on paper before drawing on the finished design. They had fun trying to work out how to use the shape of the cups themselves as a way to add to the design. Once they were happy with the design they then had to decide on colour schemes for each place setting. The 5th & 6th Class started the painting and then the 1st & 2nd class took over when they came to the workshop at 2pm. 

To give some texture to the surface of the Mad Hatter's Hat, we used a combination of red and black paints, layering them on using tissue to dab on the additional layers. It will need some further work this coming Friday so we will use sponges this time to give that textured look. 

They also had to decide on colours for the cakes and sweets and had a lot of fun coming up with some very colourful results!

We decided to go with the very familiar blue and white patterns for the milk jug and sugar bowl. While the teapot is a very bright yellow that will need more painting also in the next workshop. Also, we will need to make sugar for the sugar bowl which will be made from styrofoam painted with glitter glue.

The final workshop is taking place this coming Friday and the installation will be put in place and be used for the launch of the Blarney in Bloom Festival that takes place on Thursday 25th June. It is hoped that as many pupils as possible will get the chance to see their hard work in the beautiful setting of Blarney Gardens as well as taking part in a photoshoot for the launch along with the IGD and members of Cork County Council.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Friday 29th May

We started the day with the senior infants as they still had to paint their teacups. There was lots of discussion about what design they might use and to help get them started we passed around some patterned paper and printed designs such as flowers, butterflies, pirates etc... to give them some inspiration. The limiting of only two colours really challenges the children to think about how they might make their teacup stand out from everyone elses. To apply the paint they had to use cotton buds as these encourage them to make patterns a lot more than if they used a brush. The natural instinct when you hand the younger children a brush, is to cover the cup in the one block colour! They did a fantastic job and are all very excited to see what the finished installation will look like.


5th & 6th Class.           

It was now time to start on all the big items for the tea party so the children were getting back to the construction part of the process.

 For the plates on the plate stand they stuck together the pre-cut cardboard circles. The sugar bowl base is an old plastic plant pot.
For the milk jug they cut a large rectangle of cardboard and taped it into a cylinder shape with added circles on the base and inside to hold the shape. To strengthen these circles they cut two of each and taped them together with the grain of the cardboard running at right angles, this makes it stronger and less likely to bend.

 The donuts were made from a length of hose pipe inserted into foam pipe insulation and then covered in bubble wrap.

The slice of cake was made from aeroboard cut and stuck into the triangular shape.

The bottle is a large fanta bottle. 

The teacups were made by smearing the outside of a large salad bown in Vaseline, covered in cling-film and then covered in paper mache. They then inserted circle cut outs on the inside as otherwise they wouldn’t hold their shape. The handles for the cups are made from floristry wire wrapped in newspaper and bent into the question mark shape.

All these items were then covered in paper mache using newspaper and the flour paste. Once they had applied 2 layers, they then used cardboard that had been soaked for a few minutes, excess water squeezed out, and then the layers separated. Using cardboard in this way is much quicker than newspaper for building up layers and also makes items very strong and durable.
The 5th & 6th class started the process and carried out most of the construction part of the process. There was lots of discussion about how the cakes and donuts might be decorated with suggestions from the children of using beads to look like sprinkles and suing sand to give texture to the sugar lumps. Those making the milk jug suggested painting the inside and using cling film  to make it look like liquid and this could also be used for the teacups. The 1st & 2nd class then continued from where they left off and did most of the paper mache. There was also lots of talk about what flavour donuts they should be with chocolate being voted the top favourite.

After some debate about what type of cake to make, it was decided that a strawberry sponge might work best as the colours would be easy to replicate and be very effective. Some children were close to drooling imagining the cakes were real! They did a fantastic job and all the finished items are well on their way to being completed.
This coming Friday we will be applying the second layer of cardboard to most of the items and getting started on the very large teapot. They will be able to add more detail and shape this week by taping on rolled up paper and other items to add parts such as the cream on the cake and icing on the donuts. 

Monday, 18 May 2015

Friday 15th May

The first group to attend today's workshop was the Junior infants. Their cups had been prepared with a painting of a white base layer so they could get straight into painting their designs onto their cups. We passed around numerous images and pattern types to give them some ideas. Once they got over the limitations of only using blue and white, they got stuck into the design process. They were using the cotton buds to apply the paint to their cups and it was very interesting to see how the different children approached this and used the buds in various ways. Some were intent on just covering the cup in the one colour, some use the buds to make a pattern and others make recognisable shapes on the surface. It was great to see them notice that when the inside of the cup was painted with a particular design that it changed the perception giving it a 3D effect in some cases. Once girl did a lovely design on the inside of her cup that when looked at from above, looked like a rose. Once all the cups were completed they then moved onto painting the bunting using numerous foam stamps, cotton buds and eventually fingers and hands! 

The next group attending workshops were the 3rd & 4th Class. They were also at the stage of painting their cups but their cups had only been prepared with a coat of gesso primer paint, Using this type of primer makes it easier for them to then only need to apply one layer of base coat before applying their design. The primer also makes it easier for the base layer to dry using a hair dryer for a few minutes. We passed around the different designs and patterns to give them some ideas and they had the option of using brushes as well as cotton buds. It was great to see how creative they could be with something as simple as a cotton bud and there were a lot of interesting designs by the end of the session. We explained that the cups will all need to be painted with PVA glue to protect them from the elements as they will be outdoors for the finished installation. 

The Final group to attend the workshop was the 5th & 6th Class. Their cups were dried and prepared with a layer of gesso primer the same as for the previous group. Once they had decided on which colour to use as a base layer, we then dried them using the hair dryer in order for them to then apply their chosen design. As with the last group they could use either brushes or cotton buds for the design. 

We also had some of the children helping to make colourful flag bunting using paint swatch cards and twine which will also be used as decoration around the installation. 

It was great to see all the painted cups from the day lined up and they created quite and impact with the limited use of colour and it will be exciting to see how they look when all 131 are in place!