At my recent open studio in Hebden Bridge in July, I asked the public for advice, suggestions and parenting strategies about how to go about making this residency child led.

Suggestions and advice that I received from a retired primary school teacher and an artist:

  • Do not dominate
  • Control expectations
  • Be quiet.
  • Give a child space.
  • Hold back.
  • No pressure to have to produce anything or say anything.

The above points are very simple but I know that I am going to find it challenging to keep to the above. I especially will need to learn to relinquish control. I will continue to ask advice from friends, artists and people that work in education for their about how to go about making this residency child-led.

Suggestions and advice that I received from a primary school teaching assistant:

  • Offer some structure, however loose
  • Offer opportunities and possibilities
  • The child needs to be willing to co-operate with you
  • Learn negotiation
  • You could put a child in a room with some materials and see what happens

I posted a call for advice from either parents or children asking the above question “How can I make this residency child led?” via the Artist Facebook groups The Mothernists, Artist/Mother Society, Mothers Who Make and artist pages; We Are Resident and M(other) Stories. Here I have recorded and collated the good advice I have received via these on-line communities  to support myself and Naoise during the residency and also to provide a resource for other parent/artists.

What works very well in the Steiner tradition is to simply be a do-er. If you sit down and quietly start to do something, then chiildren will very often come over and ask “can I do that?” . Let them come and go. They will come and join in, then go away to play.

Frances Earnshaw (Artist/ Steiner School Educator)

I love this idea! Do you know Townley and Bradby? I love their child-led tours of art museums and neighborhoods – I’m sure they’d have some interesting thoughts to add here. My own thought is based on various child-led forms of early education too… if you as the artist curate a set of objects to serve as provocations based on the location (i.e. a table set up with bowls of local stones you’ve collected with a stack of colored paper and some kid scissors – then see what happens). You could also take turns setting up prompts for each other. Could turn into collage, animation, performance, printmedia, a book, whatever. Heck – this makes me want to try.

Christa Donner (Artist/ Cultural Reproducers)

I am doing a postcard painting project a the moment with Nina and Theo. I just set the postcards out and make some marks/images and they come and go as they please. I talk to them about problems I am having resolving the works or we talk about their problems and work together. It’s fun working on them separately too and seeing what happens. Chatting a lot is good though so as not to encroach on each others special investigations. It’s interesting relinquishing control for us all!!! X

Fiona Stirling (Artist)

Many parents (us included) do child led learning. You become the facilitator, following their interests and leads, and trust that your child has an innate desire to learn, be creative and be curious. Its hard not to try and direct and control, it take a serious degree of self-awareness but its incredible!

Lizz Shaw-Griffiths (Graphic Designer/Education)

Frances Earnshaw also suggested that I look at Deborah Curtis & Gavin Turk’s The House of Fairy Tales project. These comments by Deborah Curtis in an article in Dazed and Confused magazine are helpful especially the reference to the Situationists and the creative curiosity of children, and the child in every adult.

DD: So the charity seeks to engage adults and children. How does that work?

Deborah Curtis: This comes naturally to us because we don’t really like stuff that is produced just for children. We don’t find it visually sophisticated or engaging: often a bit patronising. Children are naturally curious, playful and non cynical. But there is a child existing in every adult. Our contemporary society is quite juvenile because the adults are attempting to retreat to their childhood instead of living out the playful and curious adult.

DD: You have cited the Situationists as inspiration for the charity. What did they do and how has it impacted the House of Fairy Tales?

Deborah Curtis: Children learn best through doing. This is about the process, not about the right or wrong answer, which is an idea at the heart of the Situationists’ own subversive approach.

Gavin Turk – The House of Fairy Tales: Deborah Curtis, artist Gavin Turk’s wife, discusses The House of Fairy Tales, Dazed and Confused, 6th August 2012

Many thanks to all those who have kindly contributed with advice if you would like to add to this resource simply post a comment via this blog, alternatively send me an email helen_sargeant@hotmail.com or PM me via Facebook.