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The Joy of Being a Maker

11 July 2017

Earlier this year we worked on a small-scale built project for Shoreditch Park Primary School with Bow Arts.

It was one of those perfectly sized projects that allows us to co-design the physical work with a class of 30 children and then actually turn their ideas into reality. So we took four classes, four authors and the whole of team make:good and got stuck in.

There is something so powerful about standing back at the end of a project and thinking ‘I made that’, ‘I contributed to that’. It wasn’t easy and we had to change some things as we went along due to technicalities and budget – but in the end we all felt so proud of our creations.

We carried out four workshops in each class to develop concepts for immersive and imaginative structures, creating elements that linked with the children’s favourite things about reading and their assigned class authors, before designing and installing four distinct, immersive reading spaces in the school.

Throughout the workshops the children identified a number of visual themes and structural ideas, as well as a colour palette that resonated with each author’s work. We incorporated these into the designs for the different spaces for a true co-design experience.

Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl’s stories are well-loved and have many iconic scenes and details. We decided to recreate Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket on the floor, and paid homage to The Twits’ inverted living room with a chair and carpet on the ceiling. The class wrote their dream narratives swirling within handmade marbled paper and tucked safely inside one of The BFG’s Dream Jars. To honour the illustrations of Quentin Blake the students used pen and ink to draw characters onto luggage labels to decorate the inside of the structure.

David Almond

Birds and feathers are recurring themes in David Almond’s work, such as ‘Skellig’, ‘My Name is Mina’ and ‘My Dad is a Bird Man’, so the class decorated hundreds of feathers to cover the ceiling. The class also created intricate string stars (inspired by ‘Counting Stars’) that decorate the exterior and interior. A copper ladder was installed to lead to an acrylic dome in the roof; referencing ‘The Boy who climbed into the Moon’ and the atmospheric forest from ‘Savage’ is the backdrop to complete this space.

Michael Morpurgo

Michael Morpurgo’s books frequently address the natural world, its beauty and the creatures who inhabit it. Based on the children’s ideas, we designed a magical forest enclave, with a waterfall and river running through it. The class produced intricately decorated wooden leaves which form the roof canopy and made adorable cork woodland creatures to live in its branches. This class now get to read in whilst sat on the riverbank deep in a forest!

Shaun Tan

Australian illustrator and author Shaun Tan often creates surreal, mechanical and strangely amusing dystopias. We captured his rugged industrial and topsy-turvy sense of humour in a vehicle-like contraption and with a star chart on the floor and grass on the ceiling. The exterior is embellished with tongue-in-cheek bureaucratic instructions, directional signage and mechanical hardware, inspired by ‘The Lost Thing’. The class created the inner workings with decorative cog powered panels. Growing from the ceiling lawn are bizarre alien plants from Tan’s short story ‘Eric’, also made by the children.

We don’t get to work on projects like this very often – you need the right mix of built scale, budget to fabricate, timespan and expectation of longevity – but when we get them, they are pure joy and we are delighted to have been part of something that might just inspire a future generation of makers.