Learning Materials

Gas-Air machine: exploring bodies and the senses

In 2016 artist Ella Medley-Whitfield worked with teacher Kelly Waite and Zebra and Lion class from Samuel Rhodes Primary Department on the exhibition Imagine Islington.

Gas-Air Machine

Dr Robert Minnitt developed his first Gas-Air machine in 1933. He was known as ‘the man who killed the agony of child birth’, providing pain relief for mothers during labour. The machine used nitrous oxide gas mixed with air and was designed to be used safely by midwives delivering babies at women’s homes. It was virtually the only form of pain relief for women giving birth until the 1970s.

‘I chose this object because I was working with an SEN school and thought a theme of health had potential to be sensory based and introspective.  I think that this is an important part of the children’s learning and development thinking about their own bodies and development and creatively responding to this idea. It gave us a lot of potential to creatively think about our bodies and senses.

Each of the students created a box as a representation of inside their own bodies. Together they become a collection of the children’s accounts to how they work.’


Activity 1: Making medicine 

  1. We spent a significant amount of time at the start just looking at, exploring and discussing the Gas-Air machine. We talked about what it was for, how it was designed and how it might work. We discussed the historical context and how the experience of childbirth was different in the past. We finished by linking it to the children’s experience of medicine and hospitals, discussing other machines and medicines that have been created to solve a particular condition. As well as the medicines the children hoped would be created in the future. We encourage discussion, debate, role play and performance.
  2. This led to a discussion of various home-made remedies used through history and today.
  3. We set out a range of different medical supplies for pupils to create their own medicine. These included vinegar, mustard, various fruits, vegetables and herbs, food colouring and water. Pupils had to select, cut, squeeze and measure ingredients into their bowl to create their own medicines.
  4. They then used funnels to transfer their medicines to their own medicine bottle.
  5. Pupils then designed a label explaining the purpose of their medicine and instructions for how it was to be applied.They also added barcodes, images, names and prices bringing in literacy and product design skills, giving a reason for each choice.


Activity 2: ‘Air’ Painting

  1. Inspired by the machine the pupils created their own ‘air’ paintings.
  2. We created a range of stations pupils rotated around. We placed paint in washing up liquid and blew bubbles. We placed paint diluted with water on paper and blew it, directing the movement by blowing through straws. We blew paint diluted with water around paper using a hairdryer. We even used an air pump and hoover to blow paint diluted with water.
  3. Throughout the activities we continually went back to thinking about breathing, the action of breathing, the sounds you made and how and why we breath.
  4. We finished by examining the different abstract marks, seeing if we could recognise the different techniques used and compare their success.

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Activity 3: Body box

  1. For our art installation we decided to create body boxes that explored the sounds, movement and purpose of the Gas-Air machine.
  2. Each pupil had a cardboard cereal packet sized box. The cut out the front panel.
  3. Pupils then covered the box in their ‘air’ paintings.
  4. Any gaps were filled in by the artist with acrylic plastic, but you could also use making or coloured tape to get clean edges.


Activity 4: Body diagrams

  1. Roll out a long roll of paper or wallpaper lining.
  2. We ensured we started this activity by making it very clear that there was no right answer, we wanted to see what the pupils thought and their own interpretations. This gave the group confidence in putting their ideas onto paper.
  3. Pupils lay down and drew around one another using marker pens.
  4. Pupils then labelled the different body parts and added drawings of how they worked.
  5. Throughout the activity we discussed our ideas in groups, creating imaginative descriptions that combined factual information with personal sensory experiences about how for example it felt to breathe, what noises you made and how your body changed.
  6. Each child chose their favourite diagram to add to their body box in a roll down strip.


Activity 5: Body noises

  1. We used sound cards, a special SEN resource,  but you could use any recording resource for this activity such as recording apps, cameras etc.
  2. We spent time discussing the noises our body makes for example when breathing, when eating, when streching etc.
  3. Pupils then recorded their favourite noises.
  4. This created a soundscape for our boxes.

Activity 6: sticky back plastic blood walls

  1. We spent some time discussing our blood and the role of blood during childbirth.
  2. There were a wide range of glitter, sequins and coloured cellophane to be cut up on the table.
  3. Each pupil got a piece of stick back plastic. The peeled off the cover to reveal the sticky side. They then created a design with the resources on this.
  4. Pupils then used pipettes to add drops of red ink or blood on to their design.
  5. With an adults help, they then placed acetated on top of their design, pressing down around the edges in particular so their design was sealed. You might want to add tape around the edges to be extra safe.
  6. You should be able to squeeze the blood through the design in a sensory experience.
  7. These blood wall were added to the back of our boxes.


Activity 7: casting body parts

  1. Pupils used lego bricks to build their interpretation of different body parts, using their diagrams and  making them 3D scultures. We then used clay to build up walls around the designs and poured plaster-of-paris into the moulds. Once dried we could break out the bricks, finding new accidental 3D shapes. We were left with sculptural representations of the childrens’ designs.
  2. A more child friendly version of this for a larger class would be to use fast drying clay or salt dough to make the models. These can then be painted.
  3. These again went inside our body boxes.

 Activity 8: blow pipe

  1. We used a plastic pipe and covered it in thermocratic paint. This clever paint once dry changes colour in response to heat, so when you hold it the heat of your hands should change its colour, leaving behind your hand print when you let go. You need to put the paint on thickly though.
  2. Once dry, we also collaboratively added coloured sticky back vinyl shapes to the pipe, which we cut out of the vinyl sheets, again exploring pattern.
  3. We all had a go at blowing the long pipe to make a sound.
  4. The blow pipe was added to the body box, it mirrored the oxygen tank on the Gas-Air machine.


Want to know more:

Click here to find out more about the artworks created by Blessed Sacrament RC Primary School and Sarah Pimenta as part of the Imagine Islington Project.

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Learning Materials

WWI Embroidered Postcards: Sharing cultures, sharing lives

In 2016 artist Sarah Pimenta worked with teacher Louise Murtagh and Year 1 at Moreland Primary School on the exhibition Imagine Islington.

Second World War embroidered postcards

Leonard Mansfield was only 18 when in 1916 he left his home in Islington for the Western Front where he was a signaller. Leonard was seriously injured in a gas attack on the 25th August 1918 but survived the war.

Leonard sent a number of silk embroidered postcards to his mother and girlfriend, Margaret from the trenches . Beautiful artworks in themselves, they contain embroidered images of French and British flags, flowers, insects and seasonal messages. They give us a unique insight into personal relationships transformed by war.

Panel 7 -Mansfield wedding

Silk cards were manufactured in France from 1900 onwards but became popular throughout the conflict as souvenirs for troops to send home to family and friends in Britain. The embroidery was made at home by French and Belgian women and was then sent to factories to be made into cards. Designs include flowers, patriotic messages and the badges of individual regiments.

Leonard survived his injuries, marrying Margaret in 1925. They lived in Islington for the rest of their lives.

Moreland Primary  chose to work with these objects to explore the idea of why people send postcards . They thought the idea that Margaret had kept the postcards from Leonard so safe for so many years was a lovely message about treasuring and valuing things given to us by those we love. The simple designs of the postcards depicting images from France and England was also an interesting point to start thinking about heritage and identity visually.


 Activity 1: My cultural heritage

  • pencils
  • paper
  1. Explore Leonard’s story with the class. Think about why we send postcards. Our class was very mulitcultural so we explored the idea of sending postcards across different cultures. We looked at how Leonard represented both his home culture and the French culture in which he was temporarily living in the designs and symbols on the postcards. We looked at how this linked into the idea of France and Britain being allies in the Second World War.
  2. Pupils spent time researching their own different cultures, looking for key symbols and colours that represented their perceived cultural identity.
  3. They then designed a postcard that combined these symbols, like a secret code that represented their cultural identity.

Activity 2: Mono printed postcards

  • A5 polytile
  • printing rollers
  • sharp pencils
  • A4 sugar paper
  • block printing ink
  1. We gave each pupil a postcard sized piece of polytile l. Using a pencil, pupils drew their postcard designs on to the polytile, filling the sheet. They needed to be careful to press hard enough into the polytile to make an indentation, but not too hard so that it pierced the polytile.
  2. Pupils put some printing ink on to the paint trays, rolling it with a printing roller until it was smooth.
  3. Pupils then used the printing roller to put ink on to their polytile, covering their design, remembering to not use too much ink.
  4. Pupils place the inked side of the polytile on to a piece of paper. They ran a clean printing roller over the back of the polytile, pressing it on to the paper. They then carefully peeled back the polytile to reveal the printed postcard design on the paper.

Activity 2: experimenting with mono printing

  • A5 polytile
  • printing rollers
  • tissue paper
  • glue
  • scissors
  • mark making tools such as stamps, bubble wrap, lego blocks etc.
  • A4 sugar paper
  • block printing ink
  1. We gave each pupil a piece of sugar paper on which to experiment with mark making techniques. Pupils used different tools dipped in ink to print onto their paper. They experiemented with pattern, shape and colour.
  2. Once dry, we also encouraged pupils to cut and glue a few strategically placed pieces of tissue paper onto their piece of paper on top of the mark making. You can again experiment with colour and shape.
  3. Once everything was dry, we then printed our polytiles again on to our sugar paper, following the instructions above.
  4. Layering techniques created interested explorations of colour.

Moreland was keen to develop its pupils literacy so we turned our artwork in to real postcards. Using Leonard’s text and format as inspiration pupils addressed and wrote their own postcards, sending them to family members.

Want to know more:

Click here to find out more about the artworks created by Blessed Sacrament RC Primary School and Sarah Pimenta as part of the Imagine Islington Project.

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Learning Materials

53 Cross Street: Victorian art inspired by found objects

In 2016 artist Ella Medley-Whitfield worked with teacher Ed and Year 1 at Montem School on the exhibition Imagine Islington.

53 Cross Street

53 Cross Street (Martin King 1994) 01

53 Cross Street, Islington is a grade II-listed Georgian town house, built in 1785. Its first owner was Thomas Vernon, but many different people have lived there over the years including the Tiley family, who ran a metal engraving business in the back yard. During the 1990s, Martin King moved in and started to explore the house. By this point the house had been converted into bedsits.

Martin sought to investigate the history of the house, removing the layers of intervention to rediscover the house’s Georgian character. He removed fake walls, looked under floorboards and peeled off wallpaper, collecting the traces of those who had lived in the house before him. In the process he found hidden treasures, such as historic wallpaper fragments, pieces of clothing and adornment, old toys, bottles and WWII artefacts. He also found a hidden message behind some nailed-up shutters. Tucked inside a bloodstained and much-darned stocking was a piece of wood inscribed ‘George Shaw went to Aameica, March 1785’.

Martin took photographs of the process, revealing a house covered by a thick veil of dust and filled with the decaying memories of a forgotten time. Montem Primary School chose to work with three of the found objects, a Victorian child’s shoe, glasses and belt buckle, as well as exploring the wallpaper fragments and context of the found objects.

Activity 1: Detective game (Link to all three objects)

  1. Get everyone sitting in a circle. The pupils are to be detectives.
  2. Either give them verbal clues about the objects. Pupils have to use the clues to discuss in groups what they this the object is.
  3. Or give pupils visual clues about the objects, showing them different parts of it. Pupils have to use the clues to discuss in groups what they this the object is.
  4. Encourage debate, intrigue and curiosity.

 Activity 2: Chinese whispers (Link to all three objects)

  1. Get the group to sit in a circle. Show them one of the objects.
  2. Ask one child to make a story up about this found object. Pass the story around the circle in Chinese whispers.
  3. Have multiple stories going around the circle at the same time.
  4. Encourage imagination, expression and exploration of all the possible histories of the mystery object.

Activity 3: Find 53 Cross Street (Link to all three objects)

  1. Use google maps to find Cross Street. Where is it compared to your school? Who might have lived in the house.
  2. n.b. the museum has lots of information about the house, including photos of the interior and census records about who lived there if you want to use them.

Activity 3:  ‘In Someone Else’s Shoes’ (Link to shoe)

  1. Find a selection of shoes, all different sizes and types.
  2. The group sits in a circle and takes turns to pick out a pair of shoes. They need to imagine who the shoes might have belonged to. Encourage children to be as precise as possible, imagining the person’s name, age, job, where they lived, when they lived etc.
  3. Taking turns, each pupil puts on their chosen shoes. The rest of the group asks them questions about the person they had become.

Activity 4:  Super power shoe designing (Link to shoe)

  1. In smaller groups design a super power shoe. Get the children to think about the design, its purpose and what it will be made from. Encourage groups to use descriptive language.
  2. Encourage children to use different drawing materials. Montem used watercolour paper and watercolour pencils so they could experiment with smudging techniques.

Activity 5:  Clay shoes (Link to shoe)

  1. Get children to study the shape of the shoe, focusing initially on the sole. Children draw their own shoe soles, ensuring they are not too small. Cut out the sole template. Roll out some clay, place the sole template on top and use the tools to cut round it, creating a clay sole. Be careful the clay sole doesn’t stick to the table.
  2. Then children can start to build up the ‘shoe walls’ to create 3D shoes. Focus on creating the basic shape before adding any decoration.
  3. n.b. we use fast drying clay as it doesn’t need to go in a kiln. We worked on boards and used plastic clay tools.

Activity 6:  View master interpretation game (Link to all three objects)

  1. You’ll need a frame made out of card and some old images. Islington Museum has lots of images of people and buildings from Victorian Islington that you can use.
  2. The teacher describes what they can see through the view master.
  3. The children have to draw what they describe, interpreting what they think the teacher is looking at. Make sure they don’t see the image!
  4. Show the children the image you were describing. Talk about their different interpretations.
  5. Then switch and let one of the children be in charge with a new image.

Activity 7: Mark making through Victorian games (Link to shoe)

  1. You’ll need a collection of Victorian inspired mark making tools. We used skipping ropes, hoops and skittles. Also good are marbles and balls.
  2. Outside, perhaps in the playground, lay a giant sheet of paper. You might need children standing a each end to hold it down.
  3. The children take turns in groups to dip their mark making tools in paint and experiment with them to create marks on the paper. Dip the marbles, ball and hoops in paint and roll them on the paper. Dip the ropes in paint and play a Victorian skipping game with them on the paper. Dip the skittles and ball in paint and play skittles.
  4. As well as learning about Victorian childhood, you’ll encourage experimentation, teamwork, playful explorations and manual dexterity.




Activity 8: Wire glass making and fantasy film dipping (Link to glasses)

  1. You’ll need drawing wire, some pliers for the teacher to cut the wire, and cellophane or’ dip it fantasy film.’
  2. Explore the shape of the glasses
  3. Give each child some pieces of wire, show them how to bend it to create circles. Show them how to join the pieces of wire to create glasses. This is challenging but encourages fine motor skills, patience and structural skills.
  4. Once the glasses are finished you can dip the circles into fantasy film. When  it drys it will create a coloured plastic ‘glass.’ Our pupils found this a bit challenging, and the smell was a little toxic if you were doing it indoors. An alternative would be to attach  coloured cellophane instead to the wire to create coloured glasses.
  5. The children loved wearing the glasses for role play!

Activity 9: Mixing paint pigments (Link to wallpaper)

  1. This is messy so you may wish to do it outdoors. You’ll need powder paint, palettes, paintbrushes and water.
  2. Discuss how paints were made in the past. Link to the wallpaper fragments focusing particularly on the hand painted examples. Where would the artist have got the paint? How would they have mixed it up?
  3. Place some powder paint in the palettes. Show the children how to add water slowly, mixing to get the right consistency of paint.
  4. Then let them experiment.
  5. Keep the paints created for your own wallpaper art.

 Activity 9: Wall stencil making (Link to wallpaper)

  1. Have a look at the shapes and patterns on the wallpapers. Discuss that you think the different designs represent. Look for repeat patterns, how do you think they were created?
  2. Introduce the children to the idea of stencils.
  3. You’ll need card, pencils and scissors. Get the pupils to draw their own stecil design. Discuss what shapes make the best stencils. If appropriate, you could design stencils that explore symmetry.
  4. Pupils cut out their stencils. You can use your home-made paints to test them out on sugar paper. Remember to encourage children to create repeat patterns.

Activity 10: Mark making with school objects (Link to the shoe, wallpaper and Victorian childhood)

  1. Start by discussing the similarities and differences between school in Victorian times and today. You can use the Victorian child shoe as your starting point, imaging who might have worn it and what their life would have been like in Victorian Islington.
  2. Then create your own school inspired printed wallpaper. You could use both modern and historical school objects as printing tools. Ones that we found worked particularly well were rulers, building blocks (esp lego), marbles, sharpeners and the bottom of pencils.
  3. You’ll need paint trays, paint and sugar paper.

 Activity 11: Clay lost object making and painting (found objects)

  1. Introduce the idea of found objects inspiring art. There are many historic and contemporary artists that use found objects in their practice. You could explore the work of Picasso, Henry Moore or Damian Hirst.
  2. We’re going to make an installation art piece inspired by the Victorian found objects.
  3. You could either discuss with the class real objects they have lost or imagined lost objects. Encourage pupils to tell the stories of their lost objects. Describe the objects? How did they become lost? What do you think happened to them after they were lost?
  4. Use fast drying clay to build a small sculpture of the lost objects.
  5. Younger children will tend to create 2D pictures of their objects from the clay. Encourage them to build 3D by thinking about the 3D shape, holding the clay in their hands to work on it and continually rotating the clay to work on all sides.
  6. Once dry, the objects can be painted.
  7. Place them on a shelf or in a cabinet.
  8. You could extend this activity by creating labels for your objects. These could either be museum labels telling us the story of these lost objects or luggage labels asking for the object to be returned if it is found.  

Activity 11: Lost property memorial bricks (found objects)

  1. Introduce the idea of found objects inspiring art. There are many historic and contemporary artists that use found objects in their practice. You could explore the work of Picasso, Henry Moore or Damian Hirst.
  2. Explore the idea of 53 Cross Street as a memorial to all those who had lived there. It contains little fragments of their lives, hidden under the floorboards and on the walls, in the very bricks of the building.
  3. Montem explored their own school building and playground, looking for little momentos of their lives hidden there. They found small lost objects, clothes in the lost property and forgotten homework.
  4. They placed these objects carefully into brick moulds. They spent time cutting the pieces of cloth and paper into the right shapes, while discussing which objects they thought best represented their lives in the school building.
  5. The teacher then separately mixed and poured plaster-of-paris into the moulds. Please ensure you read the instructions before using the plaster, keep well away from children and wear appropriate safety material.
  6. Once set the plaster bricks can be taken out of the moulds. You should see glimpses of the objects hidden within peaking through the plaster.
  7. We used the bricks to build a wall installation.


 Want to know more:

Click here to find out more about the final artworks created by Montem Primary School and Ella Medley-Whitfield as part of the Imagine Islington Project.


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Blog Post Education Imagine Islington

Art inspired by nature: Sarah Pimenta and Blessed Sacrament RC Primary School


In 2016 artist Sarah Pimenta  worked with teacher Denise Quinn and Year 2 at Blessed Sacrament School on the exhibition Imagine Islington. Sarah supported Denise to design and deliver a 5 workshop programme for the classroom, inspired by Islington Museum’s historic wooden water pipe.

Sarah also worked alongside the pupils in their classroom to create her own new artwork inspired by the water pipe and the pupils.

Why we chose the wooden water pipe:

‘We choose this object to tie in with the artist Andy Goldsworth and use his inspiration from natural forms. Trees are a large part of the natural environment in Islington and it was a good way to encourage appreciation of nature in the local area. I wanted to get the children outside the classroom despite curriculum restraints and SAT’S looming. It encouraged them to make interdisciplinary links and enabled the children to produce inspirational and creative artwork alongside developing their vocabulary. The children have applied their terminology in their writing.’ 


Our artwork:

Blessed Sacrament’s artworks

The pupils created an installation art piece combined a collaborative mixed media leaf collage, individual rainmakers and a collaborative screen printed hanging.

The collage was created from mono printed leaves, rubbings and poly tile blocks, the different colours and textures combining to create a natural canopy. Moving from this visual display the rain makers referenced the sound of water travelling through the historic water log. The rainmakers were decorated in marks created by the pupils in response to sounds of water.

final artworks 2.JPG

Sarah worked alongside the class to collaborate on a printed banner, working with small groups each workshop to experiment with different printing techniques.

Analogue mark-making

Pupils listened to  audio clips of rain, flowing water, rivers, storms and the sea. They worked on sheets of acetate covered with ink, using their fingers and other mark making tools to draw what they heard and imagined. Sarah then immediately printed the acetate onto cloth to create mono prints.


Screen printing

Sarah drew alongside the pupils in the observational drawing activity outdoors. She took both the pupils drawings and her own, cutting them out using a craft knife to create stencils. Sarah and a group of pupils then screen printed the stencils.

Pupils also created interesting natural prints by laying natural objects on to the fabric and screen printing them.

iphone upload May 2016 1471

Relief printing

While the class made simple rubbings with natural forms onto paper using wax crayons Sarah made rubbings with natural forms through her silk screen using a water soluble pastel. She then printed them on to fabric.

Sarah then sewed all these individual pieces of fabric into one tactile banner, an artwork exploring both the imagined sound and texture of the historic log, as well as its materiality.

final artworks 1

Sarah’s artworks

For her own artwork, Sarah selected areas of the printed banner. Using photoshop she edited these designs to incorporate them within the geometric symbol for the tree of life. In this she referenced both the elm tree the log would have been cut from and its new function as a water pipe to bring fresh water to London. The design was digitally printed on to cotton rag paper.

 final artwork 3.jpg

What we thought about the project:

‘As a school we loved the project as the children would be able to celebrate their work in a museum that they knew and loved. It was a fantastic opportunity for the children to work with an artist in the comfort of their own surroundings. It gave the class the option to work with different mediums and see how an experienced artist used her skills.’

‘As a reluctant teacher of any creative art activity, due to management and lack of experience of different art forms, I was nervous. The object you choose is irrelevant as long as you keep an open mind and are willing to give everything a try. The result will be not only a lovely piece of art but a more confident and creative teacher. It’s a great project. Give it a go!’


‘As an artist, I was able to explore the object fully in a way that was relevant and meaningful to the group I was working with, which was inspiring. It was amazing to see how much potential learning /creative approaches/ tangents/ inspirations can arise from a simple object across the curriculum.  Art provides the key to open lessons into literacy, geography, history and even maths.’





Learning Materials

Joe Orton Book Cover Collages


In 2016 artist Ella Phillips worked with teacher Helen Roberts and Year 4 at Vittoria Primary School on the exhibition Imagine Islington.

Joe Orton Book Cover Collages

Vittoria Primary chose to be inspired by our famous artworks by Joe Orton. Writer Joe Orton and his partner and mentor Kenneth Halliwell in the early 1960’s created ‘guerilla artwork’ using collage techniques. The pair ‘borrowed’ a wide range of fiction and non-fiction books they considered dull or middle-of-the-road from Islington Public Library Service. They then added images and extra text to the covers of these books, subtly changing their meaning as a form of social commentry. In 1962 they were each sentenced to six months in prison for causing ‘malicious damage’ to seventy two library books. Later, Orton became a famous playwright.

Joe Orton, playwright,(1933-1967)murdered by his lover Kenneth H

Activity 1: ‘hacking’

  • giant piece of paper for class rules
  • writing materials
  • smaller labels to write ‘hacked’ rules on
  • printed text from favourite books (blurbs or interior)
  1. Introduce the idea of ‘hacking’: to cut up OR to use something in a way you shouldn’t.
  2. Made a list of absurd library rules as a class, subverting people’s ideas about what a library is.
  3. In smaller groups, if your school library allows, write down all the different uses of the spaces on labels, mix them all up and mislabel the environment. If you can leave the labels out and see how people react to them!
  4. Hand out the printed texts. Encourage pupils to began cutting up the text from the books and placing them in a new order to create a ‘hacked’ text. Encourage them to hack the texts to create:
    1. drama
    2. comic effect
    3. visual interest (different sizes, colours and styles of text)


Activity 2: collaging book covers

  • per person:  pre-existing book cover/ photocopy of a book cover it’s okay to collage
  • colour photocopies, postcards, magazines
  • scissors
  • glue
  1. Introduce the idea of adding new text or images to an existing book cover to subtly change its meaning/ to add drama/ to make it more amusing
  2. Collage the book covers.
  3. Remember you can also hack the text on the spine and at the back if you are using a real book. You might even want to use a computer to create new text to add on to your cover.
  4. Extension: you could discuss what stories/ characters/ genres might be in the books.

Activity 3: collage techniques

  • per person:  pre-existing book cover/ photocopy of a book cover it’s okay to collage
  • colour photocopies, postcards, magazines
  • black and white paper
  • camera
  • scissors
  • glue
  1. Look at the work of John Stezaker, Richard Hamilton & Kara Walker. Discuss what different collage techniques they have used including the use of negative space, splicing and colour. What do you like/ dislike and why?
  2. Created a series of collages using different techniques: silhouettes, negative space, & splicing. These could be experimental or linked to the story you are developing for your book.
  3. Extension: a fun project to do is to take portraits of your class. Then splice them either on the computer or once they are printed out to combine two faces.





Activity 4: our ‘hacked’ library

  • per person:  their book cover and collage experiments
  • large card
  • any more collage materials needed
  • scissors
  • glue
  1. Each pupil can bring together their collage experiments connecting them together with their book cover to create a book. A good way to join these is through creating a concertina book fold.Each end of the fold can be connected to the covers, while the interior pages can display the collage experiments.
  2. Embellish pages with hacked text and pop-up components.
  3. Bring together the books to create your own library art installation.


Want to know more:

Click here to find out more about the artworks created by Vittoria Primary School and Ella Phillips as part of the Imagine Islington Project.

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Learning Materials

Collage: Kenneth Halliwell


Collage is a visual art technique where the artwork is made by combining different forms, to create a new whole. Materials used can vary from newspaper, magazines and handmade paper to texts, photographs, and found objects.

Collage is a versatile technique that can be incorporated into lessons to explore

  • a variety of visual and tactile elements, including colour, pattern, texture, line and tone
  • creative starting points and how these can be developed into a range of ideas
  • opportunities for pupils to work on their own and collaboratively with their peers


Activity 1: Exquisite Corpses

Resource list

  • various magazines and/or newspapers
  • scissors
  • glue sticks
  • white paper
  • food colouring
  • PVA glue

Kenneth Halliwell was a British actor, writer and artist who is well known for his collages, created with his partner Joe Orton and also independently. His independent work often used layers of photographs combining images of architectural features, such as staircases, arches, doorways and windows, with human facial features.

  1. Split the class into smaller groups sitting at tables, ask them to cut out images from the magazines/ newspapers that represent either human features or parts of buildings
  2. Use these images to create Exquisite Corpses. Give each pupil a piece of paper, ask them to create a head and glue it to the top of the page. Then fold the paper over to hide the head.
  3. Remind pupils to be as imaginative as possible, for example show them how to substitute architectural features for human features (a window for an eye, a door for a mouth etc.)
  4. Mix some yellow food colouring or watercolour paint with PVA glue to create a coloured varnish. This can be applied to the collage t give it an aged effect.


Activity 2: Texture

Resource list

  • thick paper
  • watercolours
  • salt
  • acrylics
  • scissors
  • glue sticks
  • PVA glue
  • clear wax candles
  1. Give pupils 5 pieces of paper each. Paint each a different bright colour- pupils can choose whatever colour they like. Pupils could create textured colours by using: dilutted watercolour washes; thick acrylic paint; watercolour with salt granules sprinkled on top when wet (this creates a speckled effect); make marks on paper with clear wax and paint over the top with acrylic or watercolour paint
  2. In groups, bring all the pupils individual pieces of paper together to create a library of colours and textures.
  3. Then create challenges for each group: ask them to create a collage that represents a letter of the alphabet through imagery rather than text. For example, for the letter ‘Z’ pupils might use black and white stripes to give the suggestion of a zebra.
  4. The class then gathers together to view each group’s works and guess which letter is represented.

Collage tips

  • Try layering colours and textures
  • Try using torn edges, this gives an interesting effect when covered with a colour wash
  • Layer and layer again to create varied textures. Try creating a collage then painting over it and then drawing over that
  • Give the final piece a layer of gloss or PVA glue over the top for a shiny coat
  • Be creative when thinking of collage material. Possible examples could be:
  1. pages out of old books
  2. dictionary definitions
  3. phone directories
  4. colored tissue paper
  5. coffee filters
  6. pressed leaves and flowers
  7. cut outs from magazines
  8. wrapping paper
  9. playing cards and game pieces

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Kenneth Halliwell

To find out more about local artist Kenneth Halliwell’s life and work read our exhibition.

Learning Materials

Mark making on giant paper

In 2015, as part of the Arts Council England funded project ‘Putting the Wunder back into the Wunderkammer,’ Islington Museum worked with Samuel Rhodes Secondary School, artist Charlotte Young From Cubitt Education and the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art. Pupil explored Futurist drawings and paintings from the Estorick’s collection, focusing on the depiction of sound and movement. The pupils then created large scale collaborative paintings using a range of materials and tools that encouraged different movement and mark making.

Resource list

  • A very large roll of high quality, thick paper
  • A variety of drawing and painting materials, including pencils, charcoal, pens, pastels etc
  • Sound clips
  • Wheeled objects, such as toy cars and bike wheels
  • Masking and/or duct tape
  • String
  • Rulers/ garden cane
  • Aprons

 The activity: mark making

Clear a big space. Cut a long piece of paper from the roll of paper. The paper should be as big as can fit in your workshop space, but allow enough space for pupils to move freely around the paper and the room. Tape the paper to the floor using masking or duct tape. Ensure all drawing materials are also prepared ahead of time and easy for the pupils to access.

This activity is made up of a range of mark making activities. You should spend around 5-10 minutes on each bullet point. You can choose a few of your favourites to fill the lesson, or work over a number of lessons on the same piece of paper, adding a new mark making technique each time. 

Using hands/feet/bodies

  • In pairs: draw around your partner’s hands, feet, heads and bodies. Now swap.
  • Individually: lie on the paper with a pen or pencil in each hand and make ‘snow angels’
  • Using ‘push-me-pull-me’ pens (2 pens tied together with a length of string) and working in pairs, take it in turns to ‘pull’ the pens in different directions
  • Draw as fast as you can
  • Draw as slowly as you can
  • Draw ‘spiky’
  • Draw ‘soft’
  • Draw ‘wavy’
  • Use different emotional gestures to draw: draw ‘angry’, ‘happy’, ‘laughing’, ‘frowning’, etc
  • Flick and dribble paint onto the paper
  • Draw to different kinds of music, what does the music look like


Using music

Play music for participants to paint or draw to. Exercises could include drawing:

  •  in time to different kinds of music. Hip hop will make you draw differently to opera
  • shapes and lines according to the mood of the different types of music. Is the music jagged, smooth, pointy, etc.
  • only when the music is playing



Using objects as drawing tools

Use a variety of objects dipped in paint to draw with such as:

  • toy cars
  • measuring wheel
  • roller skates (to be used with hands, not worn!)
  • bicycle wheel/ scooter
  • hoops
  • hand and finger prints
  • wearing wellies dipped in paint
  • make extra-long paint brushes by tying brushes to rulers/ garden canes with tape or string

Painting - no faces45

Creating a sound piece in response

Once your class have created their artwork, gather the pupils around the painting. Ask them to find sections that they liked, enjoyed painting, or found inspiring. As a class/ or in groups, discuss that section (‘it has wavy lines’ ‘it is blue.’) Then think about what it might sound like. For example, ‘wavy and blue’ might sound like the sea.

In groups, compose a sound effect for your piece. In turns record the sound effects.

Then listen to your class sound piece while looking at the picture.

 Mark making extensions 

  1. If working with a group who might find it difficult to use the floor, get participants to work individually or in pairs at tables.
  2. Try mounting large sheets of paper on a wall instead of the floor. This might work well for teenage participants or if there is not much floor space available. This would also allow participant to create multiple ‘extensions’ of their drawing tools in order to be able to reach the top of the paper. Extensions can also be made for floor drawings, for example, tying or taping pens and pencils to garden canes.
  3. Some individuals with SEN have particular sensitivities to sound and touch. Be mindful to check with participants if, for example, any audio is too loud for them. Some pupils may also be worried about getting dirty so have some aprons and rubber gloves ready if you think this may be the case.
  4. This activity could work well outside during the summer and you could try using more messy ways of mark making such as paint-filled water bombs, ice paints or pots of paint with holes punched in the bottom.
  5. Any paint splattered coveralls or gloves can be cut up and used to add collage to the large paintings.


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Learning Materials

Mail Art: printing stamps and image transfers

In 2015, as part of the Arts Council England funded project ‘Putting the Wunder back into the Wunderkammer,’ Islington Museum worked with Highbury Grove School, artist Carl Stevenson From All Change and the British Postal Museum and Archive (BPMA.) Students were inspired by the BPMA’s unique collection of mail art, historical letters and curious addresses, identifying
elements they’d like to incorporate into their own mail art. Students explored a range of different media and techniques, including print making, stamp making and using vinyl. Their final work was displayed at the BPMA archive  in January 2015.

Ever since the invention of the postal service, people have sent weird and wonderful things through the post. The American artist Ray Johnson is considered to be the first person to send an artwork through the post. Today artists use a range of media and techniques to create mail art. Mail art can incorporate everything from collage to print works, even the position of the stamp on the envelope can convey a hidden message to the recipient.

Resource list

  • Pencil
  • Polytile
  • Paint trays
  • Printing ink
  • Printing rollers
  • Paper

The activity: making stamps

  1. Start with a piece of polytile. Using a pencil, draw your design into the polytile. Designs could be anything from letters, patterns, symbols, small images or emoticons. You will need to be careful to press hard enough into the polytile to make an indentation, but not too hard so that it pierces the polytile.
  2. Put some printing ink on to the paint trays, roll it with a printing roller until it is smooth.
  3. Use the printing roller to put ink on to your polytile, covering your design. Do not use too much ink.
  4. Place the inked side of the polytile on to a piece of paper. Run a clean printing roller over the back of the polytile, pressing it onto the paper.
  5. Carefully peel back the polytile to reveal your printed design on the paper.


Resource list

  • Images from old posters and advertising
  • Wide clear parcel tape
  • Basin of warm water
  • PVA glue
  • Paper

The activity: image transfers

  1. Choose an image, it could be from an advert, magazine, book etc. Take a back and white photocopy of your image.
  2. Cut out the photocopy and stick clear parcel tape to the image. You may need to use multiple strips on wider images. Rub the tape to make sure it is in contact with the whole image.
  3. Put the taped image into warm water, covering it gently. Slowly rub away the paper. You will find that the paper will rub away in the water leaving behind the black photocopy image stuck to the tape.
  4. Paint PVA glue on the sticky side of the tape. Stick the image, glue side first on to your paper. Then wait for it to dry.
  5. Once it is fully dry if you are careful you can slowly peel the tape away to leave the photocopy image stuck to the paper.

Mail Art extensions

  • Use the image transfers and rubber stamps to decorate envelopes. Post them to someone else (e.g. school, home, to another organisation) for them to add to your design. Continue posting the sheet back and forth. See how the design develops during the collaboration.
  • Pass each pupil’s designs around the class during the project so that each envelope has a contribution from each pupil.
  • Invent picture codes and make addresses for the envelopes in code. Post the letters and see if they reach the destination. Or pass it around the class and see if the class recipient can decode it.
  • Vary the methods used to decorate the envelopes and even the envelopes themselves, maybe using 3D collage, origami or giant sized envelopes.

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Learning Materials

Wooden water pipe: art inspired by nature and water

In 2016 artist Sarah Pimenta worked with teacher Denise Quinn and Year 2 at Blessed Sacrament RC Primary School on the exhibition Imagine Islington.

Wooden Water Pipe

In 1613 Sir Hugh Myddleton opened his revolutionary New River, which brought much needed fresh water from Hertfordshire to Clerkenwell. Pipes then took water from Clerkenwell Round Pond to the City of London. These pipes were made from tree trunks, mainly elm. The trunks were individually bored through and joined to create continuous pipes.

The pipes weren’t entirely successful, much of the water supply was lost through leakage. Wooden pipes also had a short lifespan and they tended to absorb gas from leaking gas mains laid alongside, making the water unfit to drink. From 1811 the New River Company started to gradually replace the old wooden pipes with cast-iron ones.

To learn more about the New River and the wooden pipes

A perfect local artefact to inspire natural art: ‘We choose this object to tie in with the artist Andy Goldsworth and use his inspiration from natural forms. Trees are a large part of the natural environment in Islington and it was a good way to encourage appreciation of nature in the local area. I wanted to get the children outside the classroom despite curriculum restraints and SAT’S looming. It encouraged them to make interdisciplinary links and enabled the children to produce inspirational and creative artwork alongside developing their vocabulary.’ 



Activity 1: mark making and rain makers

  • dry beans/ peas
  • tape
  • paint (water theme in colours)
  • cardboard tubes
  • sketching materials (pencil, charcoal, chalk)
  • paper
  • water sounds (rivers, different types of rain, waves etc.)
  1. Show the class images of the water log. Discuss the importance of fresh water, where you get water from, what the log could have been used for and if you think it was an effective pipe?
  2. Talk to the class about what the water may have sounded like- think about descriptive words for the movement of water.
  3. Get the pupils to sit at their desks with a piece of paper and sketching materials. Play them different water sounds. Get them to draw what they hear. Use a different drawing material. Try it with your eyes open, then eyes closed.
  4. Get the pupils to choose their favourite marks and cardboard tube.
  5. The pupils then paint their marks on to their cardboard tubes, using ‘watery’ colours.
  6. Once the paint has dried fill the tubes with the beans and tape the ends to create your very own rainmaker.

Activity 2: rubbings

  • paper
  • coloured paper
  • fat wax crayons
  • clip boards
  • pencils
  1. Take the pupils outside into the playground or a natural environment.
  2. Collect different natural materials- leaves and bark are good
  3. Use the crayons and pencils to take rubbings. Experiment with different textures, lines, shapes patterns and colours

To extend the session you could add in a drawing activity from nature or look at Land Art with a focus on an artist like Andy Goldsworthy. Use your collected materials to create natural sculptures outdoors, take a photograph of your creations.


Activity 3: poly tile printing leaves

  • A5 polytile
  • printing rollers
  • sharp pencils
  • A4 sugar paper
  • block printing ink
  1. Hand the children their leaf drawings from the previous session. Get them to choose their 2 favourites to turn into prints.
  2. Hand out 2 pieces of polytile to each person. Using a pencil, pupils draw their leaf designs into the polytile, filling the sheet. They’ll need to be careful to press hard enough into the polytile to make an indentation, but not too hard so that it pierces the polytile.
  3. Put some printing ink on to the paint trays, roll it with a printing roller until it is smooth.
  4. Pupils use the printing roller to put ink on to their polytile, covering their design. Remind them not to use too much ink.
  5. Pupils place the inked side of the polytile on to a piece of paper. Run a clean printing roller over the back of the polytile, pressing it onto the paper. Carefully peel back the polytile to reveal the printed design on the paper
  6. Pupils can experiment with different colours of paper and ink. They’ll need a number of leaf prints each for activity 4.

Activity 4: collage

  • large sheets of thick paper- black is probably most dramatic
  • the rubbings, drawings and printed leaves from the previous activities
  • coloured paper and tissue
  • pritt sticks
  1. Pupils gather all their natural drawings, rubbings and prints.
  2. In groups they sketch a giant tree onto their piece of paper.
  3. The group then collages their sketch, using their drawings, rubbings and leaves, as well as any extra materials you have. Encourage them to layer, mixing colours, textures and shapes.


 Want to know more:

Click here to find out more about the artworks created by Blessed Sacrament RC Primary School and Sarah Pimenta as part of the Imagine Islington Project.


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Education Gallipoli

Learning through Gallipoli

In 2015/16 Islington Museum received funding from the Gallipoli Centenary Education Project to tell the stories of those men who travelled from Islington to Mudros to fight in the disastrous Gallipoli campaign.

Five local primaries, Ashmount, Copenhagen, Drayton Park, Newington Green and Tufnell Park, worked with musicians Jonathan Rees and Firat Derat to explore the campaign from a variety of cultural perspectives. Pupils investigated the Finsbury Rifles’ war diary, learning about their costly campaign and imagining what daily life would have been like for them at Gallipoli.  They also looked at primary sources from both the Ottoman and Allied Forces to explore different experiences of the campaign and its aftermath.

Pupils learnt four songs about the Gallipoli campaign in both English and Turkish.  They also recorded readings of key primary sources, to which they composed an emotive soundscape. This sound background was combined with archival images of the campaign and artwork created as part of separate project. The resulting video is a musical and artistic meditation on the realities of the Gallipoli campaign, its local links and its human cost. A unique resource to explore Islington’s First World War from a truly world perspective.

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In 2015 Islington Museum also worked with Richard Cloudesely Secondary School and Samuel Rhodes Secondary School to produce two printed banners exploring the Finsbury Rifles Campaign. Pupils used mark making techniques to create the peninsula. They then used archival images of the campaign to create stencils, which they screen printed on to the map.




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Finally on the 8th November 2015 four children from Tufnell Park Primary School joined the Gallipoli Association to take part in the Cenotaph march on Remembrance Sunday.

The four children – Amy, Charlie, Natalie and Ruby – said, ‘It was an opportunity to take part in an experience of a lifetime. It helped us realise and feel the importance of remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice.’ 

The children brought a wreath which joined the carpet of red beneath the Cenotaph. On the wreath were the words, ‘It is an honour to stand in the presence of our Lord, as we give thanks to the brave souls who sacrificed their lives to make our world a better place. May they rest in peace. Let the memory of Gallipoli live on through generations.’  

You can find lots more fantastic resources about Gallipoli at, @GallipoliEd  and