Being creative teaches kids the art of keeping quiet


CHILDREN'S SUMMER CAMPS:THE GIRLS are busy sewing buttons onto their felt bags and making headbands. Their printed T-shirts await their final touches on this, the last day of their Fabulous Fabric Art summer camp.

Visual artist and art teacher Orla Bates says it’s the quietest camp she’s had so far. So busy are the 10 children sitting at tables on the first floor of the recently restored Wexford Arts Centre in Wexford town that there’s not much time for chat.

Learning how to bling your own clothing could be described as the perfect recessionary art camp but many of these girls already know how to sew and are here to extend their skills.

“I liked making the [fabric] brooches and the T-shirt printing because you can get messy with paint. I knew a little bit about sewing before but I learned different kinds of stitches here,” says Clara (9), who printed a large sweet on her T-shirt and an ice cream cone on her shorts.

“I’ve known how to sew for a long time – my mum taught me but I’ve never done a camp with it before,” says Bláithín (12). “The camp is good because you can learn how to design things and all the materials are here so I didn’t have to buy stuff especially.”

Molly (10) didn’t know how to sew before she came to camp. “I’ve learned how to do the back stitch. I did the VHI [GAA] Cúl camp and a swim camp on the beach but I like the fabric art camp best,” she says.

Róisín (11) and her sister Eimear (8), who are from New Ross, are staying with their granny in Wexford during the camp. “My granny taught me how to knit and sew but here, I learnt some new stitches: the chain stitch, the back stitch and how to do French knots on my strawberry-shaped felt pincushion,” she explains.

Bates also ran summer art camps in Rosslare Strand and Kilmore Quay, Co Wexford, this year with themes ranging from painting, sculpture, printmaking to nature crafts.

“Generally I like to teach children things they can do themselves at home and two hours a day at camp is good, especially if the weather is fine,” says Bates.

Earlier that day, another visual artist, Ilva Krama, was leading the last of five mornings in her jewellery-making camp. At that camp, seven girls aged from six to nine years created necklaces, bracelets, chokers and pendants using polymer clay for the beads.

“I like using polymer clay because with it, everybody makes a different bead by mixing the colours together,” says Krama, who “cooked” the clay in the evenings after the girls had completed their work on their beads and pendants on the first and second days at camp.

“I liked making the jewellery. I called my beads lasagne balls and sweets because they look like them,” says Karen (6). Most of the girls tell me the best thing about the camp was making their beads. “When you make them, you don’t know what colour they will turn out. I mixed brown, green and yellow so it was a pretty big surprise for me what colours the beads were in the end. I enjoyed stringing them all together,” says Ashling (9).

Krama is one of the facilitators on the Little Artist Club, which runs on Saturdays throughout the year at the Wexford Arts Centre. “The jewellery-making camp is good for their fine motor skills and many of the children here come to the Little Artist Club too,” she explains.

Elizabeth Whyte, the director of the Wexford Arts Centre, says the summer camps are quite a new initiative, only into their second summer. “Before that, we rented out the space, which we still do for some summer camps, to local groups. But, in the past two years, we decided to run camps ourselves so that we have more artistic control over the quality of the workshops.”

Whyte says that the numbers attending summer camps are down a bit this year. “There is a lot of choice out there and we find that we are competing against sports camps, which are more subsidised than art camps, but our aim is to transfer the strengths from the professional arts programmes into the children’s art workshops and we plan to develop that further.”

There are still places available on the ArtXpress programme from August 8th to 11th for 5- to 7-year-olds and 8- to 13-year-olds; the Make a Movie summer programme from August 15th to 18th, run by Red Moon Children’s Theatre Ensemble; and the Be Cut-Out Kid from August 16th to 19th for 4- to 6-year-olds and the Art of Clothes from August 16th to 19th for 7- to 11-year-olds.