UWE + Ashley Down School children create enamel fish

Issue date: 13 October 2009

enamel fish An enamelling expert and student from the University of the West of England has teamed up with Ashley Down Junior School in Bristol to help children design beautiful enamel panels in the shape of fish, for a gazebo in the school playground.

Natalie McGrorty (2nd year Drawing and Applied Arts student) visited the school during a special Science and Art Week where she demonstrated the enamelling process to a group of 57 children in Year 4.

Natalie said, “The children were amazed to see how quickly the enamel was transformed from powder into fused glass. Enamelling is a brilliant example of the fusing of science and art, showing how this chemical process can result in some really beautiful effects. The speed of the enamelling process is also quite magical for children to experience especially as there is no telling what will come out of the kiln!

“The children helped me time each firing in the kiln by counting out loud, not only forward and backwards but in Spanish and French! After the demonstration the children were asked to draw and colour different types of fish, paying particular attention to the patterns and detailing on the fishes' skin. The fish theme, was chosen by the school. The children created beautiful designs. We were limited to 20 designs for the finished artwork so the children worked in groups of three and selected their favourite parts from their drawings to make into larger fish collages.

“ I then took the childrens'designs away and transferred them onto laser-cut steel fish. Firstly the fish were coated with liquid white enamel, into which I drew the designs and detailing. These were then fired one by one in the kiln. Each fish was then hand painted with onglaze enamel colours and fired one last time.”

Once completed, the fish were taken to the school and mounted on the wooden gazebo with the help of the school caretaker.

Zoe Sharples, Year 4 teacher at Ashley Down School said, “This was such a successful activity for the children because it really helped their learning and they all thoroughly enjoyed it. The reason we chose the fish theme came about because of a philosophy originating from Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, that we have adopted at the school. The philosophy has four strands: play, be present, choose your attitude and make their day.

“The fact that enamelling so brilliantly fuses art and science made this a great activity for the School Science and Art Week. The children loved watching Natalie's demonstration with the little kiln that she brought into the school – like magic they said.”

Laurence Pitt, Ashley Down Junior School Head teacher, said, “This wonderful artwork fits in brilliantly with our school Fish Philosophy which underpins all the work we do in school and is a core principle of our curriculum - the Edison Curriculum. This is a creative curriculum which meets all the requirements of the National Curriculum but is delivered through a sequence of Core Learning Skills Units and Integrated Learning Units. Fish! Philosophy consists of the four main themes mentioned above and we have adopted these themes whole heartedly.”

For further news stories from the School of Creative Arts, see:

UWE and Arnolfini celebrate work of Shohei Imamura

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