A stunningly beautiful Tuscan hilltop location, a pretty village hall, a bubbly group of enthusiastic Italian youngsters keen to make mosaics with an English Mosaic Artist…
…invitations to host workshops like this don’t come too often!
So, how did I get the gig?
In 2011, by chance, I met Debora Chellini and a group of visiting Italian students whilst working at a primary school in Knutsford on a school mosaic project. I invited the youngsters to join in and work with us and it was great to see them working side by side with the English children, who happily explained and showed them what to do. That was the beginning of an exciting new collaboration that Debora and I are continuing to develop, the basis for which is Debora’s simple but effective principle of learning through experience. More specifically, in our project, it is a case of learning language through creative experience.
Debora is a lecturer at the Richmond University in Florence and at weekends she runs her own language project StoryTime working with children aged from 5-13 years old. The children are encouraged to use English whilst enjoying a range of exciting workshops and activities. This fresh approach ensures that the youngsters are keen to learn the language as they need it in order to understand and achieve the task in hand and interact with others in a creative, sociable and supportive environment. Mosaic projects fit perfectly with this brief.
My visit to Florence this October gave Debora and I the opportunity to discuss a range of options for next year’s programme with the aim of developing the approach further, incorporating more arts and crafts workshops. There was time to visit some of the finest Florentine artisans continuing the traditional crafts of the region and I also visited the university and met some of Debora’s colleagues and students.
The visit culminated with the workshop you see here in the nearby Tuscan village of Montigufoni. Each participant produced a small mosaic fridge magnet to begin with. For this, they were all provided with the same set of materials, design and instructions. They very quickly learned all the new vocabulary associated with the activity: the names of the tools and materials; the way to ask for help with specific processes and checking with each other (in English!) if they were doing everything correctly.
Next, the students were rewarded for their efforts and given a little more freedom. This time, with a wide selection of materials to choose from and the aid of drawing templates (if they wanted to use them), they were encouraged to create a larger mosaic of their own design.
You can see some of their fabulous work here.