Teacher, artist and creative practitioner Jaz Meader talks to us about navigating teaching creative subjects online, how she's staying creatively motivate, sharing an activity to get your creativity going and some wonderful tips on keeping little hands busy whilst we're all at home!
Hi Jaz! Thanks for taking the time to chat to us. Firstly, could you introduce yourself and your creative journey so far?
Hello, I’m Jaz! I’m an illustrator and secondary school Art & Design teacher. I have 10 years experience of working creatively with children and young people in both community settings and schools. I have a degree in Fine Art and since completing my degree I have been pursuing a love of children’s book illustration as well as teaching in a local secondary school.
You’ve also recently started a new initiative - Scribbly Dribbly. What inspired you to create the project?
Scribbly Dribbly started in my head when my son was born two years ago and I was at home with him mulling over my own creativity and how I wanted to be creative with him even though he could barely see past his nose. My aim is to provide creative inspiration and activities for children of all ages, including big grown up ones! The lockdown experience as both a teacher and a parent has required thinking outside of the box about how to entertain, challenge and educate children about art. It has also made the link between creativity and wellbeing clearer so through Scribbly Dribbly, I really want to encourage adults to enjoy being in the moment and making a mess with their children.
And what’s coming up for the project?
Over the coming weeks, and months, the aim is to share creative activities, inspiration and fun arty facts suitable for children of all ages. I’m working on step-by-step activities for older children, tips for students and ways to be creative for your wellbeing. I’m pulling on all my experience working with so many different people and I’m motivated through encouraging others to feel creative so hopefully there will be something for everyone.
You’ve been teaching throughout the pandemic. Apart from the clear obstacles, what would you say are some of the main challenges you and your students facing?
For me, one of the biggest challenges has been trying to facilitate conversations and critique of work through online lessons. The best thing about teaching Art and Design is the conversations that are had through discussing and sharing work. This has a natural flow in a classroom whilst everyone is working but is much harder online. Developing projects that are accessible for students to complete at home has been a challenge, but in some ways a positive one that has encouraged us as teachers to think outside the box.
In must be particularly difficult to teach such a visceral and physical subject online. How are your students adapting, and would you say the work that’s being made is influenced by this digital positioning?
The students have been brilliant at adapting the tasks to work with the materials they have available at home and some have really taken it upon themselves to learn new skills. We are all really missing the classroom space and atmosphere though, so much comes out of the community environment of the classroom when making art that you just can’t get from online lessons. In that sense, work is being influenced by working in this way. For some of my classes, the projects have had to completely change based on the need for specialist materials and equipment.
What advice would you have for young people studying creative subjects at home, nearly a full year after this all began.
There’s no greater time to embrace your creative subjects as an escape and outlet so try to just let the creativity flow. Creative subjects are never taught as one size fits all, and I have loved seeing how students have adapted and interpreted the tasks we set. Most students take Art and Design subjects out of a genuine interest and passion so I would say to try and embrace this situation as an opportunity to explore that further - watch an art documentary, follow a YouTube tutorial using your favourite materials or create art for your bedroom wall!
And equally - what advice would you give their parents/guardians?
Try and talk to your child or young person about what they are making - even if you don’t feel confident in giving them technical feedback, getting them to explain their ideas and describe their work to you will help them to clarify their ideas for themselves. I know some of my students have found making art outside of the classroom environment hard and a knock to their confidence so if you can spare time to get creative with them it might really boost their engagement. And lastly, don’t worry about fancy materials and equipment. As teachers we know everyone has different things available to them, and if my Fine Art degree taught me anything, it’s that art can be made out of everything!
As well as being an Artist, creative practitioner and teacher, you’re a parent to a toddler. How have you found keeping him creatively engaged during the pandemic?
As tough as it is to juggle parenting and working in the pandemic, he is actually at a great age for getting creative and arty - he is curious about everything, loves making a mess and mostly walks around the house reciting the colours of the rainbow. We usually make examples for lessons together and I have learnt not to be too precious about things with a two year old around so I think sometimes he actually helps with my creative engagement.
Do you have any activities you’d recommend to keep little hands busy?
For the littlest ones, like mine, anything that involves colour sorting seems to hold his attention the most - from colour scavenger hunts to sorting objects into bowls or lining his cars up in colours. If you have a bit more time to set up activities then I’d definitely recommend linking them to a favourite book - last week we spent an hour drawing the different fish from Lucy Cousins’ book ‘Hooray for fish!’ on a cardboard box and cutting them out. He has been working his way through colouring them in and we use them to read the book and practice vocabulary. A little bit of time can provide a lot more sustained entertainment!
What do you work with in your own creative practice?
I really am a mixed media artist! I’ve always been into craft and love trying out new materials, never managed to settle on one type or style. I enjoy working with drawing inks and gouache paint but I tend to go with the flow of what I am making so often I will layer different materials together to create textures.
Are there any materials or brands that you frequently return to?
There are very few materials I’m fussy about but I love to draw in Derwent Procolour pencils - specifically Copper Beech! And have always loved the Winsor & Newton inks. Apart from that, I like to change up what I’m using quite often and use whatever I can find.
Lastly - just a big thank you to you, and everyone like you. Teachers and students tenacity and passion for creativity during this time has been truly wonderful to see. The challenges faced every day may seem monumental, but we continue to be inspired by all of the creativity we see in the world despite the circumstances.
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