Rathfarnham ETNS Art Project – Session 5 Artist in residence: Tunde Toth

Our 5th session was a short class on the 12th of January – reconnecting with our project after the Christmas holidays.

We looked at our collections of paper cuttings, origami pieces, paper windows and snowflakes and the children made choices and preferences on which pieces need finishing touches, more colour or more cutting.

They also made new pieces: patterns of little people cut out from folded tracing papers – which is not easy to draw on or cut neatly. The little people are lined up on the blackboard, `​dancing`.


Rathfarnham ETNS Art project Session 4 Artist in residence: Tunde Toth

Our 4th session took place on the 5th of December: a very wintry, Christmas-like session, filled with candle light!

With the patience and help of Patricia the class teacher and the support teachers we re-organized the class room to set up different workstations. The children drew simple shapes of stars, Christmas trees, presents etc on regular white paper. These shapes were then filled with drops of hot wax from burning candles – 4 / 5 children working in the same time and then taking turns.

The waxed pieces were dyed with golden yellow fabric dye (cold water dye) and let dry on the drying rack.

To the delight of everyone we had time for a second piece, this was again a simple sheet of paper but without drawing this time, filled lightly with random drops of hot wax. This was dyed a light blue/turquoise color and will be used at a later stage.

The children really enjoyed this process, worked carefully with concentration but it certainly needs planning and supervision!


The children worked later on with Patricia in the class room to gently remove the wax drops from the dried pieces and cut out the shapes. They had a striking display on the window, letting light through the wax dots:

Rathfarnham ETNS Art Project 2018 Session 3 Artist in residence: Tunde Toth

On our third session on the 28th of November (2017) we have been looking at contemporary installation art works by other artists – a slideshow of perhaps little challenging but curious and interesting works where the artist uses light / shadow / reflection as a material.

The images show details of installations by Martina Galvin, Felicity Clear, Chris Fraser and from a collaborative participatory project “Silk Gardens” I did at the Bloom Festival in Phoenix Park a number of years ago:


The looking and responding session went really well and we found that the children were curious, focused, very responsive and full of great ideas about possible making processes, materials used, scale,`transportation`and installation of works. These conversations introduce a new vocabulary and support the seeing and understanding of contemporary art, works that are site specific, interactive, collaborative and may integrate light, sound or their environment.

For the rest of our session we continued with paper folding and cutting processes, finished the `windows` we started previously and introduced a simple `pattern – cutting` process: we made lines of trees!

Rathfarnham ETNS – artist in residence: Tunde Toth SESSIONS 1 – 2

We started our collaborative project with 2nd class and their teacher Patricia McManus with a couple of short sessions in November 2017.

I have worked with Patricia some years ago during a residency that focused on print making processes, textures, layered collages (collographs) and mark making – so this time we decided to do something very different, working with making processes that are simple, using tools and materials that are easily accessible and already available in schools, introducing and experimenting with techniques that the children may already know. Working this way, challenges and questions will center around the development, discussion and expression of ideas.

We decided to explore the broad theme of light, using a variety of papers, drawing, paper cutting, Origami and paper construction / installation. Processes will include painting with wax and Batik on paper at a later stage. We started with discussions and brainstorming of ideas about light – with a great response from the class!


From our little mind map of responses we chose windows / sunlight / shadows to work with and started our process with a bit of Origami and Kirigami (paper cutting), to create a simple window.

St. Mary’s, Sandyford – Fourth Class – Session 8 – Friday 16th March 2018 Teacher: Áine O’Connell Artist: Michelle Read – Playwriting

Nearly Easter Egg time, but not quite, so we snuck in a session before the break.

Today the children  wrote monologues for their main characters to find out a bit more about them – what they were doing on that day. What they were worried about? What excited them? And what was their secret! Characters in drama always live in the present tense and some playwrights (including myself) like to write a monologue for the character to hear what they are thinking and feeling.

I had created a series of questions to help each child write for their specific character and as they all worked, I went from desk to desk to discuss including personality traits and location – the who and the where – into the piece.

After the break I wondered if anyone would like to come up to the front and read their monologue out loud. Wow! Lots of hands went up. This is a class of natural performers. Again, the children could read their own piece or nominate another child or myself to read the monologue for them. Then we recorded all of the performances. They were all really inventive and some of the characters began to clearly emerge. These are the ones that came out loud enough to play back!



St. Mary’s, Sandyford – Fourth Class – Session 7 – Friday 16th March 2018 Teacher: Áine O’Connell Artist: Michelle Read – Playwriting

This week the children took out their Story Maps and shared some of the characters they were creating along with their personalities. Everyone had written down questions about their characters, but so far we’re holding off the urge to answer the questions. We’re just letting the multiple potentials exist for a while longer.

Everyone did draw a version of their character at this point though, to get an idea of what they might look like and what the designer might need to create their costume.

Next everyone picked a location out of the box. About half of the class were happy with their locations. The other half all came out to the front of the class and “horse-traded” their location slips or chose another one. Everyone seemed to be pretty happy with that and then I asked the children to think of more questions about the locations.

We also noticed that adding the location – such as a spaceship or a laboratory – meant that new questions emerged about the character. If a character’s location was a spaceship, did that mean they might be an alien? If they were in a laboratory, were they inventing something? Very interesting.

With the introduction of location, we talked a bit about the difference between film and theatre and how set designers work in theatre to create a stage design for the actors and characters to work and exist inside. We looked at lots of different theatre designs that create a literal or a more abstract space and we discussed what the terms literal and abstract meant.

Here are some of the designs we looked at…

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Miss O’Connell added…

The children used their storyboards during this session and continued to develop their characters. They then got an opportunity to engage in hot seating where they answered questions put to them by the other children. It was great to see the children thinking on their feet while trying to remain consistent with their characters.

They were given a problem and were challenged to envisage how their character would respond to the given dilemma through story telling. This enabled them to develop their critical thinking skills further and enter the world of their character. They then created a script based on their story. They got the opportunity to act out their script in front of the rest of the class. The scripts were very creative, and the children thoroughly enjoyed the experience.


St. Mary’s, Sandyford – Fourth Class – Session 6 – Friday 9th March 2018 Teacher: Áine O’Connell Artist: Michelle Read – Playwriting

Today we talked about ‘Cause and Effect’ (in gravity and in drama!)  and we explored that idea in some fast stories that we made up at the beginning of our session…

Joshua the piggy LOVED cheesy potatoes but spent all his money buying them. So, his love of cheesy potatoes CAUSED him to be poor! This meant he needed to do something about that. His lack of cash might have CAUSED him to steal money, (or some cheesy potatoes!), but that would have had the EFFECT of getting him into trouble (which might also be an interesting story path). But as Joshua was an honest piggy, he decided to earn some money, which CAUSED him to get a job on a potato farm – because he LOVED potatoes. But the EFFECT of working on a potato farm was that he ate lots of the potatoes. This CAUSED his boss to notice that the potatoes were going missing and the EFFECT of this was that Joshua got the sack!

So, each part of the story follows on directly from what happened before. If I knock a cup off the table, it will fall and smash on the tiled floor. If I pick up one of the pieces without being careful I will cut me finger and blood will appear. One event follows on from the one before. So, I don’t have a cut finger and then knock my cup over!

Next, we started to explore creating brand new characters of our own using the character bags from the last session.

I pulled a character out of the bag first – the slip of paper had the word ‘prince’ on it, so I wrote that up on the board and we all asked questions about this character – was prince his name, for example, or was he an actual royal prince? I suggested then that another way to get to know a character – and something that actors do when they’re getting into a role – is called ‘hot-seating’.

‘Hot-seating’ is when an actor pretends to be a character and sits in a chair and everyone else asks that character questions. This is a way that writers and actors can work together to make up a character for the writer to write about. I went first to give the children an idea of what I meant, and also because I LOVE acting, whenever I get the chance. My prince was a royal person. He was also very posh and denied assassinating the king and queen just so he could become king!

The next character was called Tyke and we weren’t sure whether Tyke was a boy or a girl, so Mathew and Mia both tried out being this character. Mathew’s Tyke was a wild boy who lived in the park and loved sleeping on the grass. He didn’t have a home, but he didn’t seem to mind about that and thought everyone should get rid of their houses. Mia’s Tyke was originally named Tricycle by her bike mad mother. She love gaming, spoke Spanish and loved animals!

We added some personality traits to the next character, which was an evil, dishonest, scared mermaid. Charlene had a great evil stare as the evil mermaid and we found out she was scared of her father Neptune, because she wanted to take over his undersea kingdom. Although it was hard to get the truth out of her because she was so dishonest!

Everyone was very enthusiastic about the ‘hot-seating’ and asked lots of very good questions of each character. And all the actors really got into character.

So, now we have lots of tools for making up a character and seeing what story might emerge and whether we can create scenes from that story. Each child started a Story Map with a large piece of paper, a character and some personality traits.

Next week we’ll see who those characters are and what their stories might be…

Miss O’Connell added…

This session was very beneficial as the children learned how to use questioning to develop their characters. Michelle demonstrated how to do this very effectively through hot seating, she went into the role of a spoiled prince and the children asked him questions to explore who he was.

The children were each given a character with three characteristics and they were encouraged to ask and answer questions about their character. One child was presented with a mermaid from Ireland who was evil, scared, dishonest and enjoyed laughing. She asked very interesting and relevant questions ‘What is she scared of? How old is she? Why is she dishonest?, Why is she evil?, was she always evil?, What is her diet?, What does she laugh at?, Is she more human or animal?, Where does she live?, Is her Dad ruler of the ocean?’

Children often tend to create cardboard characters. This exercise was superb for developing their critical thinking skills and ability to create well rounded characters independently. This will certainly improve the quality of their creative writing. Exploring why characters are the way they are and how their circumstances shape them, will develop the children’s interpersonal skills. When they begin to comprehend that their characters like people are complex, it will enable them to empathise.