summer school day one


Who is here?

The artists running the Tate Summer School this year are Yemi Awosile and India Harvey. 

There are eighteen of us in the Summer School – a mix of art teachers and museum educators. About a third are from international schools.

What did we do?

After an introduction from  Leanne and Emma from the Schools and Teachers team, the day began silently. Well, there was a soundtrack but there was no talking. We were invited to try shibori dyeing, a form of resist dying –  pieces of fabric are folded and tied and then dipped. (Old hippies will recognise this as tie dye.) We unwrapped our handiwork and hung up the results. Because the fabric was relatively soft and porous most of us hadn’t managed to get a lot of those characteristic rings. In my case, subtle was probably about the kindest word that could be used.

Yemi and India then introduced themselves and their practices. Both avoided definitive categorisation; Yemi said that she refused to be seen as either an artist or a designer but was often both and more.

After lunch, we then sat at the long lunch table to introduce ourselves. A speed dating format was used to get us to move around and to answer three questions:

  1. Who are we as professionals?
  2. What do we not say when we describe ourselves as professionals? What do we hold back?
  3. And if we have seen other people self censor, what do we do about it?

A further exercise then took the idea of erasure, and the complexities of maintaining a sense of identity in a professional setting, into fabric printing. We were able to use heat transfer to print on permanent and dissolving fabrics to show what feelings associated with our professional work we wanted to keep, and what we would get rid of.

We finally visited the Takis exhibition to see sculptures made with the invisible powers of magnetism and sound. (But it wasn’t entirely functional.)

Concepts and authors mentioned during the day – feelings, emotions, Loose Parts (Nicholson), Winnicott, authenticity, professionalism, liberation, constraint, democracy in hands, sensory, naughtiness, play.


At the end of the first day I’m thinking about two aspects of the day’s pedagogy.

First of all, I’m thinking about the strategy of not introducing everybody at the very start of the day. It is almost de rigueur to do this, to make sure that everyone knows who is in the room right at the start of any professional learning activity. Why? Is it to establish ‘group ness’ – safety or familiarity perhaps? Clearly you don’t have to do introductions to achieve this.  I’m interested in the way in which today’s silent making created sociality among strangers. Feeling part of a group doesn’t mean you have to know anything about anyone else. It can come from shared endeavour. From being and doing together. As in writing groups too. But how to best describe and understand the affective?

Second, I’m thinking about today’s focus on process as the means. I’m considering how an idea develops – perhaps emerges as if through Eliasson’s fog – through making, talking and then making. How exactly does the circling-in process build individual and shared understandings, I wonder. What needs to be spoken and what can remain unsaid? What needs to happen in order to ensure that the key concepts do come in to land? (I’ve already noted some other threads that I suspect will be picked up during the week and emerge in the same way over a longer period of time; we’ll see if I’m right.)

And I’ll just note a question was raised during discussion – it was about authorship of what is made made during collaborative projects. The question was in response to a description of work with young people which led to an exhibition. Their work. The artists. Or both. It seems that we will discuss this further during the week.

But… not all plain sailing. I’m pretty frustrated with my new camera. I’ve managed to leave the cable connecting the camera to my laptop at home and I’m struggling a bit with wifi transfer to iPad and then another  transfer of photos onto my laptop. It ought to be seamless but… .




About pat thomson

Pat Thomson is Professor of Education in the School of Education, The University of Nottingham, UK
This entry was posted in academic writing, Tate Summer School and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to summer school day one

  1. baileyain says:

    Hi, Pat,

    Just a quick question, if you haven’t thought of it already, when you say wifi transfer do you mean Air Drop? This happens via Bluetooth, and is a great and easy way to transfer files. I hope you’re transferring to your hearts content very soon.



    — M: +447773323396 W: T:



  2. Melanie Mortimer says:

    Really enjoyed this post. Lots to think about as a teacher of design. Would like to consider attending next year!


  3. Dorota Azzopardi says:

    Dear Pat Your posts are great, but this one resonated with me especially. I would love to know more about this summer school. I go to art retreats in Alton Mill, in Ontario. I find that the quiet process of creation is what charges my batteries most effectively. Maybe it is because I work with supporting people and problem-solving all week long? The only issues I want to solve on weekends is which brush to use.

    Thanks for sharing,

    Dorota Azzopardi

    Sent from my iPad



  4. Elaine Lum says:

    Dear Pat, thanks for allowing us a glimpse into Summer school! Love the silent start to Day 1; and also the thought-provoking questions. Looking forward to the rest of Summer school posts!


  5. christinekw says:

    Thanks for an interesting post; it got me thinking about creating together and bonding and how I might do this with my department at school. My thinking cap is on and activated!


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