In 2015, students from The CE Academy arrived at Sudborough Green Lodge for a workshop with artist and Associate Educator Louise Clarke. As they would when visiting Louise’s studio later in the year, students entered a magical environment of treasures; costumes, boxes of textiles, hair extensions, stacks of gaffer tape, Velcro, fairy wings, a hardhat, netting, foam, and a massive roll of black paper.
Louise described her own artistic practice as stemming from childhood memories. Inviting the students to work as costume designers to bring shadows to life, Louise asked the group to think about what makes shadows interesting, scary, or comical, posing questions such as “Are shadows entities in their own right?”
Trying on wigs and old clothes, the students shaped material by stuffing it with padding, folding netting into voluminous skirts and making hats with rabbit ears, claws and axes from foam. Long pointy witches’ nails were grafted, and materials contorted to create bulbous fleshy bits or pointed horns and extra limbs. Finishing touches included rucksacks for going on adventures, or a tutu and fairy wings to reminisce about childhood dress up games.
Once costumes were completed, our cast of characters lay down on a sheet of black paper with Louise gently drawing round them. After cutting out the paper shadows, students placed them on the walls, like a police lineup of characters from Grimm Fairy Tales, Hammer Horrors and Kara Walker’s paper silhouettes of historical narratives.
An axe-wielding nun on the run being chased by a dagger-wielding workman. A feather-tailed thief escaping with a bag of wriggling mice. A broomstick flying fairy queen with an Elizabethan bustle being chased by an armadillo rat porcupine. Students embraced the randomness of this workshop, getting lost inside their own imaginations to become mythical creatures, or some very interesting alter egos.
One autistic student would suffer from sensory overload if touched, so set strict rules during the shadow-making. Louise drew around him carefully, allowing him to escape, switch off from life and dream of flying and crawling and jumping in his own fantastical fairy tale.