Working Spontaneously

In my work I like to ask people questions which help establish the mood and tone of our work together, as well as what expectations/needs/requirements folk have.

Last week it was my pleasure to spend time working with a firm of accountants who wanted to explore how they could use art to enhance their work. Among other interesting things, they expressed a need for spontaneity and a requirement to create art for their office. Neither of these have surfaced in previous sessions – the responses are often much more ‘work’ related.

Here are a couple of examples of how people responded to their invitations to be spontaneous and to create some art for the office. To meet the need for spontaneity we used a basic printing technique to give us unpredictable results.

Art for the Office 1 Art for the Office 2

Who said accountants are boring?

Leap Day 2016

Hello folks, I hope your week is going fabulously?

A quick reminder, this year we get a bonus day in the calendar, Monday Feb 29th is Leap Day. Four years ago several of us took advantage of this extra day and gathered in London for some useful fun. Several lovely opportunities for reflection arose throughout the day too, including this scene, titled ‘The Anonymous Artist’, beautifully captured by Jon Bartlett.

Leap Day 2016 is starting to take shape and will involve a number of curious, cocreated and community minded things to try out. Would you like to join us?


Down the rabbit hole

On Leap Day, we will meet around 10.30am at the Alice in Wonderland exhibition, in the entrance hall of the British Library.

I am planning some things for us to do throughout the day and there will be room for improvisation too. If you would like to bring an idea along for us to play with – feel free, and please be aware that we may not use it. I intend to have too much to do for the time we are together. Some of the fun will be in choosing what to do and what not to do. The day is over when it is over – leave when it suits you. We may totter into a pub in the late afternoon/early evening – we’ll see. Feel free to take part in as much or as little as you choose – the day will be invitational as far as we can make it so.

There is a small charge per head to cover design and materials, £30 plus VAT = £36.

I’ll provide details of how to get that to me below and your place will be confirmed once the money has been exchanged. You’ll need to budget for your own food and refreshments along the way and I’m not currently planning to use a fixed venue – we will be on the move stopping at various interesting and unusual places through the day to do cool stuff.

I’d prefer not to use EventBrite or PayPal to collect money as their fees will only add to the cost. Please contact me directly through the website, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn and I will give you my bank details. You then ping me the money,  I send you a receipt and your place is confirmed. Simple as that.

Update: February 10th 2016. There are three places left for Leap Day 2016, if you fancy coming along it would be lovely to see you.

Icons and Artefacts

In my office I have a box of icons and artefacts. The contents of this box connect me to powerful people, places and things. My mum’s engagement ring is in the box along with its hand written receipt. There are postcards, concert tickets, thank you letters from clients, photographs, badges, conference swag, all kinds of stuff. I can’t recall ever demoting anything from the box – so I take great care in choosing what goes in there.

Icons and Artefacts

I used to keep many more icons and artefacts. I once had a huge collection of vinyl amassed mainly from the punk and new wave era, with a side order of new romantics and occasional outbursts of rock. I used to keep several guitars too, including this honey blonde Telecaster.


I lost the records and guitars, and much more besides when, as a nineteen year old in the mid 1980s, I adopted a nomadic lifestyle for a while. When I stopped roaming, the collection inside the box started and has been coming together since then.

Why am I telling you this? I have something new for the box…

A letter arrived in the post this week containing two very important pieces of paper, our tickets to the 2016 Learning Awards. The event takes place in London on February 4th – and the Art for Work’s Sake project is shortlisted in the Innovation in Learning category.

Learning Awards 2016 Tickets

I’m excited about the evening, and nervous too. Excited because we might go one step beyond the short list, and nervous because – truthfully – I’m not convinced I did a good enough job presenting to the judging panel on the day. I found myself a little overwhelmed to be up against much bigger organisations. That mind of mine which knows how powerfully art impacts learning and is usually open to possibilities, felt unusually closed – just at the wrong time. In the immediate aftermath of the presentation I was frustrated by what I felt was a missed opportunity – and I’m comfortable writing about this now. The decisions have long been made and there’s no fate to be tempted.

Given what I’ve just written, you might be asking why I want to add these tickets to the box. This is why:

I’ve benefitted hugely from the process of applying. I like flowing, improvisational work, and distilling ideas and getting clear on things can sometimes be a struggle for me. Getting the message across in the awards submission forced me to communicate concisely, clearly. I remember showing the completed submission to Carole shortly before I sent it off and she acknowledged it was some of the clearest work I’ve done. ‘I can read this – and understand why people would want and need to work with you.’

I’m chuffed to bits that the work got shortlisted. I know you’re supposed to say that – and it’s true. I’ve no idea how many entrants there were in our category but I know that there were over 300 submissions in the awards overall. I have a good feeling from this progress, and the journey so far adds to the story of why arts based learning is important, as a set of useful tools we can use and as a way of exploring and challenging behavioural aspects of our work.

Based on my experience I’d encourage you to look for opportunities to put your best work up for recognition. Yes – the process is hard, and time consuming, and frustrating! And for the reasons I’ve just described – it’s worth it too. Here’s to an excellent evening on February 4th.