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Kids school and holiday art clubs

Maths through Art

The current climate for art education is often disheartening, with art departments under increasing pressure, teachers everywhere fighting for their subject to be valued and for people to understand the importance of art education in a fraught battle ground dominated by the STEM subjects (Science Technology Engineering and Maths).  Those who advocate STEAM  - add the A for Arts, acknowledging the importance of creativity in any process.

Metalwork bag, 1300-1335 (early 14th century), Mosul, Northern I

Detail – Metalwork bag, Mosul, Iraq, Early 14th century,
Brass with gold and silver inlay, 13.5x 19.2x 15.2x 22cm

I have been involved in a project with the Courtauld Gallery (where I work as a freelance tutor) looking at the links between Art and Maths, stemming from the idea that any subject can be taught effectively THROUGH Art and in this case also touching on History, Geography, Science and Technology. We began by examining the Islamic Metalwork and Italian Maiolica pottery in the Courtauld’s varied and beautiful collection, best known for its French Impressionist work.


The project for primary schools examines these crafts, highlighting the importance of design, creativity, trade and inspiration in the production of goods and artefacts alongside the cross cultural engagement that took place at the time of their production.


Metalwork bag, Mosul, Iraq, Early 14th century,
Brass with gold and silver inlay, 13.5x 19.2x 15.2x 22cm


We worked with primary schools across London to develop a rich teaching resource for schools and are doing extensive outreach projects in a number of schools across London.

I shared my research with Veena our artist teacher at Pelham After School Art Club who took up the challenge with amazing results.


IMG_3661 Here children learnt to divide a circle into octants and create an octagon. They were inspired by the Italian Maiolica to make a design involving rotational symmetry

The Courtauld Gallery project begins with a visit to the gallery, however the restrictions of our art club did not allow us to make this special visit.  We looked at images from the collection on line and Veena brought in her own artefacts for inspiration.


You can find examples of artefacts in museums all over the country. I found these in the Fizwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

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Veena began by exploring grids to make patterns, giving the children the freedom to experiment with shapes and see what they found.

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In our art club Veena works with children from year 2 up to year 5  for 2 hours each week. You can see the variety of responses.IMG_4865


We then went on to explore pattern and shape using a paper plate and squares of gummed paper cut into various shapes. While overlaying them to see what we could produce children could clearly see the mathematical relationships between shapes.

IMG_4807 IMG_4812 IMG_4829 IMG_4831 IMG_4837 IMG_4838 IMG_4839 IMG_4869 IMG_4873Veena took these principles further when developing geometric patterns on plywood boards using beans and lentils – imagine the mess!!!!


The Courtauld Gallery project asks the children to use compasses, protractors and mathematical principles to construct complex shapes like six or eight pointed stars and patterns inspired by nature, then inject their own ideas and creativity into these more formal processes.

IMG_5502 IMG_5500 IMG_5499 IMG_5498They draw from nature to design printing tiles. At Pelham Art Club we worked on printing skills at the start of the year. See the blog Autumnal printed patterns

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The next part of the process is to learn to draw an eight pointed star and a cross to make into a template to cut a clay tile. You can make this template by folding a large square and drawing circles within smaller squares. It has to be prickly drawn and constructed mathematically.

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Some children need more help with this and use pre drawn templates, but everyone always ends up with one to cut out from their clay!


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The children then use the template to cut out a clay tile and decorate using patterns inspired by the objects they have looked at.

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We then decorate a tile by carving into the surface or moulding on top.IMG_3779

These are the tiles made at Pelham Art Club joined together in a collaborative, tessellated pattern – they were just beautiful!IMG_5630

They have painted them and glazed them with PVA glue. I love the two different colours used for the stars and crosses.

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You can see and download the full project researched and delivered by the Courtauld Gallery HERE.

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