Jo Atherton

I am a professional artist and freelance creative educator. I enjoy working with community groups and schools to deliver a wide range of workshops, spanning KS1 to A Level and beyond. I delight in the opportunity to share my skills and be part of a learning community, believing creativity is an essential element of education and will always strive to provide an infectious level of enthusiasm in my workshops.

I have a BA (Hons) in English Literature and an MA in Cultural & Critical Studies which stems from my fascination in using objects to tell stories. For the past decade, I have been working with materials gathered on the UK coastline to explore the traces we leave behind, the archaeology of the future and raise important discussions around recycling and sustainability. I am more than happy to tailor workshops to particular age groups or learning outcomes on your syllabus and enjoy crafting a bespoke proposal which will meet your learning needs.

Example workshops:

Flotsam Weaving workshops explore working with found materials, recycling and the growing problem of marine litter. Pupils each learn to string their own ‘flotsam fish’ willow loom and then develop basic weaving skills as they introduce a variety of materials into their fish. Often I supply rope, netting and a variety of items actually gathered on our beaches – clean of course! These projects can come together to form a shoal at the end of the project which make for a dramatic display in the school.

My Future Fossils workshop provides an opportunity for pupils to work with clay and consider how everyday objects we throw away will be interpreted in the future. Thinking about the imprint these objects are leaving on the planet, this workshop activity involves working with clay to create modern ‘fossils’. Tiles would be imprinted with everyday plastic objects from my beachcombing collection to create a permanent example of our plastic legacy.

Cyanotype workshops provide the opportunity for pupils to experience an early photography technique, working with found objects, light sensitive paper and bright sunshine. These sessions are very popular, and best suited to the warmer summer months. They provide opportunity to think about renewable energy too, as we watch our ‘photographs’ slowly expose in the sunlight.

I was recently involved in a Heritage Lottery Funded project to commemorate the WWI Centenary, Mud & Memorials which saw every schoolchild working with myself and a local historian to explore their allocated soldier, from his role in the War, to where he lived in the village then create a new memorial wall from individual clay tiles. Working with clay was a sensitive way of considering the sensory elements of the war, opening up discussions about the mud of the Somme battlefields as we rolled out sticky clay for our memorial tiles.

Work with professional organisations:

As well as local schools and colleges, I have also worked with a number of organisations to deliver engagement activities. These include the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, the University of Cambridge, Litter Free Coast & Sea with Dorset Wildlife Trust , the Cutty Sark, Royal Museums Greenwich,  the Natural History Museum and University College London.