Robertson Public School children make artworks that celebrate their unique environment

The Art+Environment project at Robertson Public School, which engaged children from Mrs Campbell – Jones 2014 year 3/4 class in meaningful art making, is now installed at the school next to the main entrance pathway.

The three circular tiled panels each represent the unique flora, birds and animals of Robertson- the Yarrawa Brush.

Designs of local plants created by Robertson Public School children.

Through the mediums of charcoal drawing and clay work, the children learnt about some of the unique plant and animal species that call Robertson home. The children then transferred their drawings into clay tiles, preserving their charcoal drawings for all to see.

drawing pittosporum
Sweet Pittosporum


Working with charcoal pushes children out of the comfort zone of texta and pencil. Learning to use charcoal is frustrating at first, but year 3/4 soon learnt to modulate the weight of their lines, experiencing the way a charcoal line can be drawn lightly and finely with a gentle touch, thickly and darkly with a firm hand. Smudging charcoal line is fun and can create the appearance of three dimensions. I was particularly impressed by the drawings of plant materials that the children made. Carefully observing the samples that I provided, they made sensitive observational drawings ; the children’s lines are fresh, strong and confident yet have a naive quality. The finished tiles have the quality of a Margaret Preston wood block print .

robbo kids plant tiles

Like charcoal, clay is a tactile medium. Being responsive to touch, it has a life of its own. With clay tools the children transferred their lines into leather hard clay tiles, preserving the quality of their original charcoal drawings and making a permanent playground art work that they can be proud of.

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It was the confident quality of the children’s charcoal drawings that inspired another project in Robertson- the carved benches in Pinkwood Park.

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“I’m proud to be the conduit for another local community arts project. My philosophy is that moving small grains of sand can make big differences. Few of us have the time or financial resources to make grand gestures, but we can all make a difference by sharing just a little of our time, skills and knowledge.”

Bee Bell Assemblage at Cloudfarm Studios

A group of eight environmental art enthusiasts gathered at Cloudfarm Studios last Saturday to assemble three “Bee Bells” that will provide habitat for native bees in Picton Botanical Gardens. The workshop participants – Margaret, Sharon, Jake, Ingrida and Margaret, along with Susan Conroy from Southern Tablelands Arts, myself and my colleague Ana Pollak, spent the day attaching the terracotta and copper shim leaves that will protect native bee nests.

Ana wiring up the “clay cob” Bee Bell.

The clay cob that was made during the first workshop at Wollondilly Community Nursery is now dry and hanging within the copper shim bell. Clay is favoured by blue banded bees and teddy bear bees as a nesting material; guide holes were made into the clay cob to give the bees a starting point for their nesting tunnels.


Armatures hanging in the studio ready for the workshop.
Volunteers Jake and Ingrid wiring the terracotta “leaves” to one of the bee bells.

The fired terracotta “leaves” made by participants in the last workshop form a shingled cladding over the steel armature, protecting the nesting substrates from the worst of the weather. The first two armatures, shown above, will house a collection of substrates including bamboo, Xanthorea spikes and lantana. These nesting materials are favoured by reed bees, resin bees, masked bees and leaf cutter bees.

The three “Bee Bells”at the end of the workshop.

The three hanging bee habitat sculptures are visually intriguing. Apart from providing nesting materials, the works will whet the curiosity of visitors to the Picton Botanical gardens, helping to increase awareness of our local native bees.

Detail of the terracotta “leaves”
shim detail
Detail of the copper shim “leaves”

Over time the terracotta and copper shim bee bells will develop a patina, ageing gracefully within the natural environment.

The Bee Bells will be installed into Picton Botanic gardens in early Spring.

Interested in Native Bees? Follow Megan Halcroft’s Facebook pages: