Prague teachers to bring ‘talking weavings’ project to Leeds schools as part of 2023 festival

Akshaya Krishnamoorthy and Elizabeth Perry are teachers at the International School of Prague. They’ve been creating ‘talking weavings’ with their students and want to bring the project to Leeds as part of the LEEDS 2023 schools projects.

By Alex Grant
Sunday, 1st May 2022, 11:45 am

Akshaya explains.

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“I’m a visual artist and an Early Childhood Atelierista at the International School of Prague. An Atelierista is an artist educator who works with children to help them explore the different languages and methods of creating. In my spaces the children are artists rather than students!

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They’ve been creating ‘talking weavings’ with their students and want to bring the project to Leeds as part of the LEEDS 2023 schools projects.

Our classes of 5 and 6 year olds have been working on a project which is all about telling stories through weaving, and we want to bring it to children in Leeds as part of LEEDS 2023.

The idea for the project started last year when I started to teach myself how to weave. I'd been working with a group of children who were sewing at school and one of the children asked what else we could create with thread.

I spent the whole summer weaving together scraps of yarn, playing with patterns and experimenting with colours. You can create something tactile and beautiful and I knew that the children would love it.

As I created more and more weavings at home, I began to think about the link between weaving yarn and weaving stories. I wondered what kind of stories a weaving would tell if it could talk, and I knew I had to share my idea with Elizabeth, a fellow teacher and technology expert at the school.”

Akshaya Krishnamoorthy and Elizabeth Perry are teachers at the International School of Prague.

Elizabeth Perry continues.

“I met up with Akshaya for a coffee and she asked if I thought it was possible to make a weaving talk using technology. I think she expected me to say no, but my response was ‘yes! I think we could do that!’ I was really interested in the link between the words ‘textile’ and ‘text’ and I knew that our students could create something amazing.

It sounds complex, but making a weaving talk is actually pretty simple. The children create their weavings, record their own stories, then clip metal fasteners through the weaving into an electrical circuit which is connected to a laptop.

When you touch the fasteners, the stories play aloud. We’ve had stories about everything from a magical snail that turns animals into ballerinas, to the creation of the world. The children have named the project The Weaving Giant, which I think is absolutely perfect.

Some people think that the technology is too difficult for a 5 or 6 year old to grasp, but they couldn’t be more wrong. We don’t give young children enough credit or autonomy; they’re natural problem solvers and they pick things up incredibly quickly.

Now we’re working with the team at LEEDS 2023 on ideas to bring The Weaving Giant to Leeds as part of the school commissions project. We saw the application at the very last minute and had to give it a go - we knew very little about the history of the textile industry in Leeds, but when we read into it we couldn’t believe how relevant this project was.

It fit very well with the local context of Leeds! We could imagine school children making their own weavings and recording stories about their lives and communities.

We came over to Leeds last weekend to run an initial workshop at The Tetley with teachers and artists. They weaved on laser cut looms and tinkered with the technology, and we had some amazing conversations about what we could do. The fact that a conversation we had in a cafe in Prague can ripple out to Leeds and maybe even further - it’s magic.