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One cool guy, that Tauno!

On the Monday of St John’s Day week, under the auspices of SEB Charity Fund, a hundred children staying in safe houses and substitute homes across Estonia went on a trip to the Granite Villa, at Laitse, in order to attend a sculpting workshop under the supervision of sculptor Tauno Kangro. The master class was attended by children from various regions of Estonia: Tartu and Tartu County, Tallinn, Jõgeva County, Pärnu, Viljandi County, Ida-Viru County, Haapsalu, Harju County, and elsewhere.

“Are we going to be taught by a real artist?”

Henriette, Annabel, Kati and Tormi eagerly looked forward to the trip to the sculpture workshop. “Are we really going to an art-making workshop?”; “Are we going to be taught by a real artist?” the children eagerly enquired.

The day before the tip, families told their children about Tauno Kangro and showed them pictures of his works. Some families’ children had already tried their hand in the sculpture workshop the year before. Artem was fired up that he would be able to go and make figurines again. The children who had been to the workshop the year before were able to tell the others what to expect. For some of the children, the Granite Villa was familiar from a show seen on TV; now it was exciting to see it all in person.

On the way to Laitse, one family held a quiz on culture with topical questions, of course, about the works and exhibitions of sculptor Tauno Kangro. To conclude the quiz, the children who had also attended workshop the year before recalled it in nothing but glowing terms: a wonderful and new experience, a great place, one cool guy, that Tauno! It was the big and kind giant of a man who managed to leave the children with an unforgettable impression.

The sculpture workshop was also attended by three children with severe disabilities, along with their teacher and a social worker. The long trip to Laitse went by faster thanks to a pit stop at Türi, identifying the colours of approaching cars, counting railway crossings, recalling the names of trees... all of which made the long trip not feel much shorter than it actually was.

It important to do it YOURSELF!

On arrival, the children’s attention was caught by the figurines standing outside, which they tried to capture by photographing them with their mobiles. The first to arrive were able to swing on swings and take their time exploring the surroundings and the house under the guidance of those children for whom it was their second visit to the Granite Villa.

Once everyone was there, the sculptor greeted the young art enthusiasts and explained what would happen over the course of the day. The children got a chance to look around the rooms and adapt, as there was so much to see. Then, everyone sat down at the work benches, and the children were handed tools and given explanations of what to do. First, you had to prep the skeleton and feel how the material responded between your fingers. It was plain to see how the ideas where shaping up.

Everyone was agog at the fact that inspiration and food for thought could be drawn from real models, who were assuming various poses, entering various roles. Kenneth’s jaw dropped when a male model performed a headstand. Some children used their imagination. The older ones helped the younger ones to drive nails and twist wire. Afterwards, the children said that the human shape is much easier to model on a frame of wire, since wire allows itself to be worked precisely into the pose that the ‘creator’ wants.

You could tell straight away, that the works would turn out to be very different. It was great seeing how the little ones went about grabbing a hammer and a nail, trying to drive it into the mount for the work. It important to do it YOURSELF! Every child was involved in the work, with nobody missing out. Several instructors were encouraging the children from the side-lines and offering advice. Many a novice sculptor involved Tauno Kangro himself in the perfecting of their work. The way the artist established a connection with the children was impressive. Everyone who addressed him earned his praise, and he knew how to draw attention to what was interesting or beautiful about the work of that particular child.

Kangro: “Every child should be given the opportunity to find their talent!”

The organisation of the workshop was well thought-out from start to finish: the materials, which seemed to demand skill and experience at first, had been laid out on the tables, ready, beforehand. Spiffy aprons made the children feel like true artists, and their fantastic surroundings fired their enthusiasm. The children were equal to the activity, and if they were a bit short of strength on their own, an adult would help out. A supportive and encouraging instructor could be heard at all times, and, if needed, this person or assistants could be enlisted for help. In the meantime, there was a feeling that a hundred little spirited hammers were pounding away in sync.

Sculptor Tauno Kangro assessed the works created by the young people individually and drew attention to the strengths and distinctive features of every child’s creative output: “All children are talented: they are more talented than we can ever imagine. Every child should be given the opportunity to find their talent!” Kangro said.

One 9-year-old boy wanted to make a person reading; however, producing a book did not work out at all, and so he crafted a sword in the person’s hand instead. This was a child who would usually get irritated in such situations and leave the job unfinished. This time, however, it did not go that way, and the child was visibly pleased with his work and the certificate he received. Also, ‘failures’ – if there is such a thing in art at all – were accepted jokingly. For example, a girl’s figurine first had the head of an alien, whereas a boy had a man with very big feet. There was collective laughter, and the experiments continued.

Vitya, who has been attending an art club for some time already, was the embodiment of peace. At first, he really took his time, carefully thinking through his work. Ultimately, he was nearly the last one to finish his sculpture. The result, however, was worth it: the figurine was nicely proportionate and a pleasing sight to behold.

Kevin drew inspiration from a singing show filmed at the Granite Villa and sculpted a singer; Kätlin produced a dancer; and Silver’s figurine looked like an athlete. The figurines painted with the help of the adults seemed quite real. The children gained the experience of being able to use their hands to turn a jumble of wire into a sculpture with the appearance of real art.

Raido and Kairi were making their sculptures with great enthusiasm and earnestness, and they turned out to be very beautiful works. For Teele, some of the unexpected things were frightening at first; for example, the sword in the hand of the male model, the fox skins placed on the chairs and some figurines. Fear, however, dissipated soon in a friendly and busy atmosphere.

Some girls wanted to make princesses, whereas the boys were turning out princes. Both the children and the adults with them gained a lot of new knowledge of how the human shape can be modelled and sculpted, and what tools to should be used to do so. All the children delighted in the creative activity, and their delight was amplified by the visible result.

An artist offering acknowledgement and a creative atmosphere

In crafting their sculptures, some of the younger attendees were even teary when the first piece of Plasticine would not allow itself to be worked into a sculpture like the one standing, finished, on the table. Furthermore, sculpting the face turned out to be harder than expected, with the cheeks of some of the young men becoming flushed as they accentuated the shapeliness of the female figure. For many, it was their first time sculpting the human body, feeling it, and this kind of conscious approach proved a hard nut to crack. Doubters’ minds were cleared by Tauno himself, who, with simple words, untangled the rules to divide the proportions of the human body, directing the attendees’ gaze to the graceful models and explaining their movements. He praised the children’s original approach and their courage in asking questions. This provided everybody with a lot of ‘strength’, and the work unfolded smoothly and with dedication. Everybody recognised that the crucial factor, without which there can be no inspiration, is the atmosphere around us!

Everybody could ask Tauno Kangro to autograph their completed sculpture, and he did not run out of attention or acknowledgement for anyone. In return, Tauno received embraces of gratitude from the children. The sculptor praised and acknowledged the children a lot. The children especially liked it when the sculptor personally evaluated their work. The children received immediate feedback and felt talented, which every child is, of course.

In the rooms where the children were able look around, the sculptor’s other works also roused a lot of attention. Once the children had finished their work and tried sculpting for themselves, there was lively discussion of how various sculptures are made.

Lesson: everything you make yourself is special

On the way home, the children had many more ideas about all the things that could have been sculpted from Plasticine and they decided that next year they would return and bring their ideas to life. On that day, mothers / teachers saw new facets in their children: everybody expressed their ideas differently, and nobody’s work was the same. Everybody’s creative output showed that particular child’s nature and world of imagination. The children also learned to better express themselves through manual activities.

On the way back, the children talked excitedly about what Kangro had drawn attention to in their works, and there was a discussion of who to give one’s sculpture to. Everybody held their work very delicately, and you could tell that the children cared about what was being done. One child, normally not too likely to itch to go somewhere, wrote, discussing his impression afterwards, that, going forward, he would not say no if an opportunity presented itself for attending another event. Back home, the children were happy and proud of the works they had created, which they placed in worthy positions in their rooms and which earned them praise from others.

Praise from Tauno Kangro struck a chord with all the children and made them feel special. The children also learned to take notice of tiny details that do not seem important at first glance (comparing nature out of the coach window whilst travelling), acting as part of a team (calmly waiting for others, before moving on together) and how everything you make yourself is special if you know how to look (how Kangro characterised the children’s works). Another important lesson was that there is no need to crow about one’s own work and put down someone else’s (or vice versa) but that, rather, everyone has done their best and deserves praise for what they have done.


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