Eight-year-old Dicky Wu Cheuk-hin likes to create artworks out of waste material.
"I felt bored at home one day and felt like eating. I saw a few pieces of newspaper [lying around] and thought I could make an egg using a balloon and the newspaper," says the young boy. Gathering the bits and pieces he needed, he blew up a purple balloon, cut the newspaper into squares, coloured the pieces and then glued them onto the ball.
Dicky has been attending an arts and crafts class at Draw 2 - Art and Language Studio in Wan Chai where, among other things, he has learned how to turn seemingly useless objects such as bottle caps, used straws and toilet paper rolls into fun art pieces. The centre offers painting and arts and crafts lessons, as well as courses in English, Putonghua and Japanese to children and adults.
Agnes Pang Shuk-yee, founder of Draw 2, says children should learn how they can play a part in protecting the environment. "I dislike wasting things. The materials we use in our work aren't rubbish. They have value," she says.
By cultivating an interest in creating art pieces from everyday items at home, Pang also hopes to tap into the students' creativity. Many children are overwhelmed by hectic schedules packed with formal classes, tutoring and extracurricular activities, and are deprived of the time and space to "create and think", she says.
"Many kids know from their teachers that the earth's resources are being used up," she says. "So I use examples from daily life to illustrate the concept. For example, we used cardboard as the raw material in yesterday's class. I told the kids that we had to cut a tree down to obtain the cardboard and it takes a long time for another tree to grow back."
Pang is always on the lookout for ideas to recycle waste into small, simple items. One involves using the foam netting that is wrapped around fruit.
"They are one of those one-time-use things, and that is a huge waste," says Pang. Once available only in white foam netting is now available in a range of colours including yellow, pink and green."
From the nets Pang has crafted beautiful mosaic paintings, including one depicting the serenity of the countryside. She has also cut the nets into tiny cubes and put them together in the shapes of pink toro sushi and yellow tamago sushi. Another idea was to construct a vase and a pencil holder using a net and a plastic water bottle, decorating them with a buttons and ribbons.
Dicky's favourite piece of work features marine creatures such as crabs. "You cut a toilet paper roll into two halves. Use one half for the crab's body. Cut the other half into thin strips for the legs ... You need to colour the parts ... You can get the eyes from a stationery shop," he says.
Lleyton Chan Yin-lam, another of Pang's students, recalls building a maze from used straws - which he collected - as well as coffee stirrers that he asked his mother to save for him. He broke up the bundles and arranged them in the form of a maze.
"It wasn't hard. It was fun. You have to use your brain ... I have played the game myself [and also] let my friends play with it," says the seven-year-old.
Lleyton has turned collecting waste material into a routine.
"I collect sweet wrappers for Miss Pang ... I wash the wrapper first, then pat it dry with a towel before putting it in my box."
Does he understand what "protecting the environment" means? Lleyton says: "The earth is polluted. We need to reduce the amount of rubbish by recycling waste."
Pang says she hopes her students will be inspired by their artwork.
"Nowadays many children learn how to paint and draw by copying other people's work. There is also an emphasis on drilling techniques. I am against this approach. I teach my students how to create interesting art pieces that can be handled at their respective age. Three-year-olds cannot do what eight-year-olds can," she says.
Three-year-olds May be asked to draw the outline of a birthday cake on a piece of paper, colour in the cake however they want, and then stick three pieces of straw onto it for candles.
But older children can acquire and apply new techniques, Pang says. Five-year-olds are expected to use more colours, draw patterns and fill in the colours more solidly, while eight-year-olds learn to draw shadows to give an object three dimensions.
"We need to be patient and give children the freedom to create," says Pang. "What matters is that they are happy when they are making art."
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