today's TEENAGERS play online games, but teens in the past made their own toys, sometimes with very limited resources. While we can now heat food with microwaves, our grandparents' generation had to use firewood to cook. These are some of the findings that students discovered in Visual Memoirs, a visual arts project organised by the Youth Arts Festival. More than 60 students from 12 primary and secondary schools joined the project to find out what life was like 50 years ago and see how Hong Kong has changed. They will then turn these nostalgic themes into art pieces. Led by visual artist Dion Choy, the students spent an afternoon interviewing senior citizens at St James' Settlement in Wan Chai and Grace Nursing Home in Kowloon Tong. After the interviews, the students began a three-week workshop which started last Sunday. 'Research is an important part in the process of art creation,' Ms Choy said. 'But some information is not available in libraries or on the internet. Students must talk to the senior citizens to get first-hand information.' She also hopes that hearing of the hardships endured by the elderly and their interesting stories will stimulate students to reflect on their own lives. Through talking to the elderly, students learned about the jobs people did and some customs of the past. For example, they were surprised to know that there were 'professional writers' who helped people to write letters because many were illiterate. Children would make their own toys with paper, beans, incense or other objects because their parents could not afford to buy them toys. 'In the past, when a new baby was born, each neighbour would contribute a small piece of cloth. The cloths would then be sewn together to make a large, colourful quilt. People believed the quilt would bring good luck to the baby,' said 15-year-old Pang Lai-yan from Hon Wah Middle School. After interviewing the elderly, the students turned the intriguing stories into original artworks with collages of mixed media materials such as newspaper, photographs and fabrics. Sixteen-year-old Defong Ko from Shau Kei Wan Government Secondary School created a collage with branches and a matchbox, after she interviewed 80-year-old Uncle Fong. 'He told me of his hardships during the Japanese invasion, and how he cooked with firewood. So I picked up branches in the park to represent firewood,' she said. The finished artworks will be exhibited from November 8 to 13 at Plaza Hollywood in Diamond Hill, and from Nov 11 to 12 and 14 to 19 at the Fringe Club's Economist Gallery. Admission is free. For more information, call 2877 2779. After the exhibition, the art pieces will be given to the elderly centres.