Over the Summer term of 2019, I was invited by Mountjoy School to create a sensory collaborative sculpture that would engage the students in the techniques and skills of rope making and knots. It is a special educational needs school which helps students from the age of 2 1/2 to 19. The school wanted to involve as many students from the school as possible and so the sculpture needed to be adapted to each students expertise and dexterity. It also needed to be constructed in a way that students in wheelchairs will be able to have access to the sculpture.

I liaised with the art teacher, Caroline Pledger, to organise the student’s participation in the workshops as well as working with a core group of students to come up with an idea for the sculpture. They all seemed to like the idea of using the school emblem, a puzzle piece, as the centre point of the sculpture. Caroline and I worked together to bring in the idea of using the Dorset Button as something they can make and hang on the sculpture. If you would like to know more about the history of the Dorset Button, please view it here.

To make sure each student has some participation in the sculpture I presented five different skills/techniques they could practice when I was at the school. These were:

1. A student can pick colours of twine which then can be twisted into rope.
2. A class can choose 1,2 or 3 different coloured twines which they can twist into a length of rope using the rope making machine.
3. A student can thread a wooden puzzle with their choice of coloured ropes.
4. A student can learn to knot half hitches or square knots to form a length of knotted rope.
5. A student can create a Dorset Button which can hang from the sculpture.
Each classroom lesson has over 10 students and it was fantastic to see them all getting involved in the process. The classroom teachers mentioned how good it was to see the children connecting and engaging in ropemaking activities.
To encapsulate the form of the Dorset button, I created two 1 metre diameter rings made from Marine Ply. At the centre of the rings were two large puzzle pieces. The students could then hang their Dorset Buttons and puzzle pieces inside each of the rings. Holding the rings up were four oak posts and wrapped around them was the twisted coloured rope, each of them representing a classroom. The students could interact with the sculpture by turning the rings, handling the wooden pieces and feeling the knotted rope on the post.

A special thanks go to all the students that were involved, the art teacher Caroline Pledger, the maintenance man Harry, Dorset CC, Governors and parents who contributed towards the piece.


Dorset Buttons and Mountjoy schools emblem – hand-knotted rope, oak, plywood – 100 x 100 x 190 cm – 2019

Dorset Buttons and Mountjoy schools emblem – 2019 – Close up of large puzzle piece.

Dorset Buttons and Mountjoy schools emblem – 2019 – Close up of Dorset Buttons

Dorset Buttons and Mountjoy schools emblem – 2019 – Close up of hand-knotted rope

Dorset Buttons and Mountjoy schools emblem – 2019 – Close up of artist Edward Crumpton beside the piece