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Playing I-Spy with the Folding Worlds Portal Holes, holes cut out in the Creature Maker

The Making of Folding Worlds

Chelsea Canavan

The ‘Folding Worlds’ pack is an activity for parents, children and their families designed by Helium Arts’ artist, Chelsea Canavan.  It is  an open resource available here for creative arts workers and artists to learn more about it and use it in your own work with children and families.

The pack contains an instruction booklet, 2 different sheets of paper that can be folded into ‘Creature Makers’ and a sticker sheet. Use the ‘Creature Makers’ to help you to make your own unique imaginary creature. Pick the features they will have. Will they be furry or smooth? Will they have eight legs or no legs at all? You can add stickers in the ‘sticker spots’ before you play to give even more possibilities.

The packs will be distributed in 2022 to Helium Arts’ partner hospitals and they will be made available to children and families in outpatients, day wards, accident and emergency and inpatients so they can ‘create while you wait’.

Artists and creative arts workers can print and download your own packs here:

Image of the folding worlds origami creature maker made up

Creature Maker

How ‘Folding Worlds’ Began?

The ‘Folding Worlds’ pack was inspired by the experience of co-creating the Pirate Pack – an immediate response to the pandemic.  The Pirate Pack began in Cork University Hospital, where artist Siobhán Clancy designed themed and lap-based activities that could be used in outpatients or waiting areas in the hospital.  The Pirate Pack was received with enthusiasm by hospitals and staff during the height of the 2020 waves.  The reach and impact of the Pirate Pack was celebrated  in local papers and newsletters.  Not only was it used by children in outpatients, but it was brought into emergency rooms and inpatient children’s wards.  The pack  helped children who were in the hospital to relieve anxiety and beat the boredom of waiting.  At Helium Arts, we could see there was definitely a need there.  With lockdowns continuing to loom into the future, we decided to invest our time and energy into more creative building processes that could give Helium a pack that could be made available in multiple hospitals and reach a broader age range.  In addition to being a resource for children in hospital settings, we asked how best could we continue to nourish the creativity that the pack inspired in the children?  We wanted to make sure that the children could be offered a second invitation after using the pack to join our community programmes (which were to resume as soon as restrictions allowed it).

With this in mind, Chelsea Canavan, Helium Arts’ artist, began a series of creative resonance conversations with internationally renowned Irish artist Eamon O’Kane which led to the development of the ‘Folding Worlds’ pack.  Eamon’s participatory practice and his exhibition of the History of Play was an immediate draw for the fundamentals of the creative pack, and the conversations inspired the open ended feeling and added to the inspiration and process that anything could happen.  While responding to their conversations around storytelling and mythological thinking, Chelsea researched Froebel, and the Charles and Eames Studios, and Creative Free Play. These conversations, subsequent postal exchanges, and the creation of a digital online idea board led to key creative steps in developing what is now called the Folding Worlds.

Helium Arts’ Artist, Chelsea Canavan speaks to Visual Artist, Aideen Barry, about ‘Folding Worlds’

Folding Worlds How-To Video

Download and print your ‘Folding Worlds’ pack HERE:

Art Packs are not a new idea for Helium, just look at the fabulous Two Suitcases Project, the Puppet Toolkits, and the entire Distance Creates Remote Programme and you’ll soon see that Helium has a rich and creative history with Art Packs for children and young people.  The ‘Folding Worlds’ is a different sort of pack altogether.  It was created for an out-patients hospital setting that often operates under tight restrictions and lockdowns. 

The parameters that defined the creation of the ‘Folding Worlds’ pack emerged from the Covid 19 pandemic and the restrictions placed upon hospitals and their patients around maintaining physical  distance, strict sanitation rules, and essentially no contact.  These restrictions presented a new challenge in that they rule out the use of shared materials in a waiting space like; scissors, glue, and colouring utensils.  Instead of looking at what this was taking away from my interactions with children in hospital I decided to look at what other possibilities it opened up.

So, what makes the ‘Folding Worlds’ pack new and exciting? It is an open invitation to creative and exploratory play.  It allows for an individual to create and share an experience  while remaining  functional and transportable, even under extreme restrictions.

Helene Hugel, CEO, Founder and Artistic Director of Helium Arts speaks about the ‘Folding Worlds’ pack.

Arts Council Logo 2021

The Folding Worlds art packs have been funded by the RTE Does Comic Relief Fund at The Community Foundation for Ireland with support from the Government of Ireland and additional funding from the Arts Council.

Government of Ireland RTE Does Comic Relief and The Community Foundation for Ireland Logos

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CHY Number: 19236
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