Do not step on the Flwowos (Flowers) - Camden Art Centre

A year long schools programme of learning, care and collaboration through arts and gardening with Johanna Tagada Hoffbeck

In collaboration with Camden Art Centre and a local primary school, painter and interdisciplinary artist Johanna Tagada Hoffbeck has ideated and developed a year long programme based around the themes of Joy and Togetherness. Throughout the year every pupil at the school from year one through to six will participate in the project based around interacting with and understanding the natural world.

Guided by Johanna the children work individually and collectively around seasonal themes including; community, compassion, cultivating connections and a sense of place. All sessions involve gardening, drawing and conversations between the group encouraging creativity, knowledge sharing and confidence building through self-expression.

The project draws on the artist’s ongoing project The Gardening Drawing Club and the sensibilities and skills explored through these sessions. The Gardening Drawing Club runs regularly with a range of different audiences in a variety of locations including previous iterations at Camden Art Centre in April and October 2022.

Chapters Images The Artist Artist Film


Through the Autumn term years 1 and 2 planted over 300 daffodil bulbs across the school with many of the participants planting for the first time. Each pupil was individually guided through the process and planted their own bulbs which will bloom in Spring. After the workshops the pupils also created their own signage to protect the bulbs through cultivation, the wording of which inspired the project title.

“One of the aims of this term was to encourage a sense of belonging (as a part of nature) and well-being. We discussed and soothed any discomfort or fear children may associate with the natural world (ex: ‘it is dirty, ‘fear of insects’); as a result, confidence and skills were gained. We learned about plants, insects, and each other as we spoke about the languages we may use outside the classroom over cups of herbal tea in the morning. I adored some of the references the children made as we discussed the life of plants, for example, that “roots are like giant straw; they take water and food from the soil! ”” – Johanna Tagada Hoffbeck

During sessions at Camden Art Centre Johanna planted additional sage and rosemary plants in the garden and taught the pupils to plant smaller basil seeds and the different approach required. Term 2 which will begin in January, will focus on the textures of the natural world.

Through the Winter and Spring term years 3 and 4, planted organic broad beans and nasturtium seeds. Each pupil was individually guided through the process and planted their seeds in compostable pots, which began to germinate and grow soon after in the small greenhouse of the school. In March, and with the enthusiasm and help of the children, the plants were safely transplanted into the school’s planting boxes. As for the first term, each session began with shared cups of organic herbal tea and a conversation.

“One of the aims of this term was to encourage and explore the possibility of art as a medium of expression and communication. One of the activities we carried out together in January featured a nature walk, exploring the school ground, feeling and looking at the textures and elements forming the nearby environment, including plants, some of which, like Daffodils and Muscaris, were planted as part of the project by other children in the school. A small exercise accompanied this walk; on a sheet of paper, we drew six empty circles, each close to the word ‘Leaves, Insects, Trees, Flowers, Soil and Joy’. While the first five words were relatively easy to illustrate figuratively, the last, ‘Joy’, sparked a lot of questions and answers—a conversation I much enjoyed. Joy was defined by shared times, being outdoors and loved ones. None of the children drew material belongings, such as a favourite toy or places. Instead, all drew friends, family members, and memories like a birthday party! This further encouraged my belief that children shall first be nurtured to love all that is nature and relate to it with a sense of ‘joy’ before being given the task of caring for it. I hope to help continue facilitating joyful memories and relationships with the natural world.” – Johanna Tagada Hoffbeck

During sessions at Camden Art Centre and through sensory development, Johanna taught the pupils to plant smaller basil seeds and the different approaches required. The group also discussed their memories and established enjoyment of herbs and food. Term 3, which began in May, focuses on Companionship & Interconnectedness.

Over the Summer term four classes of children in Years 5 and 6 collaborated in small groups and made proposals for garden designs. A selection of these designs were then sown by the children on the school ground, and we all worked together on the planting, using organic seeds. Purple phacelia flowers were seen flowering swiftly, surrounded by various pollinating insects. The children aged between 9 and 12 understood, despite the abstraction involved, how their ideas on paper would grow in soil and how they would navigate the space they designed. Their proposals for garden designs were playful, intelligent and captivating. Designs included a ‘Jewel garden’, a ‘Flower Topping Garden’ and a ‘Piranha Garden’.

The project continued to explore its core themes of joy and togetherness. As in previous sessions, the days started with organic herbal tea and conversation, children also shared their feedback on the days in written form.

During sessions at Camden Art Centre, Johanna encouraged the children to draw in the garden with a set of prompts, breathing exercises, discussion and shared cups of herbal tea were also used to instill a calming creative environment. Once back in the drawing studios, all participated in sessions of ‘(Almost) Ikebana’. A workshop conceptualised by Johanna and based loosely on the Japanese art form of arranging flowers known as ‘Ikebana’.

Children discussed the concept and technique after viewing images from various Ikebana Schools, describing the practice as ‘weird, unique, simple, organised, pretty, colourful, artistic, lush, bold, vibrant, captivating, strange but likeable, peaceful’.

Each pupil decorated a paper cup to hold the plants and created an arrangement. The plants in these workshops originated from Camden Art Centre’s garden and Babylon Flowers, a slow flower farm in rural Oxfordshire near the artist’s home.

“I really enjoy the conversation with the children this term, as this also included discussing about what can be one’s job. Guiding them through Ikebana and sharing my passion with them, and hearing of theirs was both fun and inspiring. I was astonished at their focus for several hours, working on their cups and composing their flower arrangements, and loved all their abundant ideas for the planting designs too” – Johanna

" The sessions at Camden Art Centre this term encouraged sensory development & healthy eating. We began the workshops with a walk in the garden before heading to the indoor studio space to touch, smell and discuss herbs. The programme was conceived maintaining a diversity of fragrances, colours, plant types, shapes, tastes and textures." - Johanna Tagada Hoffbeck.

The Artist

Johanna Tagada Hoffbeck (b.1990, Strasbourg, France) is a painter, transdisciplinary artist and cultural practitioner artist based in rural Oxfordshire (England). Her practice composed of painting, drawing, installation, sculpture, film, photography and writing often conceals ecological messages, rendered in soft and delicate methods. In several of the artist’s projects, interaction with the environment and others plays a central role. Recent solo exhibitions include Dreaming about Tomorrow at Nidi Gallery and Caring & Tender -A Painter’s Photographic Diary at Terrace Square Photo Tokyo. Books on her practice have been published by InOtherWords Imprint, Chose Commune and Jane & Jeremy, and are available to purchase in our Shop.

In 2014, Johanna founded the positive and collaborative cultural project Poetic Pastel. In 2018, the artist co-founded the publication series Journal du Thé – Contemporary Tea Culture. In 2021 she founded The Gardening Drawing Club. Coming from a family of passionate gardeners, Johanna received horticultural training in France and England, and she now tends to her two veganic allotment plots in Oxfordshire. Since 2018 she has studied Ikebana at the Ohara School. In 2021 she began her training in Social and Therapeutic Horticulture.