When illustrator and educator Bea made her own garden signs in wood stirring sticks for her community garden plot, it attracted a lot of interest (particularly, the octopus sign). Other gardeners approached her and expressed interest in making their own garden signs… could she help them? Suddenly Bea had a vision! A realization! This would make for a wonderful and unique creative workshop for a Small Neighbourhood Grant. She approached Ian Lai, Director of Urban Bounty, and the project kicked off. By total serendipity, soon after the grant was awarded, Bea met rock-painter artist and fellow educator Monica. They clicked instantly thanks to their mutual interest in arts, crafts, and education. Bea told Monica about the workshop and Monica jumped right in, suggesting best practices and appropriate art materials at a lower cost than Bea had anticipated. They also agreed that they would reuse everyday materials (empty yogurt containers, for example) whenever possible, and started planning for a successful workshop, researching books in the public library, and even making examples of garden signs (Bea in wood, and Monica in rocks).

Several step-by-step examples of designs and ideas were printed in colour, and plastified to be reused and shared. The acrylic pens needed to be prepared individually, for them to be ready to use on the day of the workshop. In order to maximize the funds awarded, materials were purchased at Michaels, Dollarama, Costco, and Amazon.

An event was created on the website Eventbrite for free. A poster was created as well and shared virtually with Urban Bounty, other local organizations and public libraries. Within hours of the Urban Bounty newsletter, the event “sold out”.

As the day of the workshop approached, Dulux paint store in Richmond generously donated 100 wooden stir sticks, and tons of rocks were selected and hand-picked with love by Monica and her children during their walks around White Rock.

Everything was under control… or so they thought. A week prior to the workshop, a Weather Alert was issued. In view of this, and with the safety of the participants in mind, an email was sent to all the registered participants, as well as to Urban Bounty, to inform them about the decision to move the time of the workshop to 9:30 am. (The registration site Eventbrite allows event organizers to email all registrants.) The instructors also were able to borrow a canopy from Urban Bounty, which proved to be a life saver: not only did it magically decrease the temperature inside by at least 10 degrees, but also, it created a sweet pleasant breeze. The instructors decided as well to purchase enough bottles of water for all participants.

The day of the workshop, the instructors arrived at Garden City Lands at 9:00 am, which had already started to heat up. All materials were unloaded into the shed, and the canopy was installed thanks to the help of two fellow gardeners (and a very strong 2 year-old toddler).

Not all the registered participants showed up, but this proved to be a golden opportunity to invite gardeners and visitors to the community garden plots to join. This improvised activity truly made their day, as they later told us.

The workshop ended having participants from all ages in all their diversity. The amount of materials had been planned well, and each participant ended up creating an average of 5 garden signs in both rock and wood. The only advantage of the heatwave was how fast the signs dried. This allowed participants to add layers of complexity and detail to their designs. The diversity in our participants’ demographic also reflected in their style and creative approach to their garden signs. There was a very happy mood and strong camaraderie during the workshop, with plenty of laughter and stories shared among participants of different backgrounds, occupations, and ages. It was truly wonderful.

At the end of the workshop, instructor Monica proceeded to apply the seal spray to the garden signs, to protect the colours from the weather. Given the toxic nature (and cost) of the spray, it was decided that it would be one of the instructors doing this step.

Each participant was able to take a tupperware home containing their painted rocks, and some gardeners already placed their signs in their garden plots.

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