Finding the Story

In this part of the course you will explore how Sita and Jane develop story ideas from the artwork, the treasure hoard and the discussion.

Part Four
Time to complete: 1 hour
Resources needed: notebook, artwork from part 3

Building Refrains

In creating communal word-flow poems or prose I look for a repeated idea of refrain that can help to bring together the thoughts and creative writing of many people in the room. I will try to capture the mood of what is being said and then build a refrain around that.

It may be ‘real world’ e.g. a story inspired by a cup that travelled from India to London or Mythical and surreal  e.g. ‘a mythological mud-larking tea-drinking creature!’

As students paint their communal rivers encourage students to focus on things that connect.

This refrain is often collaboratively built and when the word-flow is finally ‘set’ and read aloud together there is real joy in reading this refrain and memorising it.  Reciting the poem is often how we start the next class… remembering this shared experience.


Rivers flow through the people in this room

These are our trees of home

Adding story ingredients


  • The tea cup
  • The bridge
  • The crane
  • River as ice
  • Creatures that flow in the river (fish, mermaid, mud larking creatures, cups, whales)
  • An elephant crossing the ice

Encourage students to explore the ‘genre’ of the story they are telling in art and writing.

Look at other stories that share genre to the stories students have written – this will enable them to see that they are engaged in the same processes as writers and illustrators use.


a mudlarking mermaid with emerald hair,

 drinking tea from a porcelain cup

 or earthenware

 she might not care.

Remember the sandals on the edge of the water? Offer students the same visual stimulus and ask them to respond in ‘word-flow.’

Encourage students to see that the same theme or image can ignite many different stories.

Imagined ideas here!

  • Once upon a time, a family stood silhouetted against a sunset….
  • Once upon a time, the Thames was frozen over and an elephant placed its huge foot on the ice…
  • Once upon a Thames, there was a whale named ‘Time’….
  • In the time when the Thames froze over tides began to flow in a different direction….
  • My grandmother used to serve tea out of teacups with an Indian pattern called The Tree of Life….

Etc. etc. etc. …. As long as a never-ending sari ( now there’s a story!)  and as free and floating as your imagination…

Stories Flowing

Crane your neck to see, to sea
Crane your neck to see

Jane and I
painting and writing stories together
there is
treasure in this tributary
Stories flowing from a teacup

Elephants from Ice fairs on the Thames
skate by
From Victorian times
or Georgian
underneath the ice there lies a piece of porcelain
Stories flowing from a teacup
We dig up porcelain
and earthenware
as we forage
in the silt
of the Thames and the Hooghli rivers
Larking around
letting our imagination flow
back and forth
in the flow
Stories flowing from a teacup
Victorian or Georgian hands
connect distant lands
cross rivers, oceans, sea
and tea!
or Chai
Steam floating
Wave painting
Stories flowing from a teacup

Picking tea
sipping sweet
in earthenware cups
broken after use
Silhouetted against the sunset
or the mists of dawn
Pieces floating down the river
towards each other
Stories flowing from a teacup
Sharp edges
worn smooth by time
and waves
Stories flowing from a teacup
I see a family sitting on a ghat on the river Hooghli
drinking tea from an earthenware pot
stories flowing from a teacup
I see patterns inspired by the India tree
and grandma offering me a sweet cup of tea
Stories flowing from a teacup
I see children wafting
a bright pink sari
washing and playing
screeching, calling,
I see mudlarking mermaids
cranes landing on the river Ching
whales navigating the Thames
Stories flowing from a teacup
We share the sweetness of these moments
igniting imaginations
stories flowing from a teacup.