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Ziggle: The Len Lye art activity book by Rebecca Fawkner

There are hours of creative fun to be had, for children and their whanau, as they work their way through the activities in Ziggle! The Len Lye art activity book and learn about his fascinating life.

New Zealand-born Len Lye, who spent most of his life abroad, achieved worldwide fame as a pioneer of experimental films and kinetic sculptures. His practice also included painting and numerous other media. And he was a wordsmith who loved playing with words. If he couldn’t find the perfect word, he’d make one up, like Ziggle!

Rebecca Fawkner, the author of Ziggle! The Len Lye art activity book is a teacher. She has worked at the Len Lye Centre in the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth for two decades, introducing children of all ages to Len Lye’s artworks.

Children who have not yet had the opportunity to attend one of her workshops or seen some of Len Lye’s artworks in the Len Lye Centre can find many reproductions of his artworks in this activity book and watch his experimental movies online at

Creating activities for children to match the many facets of Len Lye’s art must have been incredibly challenging. But I think Rebecca Fawkner has brilliantly succeeded in weaving together the story of Len Lye’s life with 65 art activities. Many of these activities are ones which have already proved to be ‘top hits’ with her classes and include machine dancing, taking shadow selfies, making wiggly water patterns and rubber band music.

When he was a young man, Len Lye watched clouds sweeping over Wellington on a windy day and the idea came to him that as an artist he could compose with motion just like musicians compose with sound. This idea became central to his art-making for the rest of his life. Making and dancing with pois and drawing the shapes the poi makes when it spins allows children to tell a story of their own about movement.

Influenced by Surrealism, Len Lye loved spontaneous and intuitive doodling. It was a way of activating his “Old Brain” (subconscious brain) and letting ideas come to the surface, which could be the beginning of new imaginative art. To emulate this, children are asked to fill a page in the activity book with their doodles, using any media of their choice like pencils, pens, paintbrushes, words, and sculpture materials.

Len Lye often made sculptures out of shiny metal which made sounds that tinkled or crashed like TWONG or ZOOMP! Asking children to Create a Pots ‘n’ Pans sound sculpture is, I think, an ingenious way to let them experience this for themselves with readily available materials.

It starts with raiding the kitchen cupboards for metal objects that create interesting sounds: pots, biscuit tins, lids, sieves, spoons, and forks. These are used to build a sculpture by stacking, poking through and balancing. Then the sculpture is transformed into a sound-maker by gently scraping and tapping it to see what sounds it can make, and this is videoed by them.

If they built this sculpture in the bath/garden they could pour water over and around it to create more sounds.

Rebecca Fawkner tells children not to throw away their art activity book when they have finished it but to treasure it. Then they can come back to their doodles, sketches, and poems in the future. And this might well give them ideas for further artworks.

In writing Ziggle, The Len Lye art activity book, Rebecca Fawkner’s aim was to inspire and encourage children to be artists like Len Lye who was always full of wonder and curiosity and let his imagination run free. She finishes her book with a beautiful Len Lye quote to inspire them as they continue on their artistic journey: ‘I encourage you to untie mental shoelaces so your thoughts can go barefoot and trip the light fantastic.

Reviewer: Lyn Potter

Massey University Press


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