Deborah Smith knows what it's like to watch your father die. When she was a teenager, she and her siblings lived with his illness, his dying and an extended sense of loss.

The Cloud workshop is an art project where bereaved children can spend a joyful afternoon exploring creative play with other kids in the same situation.

It is open to children aged from 5 to 18 who are living with the reality of bereavement in their family.

The workshop, which will be held on Saturday at the Hastings City Art Gallery, is free - however, bookings are essential.


The workshop will run simultaneously with an exhibition of Cloud artwork opening on Friday at Space Gallery, Napier.

"It's just knowing you are not alone. This is not a 'group therapy' workshop," Ms Smith said. She has been organising these workshops since 2008.

Her father died from melanoma at the age of 42, when she was 18 and her siblings were 17, 14 and 11.

When a friend's husband died in 2008, Ms Smith asked the hospice what they had to help children. There was nothing.

"I couldn't believe there was nothing of this sort for them," she said. "These children are so burdened. Our idea was this is a back door into art for children, a joyful and empowering experience giving them a voice. The purpose is two-pronged - creativity and solidarity.

"John Reynolds is our guest artist. He's amazing with the kids, he's mischievous and he's a famous artist - the Richie McCaw of art world."

The crew consists of Mr Reynolds, Ms Smith, Emma McIntyre (the granddaughter of Peter McIntyre), Harry Were, Grace Crawshaw-McLean and Ms Smith's husband, architect Nicholas Stevens.

It will be inspired by Mr Reynolds' recent work, which involves making placards and protesting. "You don't need to be good at art to enjoy this workshop," Ms Smith said.

The Cloud workshop is an ongoing art project started in 2008 to provide art experiences for bereaved children.

Ms Smith and her team of artists have facilitated 40 workshops in Auckland and are bringing this to Hastings. Ms Smith grew up here and went to Auckland's Elam School of Fine Arts on a Wattie's scholarhip.

"This is the most important thing I've ever done in my life," she said. "We are in our 50s now and it's so nice to be able to share your good fortune and give something back."

Ms Smith is in the Bay as the inaugural artist in residence at Iona College.

Cloud workshop:

* Bereaved children play with art.

* Hastings City Art Gallery.

* Saturday, June 25.

* 1pm-4.30pm.

* To book, contact or 021 279 0200.