Zest’s Managing Director, Andi Mether shares the story around the creation of our inclusive interactive sculpture – the Pedotle!

The Pedotle journey began with a beach, some children in wheelchairs and a dream…

I’m a volunteer surf lifesaver at the Toowoon Bay SLSC. We have a group of Stingray Nippers at Toowoon Bay made up of children with additional needs. A team of dedicated and big-hearted volunteers work with the Stingrays, teaching them surf skills and floating and swimming in the ocean. Being in the water gives the children a sense of freedom that they find hard to achieve on land.

I’ve learnt a lot from working with the Stingray Nippers and their families. I was aware of limitations in playgrounds for children in wheelchairs and efforts being made to accommodate them. For example the ‘egg’ swings are good for younger children but, as the Stingray parents pointed out to me, these types of well-intentioned swings also highlight the difference between children with additional needs and other kids.

So we set out to design and create an interactive sculpture with children in wheelchairs for everyone to enjoy!

Zest Artist and Sculptor Leonardo Uribe and I have been working with the Stingray Nippers group over the last 12 months, learning their movements and developing an idea to give these children their Look Mum Watch Me moment.

Toowoon Bay Surf Life Savers with Stingray Nipper Crystal

Stingray Nipper Krystal with Toowoon Bay Lifesavers

What’s a Pedotle?

Pronounced per dottle (rhymes with bottle), our interactive sculpture is part Pelican, part Dolphin, part Turtle. It’s an exotic and fantastical creature that can be operated by children of all abilities, making this huge creature blink and flap its wings.

It was young Bailey (pictured above) that had the idea for the Pedotle.  Bailey is 13 and has been in a wheelchair all her life.  In the water Bailey has far more freedom than she does on land. During the art workshop that we ran with Bailey and her mum and sister we came up with the Pedotle’s bright colours and it’s hybrid design of ocean creatures. Bailey was most insistent that the Pedotle also had to fart bubbles which, much to the children’s delight we were able to make happen.

Stingray Krystal was also a huge inspiration during design of the sculpture. Krystal has cerebral palsy and is non verbal, she’s 13 and has a wicked sense of humour. When we first met her I thought she was frail, like a little bird.  I quickly learnt otherwise.  By working with Krystal, Leo and I considered her capabilities and movements as we designed the mechanics of the sculpture.

The Pedotle takes its first flight on Toowoon Bay beach

It was the perfect day to launch the Pedotle. The sun was shining, the water glistening, the skies were blue as far as you could see.  There were a number of excited family members and MP’s there, all ready to watch the children roll out onto centre stage in their wheelchairs and make the Pedotle fly.

Put simply, the Stingrays loved the Pedotle. It was so rewarding watching them interact with the sculpture, moving the toggle to make its eye blink, its wings flap and fart bubbles.  We got the thumbs up from Bailey – we met her brief, and Krystal didn’t want to let go.  Check out our video and you’ll see all the action!

Creating an interactive sculpture is a team effort

As our plans for the Pedotle grew, so did our team.  Our colleagues at Zest joined the project and Tom Ireland came on board to work with us on the mechanics and to manufacture the design.  Tegan Kinder created the Pedotle’s skin.

We would like to thank Central Coast Council for commissioning this project through their Central Coast Creative Program and for allowing us to flex our creative muscles and work with other creatives in our community here on the Central Coast.  We would also like to thank Toowoon Bay Surf Life Saving Club, Stingray Nippers founder and manager Karen Hickmont, and the Stingray families and volunteers for putting their trust in us, supporting the project through to fruition and having a whole lot of fun with us over the last 12 months.


Look Mum Watch Me: interactive sculpture on tour

Our program ‘Look Mum, Watch Me’ is about creativity, collaboration and community.  It represents what we can do together and focuses on inclusiveness for the enjoyment and empowerment of all abilities.

The Pedotle is our first interactive sculpture in the program and is available for hire to spread joy at events and festivals around the country. We are also seeking partners to help us create more interactive activities and sculptures.

For further information Contact Us or connect with me via the link below.


Andi Mether on Linked In

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