158/365: documenting play

Journeys of marks, lines and colour exploration form a visual document or ‘map’ of play! To see the colour, click here.

080/365: children take over

The children have been at it again as they take over the atelier floor to make a giant map installation! To see the colour version, click here.

Lime Art: the Art Works, Wigan

The Art Works was the second phase of a community arts project working on behalf of Lime Art. I worked with textile / surface designer and educator Hazel Hewitt to engage a group of adults who attend a weekly job club at a college in Wigan. The aim was to create a programme of weekly evening sessions, to provide the opportunity for job club attendees to learn new creative skills, increase their confidence and co-produce a community outdoor artwork.

Our workshops quickly evolved into a creative, drop-in social space for a number of core participants. As opposed to taught sessions, it became clear that participants wanted to try out new techniques such as printing, mark-making, sewing, paper-construction, etc. The project evolved as a safe space to express feelings and personal issues through creative activity, rather than work in a prescriptive manner to create an end product. The approach was participant-led as it emerged that each participant had a particular idea or interest and wanted to develop this individually.

As an example, one participant who was initially reluctant to join, revealed a former interest in photographing local landscapes, building dry stone walls and making charcoal! His enthusiasm and confidence increased as he brought shoe boxes full of photos to sort through, edit and select. We facilitated this process of editing, selecting and curating an exhibition of photos. We also suggested ways to mount, frame and potentially sell the photos, encouraging him to recognise the value and quality of his photographic 'hobby'.

Although aimed at adults only, a couple of dads decided to bring their children along to the sessions. This altered the dynamic of the group as the children were energetic, easily excited and enthusiastic to try out lots of different things. They confidently worked their way through the range of materials in a more exploratory manner. It was perhaps a good thing that there were two artist-facilitators present as it meant that we could take turns to engage/work with the children, whilst the other could give more attention to the adults, who regularly asked for one-to-one assistance.

We felt that we only touched on the surface of what we could offer in terms of developing individualised projects. Unfortunately the programme of sessions didn't seem enough for the group to really become absorbed. Project momentum picked up halfway through and participants couldn't always arrive on time or attend every session. At the end, participants expressed their desire for the sessions to continue as a regular, social, drop-in creative space - a place where they could work, talk and have lots of tea and biscuits! It also became clear that they felt like things were suddenly ending, just as they were building confidence to engage, try new things and take risks.

The programme of activities followed on from another project led by artist Johnny Woodhams during the summer, in which another group worked together to create plans and artworks for an outdoor shelter to be installed within the local community area. This group will be building and installing an outdoor gazebo, which will function as a shelter, alternative gallery/performance and multi-purpose space within a community garden. The structure is due to be installed in spring 2013 and it is hoped that, from this, the groups will come together in order to decide on a programme of creative, community activity.... watch this space!







Lost in Lace

One of my installation workshops next month will tackle the theme of loops, lines and lace, so I decided to take a train ride to Birmingham to catch the 'Lost in Lace' exhibition at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, before it finishes next Sunday 19th.  The range of interpretations to the theme of lace from the 20 contemporary artists featured in the exhibition is impressive, and the level of concept, skill, scale and attention to detail keeps the average visitor engrossed for much longer than anticipated.

Quite a few of the artworks respond specifically to the exhibition space within the Gas Hall at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, as threads, panels and lacy forms literally slice through space, forming new perspectives, delineations and boundaries for the visitor to walk around and peer through. Responses range from the microcosm of a thread of lace - 'Black Lace', a video-sound installation by Kathleen Rogers; to the dark, otherworldly installation 'After the Dream' by Chiharu Shiota, featuring a row of white dresses floating in an intricate, webbed confusion of hand-woven threads (complete with a surveillance camera's view which demonstrates how the space was painstakingly constructed).

The exhibition space itself is curated in such a way that the visitor can choose their own route around the exhibition, almost as if they too are weaving their own lacy path. There is much to see and walk around and plenty of to-ing and fro-ing, so it would be great if this could have actually been recorded and mapped out in some way!

To travel down by train across icy/snowy landscapes and find myself 'Lost in Lace' for nearly two hours was a great visual distraction and inspiration. My fingers were left twitching for needle, thread and paper to play with, pencils to scribble with and my head buzzing with ideas and possible responses. A trip to this exhibition is highly recommended and a pre-conceived idea of lace will be ripped apart and intricately re-threaded.