Wednesday, 18 May 2016

The Village Project at The Heathlands Project

House portrait with felt and buttons

I've been working for The Heathlands Project for six years now, longer than I've ever worked anywhere before. In that time the project has grown and expanded in so many ways and it remains a positive, supportive and exciting place to work. One of the areas that I've been responsible for expanding is our textile section. When I first started working here there wasn't any textiles work going on but over the years we've developed an impressive textiles section with a number of sewing machines, an embellisher, a loom and a spinning wheel (and more!)

Using a lightbox to transfer designs

Using fabric pastels

Stitching, using fabric pen drawings as a guide

Each year we make a quilt (more about this year's in another post) and over time more and more members have had a go at textiles and now the textiles project spills out into other art groups as well as having dedicated sessions. As well as the quilt project many members have their own individual textile projects and I'm always on the look out for other projects to get involved with. For example, last year we were involved in the centenary commemorations for the Quintinshill rail disaster.

House Portrait

House Portrait

House Portrait

This year we're taking part in a participatory art project run by AccessArt. They are asking people to create fabric portraits of their houses which they will then join together to make a single piece; the Access Art Village. I really liked the sound of this project and thought it would be a good one for our members at The Heathlands Project to get involved in as it offers a lot of opportunity to try out different textile skills.

House Portrait

House Portrait

House Portrait

As the only real restriction was that the finished pieces needed to be 20 x 20 cm I thought this would be a great chance for our artists to develop their existing skills and possibly try out some new ones. Appliqué and embroidery are always popular and can be used very effectively. We started out by drawing our houses on paper, using Google maps to remind us what our homes looked like as necessary! We then transferred our designs onto fabric using fabric pens. Some of our members are still quite new to textiles and can be nervous about embroidery and sewing and I've found that fabric pens are a really good way of introducing people to working with textiles.

House Portrait

House Portrait using tactile materials (by a person with no sight)

House Portrait

Using fabric pens is similar to using felt tip pens so many of our members are comfortable with this and are then able to build up their confidence and skills by trying out other techniques once they are more familiar with the materials. By drawing with fabric pens as a beginning it also offers clear lines to practice embroidering, adding texture and colour with thread, beads and buttons.

House Portrait

House Portrait

House Portrait


Some of the members (and staff) who are more confident with textiles have chosen not to use the fabric pens but to work in other techniques such as appliqué, by both hand and machine. One of the things that appealed to me about this project was it's adaptability, the way that a house portrait could be very simple and easily worked by a beginner or it could be very intricate and offer lots of creative potential to a more experienced artist and both would work and look good.

House Portrait from one of my Tullie Textiles group

My house drawing and portrait in progress

Getting there with my house portrait

I've really enjoyed seeing the range of houses the members have produced, both in my groups and in in the other art groups too. Each portrait is so different and shows each individuals style. I've also been working on this project with my Tullie Textiles group, showing how well it works with a wide variety of people. There's still time to take part too if you want to, just follow the instructions on AccessArt's website...

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