Sunday 28 October 2018

Changing Impressions: Remembrance Workshops at Cumbria's Museum of Military Life

Objects and samples ready for the workshop

Earlier in the Summer I wrote a couple of posts about projects I've been involved in connected to the centenary of the end of the First World War. One of the projects I've been involved with was designing and delivering a drop in workshop (two actually) for Cumbria's Museum of Military Life as part of their Remembrance 100 programme.


Making a rubbing

Adding stitching

In all honesty drop in workshops are not my favourite; the activity needs to be accessible and achievable in a very short time frame but should also be able to be extended if visitors want to stay, you never know how many people you're going to get and a lot like busses participants tend to either not turn up at all or all come at once! However, they are a great way of getting people in to museums and offer an easy way for people to participate which I do think is a really good thing.

Exploring colour

Rubbings and stitching

Adding stitching

Memory and how it changes over time is a theme I'm currently exploring in my own work so I was interested in creating a workshop that looked quite broadly at remembrance; what it means to remember and how that changes. (I wrote a bit about this on my post about the Remembrance 100 exhibition if you're interested to read more.) I'd also been asked to give the workshop a textiles focus, which was good for me as of course I love working with textiles.

Getting involved

Getting involved

Getting involved

I decided to create a workshop called 'Changing Impressions.' Using fabric crayons and cotton fabric I encouraged participants to make a rubbing of an object, creating an impression of it. If they wanted to they could then further embellish their rubbing with stitch. The idea was that by taking a rubbing from the object you would create an impression of it; it's from the object and bears a resemblance to it but it's not the same in the same way that our memories of things are not the same as the actual things (or events.) Further embellishment further changes the memory of the object imprinted on the cloth, just as each time we revisit a memory it subtly changes.

Workshop results

Workshop results

Workshop results

I really enjoyed running the sessions, both were well attended and what I loved was seeing participants, particularly the children, become very engaged in what they were doing and focusing on the process. In our increasingly fast paced world I think it's increasingly important to find time to stop, slow down and properly engage with an activity, especially one that uses the hands. I think I created several converts to hand embroidery, more than one child was heard to ask if they could go and buy threads to do some sewing at home. It was also lovely to see family groups sit and work together, supporting and encouraging each other and creating memories as well as exploring them.

Workshop results

Friday 26 October 2018

Summery Summaries: Part Three: The Heathlands Project

Pieces for the Stitch a Tree Project

Because I'm at The Heathlands Project every week I often forget to blog about the projects we get up to. I've been at Heathlands for over 8 years now and I still love working here, I love the sense of community and also the opportunity to get involved in all sorts of projects and the freedom I have to try all sorts of things with my groups. I always like to get my Art and Textiles groups involved in projects as it provides a great opportunity to get their work out there and challenge people's perceptions about what they can achieve.

Stitch a Tree


Designing a tree

Earlier in the year we got involved with the excellent Stitch a Tree project. The project aim was to connect people around the UK to show support for displaced people across the world. Artist Alice Kettle then collected all the trees and has joined them together to create a ‘forest.’ I really liked this project because it was simple and achievable but also touched on some very important topics. I also like working on projects where lots of small pieces come together to create a unified whole. 

Work in progress

I thought this was a lovely project to be involved with. I also worked on this project with my Tullie Textiles groups so between them and my Heathlands crew I was able to send at least a copse worth of trees down!

Tree details

Tree detail

Bugs Quilt

Bugs! The Heathlands Project 2018 Quilt

Every year with my Textiles groups at The Heathlands Project I make a quilt and usually we send it down to The Festival of Quilts in Birmingham. Although it's quite stressful getting it all finished in time and I always end up giving up a day of my free time to get it completed I do like working on a big project like this. I made the first quilt with them in 2011 so this is our 8th quilt.

Designing our bugs

Tie dye patches

It's a really good opportunity to introduce and experiment with a whole range of techniques and it also gives some of the now more experienced participants a chance to develop their skills further and show them off. This year we re-visited tie-dyeing and also experimented with embroidery, applique, and needle felting. Each person's patch is unique and beautiful and I love the way their personalities shine through. Using the same materials and equipment each person produces something so different but when put all together they all work so well.

Work in progress

Work in progress

Work in progress

This year we chose the theme of 'Bugs!' as we'd won a roll of beautiful organic jersey from the lovely folks at Pigeon Organics printed with bugs. I devised an unnecessarily elaborate but entertaining system of joining it all together involving elastic loops and felted balls. We got some lovely feedback from the judges and we're already planning next years quilt!




In addition to our group quilt this year I also sent down two individual quilts that members of my Textiles groups had made. Both of the individuals had worked so hard to create their pieces and we're so proud to have their work included in the show. Getting it all organised was hard work but well worth it for the sense of achievement they both got.

Feedback for our Bugs quilt

One of the individual quilts entered

OCN Courses

Group rag rug

As well as our internal groups we've also been running an Open College Network course in Environmental Arts. For this course Adult Education provide us with a tutor who comes along and delivers the accredited course. It's a great opportunity for us as it means we get a new person with new ideas coming in and the guys gain a qualification. Over the length of the course we've tried things such as paper making, rag-rugging and weaving. The course is continuing this term in the form of 'Seasonal Crafts.'

Paper making

Weaving with plastic bags

Rag rug hedgehogs

Wednesday 24 October 2018

Summery Summaries: Part Two: Prism Arts

I've had a very busy year at Prism Arts! As it's one of my 'proper' jobs I tend to not blog about the projects I work on which is a bit of a shame as a lot of them are really quite exciting and they do occupy a lot of my time. Continuing on from part one of my Summery Summaries (I do realise we're well and truly into Autumn now but I do like alliteration) I thought I'd do a quick re-cap of some of the projects I've worked on over the last year.

Studio Arts: Still life drawing

Studio Arts: Portraits

Studio Arts: Adding colour to drawings

My main role at Prism Arts is to lead the Studio Arts course; a visual arts programme for adults with learning disabilities and autism. We aim to enable our participants to develop as artists and gain all the different skills they'll need for that; not just practical art skills but also skills such as working to deadlines and briefs, writing artists statements and finding and applying for opportunities. We work in partnership with lots of other organisations to create and deliver exciting and rewarding projects that allow the work to be seen by a wide range of audiences.

Studio Arts: Making brushes

Studio Arts: Mark making with hand made brushes

Over the past year we've had a really busy time and since I last blogged about Studio Arts we've had two exhibitions and a commissioned project. This year we're involved with a big Heritage Lottery funded project looking at Carlisle's textile heritage and we've got two exciting curatorial projects running. We've also been trying to squeeze in some skills development workshops including brush making, different approaches to drawing and portraiture.

Here's what I've been up to over the past year:

China Exhibition Interpretation

Following on from our very successful Gallery Trail at Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery last year Studio Arts once again worked in partnership with Tullie House to create an exhibition responding to some of the museums Chinese artefacts. This was a really exciting project, it was also very challenging as due to unexpected circumstances the brief had to change part way through the project but we overcame these challenges and were able to create a thoughtful and beautiful exhibition.

Exhibition view

Exhibition view

Exhibition view


Folk Tales at Carlisle Archives

Folk Tales interpretation panel

We have also exhibited work at Carlisle archives this year. Studio Arts were inspired by British folk tales and created work inspired by the stories and costumes they researched for this exhibition. I like to show work at the archives as being a public space it allows us to show our work to audiences who may not otherwise find us.

Textile Commission

Some of the textile pieces for Gosling Sike

Bert Badger
Applique and machine embroidery

Fabric pens and tie dye

Prism Arts have been working with Cumbria Willdlife Trust on a big five year project connected to one of the trusts newest reserves; Eycott Hill. The Trust have also recently moved in to new offices up at Gosling Sike in Houghton (on the edge of Carlisle) and they commissioned Studio Arts to create some textile pieces for their new buildings. This project gave us the opportunity to develop our textile skills and try some new ways of working.

Work in progress on Freddie Fox

Applique and hand embroidery

March of the Unsung Women: Carlisle's Puppet Pageant Parade

Processions 2018 March in Edinburgh

As well as running Studio Arts I also get involved in lots of other Prism Arts projects. One of my favourite projects this year was Processions (celebrating the centenary of The Representation of the People's Act which gave the first women the vote) and this project became the inspiration for the theme of this years Carlisle Puppet Pageant. In one form or another I've been involved with the puppet pageant since it's inauguration in 2013 and this year Prism Arts were commissioned to run the puppet pageant.

Puppet body parts

Puppet faces

Making bodies

We wanted to celebrate the important but usually overlooked women of Cumbria so we created 10 larger than life puppets of ten important women from Cumbria's history. We worked with a wide range of people, schools and groups, bringing people together to create something truly memorable. I was away for the actual parade but I really enjoyed being involved in the creation of some of the puppets.

Works in progress

Mr. Tinker: A poodle not an unsung women

Work in progress