Friday 31 May 2013

CraftBomb Liverpool

Following on from the 'Button It' sewing campaign in March, I recently worked again with Voluntary Arts England and Up For Arts from BBC Radio Merseyside to deliver a Heritage Lottery funded participatory craft project in celebration of Voluntary Arts Week.

Yarnstorming or guerrilla knitting is growing in popularity and so to make a big impact in celebrating Voluntary Arts Week, we joined in with a national movement to 'CraftBomb' public places with examples of handcrafted artworks. 

We worked with many partners on the project to 'Spring Into Action' and bring much needed colour to Liverpool during the dormant spring with displays at the Bluecoat and Walker Art Gallery. 

Following on from their Bluecoat Display Centre project with Helen Chatterton, knitters from Holly Lodge Girls College dressed up the trees of the Bluecoat with multicoloured jumpers. 

The Wirral Autistic Society, who I worked with last year as part of Making An Impact with the Bluecoat Display Centre, were invited back to invade the garden with their wonderful woven and wirework flowers, birds and butterflies. 

The Twisted Stitchers brought their swarm of knitted bees to the front courtyard and Liverpool Sewing Club wove patchwork through the railings. The response from visitors was very positive with the brightly coloured woolly surprises raising lots of smiles. The features on BBC Radio Merseyside created a buzz about the project.  

Along with co-ordinating the CraftBomb I also delivered some participatory workshops to engage the wider public. At the Walker Art Gallery, inspired by Robyn Woolston's recycled plastic installation, I worked with visitors to create a large collaborative weaving using recycled yarns which was displayed on the building's railings for Voluntary Arts Week. 

The project culminated in a 'CraftBomb Hub' at the Bluecoat for Light Night in which local craft groups were invited to come along and share their skills with visitors.

Visitors were also invited to create pom poms to take away or hang from the trees in the Bluecoat's garden and add to a collaborative weaving for the railings. The event was phenomenally busy with almost 200 people taking part and our participating craft groups passing on their knowledge to many interested people!

When it came time to take down the CraftBomb many commented that they wished it could stay up all year! Visit the Facebook page for lots more photos. 

The Dinner Party

A little update on a fantastic project I was involved in April as part of my role as Blue Room Facilitator at the Bluecoat. We had the unmissable opportunity to collaborate with the Doors to Elsewhere, a wonderful group of performers with disabilities based at Rua Red with Tallaght Community Arts in South Dublin. The group invited Blue Room to be creative partners in a project called The Dinner Party: Not Just a Dublin Coddle, a performative event highlighting the excellent work of artists with disabilities and encouraging discussions about some of the barriers to participation and cultural acceptance that artists with disabilities may face. 

In the run up the event, Blue Room members worked very hard at the Bluecoat in Liverpool to design and create the visual elements of the Dinner Party which focussed on uniting the two cities. These included centrepieces featuring the ingredients of 'scouse' delicately rendered in wire and resin , napkin rings featuring claddagh symbols, party favours and even a huge glittering chandelier which hung in the centre of the performance space showing imagery from Liverpool and Dublin. Throughout the project we got to know the Doors To Elsewhere group by sharing videos and message on our shared blog. We were visited by the team of practitioners and producers from Tallaght  who were working to bring the project together, including Jennifer Webster, Jenny MacDonald and Tori Durrer. The visit was documented beautifully by filmmaker Aoibheann O'Sullivan. 

The time came to pack up our decorations and somehow get ourselves and a big chandelier across the Irish Sea to Dublin! The trip provided the opportunity for five Blue Room members to travel to Dublin as the project's ambassadors supported by myself and Blue Room Assistant Betty Ritchie. During our 5 day trip we had a wonderful time collaborating with the Doors to Elsewhere to develop performances and a music piece based on our shared explorations of Dublin.

On the night of the Dinner Party each of our artists showed astounding confidence in presenting their artwork and performances to the 60 guests who had travelled from far and wide to share a feast with us. We were treated to mesmerising dance performances from Stuart's Care Dancers and thought provoking speeches from key figures from the world of disability arts including Jenny Sealey, Padraig Naughton and Andrew Pike. 

The whole experience was a wonderfully enjoyable and memorable one. I was fortunate to meet so many fantastic artists and share experiences and ideas with other practitioners. I am grateful to have been working with Blue Room for the past 3 years and continue to feel very proud of the creative and personal achievements the participants continue to make with each new project. Blue Room recently celebrated its 5th birthday and the project continues to grow and develop with much ambition for the future.  

Saturday 23 March 2013

Button It with Up For Crafts

I have recently been working on a very exciting get-into-sewing campaign for Voluntary Arts England as part of their Up For Crafts project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The aim of the project was to engage people in Merseyside with the heritage textile craft of sewing and provide a platform for local sewing groups to make connections with potential new members. 

Working in collaboration with the Up For Arts team based at BBC Radio Merseyside, I developed a sewing challenge for listeners, asking them to stitch Button Blooms in celebration of Mother's Day and the many women who pass on their skills to the next generation. A series of free drop-in sewing workshops were held at the Williamson Art Gallery on the Wirral and the Bluecoat in Liverpool, where visitors were invited to stitch fabric flowers embellished with buttons. These were mounted onto green stems with the finishing touch of a paper leaf featuring dedications to friends, mothers, grandmothers, aunts and sisters who taught the maker a skill. The project culminated a beautiful Mother's Day display with of all of the blooms arranged in in brightly coloured pots on the Bluecoat's window sills.

The workshops were wonderfully busy with people of all ages seeking us out to have a go at sewing the button blooms. We had experienced sewing enthusiasts along with first-time stitchers with a lovely atmosphere of skill sharing. The dedications written on the leaves of the bloom were often touching and heartfelt and the conversations around the workshop tables often turned to memories of learning textile skills from mothers and grandmothers as a child. The BBC Radio Merseyside features on the project were fantastic at getting people involved and engaged and we had a few very generous donations of the family button box as a result! 

Another rather unusual aspect of the project was the challenge to dress up 'Dickie Lewis' Liverpool's 'exceedingly bare' statue which stands on the former Lewis's building. I collaborated with the Liverpool Sewing Club to make some oversized accessories for Dickie which were put in place on International Women's Day by the fantastic team at Merepark construction. It was a funny sight to see men in hard hats and hi-vis jackets diligently hanging bunting from scaffolding! The smiles and laughs from passersby as they saw the statue dressed up made it worthwhile!  

Next up is an embroidery campaign which should be just as much fun!

Monday 3 December 2012

Action-packed Autumn

The last few months following the Connecting Threads project have been delightfully action packed, accounting for my shocking neglect of this blog! The Biennial has been stretching its arty tentacles across Liverpool and I have been exploring the various sites in my role at the Bluecoat with the Blue Room groups of artists with learning disabilities. My close links with the Bluecoat have also led me to work with two brilliant new groups. 

A lovely group of adults with learning disabilities from St Helens were hosted at the Bluecoat for a 5 week project exploring the Liverpool Biennial. The group were particularly inspired by the beautiful ink drawings drawings and animations by Chinese artist Sun Xun. We developed the idea of creating our own stop-motion animation telling the story of our journey around the Biennial. The group explored photography and inky drawing using these as the materials for making their animated film. They also worked together to record an atmospheric soundtrack. It was fantastic to get to know the group and learn about their interests and talents and the finished film is a wonderfully vibrant document of their time at the Bluecoat.

Recently, I have also been given a fantastic opportunity to work with a group from the Wirral Autistic Society for the Bluecoat Display Centre's Making an Impact project. The project seeks to offer a range community groups the chance to experience craft and making skills. I delivered two, day long workshops exploring stitching and weaving techniques using recycled and reclaimed materials.  We looked at examples of stitching into found objects and fence weaving.The participants were brilliant and threw themselves into manipulating materials into brightly coloured stitched and woven surfaces, each developing their own style. The group worked together to create a large piece of stitched mesh to be installed in the garden at Oak House. I'm hoping to go and visit the group when they unveil their work in the new year!  

During my preparation for the workshops with the Bluecoat Display Centre, I was invited to submit a postcard sized artwork for ArtAnon a fundraising exhibition organised by 3rd year students from the Manchester School of Art's Embroidery degree. I decided to further explore the idea of stitching into mesh and used a variety of stitching and threads to create this piece. I like how it looks a bit like a miniature chain link fence which has been embroidered!

Monday 8 October 2012

Connecting Threads

The last few months have been wonderfully busy with a whirlwind of activity for Connecting Threads; a project in collaboration with my friend, artist Emily Hayes. We met whilst studying Embroidery at the Manchester School of Art and have always shared a interest in working creatively with community groups. Earlier this year we came together to develop an idea for a project that would engage people affected by homelessness. We tentatively applied for an Arts Council grant and were astonished when we successfully secured the funding back in July!

Over the summer we worked with three organisations in Manchester who support people affected by homelessness; the Booth Centre, Life Matters and the Mustard Tree. We delivered a series of workshops focussing on printmaking and embroidery with the aims of making connections between people through a creative focus. In September we held a week long exhibition at Manchester Digital Laboratory where we showcased the work the participants had made. We invited people to contribute to a giant embroidered landscape, adding their own stitches and drawings. 

The experience of planning and delivering the project has been brilliant.  Although I have lots of experience as a creative practitioner, it was the first time time for both of us that we have developed a project from scratch and seen it through to the final exhibition. I have certainly learnt a great deal and feel that my confidence has been boosted by knowing that we have delivered such a well received project! We met some wonderful people and found that there is lots of potential for the project to continue to grow. We would love to tour the giant embroidery to other communities and see it displayed in a public building. We are having a little rest after the busy summer but will soon start planning our next move! Visit the Connecting Threads blog for more information on the project.

Sunday 8 July 2012

More Brazilica Fringe!

Since my last post I've been busy making more decorations for the Brazilica Fringe Festival in Liverpool. Last night saw the wonderfully vibrant Carnival Ball Voodoo Extravaganza at the brilliant venue The Kazimier. 

The visual theme was Santeria - a dark fusion of West African rituals and Roman Catholic traditions manifested in Orisha deities. Artists Delia and Tristan Brady-Jacobs created some fabulously powerful shrines and effigies using all manner of objects from dismembered baby dolls to sea-worn bricks and beach flotsam. These were nestled into the dark atmospheric spaces of the Kazimier and bathed in red light, transporting revellers to another world. 

My contribution was a collection of embroidered hearts pierced with black spears based on a Santeria symbol. I also had fun with an eyelet tool to make some very spiky leather hearts. I had such a lovely time making my costume, including a headpiece piled high with balls wrapped in scraps of brightly coloured fabric inspired by the African influence on Brazilian culture. The event was incredible with the visuals, music and atmosphere combining to make it a unique spectacle; dark, funny and exciting.

 Since being invited by Craft Creative, I've really enjoyed collaborating with the fantastically creative and enthusiastic people involved with the Brazilica Fringe events. Most of all it has got me making again! I spend a lot of time making things in preparation for facilitating workshops, which I love, but it was good to just make things to be seen for a change. Some of the themes and techniques I have been exploring for the festival will certainly crop up again. Watch this space for more woven bike wheels and outlandish millinery!

Monday 4 June 2012

Brazilica Fringe Festival

I've been having a very colourful time creating decorative elements for Liverpool's Brazilica Fringe Festival events in collaboration with Craft Creative. The brief was to create portable pieces that could adorn each venue hosting the various film, music and dance events acting as recognisable markers. Recycling and creative upcycling became a real focus as I set about making lots of bright Brazilian flowers from tin cans to be dotted around the venues in bunches. An old bike wheel found new life as a 3D recreation of the festival's logo. I loved the technique of weaving in and out of the spokes with recycled threads made from plastic bags and wire insulation rubber. I think a new project of woven works is calling me! It was brilliant to see the pieces in Mello Mello for Version Excursion, the first Brazilica Fringe event. Next up is the task of decking out the Kazimier for the Carnival Ball!