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!


Blue Room have been working hard on a very special project as part of our Galapagos exhibition programme at the Bluecoat. Twelve beautiful tortoise sculptures have been lovingly custom made to build their habitats in various locations around the Bluecoat and in shops in Liverpool One. Each tortoise holds the answer to a question about the Galapagos Islands, families can follow the trail to collect the answers and be entered into a prize draw. All three Blue Room groups worked brilliantly together in teams to create creatures that are full of character using techniques such as papier mache, wire and cardboard construction. The Tortoise Trail launched on Saturday 2nd June and runs until Sunday 10th June, the activity sheets are available from Tickets and Information at the Bluecoat.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Busy Bee-ing Creative at Chorlton's Big Green Festival 2012!

Last Saturday was a whirlwind of flying cardboard tubes, paper cups and empty cereal boxes as I facilitated a creative construction workshop at Chorlton's Big Green Festival. I was invited by Busy Bee Toyshop Co-operative to help the lovely children of South Manchester let their imaginations run wild with the aid of the fantastic creative toy Makedo. The plastic connectors are a bit like split pins crossed with reusable cable-ties and allow the creator to make absolutely anything they can dream up from recycled cardboard and found materials. I had lots of fun preparing for the workshop, creating a menagerie of creatures from the contents of my recycling bin. I was especially fond of Earl Grey, the Rockhopper penguin made from an egg box and a tea packet. The young festival goers and their families produced a wonderful array of animals, vehicles, robots and rockets. The creations are currently on display in Busy Bee's shop window and the best ones have earned their makers a prize!

Thursday, 15 March 2012


Very exciting things have been happening at the Bluecoat, my creative home as Blue Room Lead Facilitator. For the past seven weeks we have been hosting artist in residence Wendell McShine who was born in Trinidad and is based in Mexico. He has been working with our Blue Room group of adults with learning disabilities as well as groups of children and young people from the Norris Green area of Liverpool. Funded by the PCT and focused on the Five Ways to Wellbeing, the project has strived to 'connect' groups of people who would not ordinarily come together, and may be apprehensive about doing so, over shared creative activities.

Wendell shared with us his interest in folklore and carnival culture, helping the Blue Room groups to find their 'animal totems'. From these they created beautiful charcoal drawings and incredible 3D carnival masks embellished with found fabrics and jewels. Many of the pieces have been created in an intergenerational collaborative process. A highlight was 'Dream Week' when the children and young people spent their half-term week working together with Blue Room.

Inspired by the cardboard skyline of Liverpool the group had created as a way to welcome Wendell to the city, the multi-disciplinary artist worked with us to develop an animated film. The group's hand drawn and painted cardboard cars, people and buildings take the viewer on a vibrant city tour, uncovering connections between people and places. The groups even worked with musicians to record their own unique soundtrack and theme tune. The animation and documentary film of the project is still in progress and will be complete in a few months as Wendell continues to work on editing back in Mexico.

The project has been a wonderful experience for all who have taken part. At our opening event earlier this week, the response from visitors and families was overwhelmingly positive. I have thoroughly enjoyed working on the project and am so proud of what the groups have achieved in just seven weeks. The exhibition Art:Connect Liverpool will be open to the public 10-6pm daily until 15th April 2012 at the Bluecoat.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Mice, Rice and Rubbish Revamped!

Recently, I've been teaming up with the brilliant Rubbish Revamped's Danielle Lowy to deliver some creative recycling sessions on behalf of the WEA as part of their Peripheral Vision project.

Held at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester, two fantastic groups of adults got the chance to create adorable
creatures from upcycled socks! Inspired by Donna Wilson's show at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the participants explored pattern cutting, stitching techniques and stuffing their creatures with tactile waste materials such as old rice and pillow wadding.

The results were a wonderfully expressive bunch of creatures ranging from mice and bunnies to red squirrels and even mythical looking critters. It was great to see how much character can be invested in an old sock, simply by adding a couple of buttons for eyes and carefully positioned ears.
Inspired, I've made these two little mice for my lovely Mum and Nana for Mother's Day!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Liverpool Loves part two ...

This week the Valentines craftiness continued as I delivered workshops with groups in Huyton and Kirkby as part of Kirkby Art Gallery's 'Your Valentine' exhibition. First up was a very girly and pleasantly fiddly couple of hours making paper roses with a fantastic group at the amazing brand new Knowsley Leisure and Culture Park. I didn't expect to find so much art in a leisure centre with the brilliant Alphabet Trail sculptures dotted around the building

Next came printmaking in Kirkby, with a lovely group who created delicate prints by rolling ink over textured lace before using these to collage their own designs for Valentines. It has been a brilliant few weeks journeying around Knowsley and being welcomed by the most delightful and creative groups. I encountered lots of big hearted folks, very much in the spirit of Valentine's Day! Hopefully I get to work with some of them again for more crafty fun.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Liverpool Loves.....

This week I've been trundling around Merseyside on the bus with a suitcase full of clay, plaster and lace all in the name of 'love'. Kirkby Gallery has a fascinating exhibiton charting the history of the Valentines card from the 19th Century onwards and to celebrate, I've been delivering a series of workshops inspired by Victorian Valentines.

Working with wonderful groups of adults with learning disabilities in Stockbridge and Halewood, we got messy making oversized 'Loveheart' sweet sculptures. The groups designed their own clay moulds, creating delicate imprints of lace and adding personal messages of love before pouring in liquid plaster and adding subtle colours with soft pastel. Its been brilliant getting to know all of the group members and staff at the centres and hearing about their own valentines. There is more to come next week as I visit centres in Kirkby and Huyton, watch this space!