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!