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!