Monday, 20 January 2014

Painting with the Sun :: Cyanotypes

Well I discovered something new today, how to make cyanotypes.   

We are really pleased to have been asked by Charnwood Arts to work on an arts for health project with them. We will be creating a series of artworks in a community hospital in Oakham. The theme will be "Sense of Place - Home from Home". We will be looking at what home means to people in relation to where they are at this present time.   

Jemma from Charnwood Arts thought that it would be really great to make a series of cyanotypes, with images from the local area we are working in along with ideas about what 'home' means, onto textiles.   I love the idea of working with the in-patients and hope they will be able to add some stitches to the prints we have made today.

In case you don't know what cyantypes are, it's like a photographic process where you paint a special, light sensitive, solution onto paper or fabric.  You then cover with a relief image such as an acetate with a photo/picture printed onto it, or solid three-dimentional objects such as buttons or keys etc.  then you shine UV light onto it (if it's a sunny day just leave it out in the sun) for about 10 minutes. Then rinse to fix and there you have it.  

You can find out, in more detail, about the 'in's' and 'out's' of making cyanotypes on wikipedia but below are pictures of our day today, making them.

Painting on the light sensitive solution onto fabric...
 Drying the solution with an hairdryer...
 Under the UV lamp...
 Waiting for the magic to happen...
 Removing the relief objects to reveal what lies beneath...
Rinsing and fixing the image...
Hanging out to dry...
I totally and utterly loved learning a new skill today and am really looking forward to seeing how these images are used in our installation .  A special mention goes to Jacqui whose beautiful photography was used in making these cyanotypes.  Watch out for more on this project.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Wonderfully Woven :: Weaving Workshop

I had the pleasure of the company of a group of lovely creative people last night.  I ran a workshop, organised by Katherine from Beauty and Utility Arts, in Hinckley.  The participants discovered how to weave with makeshift looms from things you can find in your own home or garden.

With a little bit of facilitation, the participants threw themselves into making using a variety of materials I had gathered for them.

Green willow can be used to make a circular shape and the warp threads stretched over to make a loom.   The weft is them woven betweem the warps that resemble the spokes of a wheel...
And tree branches with 'V' junctions can also be used too.  The warp threads are woven in a figure of 8 fashion before the weft threads are woven between them...
You can weave with a variety of materials.  Including ripped up bedsheets and ribbons...
   I was so surprised at how quickly these results where achieved.  They look stunning...

I had some really great feedback and participants particularly appreicated the experimental nature of the workshop.

Although I have taught lots of people to weave on a one to one basis, this was the first time I have done this on a group basis.  I also discovered that it is not always necessary to stand and provide formal 'teaching'.  It's more about providing the right circumstances to allow creativity to happen and, with a bit of facilitation the creativity just flows naturally.  I loved delivering this session and will be planning more!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

On Running a Creative Business :: Mentoring

This is a long overdue blog post but there is a reason for it being late.  I have just finished the training that I received funding for as part of a mentoring programme provided by Creative Leicestershire.

As I write I am now 30 months in since starting my business, and what a journey it has been!
I started off with an idea.  Then I wanted to test that idea so I was advised, by Business Link (now GOV.UK) to pilot it, but of course I had to go through all the legal loopholes of registering as a business entity and getting an accountant and doing all the setting up a business training etc.  Then I discovered what worked well and what didn't work so well and then I scratched my head.  

The head scratching was bought about by my desire to know how to move my business from a pilot to a more mid-to-long term plan.  I knew things were working.  I knew the basics but I needed to know the secret to a sucessful and thriving long term fruitful business that gave a balance between having a career that I loved and which generated an income that had comensurate reward along with fitting this around my family's needs.  Right on cue came the potential solution in the form of an invitation to apply for support for professional development from Creative Leicestershire. I tentitively put my thoughts down on paper and submitted and, much to my surprise, I was accepted.

The programme started in June 2012 with an introductory session.  By this time Creative Leicestershire had introduced me to Pete Mosley who came with excellent credentials: creative business advisor and coach with over 30 years experience of working within the arts, as well as this also the business editor of Craft and Design magazine and an author of the fabulous book 'Make your Creativity Pay' .  Wow! how lucky I felt to have this kind of support.  

Pete was very accomodating of my childcare difficulties.  Our first meeting was during the school summer holidays and, having a child with autism makes things tricky when routines are changed.  We got around this by having meetings at my home.  The children happy in their own surroundings and this really helped in plotting the way ahead.  I was full of questions.  I had experience of running workshops knowing what worked and what didn't.  I had logically sussed out that you drop things that don't work, but forge ahead with the things that do.  I knew that you have to listen to the feedback and you go away and continually reinvent.  But there was this apprehension within me.  This little voice saying 'is this right?  Should I be continually changing the goals?  Should I just stick to one thing and keep on with it?'  Very quickly Pete was able to congratulate me on my sucessess and help me to find the answers myself.  One thing that did become clear was that I was not fully utilising my previous healthcare skills.  I had seen a really positive effect that the workshops I was running, were having on participants' wellbeing, with many reporting that they were feeling really relaxed in sessions, and some discussing their most intimate secrets.  Pete suggested that this was probably down to my previous skills as a nurse and maybe I should consider combining the two.  Genius! - the sound of pennies dropping was loud, and this was in the first session.  I had read something around the subject of arts for health but had not really thought about doing this more formally, so now I had found more focus for my business and something, that I felt, was fairly unique.  The following weeks, I spent reading around this subject area.  It was fascinating.

With this advice in mind I needed to find a positive way of spending the £500, that had been allocated to me as part of the mentoring programme, for professional development.

After thinking through a number of possibilites, the first bit of the funding was spent on attending a fantastic course on  'Training for Artists Working in Healthcare Settings'.  The course was organised by Katherine Brown from Beauty and Utility Arts based in Hinckley and Creative Leicestershire and was delivered by Jane Willis from WillisNewson the UK leading independant arts consultancy specialising in arts and health. 

The remaining funding was allocated to conference fees for the International Culture, Health and Wellbeing Conference (read more about it in an earlier blog post at the link) in Bristol, something that was good not only for my professional development but also for my own wellbeing.

I came away from both of these events absolutely buzzing with ideas for the future, a future that firmly consolidates my previous experience that I have gained as working as a  health professional, along with a future using my skills to develop into a career doing all of the things I love.  With this in mind coupled the expert coaching provided by Pete,  I have decided that I want to support people, particularly people experiencing mental health difficulties, by delivering a programme of arts/crafts for health and wellbeing.  In short I want to become an 'arts for health' practitioner.

Thank you Creative Leicestershire and Pete Mosley for helping me to realise this.

To find out more about Pete and the work he does around coaching and mentoring please visit his website - The Art of Work
Pete Mosley – Welcome

Monday, 6 January 2014

Healthy Eating and Sewing

Following from my last post about the Five Ways to Wellbeing, I have been taking time to Connect with food paying particular attention to my children's diet.  Earlier this year, I did a 'Spring Clean' healthy eating programme for a month with 'Eat, Smile, Live' and I have to say it really made me think about my relationship with food and my general attitude to my own wellbeing.  You can read more about it in a previous post.  Through the spring clean programme, I found out about 100 days of real food and became captivated by their section on school lunches.  I have never found school lunches to be the most nutritious and am not really happy that they don't cook fresh on site anymore.  We have always sent the children to school with a packed lunch because I feel happier knowing that they are getting a balanced fresh meal and not re-warmed food made with substandard ingredients.  Also, I love sitting down at the table and eating a meal with them in the evenings and they seem to appreciate that.  This website gives loads of ideas for making lunches a bit more adventurous and I have invested in food flasks so they can take warm food such as soup and pasta to school now.  I particularly liked the idea of providing  re-usable napkins.  My lass is terrible for wiping her mouth on her collar or sleeve and often I have had to throw stuff away because it is so badly stained.
Anyway, because I had a bit of time on my hands, with it being the christmas holidays, and because I had the desire to do something useful for both me and my girl, together we designed and made our own re-useable napkins for her lunchbox...
From the above drawings my lass did, I was able to translate them into these...
I backed them with retro brushed cotton for extra softness for wiping her sticky fingers and mucky chops...
She absolutely loves them and I think she will be very pleased to show her friends her artwork.  I really love her pictures and it was a delight to be able to transfer them to cloth.
Sorry about the quality of the images today.  It was such a dull wet day.  Not great for photography!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!
This is our old goldfish bowl.  We have put sand and shells from our favorite beaches into it to remember holidays gone by.  This time last year we came up with the idea of writing, on little slips of paper, the things that we had done that had made us feel good.  We then placed them in the bowl with our name, and the date we wrote the note.  We started this off well, but as the year passed, and we got busy, we kind of forgot about doing this.  Anyway, today we took it in turns to open the ones we had done and instantly wished we had done more.  We were reminded of the little things we take forgranted like grandpa buying my lass a paintset, which she used to paint us all picture of the seasons.  Also the time we went to the museum and bumped into a friend and then had lemon drizzle cake and custard which made my lass feel 'happy'.  We were also reminded of the time we were lucky enough to get tickets to 'Stargazing Live' where we ate meteor icecream made from liquid nitrogen.  I'd forgotten about that.

We really enjoyed looking at these little slips of paper with our thoughts scribbled onto them.  It made me feel good to do this.  It felt good for mine and my family's wellbeing and for a while we all really connected.

This brings me on to the Five Ways to Wellbeing.  Katherine Brown at Beauty and Utility Arts is running a 365 day wellbeing challenge.   Based on the five ways to wellbeing, Katherine invites us to document the things that make us tick and how that impacts on our work with communities and individuals across Arts, Health and Wellbeing.  You can document this in a blogpost or a facebook entry or tweet via twitter etc.  I think this is a supurb idea and I am going to give it a whirl.  I may not manage all 365 days but I will try my best.  If you would like to join in too, share this post and link to Katherine via twitter using the hashtag #5ways2wellbeing

Well my wellbeing challenge for today was to start writing our notes of 'things we did that made us feel good'.  You can see the first 4 in the bowl in the picture above.  This year I will encourage the whole family to continue doing this. 

Did you do something that helped you to connect or be active or take notice or keep learning or give?
If so, take a picture and tweet here: #5ways2wellbeing

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