Tuesday 25 February 2014

Get Started – Bedford Court (Weeks 1-2)

“Well this looks different!” Exclaims Margret as she enters her sitting room, which Jim and I have completely covered in bubble wrap! We’re inviting the tenants in the flats to move across the bubbles, without shoes. We turn the lights down and begin to use other senses to explore our new sensory environment. It no longer feels like a sitting room.

How will you pop the bubbles? Press, pop, squash, crack, burst!

Our movement challenges get a little more adventurous, as we begin to use different body parts to travel across the bubbled floor. Elaine is particularly good at setting the challenges! Splits, headstands, forward rolls, heel walking races, jumping, body rolling.

There are lovely magical moments of concentration when we are just listening to the sounds we are each making.

 “It sounds like cracking fire”
 “I can hear heavy raindrops in the room.”

With giant paper we explore different ways of rolling paint with the help of recycled found objects spinning on the end of sticks; bits of fan parts, sections of old printers...

 What can you see? Train tracks, rivers, steps, a swarm of bugs, clouds.

Woops and yelps of joy fill the sitting room today with the presence of two desk fans, raffia hand held fans, tinsel and balloons – we discover they are a great way to jazz up a game of tennis and raise the temperature of the room. Mary and Jim are in a game of 'Tinsel Tussle',  Mary develops a unique way of keeping the tinsel afloat. "How are you doing that? Show me!"

Jim brought in his hand-made mechanical drawing machines for the group to try. The most noticeable quality of these drawing tools – is they take charge of your arm and dictate a certain kind of movement. What a great way to stop us worrying about 'what' we are drawing, allowing us to focus on the process. Everybody was eager to try the variety of tools, mastering a technique for each, embracing chance and accidental discovery they provide.

With each drawing tool we adapt our approach, get lower to the floor, lower our arms, our shoulders, move our eyes closer to the paper, inventing new games for each of us to try.

We notice the moving shadows, layers of colour, where the inks blend with felt tips, graphite, wind and our breath. It’s calming and pleasing to hear the tenants complimenting each other and patiently enjoying watching each others’ approach.

 “So glad he is joining in” Mary says as she’s watching John working low on the floor fully immersed in the colour and motion of the drawing tool.

Bryony and Jim

Monday 24 February 2014

Get Started - Wetherby Fulfilling Lives Centre (Weeks 1-3)

Everybody join a circle, open a parachute and let’s start a game. Whoops of laughter and delight echo through the room, it’s an energetic opening for our series of sessions at the Wetherby centre, with a lot of exercise for everybody!

With lively music we twirl silk ribbons in 1001 different ways. Adells finds ways to wriggle her ribbon like a snake or fly it gracefully like a bird. Meanwhile Michelle whirls her ribbon so enthusiastically that she manages to put three knots in her piece! Everybody takes a turn to lead and follow - so we try out the leader's ideas. There are some fantastic ideas flying around, literally. 

Stretch our legs and make a beautiful procession – a ribbon conga with whirling ribbons making dynamic rainbows. Rona and Adelle are expert leaders, directing us into all the nooks and crannies of the room, round and round the snooker table.

 Under, over, through, follow, flight, flap, float, waft, drift… 
 “Are we dizzy yet?!” 

Over the weeks we’ve introduced different activities exploring the elements of wind and water. Blowing food dye with fans, through the straws with our breath or moving them with fingers. We observe playful scenes of people blowing backwards and forwards, watching meandering multi coloured rivers entering personal landscapes in the imaginary territories. 

 “You little tinker!!!” Vivienne is in giggles as she watches the river of her colours merge into others.

“Look at this, he, he, he…” Steven engineers an extra long straw by joining two together and blows with all his might a big red sea of colour in the direction of Andrew’s bit of paper. 

In another week, we introduced a variety of handmade bubble wands cobbled together from recycled materials. These were a big hit, especially with the addition of glitter and bells dangling on the ends of the wands! 

 "Let's catch a bubble and watch it fly. Splat! Pop!" 

At first everybody was a bit careful with buckets full of soapy water, but soon we were all dipping and blowing, dunking and blowing bubble sculptures, until we were all out of puff and it was time for a tea break. 

“I’ve got it, I’ve got it!” Jeffrey was delighted when he caught all three balls. 

 And most recently we have been marbling paper with sweet smelling almond oil and coloured oil paint. We carefully select colours and mix the water with oil, watch the paper float, whilst dipping, dunking and observing the changes. 

Andrew was excited to see his favourite colour green being added into the water and oil mix, vocalising his excitement. It’s wonderful to see how the first attempts with trepidation turn into confident gestures and proud exclamations “Look at this!”

Bryony and Milena

Thursday 20 February 2014

Oasis - Week 1

Be guided to a place where you are away from the large and small nuisances of life, where everything contributes to your experience of tranquility - from the landscape to the sounds to the scents carried on the breeze. Take time to reflect on this place that makes you feel wonderful. Follow the spoken prompts to bring your oasis to life in words on the page. Do not worry about boring things like punctuation, spelling and grammar.
Now describe this place to a partner and have them draw it. Use specific descriptions like 'porridge and Muppets', 'a cattle grid' and 'crystal in the ground'. Do not peek. Swap.
Compare the drawings with your original writings. Find that they have added details e.g. a wall you hadn't thought was needed but was, or haven't included the colours you had envisioned. Find that it was harder than you expected. Find, perhaps, that they have captured it brilliantly.
This was the second half of a session that began with ice being smashed into smithereens during games all the adults leapt into feet and hands first. In fact, during the 'Sun Shines On' game, most people usually avoid the chair in the middle where you have to think of things you and other people in the group might like, but we found one of our participants in particular enjoyed being in the spotlight! Participants commented that it was really good fun and nice for them to forget their other roles and play, instead of lead, games for a change. And when we looked closely at one another's eyes to find our Dulux Colour name - from 'Earth Spirit 1' to 'Kiwi Crush',compliments abounded.
'It's a great group,' one woman said at the end, and we all agreed. 'I feel like I've known everyone for ages, even though I can't remember many of your names,' she added with a laugh.

Tuesday 4 February 2014

Get Started - Lilac Project - January Session

Maracas, Meetings and Multi-coloured Crime scenes

This was the first Get Started session of 2014, a Big Lottery funded project working with Progress Housing Trust. In this first workshop of the year, Artlink met Lilac - a group of adult tenants, who meet monthly to represent their accommodation from different areas in Leeds.

This session was all about our relationships with one another – about who we are as individuals in relation to one another.   Some of this we figured out by looking.  Observation skills are very important in any art form and we experimented with ours first by comparing eye colour, hand and foot size and height and ordering ourselves accordingly.  Aside from being fun, this allowed us to get to know one another better and also involved the use of another sense, that of touch.

Speaking of touch, Peter was a little touchy when we told him we would be drawing on the walled windows!   But there would have been no hiding the multi-coloured crime scene with whole silhouettes and body parts outlined in gorgeous coloured liquid chalk!  It wasn’t just shapes either; some people became really engaged in adding detail to the outlines of their partner’s silhouettes while some preferred to add moustaches and nails to their own.

Another way in which we got to know one another was through our voices and ears, through speaking and listening, trying to detect the truth from the lies. 

How did the artists Becky and Bryony first meet?

When they worked together at a circus – Bryony as a trapeze artist and Becky as a high wire walker.
At a friend’s house on a sofa on a Sunday.  When they looked round they were the only ones left.  They had enjoyed talking so much that they hadn’t even noticed.
They bumped into one another (literally) at Leeds-Bradford airport and then were seated next to one another on a plane to Sweden.

Participants were challenged to guess which one of these stories was true (by blowing feathers through straws) and which were false (by shaking their maracas).   Much laughter was had after the stories had been embellished and told but not everyone got it right. 

I wonder if readers can guess correctly?  

Lilac then worked in pairs to come up with their own stories, which we recorded.  They were very good at it – telling us convincingly and giving us stories that sounded incredibly believable about watching films together, singing at a karaoke night, being in the same class together and joining the Chippendales (alright, that was less believable but very funny).  It was a great end to a fun session in which everyone got to know everyone else a little better and also discovered some new talents.   

Becky and Bryony 

Sunday 2 February 2014


Session 1
So here we are - Ward 6 dining room come art studio come launching space for the fabulous mythical bird - the phoenix!This is the last leg of three years worth of workshops that Artlink has organised on Ward 6. The Journey of A Thousand Paper Cranes is arriving at the feet of the phoenix!The dining room is empty. While Rozi and I are setting up, some participants arrive, a little bit excited, a little bit shy, a little bit curious ....- what are we doing today?Today we will try marbling - a magical process involving oil colour, water, washing up liquid and salt, unpredictable and uncontrollable....

Nobody has done this technique before. Soon we are all mixing the colours we like, diluting them with oil and pouring them into trays (baths) of water. The oil smells; some like it, some don't and some can't smell it at all.

We pour the paint into the water without any idea what to expect, then rather reluctantly, the paper is lowered into the bath. We want to see the patterns sit on the surface of the water, but everything is happening at the bottom of the bath and none of us know what to expect.
What a surprise - how different it all looks when we pull out the paper. What seemed like a huge mess in the water, appears quite different on the paper - and EVERY sheet of paper is unique, the colours glisten and shine.
‘The colours are so much more vibrant on paper than in the tray’
‘Yaayyy, that’s a lighter one. THAT’s what I wanted!’
The patterns are organic and extreme. They remind us of images of galaxies or microbiology. Meanwhile, the scene is photographed using the iPad and special effects. It adds another dimension, a kaleidoscope of colours.
As each sheet is pulled out of the water there is a transformation on our faces - joy, wander, puzzlement, recognition... delight!
 This is not a process which we can easily control, this is like learning to surf on the wave of creativity."Thank you so much for this", is accompanied with a gesture encompassing the work, the room, us and herself. It’s such a heartfelt statement that I feel a lump in my throat. It is one of those moments.
Today we have started to make the feathers for our phoenix. Next week we will construct the body, with a wire frame!

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Final Week – Thousand Paper Cranes

Today was the last session of our 10-week project. We have worked together with 11 participants and 7 staff on the ward through a variety of hands-on activities exploring ways we can use batik, drawing, painting, photography, light projection, jewellery making, withy sculpture and puppetry in creative and experimental ways.

As it was the final session, there was a few activities we needed to do; evaluating and reflecting, finishing off our silk scarves, selecting images for the ward exhibition and (our favourite bit!) a final playful experiment combining all the different elements created during the project.

We had a challenge on our hands today, collectively we were looking to decide on 6 images from the photographic documentation and digital artwork over our 10 weeks project. These 6 images will be printed onto canvas for the walls on the ward. Let’s put it to a vote! Rozi and I selected about 30 strong images beforehand which we projected large on the wall for patients and ward staff to observe and vote for a permanent place on their ward. This generated lots of discussion, reflecting on our many techniques, thoughts and experiences.

“I love looking at the canvases on the walls in the ward – It makes me want to have a go at that! They brighten up the place.”

“The large collaborative fabric painting [in week 1] allowed us to chat to each other in a way we don't usually.”

“It's good to have something to take away at the end of a session. To show people, 'I did this'.”

The last part of the session was a joyful immersive play with light, shadow, a miniature wire man a participant created in week 4 and our painted silk scarves and waxed fabrics made in weeks 1, 8, 9 and 10. By hanging, draping, layering, suspending, projecting these elements, time seemed to stand still.

The room became a landscape for our imaginations to run free; a story emerged. A participant remarked “He’s carrying a heavy load.”

We took it in turns to be the photographer, puppeteer, set designer. Ward staff came to watch and enjoy the show. None of us wanted it to end because we were so absorbed in our discoveries.

Thank you to everybody for making this project happen. The sessions have inspired and motivated the participants whilst experiencing extremely complicated emotional difficulties, as proven by some lovely quotes here:

“I came here to occupy my mind and help the way I think.”

“The artists and the sessions were uplifting and great to be around. I wish I could have made it to more of the sessions. I hope the artists come back again. I think Artlink is fantastic, fun and extremely creative.”

“I would like to develop my own projects in my spare time, now I know how.”

Bryony and Rozi

Friday 29 November 2013

A Thousand Paper Cranes - Week 9

Wow, some full on creativity this session!
We set up the two workstations, as last week; with two tables set for calm and careful concentration required for silk painting and guttering; and two tables set aside for batik.
The batik unleashed a burst of energetic fabric painting, dripping and splashing onto an array of vest-tops and bags, each with a unique set of colours and mark-making.
These reminded me of paintings by Jackson Pollock, and the Stone Roses iconic album cover. It was such an absorbing and engrossed activity! Those splats up the wall said it all. A chance to be unbounded, with so much to express and vent.
"Loving this. Could do this all day!"
I was fascinated by the variety of approaches to applying the colour.
A batik bag created last week was painted in a very considered and delicate manner, that still allowed a element of experimentation. The result was colours that flowed and seeped into each other, mixing and combining in that lovely free way of watercolour paint. But, this was applied in a very thoughtful way, so slight and delicate an effect. The colours look almost whispered onto the canvas. It requires a lot of skill to know when to stop, to boldly pronounce, 'that's enough, I'm happy with the way it looks."
This was an interesting contrast to the high energy approach.
Adding a second layer of wax, and darker layer of colour to enhance the pattern.
A similar free painting approach was applied to the scarves. The fine silk fabric encourages this kind of watercolour mixing effect.
A happy accident led to the discovery of a great new technique. Silk paints had been applied to the silk while it was still folded, so the colours seeped through and splodged on the plain fabric underneath. This created beautifully unpredictable contrasts of colour.
Excellent results!!