|'Magic' Ball mini-beasts are one of my most popular felting activities and are especially good for drop-in sessions|
I am sensitive to people’s needs and can pick up on feelings or anxieties quickly and have an ability to put them at ease.
I also see everyone simply as people and ideally I prefer not to say ‘young’ people or ‘older’ people. I feel that we are all people just at different stages of life.
I work with all sorts of materials when making my own mixed media sculptures but over the years I seem to have done most of my outreach projects using the unusual medium of felt-making. I have found that felting is an amazingly versatile medium and I have developed my own methods to speed up the process - this has been especially useful when working with people with limited attention spans. I have also developed techniques which make it easier for people with limited physical abilities.
Felting is a process which starts by participants first being intrigued by the wonderful range of colours of soft sheep’s wool fibres.
When we get onto the wet part of the felting process everyone seems to get very relaxed and absorbed; the rhythmical rubbing with lovely Olive oil soapy water never fails to relax.
Making sure that we get results quickly is important too as sometimes I am working with a group of people who have very short attention spans or who have anxiety disorders. This sea themed felted wall hanging was made very speedily by a group of young people in Heathlands Ward at Parkview CAMHS clinic in Moseley, Birmingham (one of the largest Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in the country).
|Before and after pictures of the fishy sea themed wall-hanging|
|Detail of space themed felted wall-hanging|
Getting the staff involved too is an additional reward when running creative activities in hospitals. Again at Parkview I worked with young people in Ashfield ward; there was only three in this group but they all had very different interests and needs. I was so proud of Alex who, on my second visit, made this Aston Villa felted picture.
|I made yellow pre-felt in advance of the session. This meant that Alex could trace the shape of the Aston Villa lion and then cut the shape from the pre-felt using his paper template.|
Sophie had big ambitions and worked away very quietly and made her own 3D felted cat in the same session- again one of the staff encouraged her by making his own felted cat alongside her. This was a great example of working alongside someone; just by sharing the experience you are helping them to gain confidence, you are both doing something new for the very first time.
Two of my most admired felted wall hangings have been made by children on Ward 7, a clinical ward, in the main, Steelhouse Lane, Birmingham Children’s Hospital site. For this Summer Arts Project my brief was to engage as many patients as I could; to go to the hospital with no preconceived ideas of the theme of the wall-hangings but at the end of the day the expectation was that I would have facilitated the making of two wall-hangings which would be on permanent display in the ward and be seen by children of all ages.
I took a selection of images along with me- Pokemon, Hello Kitty, Mario and Spongebob amongst others.
Very quickly I had a group of three girls aged about 10 and they were very keen to make a Hello Kitty themed wallhanging, I also had a student nurse in the group and she was very enthusiastic too. We worked around children going off for treatments but that can be tricky as I wanted to make sure that everyone was involved will every stage of the process.
Ward 3 - now called Ocean Ward - is one which I have worked in on several projects in 2008, 2009 and 2012.
I am still so very proud of the felted glove puppets that were made in the All About Me project. After my first session with the young people in this ward I discovered that football was a what most of them were especially interested in. I took a note of favourite teams and players and went along to the next session armed with images printed onto cotton fabric. The young people were wowed that I even knew the players numbers (I did need to research this!) When finished, the glove puppets were able to play table-top football with the big stuffed felted ball that Amir had made in the first felting session.
|Some of the young people had dexterity problems but that didn't stop their enthusiasm and everyone was really proud of their achievements|
This was based on a fantasy digital game and everyone in the group added to the design.
|Even boys like making their own special purse|
|Cushions and flowers made by children in Ocean Ward. Part of the 'AllAbout Me' creative sessions at Birmingham Children's Hospital|
|Completed wallhanging designed and made by children in Ocean Ward|
|Here you can see how everyone's ideas were included in the fantasy PC game wall-hanging design|
It is my philosophy that everyone, whatever their abilities and personal circumstances, has the right to learn a new skill and to have the opportunity to make unique artwork of their own. My mission is, “To nurture and encourage people’s imagination and creativity in a fun and enthusiastic way”.
I feel privileged to have been part of these young people’s lives especially during a hospital stay which will have been a challenging time in their lives and I look forward to leading more exciting creative sessions with children (and indeed people of all ages!)