Thursday 6 February 2014

Mental Health improved by Wonderful Scenery and Creative Activities

A sneak preview of one of the countryside inspired felted pictures made during our day in the Peak District.
Borderland Voices, the Leek-based Community Arts for Health and Mental Wellbeing charity is an amazing organisation! 

When I first read about it and the work that it has done over the past 16 years I knew that I wanted to work with them if at all possible.  Based in Leek in Staffordshire their lovely bright art room is haven for anyone who is suffering from any form of mental distress as it is a place where they can regularly spend time on creative activities. 
The art room (previously a vegetable shop) has a deep bay window which they use for an ever changing exhibition of creativity. 
"The projects on offer provide a safe, supportive and friendly environment for those taking part – which gives people the ability to express their emotions in artistic terms, something that is especially useful during times of emotional distress, such as bereavement. The fact that there’s no referral process, as well as the knowledge that those involved can drop in or out at any time, means that everyone can be included as much as they feel necessary." Excerpt from their listing on the ArtsHealthandWellbeing website. 

Andy Collins is the coordinator at Borderland Voices and working with her was a real pleasure. Andy devised a way that we could make the felting activity, that I had proposed, a full day and also a very special offsite activity in the heart of the Peak District National Park. Firstly she linked with Rethink Mental Illness in Leek so that some of their service users could also take part and next she devised a plan where our felting day could be part of 'A Breath of Fresh Air' (a project part funded by Ecominds and the Peak Park’s Sustainable Development Fund)

Fresh air, exercise, being in the countryside and creativity often go together but it is certain that they each contribute to a better sense of wellbeing and can definitely contribute to improved mental health.

Andy booked a minibus and planned the creative trip to The Dove Valley Centre in Sheen. 
I drove up from Lichfield and wow what wonderful scenery! We had an enthusiastic group of fourteen, including Andy, Elspbeth from Dove Valley Centre and also our minibus driver. 

The fresh air and scenery was inspirational 
A poem was written on the day too

No one had made hand-made felt at all before so after soaking up the scenery and a cup of tea we got started by making some pre-felt. 
The rubbing motion is rhythmical and always relaxes people
Then I showed the group various ways of ‘painting’ with wool fibres. There are so many options, blending small tufts of coloured wool fibres to get subtle shades, cutting shapes from the pre-felt that we had made in the morning and also using some interesting textured knitting yarns to add surface texture and lines. 

Some hand-spun jacob wool yarn used here. (photo by Andy Collins)
A good use of shapes cut from pre-felt for this design

As we were part funded by the Peak Park’s Sustainable Development Fund we were aiming to take our inspiration from the countryside around us. Even though we were working indoors this was still easy as the barn studio is upstairs and so we had a clear view from the windows. 
You can almost feel you are out in the wide open countryside here 
Really colourful and with a couple of sheep on the horizon too
At the end of the day we had more tea and cake and it was great to look at everyone’s felted pictures and have that wonderful sense, not only of personal achievement, but also of shared creative experience. 
This man is a keen amateur photographer and decided to play with inverting colours. 
This creative lady took inspiration from some geraniums in pots in Dove Valley Centre courtyard. She is a keen card maker and applied her design skills to felting.
Me (Kirsty E Smith) admiring everyone's felted pictures. (photo by Andy Collins)
It was a lovely day and I was really pleased that images of the felted pictures featured on the Borderland Voices calendar. And I also had the pleasure of another creative session with the group a few months later up in their art room in Leek. In that session we made some multi-coloured felted balls which we made into hanging decorations and also a few multi-coloured felted bead bracelets too.



Andy Collins said...

We really enjoyed working with you, Kirsty. As you've ably demonstrated in your blog it was a really happy, inspiring day. We were all so proud of what we'd achieved - I even mounted my 'landscape' and gave it to my husband for Christmas.

AllSensesArt said...

Thanks so much Andy. It is great to hear stories of what people do with their own hand-felted creations; they are fantastic reminders of happy and enjoyable creative experiences.