Piecing it all together

This week we took some inspiration from our surroundings at the wonderful V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green.

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The museum and its buildings have a long history, as Catherine Freeman from the museum describes here. We’ll be meeting Catherine in a few weeks time, when she’ll be bringing some of the museum’s collection to life during an object handling session that we’re all really looking forward to!

On entering the museum, the mosaic-tiled floor may cause you to pause a while. The story goes that female inmates from the Woking Gaol laid the black and white fish scale pattern that greets you if you look down. You can almost make out the individual contributions; there is a certain absence of uniformity which can be seen across the vastness of the floor, belying the many hands that laid it and adding to the wonderful overall effect of this communal effort. Rather like how the quilt is progressing we think!

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We took a walk around the museum and had a look at the toy collection – and, as you may expect from a museum of childhood, this is a rather extensive one! We talked about the toys from our own childhoods and afterwards we continued with the mosaic motif when making fabric blocks about our memories of toys we remembered from our childhoods.

Your favourite toy was a doll?

It was. When I was a kid, there wasn’t many toys about then … We had china dolls, proper china dolls, and one day I dropped mine and it broke! [There was a] dolls hospital in Camden Passage, and we took it there. I said [to the woman working there] ‘is it alright?’ and she said ‘yes, come back for it next week’. It’s marvellous how they done it – a big piece came out of the back and they fixed it!


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The museum is home to over 4000 dolls, the earliest one dating back to 1300 BC!

Yeah I remember spinning tops. I think they had those at the hospital [where I spent most of my childhood]. I remember the great big ones … I never had a musical one.

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[Talking about Christmas] When we got up the next morning, we used to see a stocking at the bottom of our bed, or on the mantle or whatever, and when we got up the next morning, there was a thrupenny piece – my mum would remember that – and an orange and apple.

There used to be a man down our street who used to make skateboards … out of old wood. He came from the army. We all had one and the neighbours used to say … well, a bad word, ‘who the bloody hell made them?!’ you can imagine us down the street, all of us, there were a lot of kids.

We had a tea set, we used to take it outside and have a little picnic, put water in there. We used to be out there for hours! …Them were the days.

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This week we had a good look around the museum, it was interesting to see toys from around the world and things that we’d almost forgotten about but which seemed so very important when we were children.

Here’s the quilt so far – three weeks in and it’s starting to grow.

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Next week we’re going to experiment with touch and texture. We’ll be making our own fabrics out of wool, using soap and elbow grease to create a block from scratch. Watch this space!


Author: Kara Jarrold

Kara is Head of Arts & Wellbeing at Sense. She leads on arts projects that find ways to empower people to find their cultural voice, working collaboratively and experimentally with artists and participants to improve access to art through the senses.

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