‘In our forest, everyone can reach out and touch their dreams.’
This summer, artist Jenny Langley and storyteller Marion
Leeper have been working alongside SENSE families around the country to make a multi-sensory piece of textile art, the Forest of Dreams.
As part of the project, we talked about different kinds of ‘dream’: it could be a dream day we had enjoyed, or would like to do one day. Children told us what they wanted to do when they grew up. They had some ambitious ideas!
We wrote our dreams on fabric leaves which became part of the forest.
As textile artist for the project, Jenny writes, I went home and turned those dreams into something real, so that the children could, indeed, touch their dreams.
There were some common themes. Lots of people loved sparkly things.
Melissa likes things to fiddle with, so I made hanging sparkly shapes for all the groups to fiddle with.
Chloe’s mum wanted her ‘to be looked after, just like all her friends do at school now.’ I had some brightly coloured Phulkari embroidery from the Punjab, with shisha mirror beads sewn on it. These are believed to be protective. I cut and satin-stitched the fabric to make eye shapes.
Hannah’s mum at Leeds wanted her ‘to be as free as a butterfly’. I thought that ‘being free’ was such a lovely dream that I made butterflies for all the groups.
Ted and Ernie’s mum at Bristol wanted both of them ‘to follow their own path’. This reminded me of Robert Frost’s poem, ‘The Road not Taken.’ Using large willow hoops, I made a dividing path going through a wood, using the colours of their bedrooms.
Tom wanted to have a giant in the forest. His friend’s name was Jack, and so the idea of a beanstalk was born.
On our next visit everybody worked cooperatively to make the beanstalk and learnt loads of new skills on the way: sewing, felting, and even tying cable ties.
We included some dreams: Oliver’s was a perfect ice cream: ‘vanilla ice cream in a tub, with a squirt of cream and chocolate spread and black sprinkles and a cherry on top!
In Bristol, Thomas’ mum wanted him to have the chance just to relax and be himself. So inside the almost empty circle are the words ‘Space to be Myself’ on one side and ‘Space to Shine’ on the other. In the centre hangs a small budgie mirror – he loved one of these in hospital when he was younger. In the forest you can glimpse other found objects that represent dreams: an artist’s easel, a football, a dalek.
And just to show that not everyone’s dreams were safe and cuddly, Ellie from Wales wanted something scary in the forest.
These are just a few of the children’s dreams. There were so many, and they came thick and fast near the end of the project, when people had got to know us a bit better. Some were quite a challenge for me to represent but I loved the way they were so varied.
Walking along a beach, feeling the vibrations of the waves in the sand: I just had to do something for all the people who mentioned being at the seaside – they’re just like me: that’s one of my dreams too!