QT2 Get Creative @ Kew

kew signArty Inspiration at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.

Quilt Tales 2 makers got out of Edward Pauling House, our usual making setting, to get some artistic inspiration at Kew Royal Botanic Gardens. Some of our number are season ticket holders a but will readily admit that they rarely get beyond the café and the gift shop, others had not been to Kew for many many years… well,  today we are off to explore! We were met by our brilliant guides Jane, Bhavana and Yo at Victoria Gate where our mini bus and unflappable driver Andrew awaited. Once onboard we slowly wound our way around these fantastic gardens, which were awash with rich autumnal colours, textures, smells and sounds. Safe from the elements onboard the bus, our guides recounted stories about special trees, horticultural facts and the history of Kew. Our Discovery Bus Tour was punctuated with frequent stops, affording us little windows in which to do small creative experiences en route to our star event, The TreeTop Walk.

Here is what we got up to…

Handling samples, supplied by the guides from the trees around us, brought the outdoors indoors for our makers to feel and smell.

Our first creative bus stop and we got straight in with some back to nature therapeutic tree hugging which, set the tone nicely. Sheila commenting that;

‘When you get close to a tree, the tree gives you some of it’s strength and energy. It’s good for you to get close to nature.”

Kenny enjoyed being up close to the knarled tree trucks and having a ‘good look with my hands’.

We took rubbings of the bark patterns from different trees, using fabric crayons straight onto fabric and Kenny even managed to feed ‘George’ a resident peacock (all the peacocks at Kew are called George, keeps it simple!) . Which you would think would be quite sharp but Kenny describe his peacock close encounter  experience;

‘…his beak was gentle and ticklish. He was lovely. I’ve never fed a peacock before, that was brilliant!’

We read poetry about autumn which, as Sheila rightly pointed out, ‘painted pictures in words’ of the glorious colours and  crisp landscape that surrounded us. We also took sound recordings of crunchy leaves and rustling branches, windy tree creaking and noisy Heathrow air traffic, we hope to incorporate these sounds files  into the quilt. We also documented our trip by taking lots of photos for the quilt and the oldblog.

Listening to poetry readings about autumn under the branches of golden trees, sniffing ripe fruit and berries, feeling the the wind in our faces and even managing a bit of yarn bombing was a new and fresh approach to experiencing a place everyone had visited before and the group  fizzed, full of ideas for the their quilt panels.

We were so taken with our surroundings we ended up getting a little delayed, but our trusty guides got us to our main event, The Treetop Walkway. Those with a head for heights, took the lift up to the top and were transported to an exceptional canopy experience with stunning views, sounds and tactile experiences high above the gardens. The only disconcerting things were the sound the metal made when you walked on it and looking through the metal walkway back to the ground, but why look down when you can look out across Kew and London beyond?

This is not our recording, but you can experience the sounds we experienced on this link.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6oIBkLBcnU

Getting out and about as a group of makers and revisiting a familiar environment in a new and challenging way allowed the group to bond around a common experience and they chatted openly about their day over a warming bowl of soup in The Orangery café afterwards. It was encouraging to see, not only the creative discussion generated but also to witness the group socialising and sharing opinions on wider issues.

We have acquired oodles of inspiration for textile responses for the Quilt Tales 2 quilt and now have  memories to share and tales to recount. It was a 10/10 rated trip all round and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

We would like to wholeheartedly thank and highly commend the fantastic Discovery & Access Team at Kew  for accommodating us with such careful planning and consideration. Special thanks go to Justine for helping to organise the visit and to our brilliant guides Jane, Bhavana, Yo and Andrew our driver. Their attention to detail and flexible approach ensured a thoroughly enjoyable and inclusive experience for the whole group.

Watch out for images of our creative responses to our Kew trip!


Author: Alex McEwan

Alex is an artist who specialises in inclusive and accessible community arts projects, such as Sense's TEXTtile and Quilt Tales.

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