Sense Textiles Projects @ GLAD 2016

Branching out and  broadening the dialogue…


Lead artist, Alex McEwan & Kara Jarrold, Head of Arts & Wellbeing, Sense UK invited to talk about Sense Textiles Projects at the GLAD 2016 Conference in Birmingham. The Group for Learning in Arts & Design meets once a year to discuss, showcase and share examples of innovative, best practice across all areas of the arts.

‘Traditionally, the GLAD conference has offered an opportunity for the art, design and media community to share ideas and learn about innovative teaching and learning practices.The 2016 GLAD conference will be looking out beyond the boundaries of art and design education in higher education. We will be inviting along new voices to enrich the debate and promote creative exchange.’

GLAD website statement.

The Arts & Wellbeing programme at Sense is varied and pioneering. It encompasses a wide range of artistic practice from interpretive dance, sound and light installation art, photography and interactive textile projects to name but a few. In my guise as lead artist on several textile projects, and with my  university tutor hat on, my art facilitation practice crosses, the lesser bridged gap, between inclusive community arts practice and HE /FE university, studio based learning.

There are so many lessons that both Higher / Further Education can learn from creative community learning, and vice versa, but they not often talked about. There are innumerable cross over, mutually beneficial, lessons to be learned across all areas of inclusive, creative, life long learning through events such as these. Opening up a dialogue between people and organisations around such areas is at the heart of the Arts & Wellbeing Programme at Sense.

So armed with a USB stick, feedback cards and a belly full of fire we set off to Birmingham, to cross over to…

the academic side!

Ideally, an immersive workshop would have been the best way to demonstrate what we have learned and illustrates the varied needs of learners with sensory impairment, but we only had a short slot to pitch our work so we honed in four key areas for inclusive community practice:

  1. Technological aids. Inclusion of drawing apps, conductive fabric and the inclusion of sound in the textile work.
  2.  Adaptation of a range of conventional craft materials for inclusivity including; mini looms, giant knitting needles, finger knitting, carpet underpay thread work, textures, smelling jars, object handling, poetry, spoken or written narrative in order to nurture and aid creative confidence.
  3. A Holistic approach. The tempo of workshops,  the benefits of inspirational outings, the importance of social interaction,  nurturing a sense of self ownership of an individuals’ creative journey, trust and peer support are all key factors to successful, learner -centric arts groups.
  4. Starting a Dialogue. The outcomes of running ‘Conversation Workshops’, with like minded institutions such as museums, gardens, other charities, sheltered housing organisations, London Borough councils and others.

Now, we are in the presence of academics and facilitators of learning, so feedback was important, it’s how we move forward. There was some great suggestions for future projects and information about people working in the same field so thank you all for your input, it is much appreciated.

“an engaging presentation of an inspiring and important project. Thank you for sharing”

As a result of the conference we have been asked to submit a paper on our innovative project work to go to press…hopefully casting our net even further and reaching a whole new audience,  get people thinking creatively about art and wellbeing projects for the elderly with sensory impairment and how this can feed back into Higher Education.

“This work is fantastic! 

“Excellent and interesting”

We got some great ideas and made some creative connections, all potential creative partners of the future.

“Dear Alexandra & Kara , Thank you for an inspiring and emotional presentation this afternoon. I cried this morning, with Dr Claire MacDonald’s presentation, and again at the end of today – but they were good tears!”

“Thank you! Your presentation was inspiring and reassuring. I’d be interested to learn more about your work and be involved with projects. It is good to know that this kind of community work is happening.”

This Friday, we take on the Higher Education Academy’s Annual Conference in Brighton. Delegates will be treated to an immersive practical 2D & 3D workshop, which we hope will start fresh, enlightened discussion on new inroads to inclusive practice across all learning environments.

“Never ignore a possible and expect the unexpected!” – A.McEwan, 2016 presenter.

For more information on the HEA Conference 2016 ‘Inspire – sharing great practice in Arts and Humanities teaching and learning’, please see the link below:–-sharing-great-practice-arts-and-humanities-teaching-and-learning

Onwards, up and outwards! We’ll let you know how we get on.




Author: Alex McEwan

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

6 thoughts on “Sense Textiles Projects @ GLAD 2016”

  1. Too often, authentic and innovative education is abandoned in favor of contrived lessons aimed at having students master a body of information which they are supposed to regurgitate on tests intended to assess students’ competence. Fortunately, Alex and Kara have developed a dynamic and stimulating project that, while designed for use with deaf-blind individuals, can–with a bit of ingenuity–be adapted for successful use in any class or course. Their work is at once compelling, heartening, inspiring, and authentic.

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    1. Hello Chrinstine, Tahnks for your post. I will ask the more technologically minded people at Sense and get back to you as soon as I can.

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