TEXTtile Chapter 5: Play with your food! "It’s fun!"

Healthy amount of work made in one sitting as TEXTtile makers exceed recommend 5 a day!

Someone call the fire brigade, the TEXTtile makers are on fire! A phenomenal amount of print work was harvested last week in a foodie inspired creative frenzy, which was lots of messy fun. So much work in-fact, that I couldn’t get the whole, beautiful buffet up on the blog, so here is a little taster of fruit and veg prints for starters…

Food and drink, it’s the one topic that I retained from project to project. Why? Because it never fails to get everyone talking, reminiscing, swapping recipes and stories and creates a genuinely  enthusiastic, creative vibe. Cooking and food preparation is an interactive, hands on, creative activity and so lends itself to participatory crafty endeavours. Everyone has a favourite food or food memory, every culture celebrates with special foods, every country has its own specialities. It is on an equal par to music for guaranteed, genuine, emotional  responses. So, what better medium to create the work with than the utensils we cook with and the food itself? But first, something smelly….

We kicked off with some smelling jars and touch bags. We paired up and got our nostrils and finger tips to do some work. Mystery jars, cloaked in cloth jackets, were laid out  for our makers to have a sniff, guess the contents and share a memory of whatever they thought the smell was. Small cloth bags of mystery food stuffs were passed around to feel and guess what was within from texture alone, and give a memory of that food or texture. The result were memories around, ground ginger, malt whisky, almonds, TCP, pine disinfectant, vinegar, monkey nuts, star anise, parma violet sweets, rice, pasta and lots of wrinkled noses and chin scratching.




“I know that smell! I used to work as a nurse looking after children. There was one boy who was six years old and every time he saw me he would run to me and give me a huge kiss and cuddle. He called me Fish finger. When I asked his parents why, they said it was his favourite food so I started calling him beef burger, which is mine. He passed away but I still think about him. I will never forget him. He was a very special child.” – Fely, TEXTtile Maker.

Senses stimulated and table suitably protected from the barrage of peel, paint and general enthusiasm about to hit it, we get our teeth into some printmaking…kitchen style!

One maker made a comment which resonated with the whole group…

“Ohh I haven’t done this since I was 8, 9, 10 , 11 years old. I don’t know why, it’s so much fun! You just don’t do things you did as a child when you are grown up, do you? You feel silly. Why do you feel silly? Feeling silly, that’s silly!” TEXTtile Maker

Everyone had a good fondle of the fruit and veg on offer, chose what they would like to start with, swapped recipes from war times and exotic holidays and eventually got down to using the potato peelers, meat tenderisers, fish slices, potato mashers, potatoes, aubergines, pomegranate, mini corn (as make shift paint brushes), carrots, apples, red cabbage, sponges, fingers and Nicole’s own beautiful Indian wood blocks to get printing.

“This is the best drawing I’ve done today! I can’t see much but I can see the patterns and I think that this one is quite good!”

J. TEXTtile Maker

“I used to play with potato stamps when I was a child because they were the cheapest thing you could buy. My mum thought it was a waste of food but I used to enjoy it.”  -TEXTtile Maker

The group grow ever confident in their arty abilities. Fely takes her design to the next level, choosing to up cycle an ink drawing made by a maker from a previous arts and wellbeing project working a corn and woodblock design around Sheila’s inky cat and uses letter stamps to name it.

Fely takes print making to the next level working on top of a past makers work to create something new.
Fely takes print making to the next level working on top of a past makers work to create something new.

All the prints made today will become illustrative patterns, which will accompany the stories we tell whilst making. The book grows each week, by sometimes small amounts and, like this week, sometimes large amounts. Here are some shots of the painty aftermath…

To my mind, a good workshop is one where the activities introduced become a shared experience around which the participants can enthusiastically rally. A good workshop becomes a great one when the participants take ownership of the activity and push it in new directions.  If we get feedback about something that has been enjoyed in particular we feed it into the next session. The structure of classes remains fluid to incorporate participant input. Messy, chatty, interactive and entertaining a great atmosphere created by the ladies today!

“I really liked what we did last week with the touching and feeling” – Margaret, TEXTtile Maker

“I have taken this on board Margaret and will endeavour to keep sessions interactive and multi sensory.” – Alex, TEXTtile Lead

We also managed to squeeze in #CClasses workshop No.2 but this needs its own oldblog post all to itself! Keep tuned to hear all the latest news form the TEXTtile Project here on the oldblog or on #TEXTtile and @Senetweets. Share, like, retweet and leave a comment folks, all feedback welcome.


Author: Alex McEwan

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

12 thoughts on “TEXTtile Chapter 5: Play with your food! "It’s fun!"”

  1. I can feel the energy of the session coming through in this post! “Feeling silly is silly” sums up some of those tentative moments people feel about doing something new and a bit different so it’s so nice to hear people giving it a go anyway and really enjoying it, that’s what it’s all about. Thanks alex!

    1. This is fantastic Kara (it’s Amy from Goldsmith’s Spoken Word Education Project by the way…) just checking out your blog as suggested.

      Those testimonials are amazing! “I can’t see. I can barely hear. But I’m here. And I LOVE it!” – Gold dust!

      Putting aside some time to look at all the other amazing articles, later in the week…and totally going to use the “Smelling” jars exercise next week on my Poet Residency at my specialist blind school… 🙂

      1. Hello Amy, just in the middle of writing a new post so almost live chat response! Glad you are enjoying the posts.Would love to know how you get on with the smelling jars at the school next week, we also had mystery cloth feeling bags with objects in, which worked well in conjunction with the jars. Do you have a blog also? Thanks for stopping by and leaving comment, much appreciated. Alex, TEXTtile Project Lead

        1. Hello Alex,

          The smelling jars were a great success!!!

          Smells included: horseradish, perfume, strawberry jam, Bramley apple sauce, Yves Saint Laurent perfume (expensive I know…but it was given to me as part of my late Grandmother’s things…little did she know her memory would live on through her sweet smells helping blind children write poetry. I’m writing a poem about this too…) fruits of the forest shampoo, coriander, freshly chopped grass, vinegar – malt and balsamic, tropical sage (was amazing!!!), Worcester sauce, olives, spray sun cream!!! Oh…and capers (arg!!! gross!)

          We started in a circle and they had to guess what they were…step one of engaging imagination. Step two: they started playing with metaphors…building them together as a group – speaking these out loud as a sort of sound bath of metaphor for smells – each adding to the current one or changing to throw in their own. One of my favorite group metaphors is below ( / indicates new voice):

          “Olives are sharp like a…erm… crocodiles…erm/ …teeth!/ Yes! teeth!/ Or a knife…olives are sharp as a knife/ I have pickles…pickles are…erm…strong as a wrestler!/ Pickle is as sharp as a bee’s sting/ I don’t like pickle…it made me think of something bad…like a bee’s sting!/ Pickle is as sharp as eight wasps stinging me up one arm! Pickle is as sharp as a blade!”

          Step three was to write some poems in two’s. One of the strongest sensory poems is below. We smelled and talked about capers…most of them had never heard of them…they are eating them next week. I said “I hate capers and to me they look and feel like toads eggs…with smelly toads skin”, they cleverly wove it into this brilliant little poem: 1st Draft: OUR THEME THIS TERM IS “PLACE”

          Two children, aged 12. One completely blind, one partially blind. And Doctor Who fans:

          A Terrible Entity in the Master’s Tardis

          A smell of putrid, rotting eggs.
          That’s sure to make you vomit.
          Anyone in a one mile radius
          I’m sorry to say,

          will smell this awful stench.

          It will kick you in the gut,
          like the smell of capers – green
          like a squashed slugs innards – resting
          on your shoe.

          A grey of ankle-deep sewer water
          coming from the Master’s Tardis floor.

          Enjoy 🙂

          1. Amy this poem is AWESOME!! I love it. What a fantastic response to smell. So glad your learners found the smelling jars evocative inspiration for their poetry.
            You could move the notion on further with cloth covered shoe boxes. Fill open ice cream tubs with tactile things, such as mashed up jelly, jerkins, rice with polos, olive oil covered jelly snakes etc you can really run wild (the doctor who fans in particular will like this – I’m thinking Ood tentacles here!)and pop them into a shoe box to avoid spillage, cover with fabric. Ask you learners to place their hands into the covered box and have a feel you’ll get lots of food for thought (pun completely intended!). Please send through more poetry it is completely brilliant. Would your learners allow us to include their poems in our book?

          2. I am sharing your blog on Face Book as I think it’s really inspiring!!

            Ps: I am very up for the event on the 1st July, if it ends up being an event for new guests. Would be great to share more ideas. I’m also very happy to help out!!

            This project is fresh off the ground and I am just about to start my own blog exploring the development of the Spoken Word Education Program from Goldsmith’s for blind children, and also my work exploring synaesthesia and how this can be used as a tool to aid artistic practices with blind children. I am currently launching into a big research project looking at synaesthesia as a way of developing a sensory experience of colour.

            I am embarking on writing a book, which I aim to publish early next year. This will document and discuss my new creative practices for blind people/children – especially my school and educational based poetry work. I will also be including any charities and external organisations that are connected to the project, creating new Spoken Word practices for the blind. I am currently producing an anthology of the children’s poems, which will be published and launched in Sept 2016. I am also currently working with Zara Jayne, a fantastic (self titled) ‘deaf, blind and disabled’ actress and poet. Next week, she is visiting my school to create poems that explore visual disability. This part of the book will share the children’s viewpoints of their world and in part dispel preconceptions. Exciting!!

            I recently had several days of a ‘synaesthesia extravaganza’ at my current blind school where I am Poet in Residence (Stephen Joseph). It was epic! They children ate food, which was given its colour as it’s ‘name’ (eg tomatoes were ‘red’, popping candy was ‘white’ etc). The game was, you ate the food, and transposed the taste as an interpretation (or their actuality) of colour! My absolute favorite is below:

            This child, twelve years old, is completely blind. He ate some popping candy, which we named ‘white’ and he said:

            “White is rainbows exploding in my head!!”

            It took scientists hundreds of years to discover the light spectrum, and how it splits to display an array of colours…all they really needed was a child, an imagination and some popping candy!!!

            He later said in discussion:

            “I don’t need to see the colour. I can eat the colour!!!” Laughing and clapping, with a massive smile on his face!!! I makes me beam thinking about it!!!

            Lots of this work was inspired by Stephanie Singer, and her work with Bittersuite. I know she has worked with Sense UK before…if you don’t personally know her inspirational stuff. Check it out!! I’m soon to take part in Open Senses…a massive sensory festival summer 2017, Stephanie is the mastermind for this!

            And breathe! 🙂

          3. Only just saw your response after I sent the other post about the book for my school.

            I will need to discuss the poems going elsewhere with senior members at school, but…they are so supportive and it makes me really excited for their amazing work to be spread as far as it can! I am totally confident that Zara Jayne (deaf/blind writer) on my project…would love to have some of her work generated on the sensory project put in the book too!

            🙂 It would be great to discuss further. Kara has my email address.

            Those other ideas are fantastic!!!!

            Next sensory lesson will be very exciting now!!!


      2. Hi Amy,
        Thank you for reading Alex’s wonderful blog about our current project and for commenting (we always welcome feedback!) It’s been a lot of fun and learning this project. Let us know how you get on with the smelling jars, that one is always a conversation starter!
        Looking forward to catching up on your work too,

  2. I feel good about this project. I’ve got a lot out of it. It shows that disabled people, especially people with sight loss are not left out and that we can all do something within this project. I think it helps disabled people, it shows them they can also do something like this. We hope this project will continue. I am advising everyone, especially people with sight loss to check out this blog!

  3. Having now understood what a blog is, it really helps. It’s a recording of what we’ve done, like a carbon copy of what we’ve been up to. What we’ve done today with learning weaving, we’ve learnt to feel with our fingers and how to make someone that looks complicated easier.

    It’s nice to have a blog to look back on because you don’t have bundles of paper hanging about. It’s nice to have a record of what we’re doing. Hopefully people looking at this blog can learn from what we’re doing to help their groups.

    Blogs help to keep hold of creative ideas and it’s nice to know that you can inspire people and look at what other people are up to.


  4. I found this blog very useful and it improves the memory, because when your older you forget things! Looking back at the pictures allowed me to remember and its sparked conversations!

    Being part of the community project has allowed me to leave my home and meet new people and enjoy life. My husband past away three years ago and this club has kept me company.

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