TEXTtile: What the Dickens?

Margaret's Charles Dickens
Margaret’s Charles Dickens

Dicken’s creative medium was ink and so it seems fitting that we draw him in ink. Not wanting to be mean, a variety of portraits of Charles throughout his lifes were provided as inspiration…but we didn’t make it easy, instead we went for the scratchy ‘not brush end’ of the paintbrush and used it to get some lovely quality of line, handy for portraying that enormous, trademark beard!

Drawing is a contemplative, almost mediative activity. It calms the nerves and frees up the mind. Concentrating on your mark making means that when you return to reality you often have clarity of mind and feel refreshed. It is exactly at these moments, fresh from creative endeavour, inspiration strikes and eureka moments happen. The act of drawing invites inspiration in. We use the terms ‘Drawing inspiration” and “Back to the drawing board” in every day conversation but we very rarely take the time to exercise this important practice.

The creative act of drawing has the same effect regardless of sensory impairment. It is the process, not the outcome, that is important here.  As demonstrated by the enormous amount of pleasure gleaned from this exercise and positive calm atmosphere in the drawing room. By drawing we understand our selves and our surroundings better, whether that is through sight, touch, sounds, smell or taste we can draw inspiration from our environment and communicate our ideas and emotions.

” I can’t see , I can’t hardly hear, but I am still here and I am still having a go and do you know what? I LOVE IT! It’s good fun!

“If my kids saw that drawing they’d laugh at me… at least I’m having a go!”

J – TEXTtile Maker

One of our TEXTtile Makers uses a magnifying glass in nearly everything she does, whether that is at the supermarket looking at labels or drawing Charles Dickens. She describes her magnifying glass as her ” Best friend. I don’t go anywhere without it. I would be lost without it.” Despite being registered blind, she has taken great pride in her image making and communicating her ideas through pictures. We have taken great pride in watching her creative confidence increase week upon week. For many of our makers creative subjects were not taken very seriously when they were at school and enjoying mark making again is a release from these misguided and preconceived ideas of there being a right and a wrong in art.

“When I was at school my art teacher was also the maths teacher and he made us draw everything with straight lines” – Margaret, TEXTtile Maker

The group are extremely supportive of each other, giving each other positive feedback on their work  and praise for trying new things and voice genuine concern for their peers when they are absent.

‘This is wonderful! Something beautiful… I want to see beautiful things. See beautiful ladies around me. See their happy faces!

“I like to keep active… you don’t make it to 96 by lying on your back and being lazy!”  Fely – TEXTtile Maker

As Dickens himself famously said;

“There are only two styles of portrait, the serious and the smirk”

I’d like to think that we had managed to capture both styles. See below…


“Hey, this is FUN!” – Fely, TEXTtile maker

We packed up with ink stained hands and broad smiles. A bit of a turning point for the ladies as they discover that really can draw after all.  I will leave the last words to Margaret, who summed the workshop up so succinctly as she passed the make shift drying rack, ( the piano), on her way out the door;

“We’re not so bad at this are we! Look at that one, I like the way she’s done the beard. Everyone has done themselves proud.” – Margaret, TEXTtile Maker



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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