Meet the TEXTtile Team: Nicole, Yemi, Dani, Natasha, Kara, Hayley, and Colin.
You can get easily get so inspired by the wonderful makers and the positive light they project that the amazing people who make these workshops happen remain lurking in the art room shadows. And sometimes this is exactly where these lovely people would like to remain, extremely helpful and generous with their time but completely anonymous and in the background. Having sought their permission, we would like to appreciate them publicly for all their sterling work and input to the project.
Our Arts and Wellbeing projects are community based projects. Community projects are about bringing people together to create positive and inspirational experiences. We endeavour to nurture groups to become small communities of learning, even if for short time, with the hope that the host venue will be able to maintain the group once we have got it started. Elderly participants with sensory impairment, young volunteers, Sense staff and venue staff are all equal parts of this community gathering. Without the cooperation and understanding from all it simply wouldn’t work. We have a whole gaggle of people involved in this project and they are all important cogs in the creative project process, without them, no matter how well oiled, it would just grind to a holt.
‘It is absolutely fascinating to see something as simple as an art activity can act as a gateway to friendship and sharing experiences and improving self-esteem. It has been good to see how everyone’s confidence has increased by engaging with others. It only takes a minute of doing something with your hands before you unlock hours’ worth of stories’. Dani, Sense Press
Dani works in the Press Team and Yemi is part of the Research Team at Sense. Both ladies were keen to get a more hands on perspective of an Arts and Wellbeing project and so ensured that they were available on a Monday afternoon for some field work. Colin, from the Communication Team at Sense, has been popping in and out of the group, taking photos and joining in the conversation. All three have been of invaluable help, whether it is scribing, interviewing, doing research, simply having a conversation, making tea, making art or donating memories for the content of the book. Their example is warmly welcomed and encouraged in all organisations running similar community projects.
‘Clearly, [the project], really brings people together and the art is a good stepping stone to helping people connect’.
– Colin, Sense
As someone who comes in and out of organisation in a freelance capacity I cannot commend this approach enough. It is great to see organisations allowing staff to take the time to experience what the charity or company is all about and be part of a project out with their normal role. It adds a new perspective and depth to the project whilst nurturing a fresh appreciation of the organisations values for the participating employee. Surely, a win – win situation.
Both Natasha and Hayley have volunteered on past Sense projects in various guises and have been helping us with on a Monday with the TEXTtile project as and when their jobs allow. Always smiling and hands on they are real assets to the team and can turn their hands to any creative task with fervour. Both are firm hits with the TEXTtile makers and it is great to see the intergenerational mix working so well and adding to the enjoyment for everyone.
“I’ve known and respected St Luke’s for a while. I think it’s important to build communities to reduce loneliness and social isolation. And I love Sense’s approach and Alex’s enthusiasm and mannerism to create fun activities and tangible results for the members to be proud of. I think it’s important to not underestimate the effect these groups have on both the members and the volunteers and how it enriches their lives’. – Natasha, TEXTtile Volunteer.
‘I started by volunteering in a project in my borough so for me it was important to see what they were doing for sensory impaired people where I lived. I’m continuing here because having seen the effect for the makers, social integration and improvement in mental wellbeing. For me, I think it’s nice to know you can support that wider outcome from a simple project’. Hayley,TEXTtile volunteer.
Nicole Line is our TEXTtile Project Assistant and an experience textile and community artist in her own right. Cool, calm and unflappable she is a keystone, whether she realises it or not, in the project.
“I have been working as a community artist for four years, my first experience of working in a community setting made me realise I thoroughly enjoy working with people, sharing experiences, skills and stories.” -Nicole Line, TEXTtile Project Assistant.
She keeps me calm, and is a fellow creative to spark ideas off and is brimming over with creative confidence which rubs off on the less experienced makers. It is hugely reassuring to work with a fellow artist and know that there is a common knowledge that does not need to be explained.
“St. Luke’s is a wonderful environment to be working in, especially as those attending the TEXTtile project with Sense UK are already part of the community centre. The participants already felt comfortable and were excited to see what the project was about and who they would meet. It’s important to keep busy and try something new when the opportunity arises.” – Nicole Line
Nicole is also irrepressibly cheery and a natural ‘people person’ who manages to put the group at ease no matter how daunting the task in front of them, a skill that is not to be underestimated in a community setting. Being able to converse with anyone, find a common ground and break down leaner fears to learning or participatory tasks is a human trait honed through putting yourself out there and it does not come readily to all.
“At the beginning some participants were apprehensive about taking part as they thought they were not good enough or they felt uncreative. My role as a workshop assistant is to encourage and create a calm atmosphere for the group to engage with the materials provided and to have a go! It takes time to build trust, this is a gradual process.” Nicole Line
Nicole has also doubled as project documentor as she uses the project as an opportunity to practice her filming skills, for which we are willing guinea pigs. Here are some shots of Nicole in action…
“I enjoy the versatility of the groups, this keeps it interesting for me as a practicing artist and I continue to learn new strategies.
The TEXTtile project is getting stronger by the week and the participants are enjoying the routine of the Monday workshops. The final sessions will be interesting as we hope new members will join as the creation of the book will be building with the groups’ stories and art work. It’s important to hear their experiences and share their past with future generations.”
To the numerous St.Luke’s staff and volunteers, mini bus drivers, tea makers, reception staff and the over 55’s team who have patiently allowed a messy, noisy, creative whirlwind to pass through the St. Luke’s Lounge area every Monday for the past 10 weeks, heartfelt thanks. We are immensely grateful to you for letting us use your fabulous facilities, fielding our numerous enquiries, ferrying us around on our excursions, picking up our mail, storing our art materials, advertise our activities and tolerating our whims!
Thank you everyone who has touched this project in whatever manner. Thank you also to the lovely people at The Dickens Museum and The British Library for accommodating us so professionally. Working with people like you all, is why I find my job so rewarding and it has been a pleasure sharing this project with you.
Alex McEwan – TEXTtile Project Lead