An account of weekly workshops by Isabel Dickens
In February, Class P7 of St. Rose of Lima took part in a series of workshops exploring the theme of What Mum means to me? A nationwide project instigated by the American Mothers Fund who nurture creativity and celebrate motherhood funded via the Voluntary Action Fund. Sally Hackett and Amy Pickles led the workshops. Together they aimed to create a large-scale collaborative work and individual portraits of people who care for them. See below an insight into the project by Amy Pickles:
Sally and I started by inviting the class to create both figurative and abstract portraits of people who cared for them. Through printmaking methods we expressed how you feel when you are cared for and what we appreciate about care and who it comes from. Colour, shape and pattern were used to make images based on the individuals each child identified as nurturing them - by asking simple questions and tasks such as:
Can you draw their favourite weather?
Draw a line for the way they go to the shops.
Sketch how you make them laugh.
Can you make an image of the meal you think they would like you to make for them?
The first day was spent making a lot of imagery, which was used the next day to make one artwork together. Everyone was asked to cut up the work they had made into different shapes, and arrange it on the wall as a new piece. The prints were made in stages. Layering up pieces on the wall encouraged everyone to look with more focus at the artwork, as well as interlinking the stories of people’s families and friends.
Referencing the political history of printmaking - functioning to not only send a message, but spread an idea, the class made individual mono prints of someone giving them advice. The language of advice was included in the work we made together, as everyone painted the phrase of advice they could remember being told. The paintings were then placed amongst the cut outs as slogans dispersed throughout the work. The slogans ranged from serious to silly, but all resonated with the protective sense we hold when trying to advise the ones we love.
Now the words are passed on.
This project expands on earlier research into care and motherhood Sally and I undertook during a month long residency at the Creative Lab, CCA under the title – Who Nurtured It? in July 2016. The residency involved inviting both our mums to join us. Together we investigated learning and creativity from our childhoods to present day. Both our mums (Sara and Lindy) have been teachers most of their professional lives and have, between them, worked across social work, primary education, community settings and higher education. We discussed the influence of our parents jobs on the decisions myself and Sally make about our own professions, and in turn what influence these roles have on the art we make.
Talking about learning, in all forms, our conversation always returned to risk and vulnerability. We decided these were necessities for personal and social change. That art making was a perfect way in which to safely take a risk or feel vulnerable. Doing something you have never done before in an art class, can open you up to other experiences you feel uneasy about, that have before seemed to difficult to try. Art enables you to embrace uncertainty.
Making portraits without faces, cutting up and rearranging a work you thought was finished, combining it with other people’s artwork and making work about another person not yourself, were all ways to create a sense of risk and uncertainty in the classroom. Doing things without knowing the outcome, but doing it together so it can be embraced and stays fun.