The big news for Bits and Bobs Crafts at the moment is that myself and the Headway Craft Group have been awarded £250 to create a sculpture on the theme of Stars and Stargazing for the grounds of Mottisfont House, Romsey!
The Story of our Journey!
Its amazing where knitting lessons lead I think! As a result of teaching Cami, a member of staff at the local Headway branch to knit, I’ve had the priviledge of working with group of people of various ages who are recovering from some form of acquired brain injury. The group consists of 2 men and 2 ladies, who have various physical and concentration based challenges as a result of their brain injury. Some have been recovering for a longer time than others but what they all have in common is a desire to get the most out of life.
A while back I received our local council’s SHAPE newsletter – its an arts / music / crafts type listing, put together very ably by Steve Hill. In there was a short paragraph about a project being run via the National Trust’s Mottisfont House – Stargazing. As I read , bells began to ring! I was working with some amazing stars and it would be fantastic to put their newly acquired or re-emergening crafting skills to good use and create something special around the theme of stars. I spoke to the lovely Cami, who got the craft group together following a few knitting lessons and chats about what she did, what I’d done in the past etc and she was equally enthused. We mentioned it to the group and they immediately got excited too!
Workshops and Sharing
A couple of coffees later Cami and I had written a mini workshop, exploring what stars meant to the individual members of the group and also focusing in what made them special – why were they stars! This word map is what I’ve made from the comments, feedback and experiences shared and emotions expressed by the group. The one thing that struck me, was each person related a story of how their relatives were told to expect them to die or wake up and be virtually useless!
We finished the session by challenging the group to come up with some ideas for individual stars that celebrated their journey. Cami, myself and John – another member of the staff team who is into working with metal then worked with the group t0 design a framework hich their stars could be set on. We arrived at an idea based on a combination of plywood and wire frames, depending on the content of the star and its construction.
I was asked to make the central star that the others would hang on and through discussion with the group came up with the idea of having a wooden frame with a “Blue Planet” in the centre – something similar to the photo’s Neil Armstrong had taken from space.
My challenge was to come up with an idea of how I could do this in crochet.I’ve created a “magic ball” of yarn and am experimenting with fillings that are both robust but can have wires inserted into them…. possibly the finished crochet will cover a tennis ball. I love water and emphasising its beauty and power is all about the process of getting out of a wheelchair for the majority of my day. Water based rehab has helped me learn to balance again and has increased my mobility with a zimmer frame – no I don’t have a bag on it with my knitting in yet lol! – and given me a little bit of my old life back.
The group also wanted to get the staff involved in creating the framework. Cami and the staff team had taken part in an Encaustic Art Workshop along with other service users and thought they would like to contribute to the project by using this technique, so we’ll also be pulling in local Encaustic Artist, Karen Tait, to help them decorate the plywood with encaustic art. The group see the the staff as helping them develop frameworks to rebuild their lives outside of hospital and felt this was a key part of the project
My next step was to turn their sketches, ideas and feedback into an artists statement and proposal – something I had to learn to do quickly thanks to some internet research. Sharing in the discussions of what stars meant, how their own recovery made them a star and how they wanted to use these thoughts, ideas and feelings to create the finished piece, has been extremely special. Its helped me make more sense of my journey with disability and an often disobedient body too!
I’ve already mentioned their fight back to life, but its equally important to recognise the major life changes and challenges they faced once they woke up. Some people had lost full or partial use of a limb or two, all had to re-learn how to use their memories and still struggle with certain aspects of finding the words they need, so expressing themselves through art seems to be even more important and significant.
We now have 4 individual stars being prepared
The 2 guys are in competition to cover their shooting stars in french knitting,and trust me its turning into a race to the finish!
One lady has had her needles flying to make cute little hats for the points of her star – we spent Monday morning together with a l couple of lengths of wire and some pliers, creating an inner framework and extending our vocabulaies a little before we arrived at the solution! We now need to scan and print a photo onto acetate of her grandson and then fit it to an inner frame. He’s the star who’s inspired her and being encouraged to knit is something she identifies as a turning point in rehab.
Our second lady was previously a skilled embroiderer. She has designed and is creating an embroidered, beaded 3 dimensional piece. Its taken her some time to accept that she is having to go back and be a beginner again whilst her brain reconnects all the memories and movements she needs to take up her craft.But her progress and speed is phenomenal – which goes to show how much is locked in our brains – its just finding the key
The men have both chosen sporting themes – Celtic FC and F1 Racing, for their french knitting – but differ in their choices for the centres. One spoke of spider man, because like a spider, he’s had to hang on to life and then try try and try again to make progress, so once the frame is covered then we’re going to work together to create a web in the centre of the star.
The second wants an F1 car, so we’re experimenting with making wire models which can be wrapped with yarn. We already know thin jewellery wire is not going to work, so our next step is finding a wire that is both pliabile and thin but also capable of holding its shape. We’ve found buttons that resemble wheels and I discovered some silver sequins we can use for hubcaps!
We’d already decided to go for it, make the sculpture and hang it somewhere locally whatever the outcome….. BUT on Wednesday night I got an email….. And the lady from the National Trust, She said YES!!!! …..And what’s really great is that the National Trust are giving us pride of place, they’re erecting a metal archway for us outside of the cafe and gift shop, so out finished creation will definitely be seen by all! And we get £250 to spend on getting it just right!