Sensing Culture – the Mark of the Maker

The ‘Sensing Culture – The Mark of the Maker’ exhibition is still on show in the Front Room Gallery at The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge, Canterbury, Kent, England. To quote the  publicity it is “A stunning exhibition by people with sight loss, created in workshops led by artists Wendy Daws and Claire Buckley at the Beaney and Cathedral. Participants responded to the stimulus of the buildings and collections with the work in 3D and textiles”. The sub-title refers to the marks that were on the objects that were used for inspiration such as the makers mark on the base of Roman pottery or marks on the silverware from the Cathedral.

The workshops enabled the visually impaired people (VIP’s) to see and explore some amazing stories and objects and then create. However the  experience goes further than than the material works of art that were created. The act of making is a powerful expression of communication skills and sensory stimulation. This had the effect of binding people together in an inspiring and human project, bringing the Beaney and the Cathedral to life for everyone involved. We enjoyed an amazing privileged level of access to the collections which includes items of symbolic, secular and sacred significance.

The inspiration for the presentation of the textile work created by the visually impaired participants comes from the colours and the roundels of the St. Thomas of Canterbury shrine in the Cathedral. The backing fabrics are dyed with tea, coffee and saffron. The hand embroideries use a range of natural fabrics and the threads complement the colours of the artefacts explored in the workshops. I used machine embroidery to attach the embroidery panels  to the backing fabric and pieced together labels which showed stitched text to identify the theme of each section. E.g. Samian Ware and Knots . I really enjoy free machine embroidery and it is a good contrast and a different type of mark to the hand embroidery worked by the VIP’s.

During the workshops I collected the outlines of the hands of all of the people who were involved in the project some way however small. I embroidered the outlines for each person in a different stitch and thread colour to represent and remember them. The fabric used is a vintage hand roller towel which is displayed so that the work can be rolled round to see all of the hands and paws  in the work called ‘The Hands of the Makers’.

It is good news that this project continues this year with more workshops with me and  with Wendy but also some of the monthly sessions are going to be led by visually impaired artists.

Some of the many quotes from the participants-

-It has given me a lot of confidence. That I can keep learning, – It’s been a lovely social time engaging with like-minded people, – Memories are being released for me – It was interesting feeling an object I have seen, it gives a
different perspective, – This is my creative side coming out! I’ve wasted all my life when I could have done art!, – Discovered that I can explore different forms of Art that I can access as a VI person.

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