Thanks to funding from the Baring Foundation and One Richmond, Art & Soul have begun a partnership with the in-patient services at Priory Hospital School, working with young people with mental health issues including eating disorders and anxiety. This partnership consists of a one-off staff session and eight sessions for young people between April and June 2021.
This blog is written by Art & Soul Team Member Olivia Bladen who will be assisting in the forthcoming workshops and here she takes us through the project’s early stages.
In March we visited the Priory for an introductory staff session, bringing with us materials for a printed postcard activity. The idea was to offer a preview of some of the techniques we will be exploring with the young people over the coming months, giving staff the chance to try their hand and provide valuable feedback.
It was also a way to break the ice; to get to know each other and a sense of what day-to-day life is like in the classroom spaces where the young people do all their learning and creating. We were lucky to join in with a fun and relaxing session run by textile artist-in-residence Alicia, chatting with her and some of the young people, before we sat down with all the staff over lunch for the main postcard activity.
The activity, devised by lead artist Gwen Ramsay, was simple but highly effective. First, everyone chose a postcard from a selection, which were all nature-themed: from copies of classical landscape paintings, to photographs and illustrations of wildlife. We then each gave a short explanation of our choice to the group. The aim of the nature theme was to hear reflections on what nature has meant to people during lockdown.
Next, Gwen gave a demonstration of how to create a stamp. We could print these either on top of the chosen postcard or onto a new blank card. To make the stamps, we drew our designs on funky foam, cut them out and mounted them on a piece of cardboard or cork, finally covering them in ink from a pad or a felt pen. There was also a selection of pre-made stamps to choose from, and glue and scissors to make collage.
It was important to have a variety of options so that everyone had the freedom to experiment and create something unique, while keeping it simple and accessible.
You can see from these photos of the finished works how unique the results were, drawing from a wide variety of inspirations. We saw the influence of nature imagery with prints of boats, waves, a horse and even a mythical creature.
Some people chose bright and eye-popping colours, while others went for a more naturalistic palette. Shapes ranged from the graphic and minimalistic to the intricate and detailed. When speaking about their work, everyone seemed to share a common gratefulness for nature, that was made more profound during lockdown.
It was also encouraging to hear how welcome it was for all the staff to have a chance to sit, chat and be creative together. My favourite part of the session was seeing everyone gather together at the end to admire, discuss, and photograph each other’s works as they lay side-by-side.
The social benefits of making and sharing art together, combined with the chance to make something individual and custom, will be an important part of the sessions with the young people. It was promising to hear how even this short group activity had a positive effect on the participants, and before we said goodbye, we made sure to capture everyone's feedback on post-it notes.
We will be sure to take this on board with us as we embark on the project, and I look forward to reflecting back on all of the sessions in a few weeks' time.
Comments from Staff:
Brilliant! They will love it
Loved how customized and personal it was Great exercise, simple to do & effective Kids will love having something custom