Sessions with an artist inspire participants to extend their creativity

Throughout March and April 2022, Maria and Noeline, who know each other through attending a Bright Shadow Zest group, got together with artist Sarah Karen to explore texture. This was funded through Bright Shadow’s 2021 crowdfunder, so many thanks to you if you were one of those who kindly donated.

We caught up with Sarah, and Maria’s husband, Peter, to see how the sessions developed.

What did you set out to achieve, why and how? 

Sarah: I set out to achieve textile pieces that explored colour and texture. Textiles was my chosen medium for the participants to work with, because the tactile nature of it allows for greater access as participants can create visually and also through touch. We did this by using processes such as: appliqué, sewing, heat transfer and cyanotype, as well as drawing.
The sessions were inspired by Noeline and Maria’s love of nature. We actually used a fallen leaf off Maria’s houseplant as the starting point for drawing from nature, we also used Maria’s birthday bouquet as a reference to draw from. Noeline opted to draw around these, which actually created the silhouettes for the appliquéd patches. 

Tell us more about the process and what benefit did it have for the two ladies you worked with?

We made sketches that would then be the basis for our textile techniques. For example, the cyanotype/dyeing was created by photocopying our drawings and then cutting and placing these on material to create the base of our textile. 
The appliquéd forms were also taken from original drawings, cut out and collaged on. Drawings were transferred using the heat transfer process, which was a hit. Maria expressed great enthusiasm towards this technique and I think would like to do more of it. 
By the end, Maria and Noeline had created unique and original textiles which are embedded with memories of creating, chatting and laughing together. They’re beautiful pieces that I hope will bring happiness and fulfilment to them both when displayed in their homes.  

What were your observations of Maria and Noeline over the six weeks?

I could see improvement week by week, in their confidence, engagement and dexterity. I noticed that the act of cutting shapes in paper and fabric allowed Maria to really focus, and took her mind off her hands shaking. Somewhat shy to begin with, Noeline became more engaged when I asked both women to review/look at each others work during the sessions. Maria also gained confidence in showing us more of her previous art works from her career as the weeks progressed. A lot of these improvements were amplified by the working together too - they make a great team, and were always encouraging one another. 

Maria’s husband Peter explains how the sessions have sparked more ideas…

I can’t be sure about this, but I’m pretty sure that Maria’s taken more of an interest again in some of her art practices (which she had tended to abandon). It’s maybe given her a little bit more confidence, or simply the freshness of coming out of the session and thinking “Well let me carry on with this”. So I’m going to encourage that, anyway. 

When the grandchildren come, I get Maria to do some art with them because they’re very enthusiastic about it and they know that their Granny’s an artist, and are inspired by that, so it works.

Sarah, Maria and Noeline all got on very well and became a little club which was lovely. Maria flourishes in a small group setting, because she’s an outgoing person, so it was key that Noeline was there too. I think they’re interested in carrying on what they’ve started too (even though the official sessions have now ended), and we’ve got some friends we can invite to come and be part of it.