Another weekend of working happened in Stafford outside the Shire Hall Gallery as part of the Cultural Olympiad.  Activities happened all across the West Midlands over the Open Weekend of the 24th and 25th July – in the lead up to the Olympics, and to celebrate culture throughout the Olympic celebrations.

I worked with Staffordshire Arts Development Team to deliver a workshop creating “mini landscapes” which linked in to two specific themes:

  • ‘multisensory’ – I originally worked on the Explore project for Staffordshire Arts and Museums Service where I documented 3 artists working in a multisensory way with SEN schools in the county, and then wrote a supporting guide to working creatively and including multisensory elements within activities.  To continue to raise the profile of the project and the publication, I brought a range of lo-tech/recycled/abstract materials – such as cut up scouring pads, scented j-cloths, tile spacers – and used these as the building blocks of the workshop
  • ‘sense of place’ – the current exhibition at the Shire Hall Gallery in Stafford is called ‘Sense of Place’ where six artists have been commissioned to produce new work in response to particular locations across the county.

Using small empty jewellery boxes as base from which to create a mini landscape caused people all sorts of challenges.  What would they create?  Something miniature and detailed?  Something bold and abstract?  A wide panorama? A tiny snapshot of an intimate space?

We encouraged people to consider what fragrances they might associate with their favourite place, what textures might link to the place, and even what sounds.  We’d brought scented oils, scented sand, sand paper, sticky tape, glue, recycled fabric scraps, sticky vinyl, wax pastels, mini Lego pieces, buttons, beads and much much more.  Visitors were encouraged to allow the materials to help shape the place they created as much as bring their own ideas of what they wanted to create to their box.

Next to me in the tent was an old college friend who is also now a practising artist: Naomi Greaves.  We’d not really seen each other since doing a BTEC at Stafford College back in 199…7? So it was fab to catch up – and to discover she’s a talented printmaker who was running an inspiring monoprinting workshop alongside me!  I’d forgotten how much I LOVE carbon paper and the delicate crumbly lines it creates.

Stafford Arts Development Team support a wide range of interesting community-led activity across the county and evidence of this was on display throughout the day.  The highlight for me was an urban youth dance group who performed in front of the Shire Hall Gallery – and even inspired some visiting Spanish students to engage them in a dance-off!  Who knew luscious Staffordshire could also be so ‘street’?

'Sense of Place' is showing until the 12th September and is well worth a visit.  The Explore publication can be viewed online here and has loads of ideas for creative multisensory activities!