Year 2 at Bewerley Croft has begun and now that we’re half way through it feels like we’ve never left. It was great to arrive back and see a few old faces as well as meet some new ones too. This year we’ve decided to head for a new direction and to go down the sculpture route, with a plan to do an art drop around the local area towards the end of the 10 weeks.
Week One Super-clay Sculpture
In a similar fashion to last year we had a slow and steady return to Bewerley Croft with only had 3 participants on the first session, however now that we’ve settled back in with now have a core team of enthusiastic participants who are eager to get there hands very dirty.
When we first arrived at Bewerely Croft Trevor was already eagerly waiting for us to arrive. As he was the only one there to begin with we began with a big catch up and a cup of tea. With a map of Beeston to hand we explained our ‘art drop’ plan to Trevor who seemed quite interested in the idea and had a good look at the map to work out where things were and where we could potentially leave our works of art.
With our teas drunk it was down to business the table was covered in packets of brightly coloured super-clay. The aim of today’s session was to re-introduce ourselves, and to have a play and experiment with the materials and come up with some unusual creatures and miniatures sculptures.
Peter and John arrived together shortly after Trevor had, had a go at creating a snail and a snake. Having been at the local community centre they were both in good spirits and immediately go stuck in to the task at hand. Peter was in a good mood when he arrived and was happy to see us, which was fab! He was very chatty and spoke proudly about the artworks he’d produced with us last year, it was great a feeling that he remebered us so fondly.
John was a new face appeared really confident and engaged with the clay, he “just went with it” creating some very imaginative sculptures. He didn’t worry about making it look like “something” and added lots of beads to his work to make some wacky creatures. Even the staff got involved in todays session which all in all made week one back a Bewerley Croft a welcoming and relaxing start
Week Two Clay Relief, Plaster Casting, Buddha Boards & Palm Casting
More new faces today and the return of another old one Neil! Todays session started off with a bit of bemused confusion, as to how I remembered Neil’s name when I greeting him in the corridor.“You are famous Neil!” “In more ways than one, obviously!” The photos on the kitchen wall of last years session jogging his memory about who Bryony and myself were on how we knew him.
Today we started with a lump of clay and rolled it into a flat circle. This part required a bit of one to one help as some participants found this was physically difficult to manage. Once everyone had a circular shape they had to push different objects into the clay to make a relief. Once completed, we poured plaster over the reliefs to cast them and waited patiently for them to dry.
Peter arrived eager at the start of the session, swapping Chinese words with Bryony and describing his Hong Kong dialect – when he lived there in 1979 ‘under occupation’. He was interested in the texture of clay and tried rolling out a few times and was immersed in the activity pushing objects into surface to make relief. He enjoyed guessing what the objects were that were making the textures.
Peter creating his clay relief
Anne a new person to the group was visibly nervous to begin with however; she was fully engaged throughout the whole session. She was fascinated with clay; plaster technique, hand casting (observing others giving it a go), and Buddha boards. “I’m learning new skills here.” Anne helped prep the plaster, by sprinkling the powder in the water for at least 10 minutes, has lots of patience. Neil was hovering behind her eager to help! But he was gracious and let Anne make the whole batch herself, which was fab as it gave her the confidence to settle in to the group.
Trudy was another new face and what a fab addition to the group! Really engaged throughout, very vocal and talkative, she was curious and open to finding out about new techniques. Trudy was the first to take the plunge and try the hand casting techniques after I had been the guinea pig – I was so amazed! She covered her hands in Vaseline “This is so squelchy, like the sound” and sat patiently whilst the plaster was poured into her palms and waiting for it to set “It’s so lovely and warm.”
“I’ve never done any of this before, it’s so interesting” “Can we do this again next week please? I really like it!”
Whilst we were waiting for our plaster to set, we introduced Buddha boards, Neil was visibly intrigued and curious, with his ‘can do’ attitude he verbally remarked how much he liked the, disappearing water painting onto slate, linking with Zen concepts of ‘in the moment’ ‘in the now’. For Neil’s memory this was an ideal activity, he created a face of man. Today’s session was full of laughter, curious giggles, and happy sounds.
Week Three Relief Painting, Palm Casting Round 2 & Soap Carving
Week three was here already and we had a variety of activities planned as a follow up from last weeks session. Firstly our task was to paint the clay relief sculptures, then move on to creating further palm sculptures and soap carving.
The session began by laying out a large variety of acrylic paints and we let everyone dig in and focus on painting their reliefs. The atmosphere in the room was pleasant and relaxed throughout. Bryony had brought in some music, which helped to create an inviting space to work in. Whilst the group was busy painting the reliefs there was lots of little conversations happening with the staff and participants “What colour should I pick?”and suggestions from the room on their work, or colour choice for the sculpture. Once our reliefs were painted we moved onto painting the palm casts from last week.
Peter really engages with painting and spent a long while carefully painting his relief. He doesn’t like to get his hands dirty therefore didn’t want to take part in the making of the plaster of paris palm sculptures. As a result he did keep popping in and out of the session so that he could still be involved with the parts he wanted to do and he was the first to have a go with the soap carving.
Trudy who was ready and waiting for us to get started when we arrived was enthusiastic and keen to get involved, and very eager to get her hands dirty again. She left the session for around 10 minutes, halfway through, when she returned she came bursting back into the room and declared
“I’ve had an idea! Why don’t we put the paint on our hands and then pour the plaster on to them? It will be quicker than painting them afterwards!”
What a great idea!! We decided to try it out immediately. Her face lit up and she was bursting with anticipation to see how her idea would turn out. It worked out fanatically. She created multiple pieces of work as a result.
Week Four Palm Casting Round 3, Polymorph & Soap Carving
Trudy is completely open to experimenting again this week and arrived eagerly before the session had begun. “I’ve come to get my hands dirty!” she says with a huge grin. We try making hand casts with beads and wool mixed in. She tried a bit of the soap carving and polymorph but wasn’t a fan and is hooked on the plaster casting process, as she loves the texture of it in her hands.
After one cast she suggested we do it again with the addition of paint. Once set, she is proud of the results and she wants to show the staff in the office. Emily (Staff) comes in to the kitchen eager to see what Trudy has made and Trudy takes her into the garden. Emily spends at least 15 minutes outside talking with Trudy about the session. “I wish this was every day, it gives me something positive and different to think about.” Emily suggests they get some plaster in for Trudy to try during the week on her own – “Make this your new hobby.”
Peter was in a giggly, laughing mood today. Stayed the whole time today and even though he didn’t want to get his hands painty, he sat and observed others making hand casts, often with a smile. He prefers the cleaner activities, but enjoys being apart of the group and always welcomes everyone who walks in the room.
After last session Neil returned with a friend and an amazing soap carving masterpiece!! He eagerly showed us the soap carved face he had been working on all week “About 2 hours every night I worked on it, I didn’t want to rush it.” It’s SO, SO impressive, so intricate, delicate, it’s amazing that he has done it all with only a lolly stick. The groups look at it in awe and passed it around. “Wow! How did you do that, that’s so hard? “Says Anne. Demonstration of how patient Neil is. He enjoyed creating it so much that he spent the beginning of the carving a new piece of soap and kindly declining offers of trying other materials but he is happy with his soap.
Anne came back today was she initially quite quiet, pleased to see her plaster cast dried she painted the entire surface with neon bright colours. When Neil and his friend Graham arrive, she opened up a little and relaxed together. They were all making some jokes, as they know each other from the Vale. Once she had finished painting she waited patiently to be handed soap and polymorph kit. Once she gets a chance, however she boldly squirted out loads of paint and engaged in the carving after being inspired by seeing Neil’s amazing soap piece that he produced during the week.
Graham another new face today, first time inside Bewerley but has come along as a friend of Neil’s. He was a little cautious at first but settled in quickly after recognising Anne and a few other faces The Vale. His caution didn’t put him off and he had a go with bit of everything, even the hand casting “I’m the new guinea pig aren’t I?! You all know what’s coming and I just say yeah!!” He talked a bit with Anne and mostly bantered with Neil.
Week 5 – Withy Panels & Weaving
Today was the first sunny day this year at Bewerley Croft so we put on the music and stepped into the garden to produce some panels. With a bit of a change from the last few weeks, and because we are planning to place much of the work around the area the local, today thought we’d produce some work they group and keep for themselves and that would brighten up the garden here at Bewerley Croft.
After a brief demonstration about withy safety how to create a panel Neil Graham and Peter quickly set about building there own panel. Weaving was right up Peter’s street and he was fully immersed in his work throughout the session he kept placing fabrics on it and then taking them off to re-position them where if felt they looked better. Weaving isn’t a messy activity and suited him well. He was quiet today but was still in a cheerful mood and was singing along and having a little dance to some of the music that was playing. He listened to the instruction well and just went with it, making his panel into his own thing. Throughout he was fully immersed in his work and kept was placing things on it then taking them off to re-position them where if felt they looked better.
Neil found construction of the withy panel a little bit trickier than the previous activities but relished the challenge. He likes to be a perfectionist so took his time over building up his panel trying to get it as straight as he possibly could (which is impossible with withies). Decided not to weave into it but to just go with the flow and used his “minds eye” to create his work. I helped him to create a mathematical curve on his panel; which was tricky to do and we there was a lot of laughing and joking throughout the creative process. We got there in the end though and Neil was pleased with the result!
I sat with Graham and helped him to weave his work as the hot weather and construction of his panel of his own quickly tired him out. Whilst we were working together he opened up about his life, his dogs, daughter and a watercolour painting he had been working on at VC. He showed me a photo of the results. Had taken 10 hours which “was frustrating to do” but he was very proud of his work and is wanting to give oil paint a go next. Mentioned that he also has concentration problems so found it a bit hard to have the patience The weaving was a bit of a challenge at times so together we came up with plan of different ways to add things to the panel; for example tying things on to it which he loved. “It’s a bit like a dream catcher.”
Like Neil, Graham decided to take his soap carving home last week and today he brought back the final result to show us. In the carving he has etched and inked a symbols as a reminder of his past into it. It’s great to see how enthusiastic the group is about things we do and love to take things home as a result.
We had planned to use some alginate, so could produce some foot and hand casting however, unfortunately it didn’t arrive in time. Trudy was a little disappointed but took it very well and is happy to wait for next week to use it. Instead she kindly opted for cutting up the strips of fabric for the rest of the group to use for weaving, whilst we made her a panel of her own.
After having a walk around BC planning where some of her works could go Trudy brought some of her own music from her flat and we played that outside, there was some cheesy party hits on it, giving the session a relaxed party feel. Trudy joined in with conversations with Graham and has a great scene of humour, which really brings light to the session and the whole group. With such an enthusiastic and creative group I’m looking forward to the see where the next 5 weeks takes us!!