This is our first session in Ripon House, a bail hostel for women. I am trying to think what sort of activity will captivate and encourage women who might have not have had much experiences of visual arts. Also we are working with the theme of transformation, and I see visual arts as metaphors for our being and our lives! Lets start with the colours, everybody has favourite colour… out of the colours will come shapes, just like out of the sounds we create words…. First two women came, tenuously… after introduction and ice breaker games, everybody is relaxed, I am pulling faces, which makes people laugh and the big piece of paper is placed in the middle with the simple instruction – doodle and fill it with colours. There are critical voices – “I don’t like my shape!” says a woman next to me! What she doesn’t know is that I am going to say soon – “All change!” and rotate a piece of paper by 90 degrees, so that now everybody has their neighbour’s work in front of them and they will transform it into something different! Soon we have a beautiful picture which everybody loves! We all need each other to change and improve things we don’t like that face us!
We are making a group poem and printing some cotton bags, so that we have reusable bags to carry our shopping. We asked women what should we call our group and the voices were loud and clear – DREAM TEAM !
May your dreams come true, I find myself thinking, and as I write this my eyes are welling up, as I think of all those women, resourceful, funny and full of talents that they don’t even know are there… and hope that their future is bright like the cloth they are dyeing!
Every week our group is bigger, and we have an idea for outing, at the end of our sessions. Would they like to go to Yorkshire Sculpture Park? After explaining where it is and what it is, we all agree to go.
Meanwhile we are tie-dyeing T-shirts. Most women have never done this. They trust us, when we say that from strange looking bundles (that often look like extra-terrestrial creatures), we will hatch something marvellous!
We have tie-dyeing poem too, we dyed hands, t-shirts, bags…. the only thing we mustn’t dye are tables, they are brand new!!!
Afterwards, I take T shirts home to wash, fix and iron. I can’t wait to see the results, and they do not disappoint, they are as beautiful as women who had made them.
By the end of this project which was so enriching and valuable for all of us I feel equally transformed – I feel truly privileged to have worked with women, their warmth and generosity have brought light and joy to me in equal measure.
I will never forget one of the women who at the very last session said – “Is this really the last session, and you are not coming any more?” When I nodded she rushed out and said “I must give you something!” and came with the cake. Overcome, I wanted to say – “There is no need, you have already given me more than enough.” Instead I took the cake and said – “When you feel fed up, remember me pulling funny faces!” And then we both laughed!
Throughout our session we had fantastic help from student Krystyn, without her we would not have achieved so much! THANK YOU!