It’s really great to be back at Barleyfields Fulfilling Lives for another year! We have been greeted with warmth and enthusiasm from all yet again – ‘We’ve been waiting for you!’ said support worker Karen with a big smile as we arrived for our first visit.
This year artist Hayley Mills-Styles who specialises in textiles and visual arts is offering new creative explorations with fabric, threads, paints, buttons and beads, and there is more sensory movement, dance, mindfulness and music from me. We have both been finding ways of bringing our artforms together and we have decided upon the theme of Inside/Outside: exploring our physical relationship with nature and how this affects how we feel, move and imagine. And since the weather has been so summery of late, we have been using the lovely garden space more and more.
I remembered from last year that many in the group loved to draw and paint, and also to move, play and be in character. And so we are offering and extending-on these elements whilst also bringing something new…
Week 1 – Landscapes
On week 1 the group seemed to jump straight back into the routine as if we were there just last week, and asked ‘Shall we make a circle of chairs?’ We began informally by browsing over some books and images of plants and lifeforms, and the discussions soon opened-up about our own gardens and favourite outdoor places. ‘I really love birds’ said S. We moved gently by noticing our hands and followed the landscape lines along them. V drew around one of hands with his fingers and sang as he moved. We then did some larger movement with a large lycra sheet and G initiated drawing over the top with our hands and fingers. We continued to hold-on as we followed a guided meditation story about a mountain – awakening strong, stretchy movements and then sitting-back feeling tranquil at the end of the story.
Participants were then given the task of collecting an item from the garden outside which personally inspired them. All looked around carefully at first, and then honing-in on favourites. Items collected were pebbles, dandelions, leaves, rosemary, sticks and buttercups, and we brought these back inside to use as inspiration for large-scale drawing. We then used coloured pens attached to large bamboo canes to draw landscapes on the floor, and then brought the paper onto the tables to continue with large-scale nature drawings. There was deep concentration from all as they moved the long pens across the paper – ‘It’s harder than it looks!’.
Week 2 – Water and Rock
This week we began with large pebbles to individually hold, and noticed sensations of texture, weight, temperature and sound. We talked about the relationship between water and rock and how they contrast; water is soft yet can be strong enough to transform, sculpt and permeate rock. We then took these ideas into our bodies – feeling grounded and strong movements with energised breathing, and then moving with ideas of continuous flow to create water movements with soft sheer fabric, which took us into a water dance in the space. It was a hot day, and a little break in the garden gave everyone chance to have a refreshing play with bubbles and coloured water spray.
Hayley demonstrated how to create individual printing tiles with pieces of foam. With fingers, pencils, pebbles and the ends of pens, intricate patterns were carved into the foam, and everyone had a go. Some chose to carve lightly and gently and others got the hang of the technique quickly and then experimented with adding more pressure and continuous or dotted line. Participants then applied printing ink over their tiles and lay the paper over the top to then reveal the wonderful print. Once confident with this, group members chose to layer-up the different colours for alternative versions of their original idea. Ian seemed very happy with his print and continued to do several.
Week 3 – Flowers
Our hands seemed like a good place to start again, and we warmed and stretched them through opening and closing movements. We talked about flowers we had recently seen and the hand movements developed into some of these – swaying bluebells, delicate daisies and fragrant geraniums. These again led to larger movements and a giant flower made by everyone connected in the middle. This week we were joined by Ellie Tillotson who brought along some playful movement and drama ideas. The group loved purple, fluffy ‘Monster Ball’ which was brought to life with big, energetic throws and lots of laughter when things started to get competitive! We then used ‘Monster Ball’ to pass to one another in reaching sunrise and softening sunset movements.
We then moved into the garden where Ellie and I had set-down some mandala flower designs on the path. Some spontaneous games of jumping inside the flowers and following the shapes emerged, and G and S chose to be the centre of the mandala and directed us to design and colour around them. Inside, we then created large group mandalas on the table an small individual designs and loose materials such as feathers, pompoms and split peas. We talked about the idea of the mandala representing infinite cycles, and also how traditionally they are made to dissolve away. And so at the end of the session we each took a deep breath and with a straw blew the mandalas away, finding joy in the changing, colourful shapes before they melted away.
Week 4 – Spirals
This week we explored spirals in nature and contemplated imagery of Fibonacci. Starting with shells, flowers and pinecones we explored and danced how the Fibonacci spiral can be seen in nature and in our own bodies; hands, spine, head to tail, fingers to toes. L then led us outside to discover a large rainbow spiral on the grass. ‘I’ was first to walk into the spiral and follow it in to the centre point. He waited for L along the way, turning around to look behind him so that she could follow. We then held on to the spiral and moved in, under, through, getting in tangles and helping one another to untangle!
After the break, Hayley set-up a giant fabric canvas in which everyone could draw their own spiral designs, some inspired by and traced from images and some from the imagination. Everyone focussed-in on their design and the looked-up to see that the fabric was full of colour and life.
Week 5 – Symmetry in Nature
We started in the garden this week. It was Summer Solstice and so we took a moment to think about the energy and warmth we receive from the sun at this time and felt some warm stretches in our bodies from head to toe. We certainly did feel the warmth as the summer temperature was getting higher and there was a big shuffle for everyone to get under the tree into a shady spot! We talked about how symmetry appears in nature and played a mirroring game with one another – a leader initiating a move and the group mirroring this back. L gave an exuberant jump with her arms in the air and the rest of the group were keen to join-in. And then we had some time at the table, playing with hand-held mirrors, making compositions from natural objects and creating new illusions with the mirrors.
Inside, Hayley led a couple of activities which explored symmetry further – making mirror-image prints with vibrant poster paints, and also creating butterflies and birds on plain acetate – which would glisten in the sun when hung outside. The poster paints when squirted onto the paper seemed to offer great freedom and spontaneity, and the printed images always turned-out as an exciting surprise as the colours merged together. S created a beautiful neon pink and dark blue swirling image which matched with her blouse. She scanned it intently for a while and then looked-up with light in her eyes.
Hayley and I have been thrilled to notice the friendships which exist in the group and individual’s interests emerging. We are certain that these will go into bringing all of our planned activities to life and creating a vibrant and joyful celebration. And not forgetting, a creative trip to Lotherton Hall is also planned…!