Celebrating Community Art!
This summer I have been lucky enough to work on a wonderful community art project, with Paganhill Community Group, who successfully secured funding from the Arts Council for the project to run and to celebrate the Queen's Platinum Jubilee... this blog post is all about the project with pictures of the final artwork included :-)
The project was connected to the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee with the aim of celebrating communities and local heritage. With this in mind, our main materials for our project were wool, felt & fabric, reflecting the local wool & cloth making history of Stroud and the surrounding area. We also wanted to include other themes important to local people such as community, environmental awareness and enjoyment of nature, which we did by including the Octagon building (hand-embroidered by Isabel Naumann, one of the artists) – the community base and hub for Paganhill Community Group and the local community – and the garden at the Octagon. The wide felted path running up through the middle is also central to the piece as a kind of invitation to explore and a welcome to join the community.
The materials for the project were sourced as locally as possible – with the green cloth base being (famously) made in Stroud as coverings for snooker & pool tables (obtained from Gloucester Scrapstore) – and we used donated and recycled materials as much as possible too, including the wool to felt the path and flower beds. We made our own felt for some parts of the artwork, and dyed our own fabric, and used recycled or donated buttons and beads as embellishments.
We introduced the project at our community Jubilee Celebration, where we also ran craft workshops for children that were busy all afternoon. As well as Jubilee themed crafts such as crowns for younger children, we offered craft sessions in print-making and flower-making – elements that would eventually be incorporated into the final artwork. Some flowers were attached to the piece on the day, whilst many were taken away to enjoy at home, along with the prints that were made. We then ran workshops and held crafting sessions in the community throughout the summer, and once we had enough flowers, composed the piece, and attached all the elements by hand-sewing.
We spent many sessions hand-sewing the artwork at the Octagon alongside other activities such as the community café, and one of the biggest delights of this project for me, was meeting so many people who came to have a look at the work and see what we were doing, offering so much positive feedback, and who in a way, became a part of the process by telling us about their own hobbies and crafts that they enjoy, as well as offering insightful comments about the piece; more than once, it was commented how all the different flowers are like the diverse people within the community and how everyone is able to ‘blossom and thrive’ when in the community together.
We used many different techniques for making the flowers with the aim of accessibility and enabling all ages to take part. Some of the trickier sewn flowers were made by adults (although some children did some sewing too!), whilst younger children used a strong-bond fabric glue for theirs. We made sure to include roses, in different styles (some felt, some made with ribbon and some printed) as these bloom in June, the Jubilee month. And even though most of the flowers are not necessarily ‘true to life’ representations of individual flowers, I loved that the overall effect once everything came together, was a bit like walking into a beautiful, colourful and uplifting garden – there is definitely something about the universal relatability of flowers being able to bring joy and lighten the mood 😊
Throughout the process the artists and other community volunteers participated in skills-sharing, teaching print-making, felt-making, fabric dyeing and different sewing techniques, meaning that the entire project was a very collaborative process, and I really enjoyed getting to know, discovering and learning from other community members’ skills in the process!
The images below show the project at different stages from being introduced at the Jubilee Celebration, to being framed and up on the wall at The Octagon:
The very final stages involved framing our final artwork – which was done so beautifully by local picture framer Lesley Young and we had an opening party at the Octagon with many people present including District Councillor, County Councillor and the Mayor of Stroud.
It’s been such a lovely, inspiring project to co-ordinate and be involved with and it’s been wonderful seeing it up on the wall for all to enjoy, before it goes off on it’s travels 😊