Friday, 28 September 2012

Tying up the Threads

We are very pleased with how well the exhibition at Mad Lab went. Many of the participants, whose work was exhibited, returned to the space to spend time adding drawings and stitches onto a huge length of fabric featuring an alternative Manchester landscape.  It was also great to see the participants interacting with the visitors, talking about the processes and ideas behind their work. 

Over the week, our rather monochrome printed landscape was transformed into a bright, vibrant scene complete with hot air balloons and the Red Arrows. One of the initial aims of the project was to make connections between people. Working together on the giant embroidery was an ideal way of bringing people together through a creative focus.

A big hit of the exhibition was a free gift of a hand printed canvas bag featuring designs created by the participants. Inside the bags were embroidery a kit, the idea was to encourage people to try embroidery as a way to customise the bag and as a relaxing way to spend time. It was often remarked during the exhibition that sitting together to stitch the large collaborative piece made people feel calm and relaxed. The atmosphere of Mad Lab was perfect and many of the participants affected by homelessness said that they wished there was permanent friendly and welcoming space to come for a stitch and a chat over a cup of tea.

During the week we met many people who were interested in the project and how we could work with their community groups. We got a strong sense that the large collaborative piece has a lot of scope to be toured around to different places, for many more people to add their marks and stitches to. People are really excited about the idea of seeing it displayed in a public building for all to see, and this is something we will certainly work on next.

 So, this is not the end of Connecting Threads! We’ll have a little rest after what has been a fantastic but very busy few months but we’ll plan our next move soon!  Watch this space for updates. 

We’d like to say some big thank yous-

To all of the visitors who supported us by coming to the exhibition and trying some embroidery!

To Mad Lab for providing a brilliant venue at very short notice and being such great hosts. 

To the Arts Council for funding the project. 

To Anna White for taking some beautiful photographs of the sessions and the exhibition.

To the staff from the Booth Centre, Life Matters and the Mustard Tree for supporting the participants to get involved and allowing us use their time and premises to deliver the sessions. 

Most of all thank you to the wonderfully talented participants who created such beautiful art work and got so enthusiastically on board!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

The Connecting Threads Exhibition Goes Live!

Its been a whirlwind week! Monday saw our last session with the Mustard Tree where participants stitched their hearts out to ensure their work was ready for the exhibition. 

Thursday was a flurry of hammering nails, framing prints and applying vinyl letters as we began to install the work in the fantastic space at Manchester Digital Laboratory. We had help from some brilliant volunteers including students from the Manchester School of Art's Embroidery degree. On Friday, there was big push to get everything ready  for the arrival of the first guests at the preview.

Participating artists from the Booth Centre and the Mustard Tree spoke about how pleased they were to see their work framed, mounted and exhibited in a gallery space. The mood was celebratory as we toasted the project with some incredible mini cupcakes! Visitors were all very positive about the work and interested in the stories conveyed in the prints and embroideries.

A key interactive part of the exhibition is Follow the Thread a wall featuring an ongoing story initiated during the sessions with the groups. Each participant was asked to complete the sentence; 'On my way here I saw..'. We began to build up snapshots of life in the city. Visitors to exhibition are invited to contribute their own sights and ideas to the story. 

Connecting Threads at Manchester Digital Laboratory is open to the public from 16th - 22nd September (10-4pm Saturday and Sunday,  11-6pm weekdays). Join us for free creative activities in the space (and tea and cake!)

Sunday, 9 September 2012

The Final Furlong

Last week we returned to the Mustard Tree after a short break for the bank holiday. Participants began to transfer their prints onto fabric and stitch into them. For some people it was the first time they had tried embroidery and they seemed to enjoy it! Unbelievably we only have one session left before the exhibition starts!

Last week also saw an epic frame buying mission and the fiddly process of mounting all of the textile pieces. We had fun printing onto a long length of calico, a huge imagined street scene composed from stencils of the participants' monoprints . This will form a major part of the participatory aspect of the Connecting Threads exhibition. We hope that visitors will add their own doodles and details onto the fabric using pens and embroidery, adding to the visual story. Bayeux Tapestry eat your heart out - this is the 'Manchester Tapestry'!

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Stitching Together

Last week saw the final two sessions at The Booth Centre and Life Matters. The four weeks have flown by and we only wish we could go back every week! At The Booth Centre we had a lovely relaxed session where the group sat and embellished their textile prints with embroidery over a cup of tea and great conversation. 

When were planning Connecting Threads we were hopeful that the social aspect of embroidery- sitting together to create something with a slow and focused process, would allow participants to connect with each other in a natural and unforced way. In my experience of facilitating art and craft workshops with a huge range of different people, it is amazing how getting involved with a shared task can break down barriers between people and open up conversation. 

During the exhibition we will have a large communal piece of embroidery for visitors to add their own stitches and doodles too. We're hoping for a friendly and welcoming atmosphere with visitors feeling at ease to interact with us, the volunteers and participants in the space. The sessions in the centres may be coming to an end, but were hoping that connections can still continue to be made! 

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Exhibition News!

We have a very exciting update on the Connecting Threads exhibition. The lovely people at  Manchester Digital Laboratory also known as MadLab are hosting an exhibition of the work created during the project from 16th-22nd September. 

The show will be open to the public 10-4pm on Saturday and Sunday and from 11-6pm from Monday to Friday. All visitors to the exhibition are welcome to participate in creative drop-in workshops exploring some of the themes and techniques from the project such as printmaking and embroidery. Refreshments will  be provided so call in for a brew and a biscuit! 

If you would like your community group to visit the exhibition and take part in the project, we are also offering free workshops facilitated by the artists for group of up to 15 participants. Contact for more information and to make a booking. 

All are welcome to the opening preview on Friday 14th September 4-7pm. 

We'll keep you posted as we prepare for the exhibition!

From Print to Stencil to Stitch!

In the third week of sessions with Life Matters and the Booth Centre, we began to stitch. The beautiful mono-printed line drawings had been transferred onto lovely creamy calico using stencils cut from acetate prints. The participants then began to explore embroidery stitches, adding colour and detail to their work. The response to the stitching element of the session was very positive, people who had never sewn before were surprised how quickly they could pick up the skill. 

Over at the Mustard Tree, we had some new people taking part in the session. Some fantastic mono-prints were created and the participants were really enthusiastic about having their artwork exhibited. 

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

More Inky Prints...

We are almost half way through the project now having done 5 sessions already. At Life Matters and the Booth Centre participants have transferred their beautiful printed images onto calico fabric ready to begin stitching next week.  

New participants from Life Matters, The Booth Centre and The Mustard Tree have been experimenting with monoprinting techniques and graphite rubbing to create unique postcards. These have been making their way across Manchester in a miniature touring exhibition. The first batch have arrived safely, embellished with bright orange postmarks and the Queen's head!

We'll keep you posted (!) on how the stitching element of the project develops. 

Sunday, 5 August 2012

The First Sessions!

We've made a start! Last Friday saw the first two workshops of the project, held a   LifeMatters and The Booth Centre. It was an action-packed day and by the end we were two tired but happy facilitators!

At Life Matters we facilitated a drop-in session experimenting with monoprinting images of Manchester. We were a bit worried at first that people wouldn't be interested in joining in, but after a while people got stuck in! The participants made some beautiful prints and handmade   postcards to send to other people taking part in the project.

At the Booth Centre we had a big group of enthusiastic people ready to get inky! Each participant quickly generated a collection of expressive prints which will be developed into textile works during the project. Photographer Anna White documented the sessions beautifully.

We had such a brilliant time getting to know the participants and felt relieved to have made the first steps towards creating something special together.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Getting Going...

After a flurry of activity over the last few weeks we are just about ready to begin our series of workshops! 

We have made connections with three fantastic organisations who do excellent work supporting people affected by homelessness in Manchester; The Booth Centre, Life Matters and The Mustard Tree.

This week sees our first workshops begin; getting to know people, getting inky with printing and hopefully giving participants something interesting and exciting to get involved with. Watch this space to see how it went! 

If you would like to get involved with Connecting Threads as a volunteer or as a participant please contact:

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Joining Forces

Hello there! This is our very first blog post as we embark on an exciting new project. In the last week we have been beaming from ear to ear as we let the news sink in - we have been successful in receiving funding from Arts Council England! Over the summer months we will be working with three organisations who support people affected by homelessness in Manchester; The Booth Centre, Mustard Tree and Life Matters.

We will deliver a hands-on and immersive series of creative workshops focussing on storytelling, printmaking and embroidery. These will be followed by a public exhibition of the work created and opportunities for visitors to participate in drop-in workshops. We've spent the last few days planning our sessions and getting very inky whilst experimenting with printmaking.

Connecting Threads is our debut project as a duo of community arts practitioners. Separately, we have lots of experience of working creatively with different groups including adults with learning disabilities and mental health difficulties as well as children and young people. We have joined forces to make this project happen as we feel that homelessness is becoming an increasingly visible part of urban life in these tough times. We believe that art can help to give marginalised people a voice and that creative expression can positively affect a person's wellbeing.

This is just the beginning. Please follow our progress on this blog as we get things moving!