Viv wrote a beautiful reflection on her experiences with the project – reproduced here in full:
Soho House Group
I have really enjoyed being a member of the “Soho House” Group, based at the Wesleyan Care Centre in Handsworth. We were made very welcome by all the staff there, and also by the team at Soho House.
The craft activities were the impetus for us all to meet up, but these gatherings amounted to much more. Apart from renewing, strengthening and acquiring new skills, they were occasions for conversation, confidences, relaxed banter and laughter. Everyone has benefited in different ways, whether it be self belief, sense of purpose, companionship, or just plain fun. I have found it particularly rewarding to see the less self assured members of the group gain in confidence, and pride in their achievements, and to observe a gradual improvement in mood and outlook, in some members, over the weeks, as everyone contributed, chatted and worked together.
In early May, Robyn, Alex, Natalie, Deirdre and I visited the Makernow Lab, in Falmouth University, where we also met up with Mary and Fiona from the Co Create Care Group.
It was very useful to learn about the resources available in the lab and to discuss our projects with the Makernow staff, Justin, Kate and Andy. I had observed items being lasercut when I was at uni, but it was very different experience, to be there all day, and follow the process through from the initial discussions through to cutting the final object. I had never seen items produced by the milling machine so it was interesting to see Shay’s finished cross. Katie Bunnel’s stunning digital ceramics also made a big impression on me. Robyn, Alex and I were enjoying the experience so much, it seemed as though we had only just started, when it was time to return home. (Another day or two would have been great!)
I spent most of the time with Natalie making amendments to the brooch designs, in Adobe Illustrator (AI), before they were lasercut, in the lab. I have limited knowledge of A.I. I always thought it seemed complicated and hard to decipher. Having worked with Natalie and A.I, I am confident that, given time and effort, I could master it. Since returning home I have put in many hours watching A.I tutorials and studying an instruction book.
We had “met” our Dublin opposite numbers, Liz, Yvonne and Shay, on Skype, so it felt as though we were greeting old friends when we met them `face to face`. It was fascinating to see their individual projects “come alive” in the lab and share the pleasure they derived from the experience, and also to see the common threads running parallel within the two groups .We enjoyed talking to our Dublin friends, largely during meal times. We spoke about the project, but also learned about them and their lives.
Having the Skype contact with the Dublin group and Makernow Lab beforehand , helped to reinforce the connectivity between all the groups .I thought the action of exchanging the tablecloths was a tangible and effective way to encapsulate this connection, and helped to link those who did not go to Falmouth, with the Dublin members.
I never expected to get so much from the project. I thought that it would be a time limited activity; I like making with others so I thought it would be enjoyable. I have experience of working in many different areas of craft so I did not expect to gain in that regard, but I thought that I could be useful and share my skills. In actual fact, I have benefited hugely from taking part. I have met some lovely people from diverse backgrounds and been privileged to learn about them and their life experiences. Robyn, Alex and I have established a particular bond and we plan to continue to meet up when the project has finished.
I have found it instructive to observe the process by which Natalie and Deirdre organised and conducted the project, from start to finish.
Most weeks I work on my own at home, so I have enjoyed interacting with the others. The project has been the basis of a host of ideas and inspiration. I am currently developing a range of jewellery and fashion accessories to sell at forthcoming craft events, derived from the images of Soho House. I am combining digital embroidery, and machine knitting with hand worked methods and I am currently researching where I can get items laser cut.
The project came at a time when I was busy with a number of other commitments. Friday was my only free day and I was not sure whether I could fit anything else into the week. I am so glad that I decided to take part. I feel fortunate to have been a member of what has been a very exciting, rewarding and inspiring experience.
When do we start the next phase!