This page describes the workshops that were held in the Poly in Falmouth. Initially we had a meeting led by designers who were looking to develop our digital platform; but some of the attendees liked the ambience and the idea so much that they decided to organise a series of workshops, each led by a member of the group, and attended by whoever wanted to come along. We put the events on Eventbrite just to get an idea of how many people were intending to come (for cake planning purposes) and apart from that we hope the whole thing becomes sustainable in the longer term.
In the beginning of 2014 we had a hiatus of sorts as we were trying to nut out what our direction for Phase 2 of the project was. At last we were on the way with our digital platform in development, a co-design workshop with crafters from around our local communities in Falmouth under our belt.
The following is a description of the workshop that Neil Tinson and Lizzie Masterton of the Guild of Sage and Smith (www.guildofsageandsmith.co.uk) gave for the Making Things Together part of the Co-creating CARE project at the Poly (http://thepoly.org/home/) in Falmouth on the 18th January 2014. Engagement and participation were great; there was a range of activities and they would be good ones to use in a co-creation workshop setting.
We started at 10:30 with the “housekeeping” elements of the day – getting permissions from people to take their photos, record them, etc. Fiona outlined the project and the day’s intentions, and then Neil and Lizzy introduced the session.
At 10:45 we began an activity called Consider All Factors. This was designed by Edward de Bono to consciously expand our scope of considerations.
During a defined interval of time, we had to mentally list every consideration about a topic as opposed to just the first few that come to mind. We put paper tablecloths on a big table in the centre of the space, and for five minutes, everyone considered all the factors involved in buying a second-hand car. (This was the “dummy run”). The actual exercise was to consider all the factors involved in deciding to make. “What do I consider when… I make something?” The purpose of the exercise was to: warm-up, encourage expansive thought, encourage sharing publicly. It was noted afterwards how different the atmosphere was in the room when people were thinking about their making passion. It was interesting – and hard to capture as data!
At 11:00 we started Decode and Draw. Everyone had brought in a small item of sentimental value/meaning from home. Neil and Lizzie asked for two people – one with their object and the other to draw on a large sheet of paper pinned to the wall. The pair sat so the object could not be seen by the person drawing (but could be seen by the others in the room). For two minutes, while the person holds their object, the other person asks questions about the object and draws it. After two minutes, both the item and the interpretation of it are revealed to the other person. Each time there was a quick review to see where any confusion arose, and how things might have been made more accurate. The purpose was to understand use of language and terminology, and to observe interaction between people when an object is the focal point. This activity proved to be quite frustrating in interesting ways.
At 11:30 we had a Cake break, leading into, at 11:45 an Active discussion. People tend to chat and open up when sat around in a social context, particularly when there’s a focal point for their attention (eg. making something with their hands). Everybody had been asked to bring a craft item to work on and we all got these out and sat round the big table. (We recorded the discussion at this point). There were three questions posed at approximately 20-minute intervals, with the resulting discussion captured:
Is ‘skill’ important to what you do?
What do you use the internet for?
Are you ever too old or wise to learn?
The purpose of this exercise was to identify aspirations and motivations, understand use of language and terminology, and scope participants’ familiarity with online technology.
Lastly, at 12:45 we did the exercise Five Whys. This is an iterative question-asking technique developed within Toyota, used to explore cause-and-effect relationships, it helps to get to the root cause of a problem or the motivation behind a certain decision / behaviour. In this activity the group sit round together, and individually answer each of the facilitator’s questions on a sheet of personal paper. The paper was folded like a concertina, with each response carrying on from the next, for example:
Why is that important? (“It raises my HR”)
Why is that important? (“I burn more calories”)
Why is that important? (“I want to lose weight”)
Why is that important? (“There’s a social pressure for me to look fit”)
Why do you ……………. (individual to describe own craft activity)?
Why are / aren’t you part of a crafting group? (individual to choose as applicable)
At 13:00 we finished the workshop with a summary and thanks. People left their names and numbers with us in case they wanted to be part of further workshops. I think most of us felt that it had been a good experience, and some people are already signed up to more workshops – these are being organised by a group of the participants from this day who decided to carry on the experience.
Shane Waltener’s is the first in a series of workshops being run at the Poly by this group of people who got together after the co-creation workshop and who decided that they needed and wanted more of the same kind of getting-together-and-doing-and-talking thing.
- 22 Feb – Shane Waltener – making by instruction
- 22 March – Jo McIntosh – rag rugging
- 26 April – Sue Bamford (bunnies – check out bunnylove)
- 24 May – Christiane Berghoff – i-cording
- 28 June – Irene Griffin – group embroidery
Making Things Together workshops: a short film by Bryony Stokes
Shane Waltener Workshop: Making By Instruction – 22 February
On Saturday we had another great workshop at the Poly in Falmouth, this time with Shane Waltener (I wrote about him in this earlier post). It centred around ideas to do with instruction – how we give each other instructions to share skills, and how we might code instructions in writing or otherwise. We had some fibre or string, some tools like knitting needles or crochet hooks, and some paper and pencils and pens.
Firstly we got into pairs and one person showed the other a skill. The second person then attempted to write the instructions down. Then the instructions were given to another pair to try to complete.
Obviously there was an element of frustration here! – but it did show in a very visceral way both what the limitations of written instructions were, and flagged up what might be good or better ways to write instructions. We ended up with a wall display of items created, either by direct instruction or by following the written instructions. There was certainly a wide variety…
It made it very clear that teaching is the best form of learning; but also that some forms of instruction/ways of instructing are more equal than others – at least given a certain set of parameters. It is very hard, for example, to translate a set of written instructions into something that you do with your hands. (There is, after all, a reason why flat pack furniture comes with diagrams for its construction, and it isn’t just poor writing on the part of the manufacturers!) But then diagrams themselves can (interestingly) lead to just as many misunderstandings as words can.
There is a theory that the best form of filmed instruction is to have someone actually teaching an intelligent newby something in real time from scratch. The intelligent bit is because they are expected to ask the questions that the average person will have while making whatever it is the instruction is for – I guess you have to be intelligent to formulate what the proper question is. The real time is so that everyone can get an idea of how long it is supposed to take; and the film or video, I imagine, is so you can rewind it if you missed something. Very necessary in my case….
Jo McIntosh rag-rugging at the Poly: 22nd March 2014
The very lovely Jo McIntosh is a Textile Artist who produces work including hand-woven, knitted, felt items, jewellery and much more. She enjoys working with bright colours and indeed wearing bright hair (and mermaids – check out her blog where there are mermaids too)… She is very experienced in running fun textile workshops and for her first session at the Poly decided to (try to) teach us all to do some rag rugging.
Rag rugging is great on so many levels: it’s quite a simple single technique which only involves one specialist piece of kit (but you could use a crochet hook instead); it uses up scraps and things like old hessian sacks; it can be as simple or as complicated a design as you choose; and you can pick it up and put it down whenever you like.
Jo had brought along a number of beautiful books that gave background and ideas about rag rugging, and we could have a look through these while she took us through the basic technique (there really were some gorgeous examples in there). After we had got the idea Jo brought out her bags of scrap fabric, whereupon
there was an undignified scramble for the shiny ones we carefully chose the fabric we thought would best complement our designs.
There was such a relaxing, chatty atmosphere in the room today; people in small or large groups just sharing what they were doing, in the room or in their lives. It is easier to talk when you are doing something with your hands, and easier to sit somewhere in companionable silence when others can see that you are thinking something out or just looking at what you’re doing. It really does produce an easy feeling within a group. Jo was very calm as well, just giving people hints or suggestions about what they might like to add, or do, or change about a design for example, to make it look the most attractive as a finished piece.
There was no expectation at all that any of us would finish our rag rugging on the morning – traditionally it is a craft that wiles away many leisure hours – certainly one for the slow craft brigade. However Jo made sure that we were all confident enough about our design and the technique that we had a good chance of finishing…at some point…
Sue Bamford’s Bunny Love at the Poly: 26th April 2014
14 people were at the workshop: Susan Gibson, Iris Boudier who brought her sister and niece, Sophie and Apice, Susan Hewitt, Ann Roberts, Wendy Gagen, Jo McInstosh also brought her friend Carol Tifin, Vicki Clark, Charlie Murrell-Edwards came along with Mary. Sue Bamford ran the session and Mary Loveday Edwards took part while Fiona Hackney took notes and photographs.
All these people have attended previous sessions, apart from the guests that some brought. A sense of group identity: of people who are comfortable with one another, is starting to emerge and it’s great that people are bringing friends and family members in.
This is a workshop that Sue has run on many occasions, mostly with children, and she introduced the concept behind the ‘bunny project’, which began when she was working at the Eden project and was amazed by the large number of garments that had gathered in lost property and never been reclaimed. This provided some discussion about waste and re-use. Sue initiated her 1000 bunnies (www.bunnylove.co.uk) project, a response that combines the politics of ecology, sustainability with the fun of creative making, and reflecting through doing.
She began by reminding us about the significance of the date, 24th April 2013, when the Rana Plaza textile factory collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh causing the deaths of 1,129 people and injuring thousands more; she drew our attention to on-going efforts to commemorate the day worldwide. Sue’s workshop is part of a larger project that aims to raise consciousness about waste while taking part in a fun activity and sharing skills. She showed us the book of textile swatches/brand logos from all the good collected at Eden and re-circulated via the bunnies; she also showed us her bunny basked, full of bunnies made from the garments, her sewn texts communicating the project ethos, all those who have helped her to date, and the pile of ready-cut pieces that she had prepared for the workshop.
After the flurry of activity involved in selecting sewing pieces, a hush of concentration and what Sue remarked the “soft noise of scissors” descended over the room. A group discussion about the time involved in making the 1000 bunnies developed. Reflecting on the time and effort involved in making things, and the real life cost of cheap textile goods is an important part of this activity, and something that people were keen to discuss. Sue remarked on how often ‘ugly’ garments are transformed when the scale changes and take on new appeal. Stuffing the bunnies with the fillings from old duvets was next, and then people started the design process – sewing buttons for eyes – riffling through the button boxes produced the sound of shells on a beach – embroidering faces onto the bunnies and creating their personalities; or rather letting their personalities emerge. This led to great hilarity and much laughter as the bunnies took on a life of their own and people’s ‘inner bunnies’ emerged! ‘Lodge a complaint bunny’, ‘rock chick bunny with piercings and tattoo’, ‘Mercenary bunny – with buttons from an army uniform ’, ‘constructionist bunny – complete with a Bauhaus label’, were only a few of the many bunnies named. Discussion ranged from current textile exhibitions and museums to visit to stories about teaching crafting and sewing skills to others and the pleasure and fulfilment this brings, particularly when people take things further using their own ingenuity and creativity. Laughter filled the room as people started ‘bringing the bunnies to life’ and wandering about to see what others had done.
We were all amazed by the variety of bunnies that emerged from one simple pre-cut pattern, reflecting how this was so different to the ‘choice’ (no-choice) of consumerism.
The session ended with a demonstration of how to sign into the Making Things Together platform with quite a number of the group eager to get signed up and start sharing.
Reflections: (Extracts from the Doily Archive): What Have I Learnt?
“ways to reuse stuff in fun ways”
“craft as politics = love that!”
“how lost property can be given a new lease of life by being made into a bunny!; Mottainai – Japanese term for the sense of grief over the waste of resources – the lovely word Mottainai; Ideas for sharing and will be”
“another craft; making use of recycled materials; about other countries; how ‘bunnies’ can help children”
“that there is no ‘away’; stories always get told/made/created when a group of people get together, no matter the context; ‘making things’ is often more fun in groups; there is creativity and potential even in ‘waste’; aesthetics define an item’s level of ‘acceptability’”
“value of fabric and how many lives it can have; working in a group creates a relaxed shared atmosphere; to experiment without any fear of failure; re-cycle or more importantly reduce consumption; the concept adds value and context to finished bunny; the group encourages experimentation by seeing what others have done; the fun of being in a group that fosters creativity”
“how to make a bunny with personality; reduce, reuse, recycling; info/knowledge of theme; mottainai – no waste; encouragement to RRR old garments more often”
“That it’s been a year since the Bangladesh factory disaster; that display is all-important when it comes to collections; that we search for stories (narrative personality) in the things we make; that I really, really, REALLY need to make time to make stuff. My brain/self/heart is ENTIRELY different from how it was at 10am”
“to create something; to recycle materials; to make cute bunnies”
What Have I Shared?
“memories of my dad; Some tips about sewing; Hilarity; A little more than I’d expected about my woo approach to naming things”
“time with like-minded people; stories; words”
“stories about emotional attachment to objects; past sewing history; my ‘bunny’history”
“giggles; the fund of making; stories”
“people ideas; people designs”
“laughter, memories, a happy atmosphere”
“Quite quiet today; shared what I’d like my bunny to look like; I suppose, thinking about what the story is about the way you decorate your rabbit!”
“My love of the colour ‘pink’; my sense of humour; my lack of expertise with anything practical!!”
Christiane Berghoff i-cord at the Poly: 24th May 2014
Christiane stepped into the breach almost at the last minute to run this workshop. Christiane does a lot of different textile activities and for this workshop session she chose to show us how to make i-cords. I-cord is a simple knitting technique that creates a narrow tube of knitting that looks a bit like French knitting. It is a very ancient textile technique and the things that were really fascinating about this workshop were that Christiane had prepared three ways of making i-cord, and that we not only had to learn a technique but then to teach it to another person. I nearly fell at the first hurdle in this workshop because it was assumed (for good reason: craft group…) that each of us would know at least one way of making a cord (I didn’t), be it knitting, or crochet, or…DUN DUN DUNNNN…the LUCETTE.
I think we all fell a little bit in love with the Lucette. Maybe not everyone felt my attraction to something that looked as if it had horns, or was at least like some mediaeval version of adevil in a manuscript. It was the look of the thing at first. But then…they are all made out of wood, and there is something about the way it felt in your hand. And then you got
such a sense of achievement out of using something so unlikely-looking to make something so useful. So while others in the group were learning how to make an i-cord in a technique with which they were already familiar, I was tying myself in literal knots trying to learn the Lucette. No sooner had I managed to feel reasonably confident that I could make a small length of cord that Christiane asked that we try to teach our technique to a partner. Luckily I was next to the wonderfully patient and gifted Beth Garnett, so I actually learnt to crochet (for about 5 minutes, I’ve forgotten again now). And she was also patient with my attempts to teach her to make a cord with the Lucette, and very clever so that she actually did learn it and I could feel that my teaching was ok.*
This was a very interesting workshop as it was specifically directed, not only at learning a process, but at examining our responses to learning and teaching (specifically in regard to craft). It felt very different from learning a process – maybe because the thoughts, emotions and actions involved in trying to learn were under the microscope. In any case we learnt at least as much about ourselves as we did about i-cords, and we continued our journey of thinking about what learning about and doing craft did to and for us.
*I should probably mention that we did this workshop again at the Cardiff Festival, and people there were very vocal about the necessity for the proximity of the person teaching, and also how much the learner hated the teacher if the process was too difficult…fascinating stuff…and then the massive sense of achievement if/when some learning took place enough to actually have created a THING. I know I could relate to that.
Irene Griffin group embroidery at the Poly: 28th June 2014
Irene made a really stunning flier for her Poly session, “The Embroidery Story-telling Circle”. As with Christiane’s session, this was about more than learning or practicing a skill – it was also about examining what happens to us when we are doing something with our hands. In this case, Irene’s focus is on the stories we tell when we are crafting. Irene is also part of Hannah’s Ethnographic Embroidery group, where this was discussed throughout the meetings.
For this session, Irene brought along a circular tablecloth and a selection of embroidery yarn, and a selection of diagrams showing embroidery stitches. We each had to choose one stitch, and one colour. All the participants then sat in a circle around one table, and each began to stitch – freely, but only using the one colour and the one stitch. Irene introduced the idea of a historically-connected practice of people sitting, embroidering, telling stories, and asked for our stories. She asked several questions to bring out the stories connected with making, perhaps from our past, or that made us think about why we make, while we were stitching.
Then after a short time, the tablecloth was turned so that in front of each person was the stitching that the person next to them had been doing. Using the stitch and the colour that each person had used before, they then added to the stitching in front of them, and then after a little while the cloth was turned again. Ultimately if there had been time we would have ended up with a cloth on which every person’s single colour and stitch became part of a larger stitchwork.
It was obviously metaphorical in several different ways. Interestingly some of the participants fought quite hard against the strictures/structures of the task, finding the insistence on the single colour and stitch frustrating, finding it irritating to have to add to someone else’s work or to pass their work on rather than to create something of and for themselves. It was very interesting to observe. In contrast to the calming and relaxing energy of some of the other sessions, there was a palpable sense of friction in the group this time, and some rather funny exchanges as those who were aware of, for example, the game of one-upmanship that is often played in groups by some people being gently (or not so gently) challenged to perhaps not monopolise the talk, or to be a little more open to new experiences or group dynamics. Clearly for some group members who wanted to define themselves as embroiderers (and in a hierarchical way) it was very frustrating to participate in a group activity in which the aim was to subsume the self, to be known for stories rather than for skill. And yet there was skill – some of the participants being particularly adept at showing others how their communication style enhanced or hampered the group experience.
So there were a number of levels of skill and activity happening at the same time, crossing and subsecting making, self-expression, storytelling, manipulating (or being affected by) group dynamics, self-awareness, generosity, openness, and probably many more. The making was happening, above that the storytelling carried on, and above that the energy ebbed and flowed. It would be fascinating to map each level to examine what was going on. At times it was like a dance or Butoh performance.
Again, Irene took the tablecloth to the Cardiff Festival where it was extremely popular especially with local schoolchildren who passed through the stand.
It was really interesting to have this as the final workshop for this iteration of the CARE project, as it brought us up against some of the points we had found so frustrating and interesting in Phase 1: that not everybody finds group work interesting or edifying; that even when proposed outcomes are clearly defined there can be dissent or misunderstanding; that group work is messy and sometimes uncomfortable; that things don’t always turn out the way you plan for a myriad of reasons.
The workshops look set to continue past the end of the active stage of the CARE project with links to the #wellMAKING Craftivist Garden, and emails to past participants will be sent shortly.