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Testing out and connecting together

Catrin Evans, October 2020

Today the whole team took part in a rehearsal of our art workshop. I think it is fair to say there were some nerves. The cross-over from more ‘conventional’ social science research approaches, towards engaging with arts-based methods can always be quite nerve-wracking but with the added backdrop of Covid – and the adaptations to the workshop design that have emerged because of that – meant there was a strong sense of anticipation when we all first joined the online session. But after each person had shared the objects we brought with us, Bobby and Miriam from Art Refuge expertly and sensitively led us into the collaging process. Encouraging us to be responsive, non-judgemental and to think about the piece of art we are making, as a story.

Then the making began.

I pick materials I like the feel of, or the look of. I begin to cut without a specific intention. Then I think again. I want to find a way to place my object – the thing that connects me to my sons, at the centre of the image. I concentrate on it, a jumper knitted by a good friend.

At first it is the colours of the wool that prompt me to make a mark on the page. Then as I work, I move into more of a sensory or affective space. Messages begin to emerge from the art, or perhaps more accurately, through the interaction between me and the making of the art. I realise this is as much a piece of work expressing my relationship to my friend – the knitter – and in fact all my female friends, as it is about my children. The work is prompting me to consider how important they are to me as I negotiate the knowns and unknowns of parenting young children. Meaning has emerged for me.

This rehearsal session lasts about 2 hours. For some of this time each one of us seems to be in our own wee world, busy engaging with our materials. Then we come back together and share what we have made. The range of stories that emerge from the colours and textures takes us through themes of shared responsibility, nourishment, enjoyment, companionship, trust. The team seem buoyant, eager to move forward and begin delivery. The experience of taking part has allowed us to better understand, not just the processes and methodology we are using, but the experience and atmosphere we hope to create for our participants as they go on their own artmaking journey.

It is an exciting moment to be just on the edge of the fieldwork.


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