Workshops in UK

Superact CIC
The facilitators & their training

The learner artists were recruited for example from local colleges. Opportunity to participate was advertised for artists and students that would be interested in learning more about working with older participants in care settings, and contributing to the education model. The training opportunity was also advertised privately, as we were seeking a good age range and a mix of skills and experience to take into care settings.

The project manager arranged an introduction session in Exeter on June 24th, 2016 and ten female artists attended.

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Printing workshop. Photo: Superact

At this first meeting we established that some of the artists had run their own adult education art workshops and a few were commercial artists. They all had limited information about running art workshops for people  living with dementia or physical conditions. A few of them had personal experience of caring for older relatives and some were quite open and honest about their concerns about the lack of artistic provision in UK care homes. Quite a few had reservations about whether this was going to work for them.

We invited all of these artists to attend observation workshops run by our Lead Artist Jon Lincoln Gordon at Greenhill Residential and also at Castle Ham Lodge. We encouraged the artists to come to both workshops and to see how Jon adapted the same theme for completely different settings. The theme of both observation sessions was a printing workshop. Residents sat around a large table and a long white paper sheet was stretched across the table. Jon brought a wide selection of printing blocks, and unusual resources such as bubble wrap and real leaves that had been gathered from the countryside. There was also a good choice of colours available.

The artists started by observing and very naturally began to offer one to one support, especially as it became clear that the residents needed a lot of individual support and we only had the support of one carer during the session. Some of the artists stayed with one resident and others moved around the table to support other residents.

Similar observation workshops took place at Castle Ham Lodge in Okehampton. The artists noticed very quickly that the residents in this setting were far more independent and needed less support. Our lead artist had adapted his workshop planning accordingly, in the knowledge that the residents would work faster and to a higher level. On this basis our learners were able to see how the same printing theme could be adapted to accommodate the needs of older people working to different levels.

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Printing in Greenhills. Photo: Superact

After the observation workshops were complete, the learners were offered the opportunity to run their own workshops with support from the project manager, the lead artist and the lead care mentor. We ended up with a core team of six artists who stepped forward to do this: Ali Brown, Ruth Fielder, Ildiko Hurley, Mary Kembery, Miranda Qualtrough and Jan Usher.

Two of the learners agreed to run workshops with the same theme in both care settings, and they found this a valuable experience. These two artists also attended the project’s training week in Graz in October 2016. They benefited from this week enormously and fed back to the rest of the team with great enthusiasm. The other four artists decided to run their workshops at Castle Ham Lodge.

In January 2017 the Superact Headquarters were established in Wellington, Somerset and we met together for a training session and meeting. One of our learner artists left our core group, but local interest in our project meant that an additional five artists came on board and our core learner team increased to ten. They were all keen to find out about how the arts could make a positive impact on meaningful activities.  In addition to this we gained the voluntary support of a professional photographer and filmmaker. We developed a resources room in our offices, which meant that artists were welcome to use our facilities to plan, prepare and store. We met at our offices regularly for meetings and training sessions and this helped with co-working.

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Learner artists assisting in printing workshop. Photo: Superact

In February 2017 we set off to training week in Viljandi, Estonia. We were a party of ten. All of the learners had taken part in art workshops in at least one care setting and they were ready to learn about the project art workshops in Estonian care settings. They returned with new ideas and thoughts and everyone felt that this had been an important experience in terms of their professional development.

In conclusion, the recruitment process for learner artists was successful and brought to the project a group of professional artists who added value with the following skills: ceramics, pottery, textile arts, collage, printmaking, drawing, painting, photography, film-making, recycling, visual art, three dimensional design, knitting, crocheting sewing and drawing. The artists have all commented on how they have learnt from each other in terms of skills and ideas. Throughout the project, the learner artists kept learning diaries of their experiences which contributed to the project’s handbook.

Care settings

Art workshops in UK were run in a total of six care settings. three in Devon and three in Somerset. In 2016 we established a partnership with Greenhill Residential and Day Centre in Kingsteignton, Devon. We then decided to extend our workshops to a sister facility called Castle Ham Lodge in Okehampton. This setting is classed as ‘Extra Care’ and the residents here are more able in terms of physical and mental needs. Residents rent private flats and ‘buy in’ the extra care as and when they need it. All of the activities are also open to the community, which is different from most UK care settings.

In January 2017  we decided to offer further opportunities to our artist learners by running workshops at three Somerset Care Homes. Camelot House is a nursing home on the outskirts of Wellington specialising in dementia care and end of life provision. Cheston Park is a residential care home just outside Wellington. It has a completely separate dementia unit building. Popham Court is in Wellington Town Centre and welcomes residents with a variety of needs. We also ran workshops at Court House Residential in  Mid Devon. This is a popular care home in the expanding market town of Cullompton. Our artists were given the opportunity to visit all of these settings and take part as observers, assistants and three of our learners stepped up to run their own supported workshops over a four week period.

Workshop themes
Printing at Greenhill and Castle Ham Lodge Residential Home

Residents were seated around a large table and a long white paper sheet was stretched across the surface so that all the participants could take part. The Lead Artist brought with him a wide selection of printing blocks and unusual resources such as bubble wrap and real leaves that had been gathered from the countryside. There was also a good choice of colours available. Residents were encouraged to choose their own colours and try out the printing blocks on the sheet. Their confidence grew as they experimented with design, colour and patterns. They took ownership of the section close to them. At the end of the session the artist held up the sheet to show the outcome of the collaborative artwork which was much admired by the group and other residents and staff in the room.

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The lead artist Jonathan Lincoln Gordon delivering a printing workshop. Photo: Superact
3D Textile Collage at Chelston Park, Greenhill Residential and  Castle Ham Lodge

The artist arrived with prepared white polystyrene blocks, reinforced on the edges by silver tape.  There were several pots full of colourful fabric pieces (Approx 3cm x 3cm). There was a good variety of fabric. The residents were shown how to use pencils and knitting needles to push the fabric pieces into the block so that an individual design could be built up. The residents started with small blocks but very quickly progressed onto large block sizes. Butterfly shapes were produced and an exhibit was created by one of the homes for our exhibition.

This has proved to been a very popular activity and the key outcome is that has been taken on by activities coordinators who are now running their own sessions.

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Colourful pots for collage activity. 3D collage in front. Photo: Superact
Pottery dishes at Greenhill and Castle Ham Lodge

The artist brought in air dry clay and the residents were encouraged to roll this out.

There was a good selection of fresh green leaves so that residents could choose the shape they wanted to imprint on their individual pots. The residents were guided through cutting out the shape of their pot and moulding it into a dish form . Some of the residents were already familiar with claywork but had not done this for a very long time. This activity took place at one care home where the residents needed a lot of physical support. It also worked well at the care setting where residents were able to produce fine detail in the final product.

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Pottery dishes in exhibition. Photo: Mari Salovaara
Block printed origami fabric box workshop  at Castle Ham Lodge

Residents were given a choice of yellow or blue fabric squares and a palette of colour inks so that they could make their own block designs on the fabric. They all took up the option to practise with the printing blocks on paper first to try out a variety of shapes and colours. When the ink had dried, the residents were shown how to fold their individually designed printed fabric to make small boxes. Some had done some origami before and others needed support to learn this new skill. The outcome was very pleasing as the residents had produced small boxes which they could take away. Some asked for a follow up session.

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Block printed origami fabric boxes in exhibition. Photo: Mari Salovaara
Cork Boat Workshop at Castle Ham Lodge

The artist brought in samples of previously constructed cork and driftwood boats for residents to have a look at. The residents were presented with a ‘how to’ instruction sheet to follow so that they could work at their own pace.

One of the male residents chose to make a galleon ship from a big piece of tree bark, then he went on to make a few extra boats. Another female resident adapted an idea from her own textile experience of making a bigger boat and creating the sail from fabric. Collage was the technique used for making the sails but there were discussions about other possible methods. Some residents made boats with one sail and others chose two. The designs were all individual.

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Cork Boat Workshop. Photo: Mari Salovaara

At the end of the workshop the group found a kitchen sink and had a boat race to find out if cork or driftwood boats were faster, or if one or two sails worked better. This was a great moment for reminiscence about boat racing, a popular UK hobby The residents took their instruction sheets away so that they could make boats from home for grandchildren.

Ceramic Bird Boxes at Castle Ham Lodge

This was a specific art activity that had been requested by residents at an early meeting with the project manager. The artist brought a completed bird box for the  residents to see.  She handed out pieces of card cut as pro formas so that clay could be rolled out to make slab sections for the round bird house. The residents enjoyed this rolling out activity. This was followed by decorating the clay sections. Many different print blocks, leaves, grasses and other textural items were used to make the clay surface look interesting. The bird box was then assembled and the residents were shown how to put together slab potter using pinching, scratching and slip. The artist took the assembled bird boxes home with her to fire in the kiln. There was a follow up session with another project artist, in which the bird boxes were painted.

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Ceramic Bird Boxes. Photo: Superact
Countryside Fabric Wallhanging at Court House Residential, Cullompton, Devon

This was a project that had already been started by the home’s activities coordinator, but it had stalled as she needed support and artistic guidance.  We were presented with a large hessian rectangle and some pieces of felt. The theme had been chosen by the home’s residents and was for a large textile wall hanging to be created by residents which would be displayed in the home. The wall hanging would be a living piece of art that would change in accordance with the seasons. The tree would be a permanent feature and the leaves, animals  etc would be detachable. The project ran for a total of five weeks. In the first session the artist introduced a starch resist technique to make the detachable spring and summer leaves for the central tree. The artist brought in her own handmade leaf printing shapes. As the weeks progressed and the confidence grew the Residents started to make individual animals of their choice such as birds, squirrels, fox and a badger. The wall hanging was featured in our exhibition and returned to Court House so that the residents and activities coordinator could continue working on this.

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Countryside Fabric Wallhanging in exhibition. Photo: Superact
Clay Hands Wallhanging at Camelot House, Cullompton, Devon

This was an ambitious project for people living with fairly advanced dementia, as the main resource was clay. The agreed theme was for residents to create a clay wall hanging for their home by making individual clay hand tiles that would be linked together.  The residents started with a simple task of drawing around their own hands. Over a period of four weeks they were encouraged to roll out the clay and print shapes and words to individualise their own hands. As confidence grew, his led on to painting and the addition of fabrics. The wall hanging has been much admired and people have been surprised that people with dementia were capable of such artistic capability. The wall hanging is now on display at Camelot House.

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Clay Hands Wallhanging. Photo: Mari Salovaara
Reminiscence Collage at Popham Court, Wellington, Somerset

This was our final four week workshop and was led by our Lead Artist, so that we could give a further training opportunity to the new learners who had joined our project in January 2017. Some of the core learners took part too. Reminiscence is a key part of this project and we discovered that this was our oldest age range group, the eldest being 102 years. At the first session the artist brought in  a good selection of cut out  images depicting past lives. The residents chose images to stick on to their cards. As the creativity, conversations  and reminiscence flowed in the room the cards took on the life story of each resident. Session by session a wider selection of images were brought in as stories about people, places, jobs and hobbies  emerged and fabrics such as lace were incorporated into the design.

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Reminiscence Collage. Photo: Superact