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'!