Breathing Space

Recently, I have been working with the charity Valley and Vale Arts on their Social Prescribing project Breathing Space in Pontypridd.

It is a free, weekly, person-centred creative session for adults experiencing stress, anxiety and/or depression. Short mindfulness exercises help individuals to relax and find their creative flow. The work created can be about a real life experience or abstract. Meeting other people with similar experiences helps group members to not feel judged or isolated. In the sessions participants become artists, and leave their diagnosis behind, have fun and remember who they still are. It offers a strength-based approach with the focus on wellness. The group supports each other in finding their own solutions, and by celebrating each other’s success.

 

 

This week, we created a collaborative poem, each participant contributing a line after free-writing on the theme of Journeys.

Challenges, meeting new people

In my heart I feel the forest call me

Emotional through life with many ups and downs

today will be OK.

Calmness, support and love.

Going there to find here

Through falling, I see your light.

I’m listening to my heart.

I’m learning that the journey never ends

because the journey is life.

Sometimes we don’t know the way ahead,

but we keep moving. Step by step.

 

 

 

Voices on the Wind

For the past five months, I’ve been a creative practitioner in a primary school, working with a storyteller to produce a record of the stories about the local area surrounding the school. We have covered a vast time period, from the Bronze age, right up to the mid-19th century. I have been using printmaking with the children to produce flags and banners to decorate a structure in the grounds now known as the ‘Tŷ unnos’, or ‘One-Night house’. In old Welsh law, it was stated that anyone who could build a house on common ground in a night, with a fire in the hearth by morning could own the land as a freehold.

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Banners and flags are interspersed all around the Tŷ unnos, drawn and printed by the children and myself in response to the tales.  The map below is a record of traditional Welsh myths that Lowri shared with the children.

 

 

 

 

Natural Abstracts

Some stunning paintings made in response to two stories from Africa today on the Children’s Art and Storytelling course that I am running at Llanover Hall Arts Centre. ‘Why the Sun and Moon Live in the Sky’ – a Nigerian folktale, and ‘The Lion’s Whisker’ – an Ethiopian Folktale.

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Elements by Jim age 9

 

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African landscape by Paddy, age 9

 

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Camouflaged Lion by Iolo, age 6

 

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Sun by Paddy, age 9

 

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Witch Doctor by George, age 7

 

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Witch Doctor Dance by Jim, age 9

 

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Elements II by Jim age 9

 

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African Landscape By George, age 7

Preliminary Drawings:

Lion, by George; Winged Lion with Horn by Paddy, Mask by Paddy, Compound of Sun and Moon for the Water by George, Sun and Water by Iolo.

Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave

For the last week of this five week cycle of storytelling and art from around the world, we travelled to Russia to hear about the enigmatic Baba Yaga.  She is a many-faceted figure, variously seen as a Moon, Death, Winter, Earth Goddess, totemic matriarchal ancestress, female initiator, or archetypal image.[4]

After discussing some of Baba Yaga’s traits: iron teeth, lives in a house that walks around on chicken legs, sails through the sky in a mortar yielding a pestle,  the children listened to one of the many tales involving Baba Yaga: Vasilisa the Brave. It exhibits Baba Yaga’s ambiguous nature – scary, yet wise, and the choices of a girl who triumphs through courage and perseverance.

Below is a selection of the wonderful illustrations of Baba Yaga by children on the course. I’m always amazed at the detail, personality and energy of these drawings that the children do without hesitating as they listen to the stories.

 

Vasilisa’s magic doll by Lily.

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Folktales from India

Children’s Storytelling and Art Course, Week four. The children were interested in the concept of having two heads after hearing the Indian folktale about a bird with two heads that can’t agree. They drew pictures of themselves with the head of something or someone they would or would not like to be attached to and we discussed story ideas around what it would be like to sleep/go to school/get dressed etc.

 

 

Some responses to the story of the birth of Ganesha, and how he got his elephant head.

 

 

Some other Gods, Goddesses, and a demon created using an inverted stencil as a starting point.

Stories from the Dreamtime

For Week 3 of the Children’s Art and Writing course, the children listened to three stories from the Dreamtime creation myths of Aboriginal culture: How the kangeroo got her pouch, Barramundi, (how the fish came to be in the waters), and a Kunwinjku Dreamtime Story of the long-necked turtle and the echidna, telling why they live in separate places. The children learnt about animals from Australia they had never heard of such as the wombat and the spiny anteater (echidna). They painted and drew their own images from the stories after looking at examples of aboriginal art for inspiration.

The children learned how every hill, water hole and tree, living creature and natural phenomenon was believed to have come into existence in the Dreamtime. They learned how everything about aboriginal society is inextricably woven with, and connected to, land.

 

In Esme’s story, the great god Byamee, who had been in disguise as a wombat, goes into a bar to celebrate his discovery of the creature with the kindest heart. The sky spirits speak to each other in secret symbols.

 

The Mark of Medusa

Week Two of the Children’s Illustration and Writing course at Llanover Hall, produced some varied and interesting interpretations of Medusa, including one rock star version! After listening to the story, the seven children (aged between 6 and 11), got to work with pens and pencils to produce these wonderful works.

I asked them to think about writing their own version of the tale, perhaps from the perspective of Medusa, or imagining a different outcome. One little girl imagined that Medusa fell in love with a statue – one of the ill-fated heroes she had turned to stone. The three witches with their one detachable eye was also a source of fascination.

 

This week, we tried some mono printing. Here is one plate and the resulting print, equally beautiful. It depicts Perseus’ mother, sad because her son has gone away and she has to marry the evil king, with Medusa creeping up behind her.

 

Some more mono prints of Medusa, and Perseus’ shield that saves him from being turned to stone:

We also talked about the story of Theseus and the Minotaur and other Greek myths. One boy wrote his story combining elements of the two tales, and Flo did a monoprint of the cyclops.