Monday, 15 May 2017

A House of Secrets, waiting to be told...

There are some days in our lives that start in a very ordinary way and end with an experience which you know you will never forget.

Today was one of those days...

I was invited by my friend Jo to visit Di, her friend, and to see her house. She told me that Di has an amazing story to tell and a very unusual secret to show me.

Di is nearing her 70th birthday and lives alone in an ordinary council house in a part of town with lots of similar looking houses but as I stepped through the door, what I saw was certainly not like any other house I've seen! Every wall and every ceiling was decorated with paintings.

The paintings blend over the walls and ceilings seamlessly and are full of colour and detail.

These oil paintings have been many years in the making. The paint has mostly been applied with her fingers. Many of the scenes have been painted over and altered as the years have passed and will continue to be added to as time goes by.

Hardly anyone has seen them. They have remained her secret life's work and her solace. But now she would like to share them and to have her life story told.

The scenes are of subjects that give her comfort; Faith, Nature, Birds and Animals. All are done freehand and from memory. The more I looked, the more details I saw; the shadows on the horses bodies, the way the sun shines through the trees, the tiny animals and birds in the distance.

Di's life story is even more astonishing than her paintings. I only know very little. 

But she has a story to tell the world. Hopefully a world which is more enlightened than the one she has experienced almost since the day she was born. A story of tragedy but perhaps with its own kind of peace now.

And yet her spirit shines out through her lovely paintings. A peaceful world which she has created for herself at last, in her home, where she feels safe and can be her true self.

Jo is going to document Di's story and her artwork through photographs and try to make the world aware of this talented lady. I am going to help if I can.

Thank you for sharing a little bit with me. I know I will be thinking about it all for a very long time.

As an update to this story, Di's house will be shown at 6pm on the BBC London News on Wednesday 8th November 2017. I'm so looking forward to her story being seen.

This is the link. It starts at the 5 minute mark.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Calling All Superheroes!

Just recently I was asked to run a very special set of 2 workshops as one of the range of Family Learning courses that I often teach. This one was going to be especially for Dads and their children.


For many reasons, Dads can be very difficult to reach when we recruit for Family Learning.

They may find it difficult to take time off work, be less confident in taking part in this kind of activity or think they will be the only Dad present in a female dominated environment. There can also be more complex
social situations which make them hard to reach but for all of these reasons, Family Learning workshops for Dads are a bit of a special occasion.

The Dads arrived with their wonderful children, boys mostly but also one girl. The ages of the children ranged from 3 to 12. We could see their excitement at having their Dad to themselves for a whole day. It was evident how important Dads are to their children and how special this day was going to be.

One little boy had his 5th Birthday that day. Such a cool way to spend a special occasion.

Their task for the day was to make a Family Crest. I had large Shields cut from MDF and the Dads and Children had to design a Crest with their Superhero Family Values. We discussed what values were most important to us. LOVE being the centre of everything we do as a family and how it made us care for one another through good times and bad. I was so impressed and almost tearful at some of the responses from such young children, showing an understanding of bravery, support, courage, truth and love. 

There was no talk during the day about Superheroes fighting or killing their enemies. There was an extraordinary feeling about the strengths of humans to overcome!

It is summed up in this brilliant design by Martin and his little son Daniel. Martin's knowledge of Superheroes was supreme in that room. We all bowed to his superior knowledge of all things Super!

He knew that the HULK stood for strength, SUPERMAN for the Truth, SPIDERMAN for Responsibility and BATMAN for Bravery. I LOVED this! We all did. It made us look at those comic books stories in a different way altogether.

This is his Shield finished. Fabulous! isn't it!

Here are the others, close up, so you can see the details. 

Aren't they just amazing!

The workshop was 5 hours long. They all worked so hard and concentrated so well on fairly advanced mixed media techniques. They shared,encouraged and praised one another. A room full of Superheroes! Big and small. I'm so proud of them.

PS. The Birthday boy Alex had cake! His Mum, Tracey, had a day to herself. This is what she said when she got home:

'My 3 had a fantastic day and the birthday boy said he had the best day ever. Precious memories from my boys. Thank you so much for making the day so memorable.'

For myself and Tina, my fantastic assistant, the day will be memorable too for so many great reasons. We can't wait to have them all back again this week to make Superhero costumes and a Shoebox Cityscape Diorama. They are going to design a superhero to fly across the city to protect us all!

Day 2 Cityscape Dioramas and Costumes
We have had another wonderful day with the Superheroes today!

Here are a few of the amazing dioramas and costumes they made today. We cut and glued, stitched and shaped. We imagined and designed and had so much fun together. Such a great day!