Hello! I am a Scottish artist, designer and researcher based in Glasgow. My key area of interest is in collaborative projects that explore health, narrative and participation. I have a Masters of Design from Glasgow School of Art. My work encompasses visual arts, illustration, graphic design and delivery in the community. I am an associate service designer and illustrator with the Institute of Research and Innovation (IRISS) where I deliver participatory design workshops, conduct research, support co-design and create visual solutions focused on the world of social care.
Here is an interview i did recently with ASCUS, for their blog. Its long! so I have broken it up with some great photos by Sandra Franco and Ray Bird.
What is the idea behind your workshop?
As an artist, one of my particular interest is in visual representations of long term conditions, as I think that they have the potential to challenge dominant narratives of health and ill health. This is particularly important in considering long-term conditions, as they don't fit with out model of recovery- get sick, get fixed.
When I first considered the Atopic Art brief, There were certain aspects of it that where particularly important to me. Children with long term eczema are likely to have to manage their conditions for most of their childhoods and some into their adult lives too. This led me to be really clear about my focus- I wanted to consider the emotional aspect of eczema, rather than the scientific, or physical manifestations of the condition.
This led me to reflect on my personal experience of the condition, and what I find most challenging about managing it - both as a child and now as an adult. The thing that stands out for me is the challenge that eczema poses when you are trying to sleep- that sore, tickly, frustrated snooze that anyone with eczema will recognize! Sleep disturbance is a big problem for children with eczema and there families, as it has knock on effects in all areas of their lives- at school, in the relationships with friends, their ability concentrate and their energy levels.
The piece we have been working on in the Atopic Art workshop aims to encourage reflection on this aspect of the children's lives, as well as creating a space for them to present their dreams- aspirations, fears, concerns and fantasy!
The workshops was painty! Using acrylic fabric paints, each child painted a 'dream pillow' which they have taken home to sleep with. The images from these pillows, which where then captured by the fantastic photographer Sandra Franco, will be printed on to the 'dream den'. This is a cosy space for children (and adults!) to interact with in the exhibition space, which will be filled with work by the participants at the workshops. The den is a space that will encourage people to think about what makes them feel safe, secure, and happy, and how having a long term condition like eczema might challenge these needs for children and young people.
How have the children/families you’ve worked with so far engaged with your idea?
Eczema Outreach Scotland are a fantastic organization- I wish I had had them around when I was wee. The Volunteers are so passionate about the project - they have given up so much time, and buckets of energy, to make it all happen. I have learnt a lot from them and it is fantastic to be part of a grassroots organization with really big ideas. The children who have come along to the sessions have really given their all- we have had the most amazing dreams translated on to pillows! From Julia the flying horse, to Ruaridh's Magma Monsters, they have been in equal parts scary, exciting, weird and wonderful!
The den has also been a big hit with the littlest ones- its so great to see them pottering around inside it and adding their dreams - and more abstract art too! - to the walls. I think the children where immediately drawn to the space which had been designed for them, which was exciting to see and made me feel confident about what the den would communicate conceptually to adults looking at it.
Have there been any exciting and unexpected moments for you?
The project has been exciting from start to middle! (not quite at the end yet!). I haven't worked with groups quite so big before - which has been a challenge but the buzz that comes form getting so many kids together who share the same day to day challenges, and who can relax together, was amazing. Having so many children involved has meant the artwork is going to be really rich with ideas and colour.
One of the most unexpected aspects of the project was how many people would be invested in it. It is such an amazing opportunity, as an artist, to have a whole team of people behind me supporting me and making things happen! Sandra Franco, who is the photographer on the project, has really given her all and I am really grateful to her for all the beautiful photos she has taken of the kids involved in the workshops. I could never have envisaged having such high quality photography to work with before she came along! It has also been great to be supported by an Organistaion like ASCUS. They are the first organisation I have come across who do what they do, supporting the artists and Eczema Outreach Scotland to make sure everything runs smoothly and comes together.
What elements of your workshop do you think have been the most successful and why?
For me, community arts has a number of roles- it is great to see people being creative, fantastic to see there finished work exhibited, and great fun as an artists to work with lots of people on a project. But for me, the most important part of a lot of the work I do in this kind of setting is the process of the workshops themselves. Creating a space in which the children are given a simple task to do- with not too much direction from there on in- and seeing what they come up with. And while they paint, the important bit happens- they chat to each other, connect over what they are painting, share their ideas and paintings, and make a big mess. Perfect!
The Atopic Art project has been an amazing opportunity to be involved with and I would like to say a big thank you to everyone involved!
I work on lots of different kinds of projects and sometimes it can be hard to keep track of what I up to!