A Return to the Garden: Workshops 3&4

Workshop Three: Nature Inspired Windchimes and Cyanotypes.

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Back at Balsall Heath Church Centre once again, this workshop gave us the chance to pick up some new skills and work in a medium many of the participants had little to no experience with. Under the guidance of Katie from Sundragon Pottery, we were shown how to use found natural materials from the garden such as leaves to imprint onto our clay creations, resulting in a detailed impression of our chosen plant life.

Imprints on clay

This is yet another of the endless ways we can take direct inspiration from and reinvent our natural environment. Once again it was interesting to observe the range of approaches taken to creating, as everyone’s pieces, though stemming from the same instruction, came out vastly different. 

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Katie showed us how to create a wind chime, though encouraged us to be creative and produce anything we felt like. Those who chose to follow through with the chime will have a unique nature-inspired piece that will continue to interact with their organic environment, which feels like a nice full-circle moment of creation. Others chose to create coasters, incense holders and other decorations to bring a taste of the outdoors into their homes.

Working on clay creations

We were introduced to new tools and techniques, including the use of coloured slips to add vibrant colours to our clay creations. Alongside our materials from the garden, Katie also provided letter stamps so that we could personalise our pieces in any way we felt. It was good to get stuck in and use our hands and connect with a practice that uses natural materials and goes back so far in human history. 

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We will have to wait for our pieces to be put in a kiln so that the clay will harden, and people can then construct their windchimes, I am eager to see the final outcomes!

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During this workshop, more participants were given the opportunity to create their own cyanotypes. The results of these experiments were quite striking, and I am continually impressed by the versatility of nature when it comes to creating something new. In the few weeks since the initial workshops, the garden has continued its passage from autumn to winter, and with the changing of the season comes a change in the natural life we have to choose from. Regardless of this, there were still plenty of options. 

Cyanotype outcome

A few of the participants this week were mothers who realise the importance of dedicating time for themselves and noted the usefulness of creative activities in quieting the mind and allowing for relaxation and grounding in busy lives. It’s nice to have something physical to remind us of time spent reconnecting with ourselves and nature.

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Workshop Four: Feelings you can touch.

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For this workshop, we were joined once again by poet Bohdan, and the focus this week was on using our environment to connect with our senses. By following just three simple steps, we were able to construct our own poems! I will share these steps with you, and feel free to take part in this activity yourself by exploring your own garden, or local green space. If you would like to share what you came up with, you are more than welcome to do so in the comments below! You will just need something to write on and with, use your phone if you need to.

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The first step is finding your subject. Take a walk around the garden or space and try to focus in on what emotion is conjured within you. Is it joy, longing, sadness, curiosity? Take a few minutes to tune in to your environment and sit with the emotion it brings. Once you’ve decided on your emotion, write out the following:

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For this example, we will use joy.

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Joy smells like…

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Joy tastes like…

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Joy sounds like…

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Joy looks like…

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Joy feels like…

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Leave space for yourself to fill in more after each phrase, as this brings us to step two. As you continue to take in your environment, home in on actual, tangible things that are interacting with each of your senses. For example, “Joy smells like mowed lawns” or “Joy feels like sunshine on my skin”. Try to come up with three things for each sense. Don’t worry if you feel like what you’ve written doesn’t exactly make sense, just go with what feels right.

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Once you’ve completed this, you can move on to the third and final step. The hardest part is done, now we just use the images we’ve come up with so far to shape our poems. Use the emotion you selected as the title of your poem, and then write the phrases from earlier in any order you like, minus the initial prompt of “Joy smells like” etc. So for example, the title of my poem would be “Joy”, and I would begin my poem, “Mowed lawns, sunshine on my skin”. You should have plenty of interesting images to play with that altogether will create your poem and give a sense of your selected emotion. Play around with the order of your phrases, see how you feel it fits together best. 

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This activity will work in any environment, it doesn’t just have to be outside spaces, so give it a go and see where your senses lead you!

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I personally really enjoyed this activity as it made me more aware of the effects of my environment on my emotions as well as helped me to pick up on some nice poetic imagery that I wouldn’t have thought of without this prompt. I felt my poem did encapsulate the feeling I chose in quite a beautiful and unique way. 

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Below is an example of one of the poems compiled during the workshop.

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