I went to the launch of Making Memories at New Brewery Cirencester
Making memories has been a project with two elements to its development – the delivery of a series of workshops in a residential home which is part of the Barchester Group and a project with six individuals who care for a partner or family member at home. They took part in ceramic workshops at the New Brewery Gallery with ceramicist Clare Loder and through those encounters, Clare has made a body of ceramic portraits which depict the participants or their loved ones or reflect aspects of their lives and their loves.
The visible end result can be seen from 13th July to 8th September at the Gallery of the New Brewery Arts Centre, the centre for contemporary craft in the Cotswolds. This space was refurbished in 2008 and re-opened by Grayson Perry. I hope he’d approve of this multi-layered project and the stylish exhibition it has produced. Clare and the team at The New brewery have curated a body of subtle, surprising, beautiful and multi-layered work, showing the art to great effect and telling the story of the participants and the processes and the impact on them with a poetic and multimedia flair. It celebrates the richness and unpredictability of long lives and demonstrates the importance of creativity as part of the key to well-being.
Chatting to Clare about her approach to her work I gather that she has no specific experience of working with older generations or those in Care Homes. AS she describes how she went about working with the groups and individuals she demonstrates that peculiar gift that is necessary to being an artist – to pay attention. She takes it for granted that is how art gets made. It isn’t easy, but it is how it comes about. And in working in clay with care home residents and those whom she met in their own homes and who attended her workshops in the arts centre, she has enabled them and the staff that assist them to open up to new awareness and attentiveness too. As seems always the case, those with dementia or other “limiting” conditions, were seen to come alive and be capable of things that those around them had rarely recently seen.
Clay seems to offer an enabling, relaxed, medium for those early encounters. It re-wakened idle hands, it literally leaves an impression of the hands that worked it; it can be simultaneously adult and childlike. It seems unpretentious yet full of possibilities.
I loved the way this project had clearly touched many people in many ways. Clare had encountered subjects for her work that had enriched and challenged her as an artist. For Annie Gould, who was my main contact throughout – (responsible for Fund-raising and New Business Development) this was her homage to her own family members who have lived with dementia.
The Gallery, situated in the middle of the busy small town of Cirencester provides an amazing sparkling space to enjoy the colour and forms of contemporary craft. You can buy, browse, learn about, make or watch crafts being made. The quality of the space and this exhibition raises ambitions above the everyday and yet draws on and re-presents everyday recognisable realties and experiences of people managing some of the most feared and challenging aspects of older age – dependency.
I hope Making Memories will be seen in other galleries and spaces too and I hope the experiences of those who participated will inspire other care homes to bring that quality of work to their institutions. I hope it demonstrates to other artists that collaboration with older people is as enriching to the artist as it is to all those that take part.