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I’m a regular contributor to Entelechy Art’s Ambient Jam team. For the last few years I’ve been working in a care home in south east London, collaborating with Entelechy artists Nick Doyne-Ditmas, Naomi Welford and Charlene Low.

IMG_8035.jpegSimon and Doreen, who work at the care home, write poetry and shake maracas with us on a regular basis. Other members of staff, family and friends haphazardly join us to dance, share stories and sing with the residents.

When we take Ambient Jam into the home, we bring every piece of ourselves to the party.

Working in a specialist nursing care home over a substantial period of time changes perspectives…

What is truly important?

Creating space to allow things to happen. Following a tiny thread.

A willingness to go along with the unexplored.

Grace.

An unexpected rising of energy.

Touch…

IMG_8057.jpegThe honour and privilege – and magnitude – of sharing a beautiful moment with someone in their final days.

Meaningful relationships; both long-term and transient encounters. The depth of a single moment.

The right to plan ahead and to feel delighted anticipation. Optimism.

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Joyous cohesion.

Remembering who we are and why we are here.

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This content was originally written as guest blogger for the Entelechy Arts website.

Photos reproduced with permission.

Back of a van. Also a job. Maybe a dream…

IMG_1814Words hidden / revealed in the paint. Stirring!

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To your taste…or not?

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Repeated patterns…we’re all guilty

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Boundaries!

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Words that resonate or repel ❤️ 🙁  👍🏽 👎

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Have a nice day! (That’s an instruction.)

I’m enjoying playing with ideas from the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Gilbert Collection, which includes many intricately decorated snuffboxes such as those depicted here. Butterflies, dragonflies and flowers decorate one snuffbox in the collection; a vibrant coat of arms covers another.

The Gilberts, husband and wife, collected objects they loved from all over the world with the intention that they should be enjoyed by all, including people with dementia.

Westminster Arts Resonate team, in partnership with the Victoria and Albert Museum, have invited me to share this collection with people living in a specialist care home in Hammersmith. Many of these people are bed-bound and so I’ve been looking at ways to encourage them to respond to the collection, while at the same time making connections to their own lives and stories.

We’ve handled objects, looked at photographs and are gradually getting to know each other in the process. We’re starting to experiment with different art forms and techniques. How can we connect a snuffbox or a decorative table with a song, a sketch or a gesture from someone’s own history?

IMG_2296H has skill and interest in card games, and is intrigued by the shapes and colours in the photos of the Gilbert Collection objects. I’ve been told he refuses to participate in any art activities. We talk about making and decorating a playing card box. But where to start with someone who is hesitant about mark-making?

We look at the playing cards first and discuss how we can incorporate them into the design. Then, taking away some of the anxiety around getting started by drawing around a card template of a dragonfly, we find that the overlapping outlines magically begin to form shapes reminiscent of the design on the Gilbert Collection’s snuffbox.

IMG_2301It’s an interesting start. I’m looking forward to seeing what emerges over the next few weeks…

Lucy Warren from Westminster Arts is working with me on this project and took most of the photos in this post. You can find her guest blog here.

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workpatch

I took a basket of mismatched fabric hexagons to the session so that we could do some patchwork and appliqué – maybe to make a patchwork quilt, using different colours and designs.

We all have different ways of looking at things.

V* collected up all the patchwork pieces she could find in one fabric design and meticulously pinned them together, carefully matching the patterns where they met at the edges, and thus re-creating the piece of fabric I had spent so much time cutting into hexagons earlier…

She was very pleased with her work – she’d fixed my mistake.

FullSizeRender.jpgYesterday I was in The Shed, Eastbourne, presenting a multi-sensory session on WOOD as part of Sussex Reminiscence Network’s ‘Materials for Memories’ series.

Together we explored the element of wood and its different aspects; we made wood music and broke cinnamon bark to release its scent.

IMG_8741.JPGPeople spoke of strong roots, growth in springtime, the increasing rings of age (wisdom?) and of branches reaching towards the sun.

Precious wooden possessions, some passed down through generations, released the stories held within them.  A pastry wheel, a serving bowl, a figurine carved by a beloved daughter when she was a child.

Sanding and smoothing, painting and pegging; sowing the seeds of poetry.

IMG_8773.JPG         IMG_8745.JPG  And – of course – quite a lot of tea.

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What do you get if you cross a sheep with a kangaroo?

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There was plenty of human wildlife to be seen larking around in the roof garden at Cross Rail Place,  Canary Wharf on Friday, thanks to an explorative intervention by Entelechy Arts’ Ambient Jam team, which I’m privileged to be a member of.

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My umbilical cord snood (first showcased at The Style Edition Tea Dance in Autumn 2015) found its natural home among the plants, lassoing dancing friends while protecting me from the cold.

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It’s a funny sort of day job – but I can’t knock it.

Photographs by Peter Jarman

 

 

iona-by-ritchie

I’ve started another blog on WordPress which focuses on the stories and style (both inner and outer) of some of the amazing older people I come into contact with through my work.

At the moment it features members of Meet Me at The Albany.

Enjoy! Meet My Style Blog

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I don’t ‘do’ terms, but somehow this time of year, autumn, always feels like a new beginning. I love that about my job; that it regenerates every few months, bringing me a fresh start on a regular basis. Back to zero – the possibility of anything.

So, this month brings me many new hands…1 new artist to collaborate with, 25 new families with children under 5, 20 new older participants spread over 3 boroughs and 32 new-to-me trainees in the last two weeks. (I enjoy the randomness of the numbers and the sea of new faces, but sometimes I have difficulty remembering all the names.)

I didn’t expect ruling lines on large sheets of paper, then cutting, to be such a big hit with the guys in my group…memories of draftsmanship, of preparing wallpaper, or maybe just of ruling lines? We all find the action of sliding the pen along the ruler, the measuring and the need for accuracy most pleasing.

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It feels good to cast the Birkenstocks aside and sketch in the sand with bare feet, while having a complicated phone call about work…

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…to take a walk on an easterly hill at sunset with a borrowed dog…

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…and head back to a good friend’s house of an evening, feeling ten feet tall in the long, stretched shadows of September.

Yes, it’s back to work in earnest, tomorrow.

beauty
“I’d not been well,” she said, “You could see it in me. I decided I didn’t want to be like that any more so I changed the way I dressed. I make an effort now every day, and people appreciate it.”
This conversation reminded me of the women on the Advanced Style blog who talk about making choices to look good every day “for the theatre that is your life.”