Monday, 15 September 2014

Sun Printing and Peephole Cameras

Tuesday, September 2


The weather was warm and very sunny and this session, led by artist Jane Spray, dealt with producing prints on photo reactive paper. Objects are placed on this specialised paper for a short period and then put in water to develop.  Rachel Shilston stood in for Hannah who was on holiday and again we had a lot of help from Sue Manser who has volunteered her time for all the sessions so far.

After the customary coffee and biscuits, the group went out to the site to collect natural objects such as ferns, bracken, seed and flower heads to make their prints. Back at Bracelands we used these objects to develop some really attractive prints, someone even used a woven basket. We found out that to get really good prints the paper had to be developed in the relative darkness of the farmhouse. The group produced some really attractive work.

We also looked at making peephole cameras and camera obscurers, which took quite a time. Charles took great care with his camera obscura but we ran out of time and Alison's excellent lunch and cake was calling us.  We finished up the session with a few cameras but a mental note needs to be taken that we need to refresh with a longer session to do the camera work justice.

An enjoyable session with loads of talking, laughing and reminiscing. One of the group was a botanist and revisiting plants in the wood gave us all a new focus on the flora found there.

You can see some of the pieces that were produced using the sun printing technique. They are simple and effective and take only minutes to do once you get the procedure right.

After the session Nikki took one of the woven flowers that were finished in our willow weaving session and used at Monmouthshire Show. She placed it down at the log circle with all the landscape memories that people had written about and tied  to the flower to start our Field of Memories.     

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Willow Weaving

Tuesday, August 19


Lyn Powell

The weather today was looking a little patchy, but we decided to set tables out on the lawn to run the workshop outside the house.  Artist Lin Powell arrived with a car load of willow, huge bundles of glistening stems, covered in wet towels.  Lin explained that she keeps the willow soaking in a bath tub in her garden.

We gathered round as she talked us through the differences in the types of willow – the variation of colours and width, which, when using them in varying ways, would impact on the work created.

Touching and working with natural materials
Three different types of willow
in this way helps you to connect 
the natural environment around you, regardless of what you might be trying to make or build, the raw materials found in nature are almost always the best tools for the job. You can easily appreciate the beauty and strength of the material and as we watch Lin deftly demonstrate a weaving pattern, it is easy to see how willow weaving was once an ancient life skill, and used to create practical, hard-wearing basketry.

Today though, we are aiming to make willow flowers for our gardens.  We weave the centre of the flower, then bend long pieces of willow into ovals to make the petals, finishing off the process by mounting the flower head on a stalk which can be stuck into the ground.  It is difficult to convey how impressive the willow flowers look – everyone is delighted with their achievements and talk enthusiastically about where they might install their work in their garden.  It is nice to think that the willow flowers will go on to serve another purpose, hopefully encouraging people out into their gardens to enjoy them!
Nikki Moore (Wye Valley AONB) is so impressed that she borrows a few of the flowers to take to the Monmouth Show to promote mindSCAPE with a Field of Memories on Thursday August 28.

Lyn shows Hannah Elton-Wall  and participants the willow

Willow weaving became really absorbing

Tai Chi Treat on third session

Tuesday, August 5


We’ve been looking forward to this weeks workshop, ‘Tai Chi Movements For Well-being’ with artist Jane Spray.  We were rather hoping that we could work on the springy grass lawn outside of the Bracelands house but unfortunately the weather is not on our side today – there is a light, but constant drizzle.  Instead, we move the tables and chairs inside and relax into the session.

The session is an enjoyable sequence of movements taken from the traditions of TaiChi Chuan and Chi Kung. A form of ‘moving meditation’, this simple sequence is both relaxing and stimulating.  Jane tells us that Tai Chi can also help with balance, suppleness and strength, giving you some gentle exercise at the same time as helping you become more grounded, present and aware.

 We are joined by Andrew Nixon, Development Officer at the Wye Valley AONB.  Andrew completed the application to the National Lottery which successfully secured the funding for mindSCAPE so it is great that he’s able to see the group up and running.

After lunch (a hearty and warming jacket potato with plenty of cheese) the weather brightens up a bit, determined to spend at least some of the session outside we take a stroll down to the log circle site to end the session. 

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

mindSCAPE group enjoy second session

Tuesday July 22, 2014

Getting into Cycle Art

Today we are blessed with incredible weather.  My morning inspection of the log circle revealed a few unfortunate surprises!  It would seem that the log circle has been used to host a rather eventful campfire party.  Despite the fact that the log circle is for the use of the Wye Valley AONB and mindSCAPE specifically, it is situated in a very attractive woodland which is right next to a large family campsite and open to the general public who often walk their dogs in the woods and enjoy the area.  The fire pit in the centre of the circle is littered with the inevitable beer cans and used BBQ’s – but these items are easily removed… the 8 foot long log that has been dragged into the centre of the circle and used as firewood is less easily tidied away!  After some minor repairs to the site and huffing and puffing over the removal of the log, the site is just about restored to its former glory.  The use of the log circle in this way, especially during the school holidays is probably inevitable – I make a mental note to visit the site with an extra 10 minutes to spare at the start of each session!
Artist Rachel Shilston with her bounty of objects. 
Also Nikki Moore will design some new signage to encourage people to treat the site with a little more respect
The fabulous weather enables us to start the session with coffee tea and biscuits on the rolling grassy lawn in front of the Bracelands house.  Everyone gathers and is keen to get started, artist Rachel Shilston distributed the work created in the last session, she has laminated the tiny pieces of moss, flowers and bracken to make attractive book marks, and she hands out photographs of the natural sculpture work created by participants in the previous session. 

Today Rachel is continuing with the sculptural theme, but this week her focus will be on using man-made substances – a stark contrast to the work of last week, she shows the group how to weave plastics, canvasses and brightly coloured ribbons onto old bicycle wheels to make vibrant sculptures that look rather like giant Native American dream-catchers.  The group seem to really enjoy the challenge and split into three teams.   There is a rather excitable competitive atmosphere as people run off to grab their weaving materials and huddle around to discuss the design of their pieces.   The result of the session was three rather spectacular looking woven sculptures – two of which will stay at the log circle (hopefully they will be respectfully enjoyed by the next group of mid-night party-goers!)
One of the superb examples of cycle wheel art produced by members of the group
We returned to the house for home-made tomato and basil soup, sandwiches and cakes – the group chatted away for a full half hour past the session end time, a sure sign that people seem to be enjoying getting to know each other.   Artist Jane Spray popped in to meet the group, she will be leading the third mindSCAPE session – Tai Chi Movement For Well-being, on August 5.  Most of the group have never tried Tai Chi before, including myself, so Jane reassures everyone that the activity is gentle and can be carried out sat in a chair if necessary.  Let’s hope for nice weather – the immaculate lawn at Bracelands is private and surrounded with beautiful mature trees and flowers, a perfect and peaceful location for the workshop. Sarah Sawyer, Wye Valley AONB Community Links Officer and Gregg Dunn a PHD Research Candidate from Birmingham City University working on the geo-emotional and modern notions of the Picturesque and who is currently working at the Wye Valley AONB throw themselves into the session helping group members. Sue Manser and Sue Carruthers also give a hand with their enthusiasm and interest. Nikki is again taking photos and even a trial video, results later perhaps.
Gregg helps group members with their art piece
Participant Feedback:
“A really good activity today, even with my bad back I thoroughly enjoyed mixing the different colours of man made materials – excellent soup”

“Had a great day, fully relaxed amongst good company and in the lovely forest.  The back for a great lunch and the most wonderful cake (carrot cake especially).  Great fun, great company”

“Enjoyed the session and being able to take the completed wheel home.  Nice food as always”

“It was good fun – I enjoyed it all and especially the cake!  No seriously, it was a great day – the weather he

Saturday, 12 July 2014

mindSCAPE's first workshop is magical

Tuesday July 8, 2014
mindSCAPE works its Magic
It’s 10am, the morning of the first session at the Bracelands Adventure Centre.  The interest in the project so far has been overwhelming, lots of people have booked onto the session today – the weather report has suggested some heavy rain later, so I’ll be interested to see how many people make it along to the session.  I’m going to start the day by taking a walk down to the woods just behind the Bracelands centre to check on the log circle which will be the location for today’s activity.  The log circle has been recently installed by New Leaf – an organisation that works with ex-offenders, they have done an incredible job.  The log circle has 5 seats made of split Douglas fir tree trunks, with a central fire pit.  The circle is flanked with hurdles of woven hazel, that give the log circle area a very private, cosy feel.  A number of tree stumps surrounding the circle have been carved to look like fairy toad stools – in one word, it’s magical!   I sit there for a while and notice that it is incredibly peaceful – no traffic noise, just lively birdsong from the surrounding Douglas, ash and lime trees.  Artist Rachel Shilston joins me at the site.  Today she will deliver a natural sculpture workshop.
We return to the Bracelands house and wait for participants to arrive.  Rachel and I are joined by Nikki Moore (Wye Valley AONB) Sue Carruthers (Artspace) and Sue Manser (Volunteer, ex-nurse, NHS Consultant) who are all eagerly on hand to welcome people, dish out name badges and of course the all-important cups of coffee and tea!   The participants arrive, we are delighted to see such a great turnout – nobody has been frightened off by the ominous weather report – everyone seems eager to get started with the first mindSCAPE activity.

11.30am We stroll down to the log circle.  A beautiful activity in itself, the walk leads us through a pretty meadow flanked with various trees and shrubbery.  Participants are chatting and commenting that it’s ‘nice to be out’ in the fresh air.  Rachel begins the session by encouraging participants to gather small items to decorate a book mark – everyone dispersed with great enthusiasm to collect tiny flowers, bits of moss, small leaves, fern and bark, seeds and pine needles from the woods.  They then laid their finds onto a strip of sticky card which would be laminated afterwards to make a bookmark. 
Natural Bookmarks
The difference in people’s designs was of interest, some people arranged their items to look like micro-landscapes, others preferred to collate their items to depict a single flower or tree, others arranged their items to form more stylised patterns and designs.  People commented on how enjoyable it was to seek out and focus on the tiny, small things that you often wander past absent-mindedly.  Who knew there were so many varieties of moss, each configured so differently, with such beautiful intricate detail?  Another person commented on the fact that they had never really paid attention to the very pretty white flowers that grow on nettles!    Even a handful of the forest floor, on close examination, revealed a plethora of needles, seed pods and leaf fragments.

Rachel’s second activity, in contract, encouraged participants to ‘up-scale’ their focus. 
Hannah admires the natural sculpture work
She showed the group a book of ‘land art’ by artist Andy Goldsworthy – his inspiring work uses natural objects like stone, ice, feathers and wood.  His work is large in scale but temporary, made and set within the natural environment and often influenced by the elements – the work is created, then photographed.  

So, now we set off to seek out larger objects, fallen branches, sticks, pine cones, fern fronds, long bright green grasses, handfuls of fallen leaves.  Participants arrange, stack and spread their finds, making shapes and designs on the floor, on the seats of the log circle – some participants decide to capitalise on the existing natural structures of the wood, and arrange their designs on the top of tree stumps, or around the base of trees.  An important part of the process is photographing the artworks afterwards – Nikki and Rachel document the natural sculptures (these will be distributed to the proud artists at the next session!)  The only shame is that we won’t get to stick around long enough to see the reactions from the public, the inevitable dog walkers who will stumble upon this stunning exhibition gallery that the woods have temporarily become!

One of the carer participants has attended with her 98 year old mother.  Despite the fact that her mother is in a wheelchair and was less able to move around the site freely, she was able to work with her daughter, commenting and making decisions as they arranged their finds into an attractive design. Another participant chatted about his youth, growing up in North Wales. The landscape being such an integral part of his childhood, he has fond memories of getting up to mischief with his friends and playing from dusk till dawn on the hillside near his house. Another participant had become keen on photography since his diagnosis with dementia – what a great opportunity to take some wonderful photos with his camera which he had brought along to the session.

On the walk back to the Bracelands house, everyone noticed that ‘you couldn’t stop noticing!’ – after the activity, which had focused our minds on seeking out the small, beautiful natural objects all around us – you simply couldn’t help spotting things!

1:00pm Back to the house for sandwiches, hot drinks and three types of scrumptious cakes made by Alison, manager of Bracelands (undisputed baking queen of the Forest of Dean!)  Feedback about the session was gathered, participants also had the chance to view a list of potential future activities and tick those which interested them.   As the group sat and reflected on the mornings activity inside, the heavens opened outside – torrential rainfall which made everyone feel rather smug that we’d missed the downpour and managed to enjoy the best of the morning.

Feedback from the session was extremely positive – the group dispersed with promises of ‘See you at the next session!’ What a wonderful start to the mindSCAPE project. 
Participant Feedback:
We welcome all feedback, positive and negative.  All feedback is an important part of shaping a participant-led programme of activities.

“Very enjoyable!  Great to walk in the forest and to be inspired.  Thank you.”

“A very enjoyable day.  First time I have ever done such an event.  Thanks.”

“Great company and walk”

“Fantastic, friendly group.  Totally brilliant – Can’t wait to come again.”

“Enjoyable, thank you.  Nice lunch too!  The pace and content were just right and seemed to get everyone engaged”

“Great morning, lovely meeting everyone, staff so friendly.  Food fantastic.  Looking forward to the carrot cake!”

“Strange and new – could not take it in.  Too new.  Will enjoy it more next time.  Wheelchair”

“Very interesting session, thoroughly enjoyable.  It made us look at the forest rather than just walk through.  Also good company and enjoyable lunch!  Difficulty with the wheelchair, otherwise other access good.  Thank you”

“Lovely morning, staff very friendly, looking forward to coming again”

Artist Rachel Shilston: 'It was so nice to introduce adults to the work of Andy Goldsworthy and to see them appreciate this very simple, but effective way of working. It was great to get the group really engaging with their surroundings and taking the time to look at the smallest of details in their environment. A thoroughly enjoyable morning with a wonderful group of people, I'm looking forward to the next session.'


Dementia Pop up Shop

Saturday July 9, 2014

 From Left: Rob Bayley Store Manager Tesco Lydney, Lena Maller Dementia Alliance, Amanada Lock Better Services Manager Tesco Lydney , Andrew Morgan- Watts Dementia Alliance and Hannah Elton-Wall mindSCAPE Poject Co-ordinator

The next day saw mindSCAPE exhibiting at the Dementia Pop Up Shop in Lydney, Forest of Dean. We were there to give people information about the project . As well as  exhibitors from a variety of organisations, which deal with services for those living with dementia and their carers, visitors to the event could experience theraputic massage with the M technique from Dignity and Grace, sample dementia friendly exercises, join in singing and have a go at the Dementia Board Game. Tea and biscuits were offered and a regular stream of people visited despite another day of wet weather.

mindSCAPE Launch

From Left: Tracey Copley Dementia Nurse, Poet Roger Drury, Viv Shorney Alzheimer’s Society, Councillor Allaway-Martin, Mark Harper MP, Derek Coates mindSCAPE tutor, Lena Maller Dementia Alliance and Hannah Elton-Wall mindSCAPE Project Co-ordinato

Friday May 23, 2014
We held the launch of our new mindSCAPE project at Bracelands in the Forest of Dean. Fascinating presentations in the morning from Dr Martin Ansell a consultant specialising in dementia and memory at 2gether NHS Foundation Trust who talked about the physical and emotional effect of dementia. We also had a superb presentation from Kevin Stannard, Deputy Surveyor of the Forestry Commission who discussed the emotional reaction to the landscape of the Forest of Dean. Other contribuotrs to an informative and enjoyable session were Viv Shorney from the Alzheimer’s Society and Lena Maller who introduced us to the work of the Dementia Alliance together with Andrew Morgan-Watts who is a Dementia Champion and is currently caring for his wife who is living with the condition.

The weather at Bracelands Adventure Centre was pretty inclement to say the least with torrential rain which forced us indoors and not out on our new forest site which we would have preferred. After lunch we were pleasantly surprised by the number of people who turned up to find out about the project and to offer their support.

Mark Harper MP attended and spent a while chatting to all the attendees and we also had a visit from Councillors Terry Glastonbury and Carole Allaway- Martin.
We were able to present the first two month’s programme of events which are being organised by our Project Co-ordinator Hannah Elton-Wall from Artspace Cinderford.