I know I said I’d be writing about working in schools but before I get to that, an insight into the workshop I delivered last week, a word of warning for other artists & facilitators out there.
I arrived to the (empty) community centre with enough time to set up. I asked if I could borrow paper towels – to clean the paintbrushes and any spills. The answer was, well… No. I could buy them from a shop a 10-min walk away (from my own money), or I could use them and pay for them. Apparently I had to bring all the materials for the workshop – which I did, just not paper towels or pencils, or water for that matter. Even though I’d asked, the room had no sink so every time we needed water I had to walk down the hall to the toilet, with the dyes and paintbrushes spilling behind me….
I’m not a “batik expert”, but in search for work as a facilitator I often have to take jobs that require a more “crafty” approach to art. I’m often asked what kind of “art” workshops I can deliver and “art writing” is never in the list. Batik, painting, and collage however, rank highly. (Read: forget all the knowledge you could pass on, just do an activity that is “fun” and that will have a finished tangible outcome in 3 hours.)
I’m also still not 100% aware of all the health and safety regulations. I try my best at risk assessments, but ultimately find them bureaucratic and a waste of time. Although I can glimpse why they’re necessary in some occasions, I’m hard-wired as a Mexican and struggle to understand the bottom line. Which explains what happened next.
Thirty minutes into the workshop, a health & safety inspector arrived at the centre. And surprise! I was using 3 hair dryers to dry the batik flour paste and no, I hadn’t included them in my risk assessment, mainly because they were an after-thought. I hadn’t planned on using them when I proposed the workshop until I realised the t-shirts wouldn’t dry in the space of an hour. All hell broke loose.
Mid-workshop I had three people asking for the risk assessment, which I didn’t have with me (why would I?) but I had definitely sent to the booker.
The booker of course couldn’t find it.
The H&S inspector wouldn’t leave until she saw it.
The hair dryers had to be turned off for 30 minutes for no apparent reason.
The workshop came to a halt.
45 minutes later, the booker typed a new risk assessment and sent it to the centre, who printed it and delivered it to the H&S inspector. Satisfied, she left and we returned to our batik-hair-drying-business.
All for a piece of paper with details on the risks of fabric dyes. No love lost there.
Meanwhile, my search for a “proper” facilitation project/ job/ art project/ residency continues.