Viewing single post of blog #1 Space in the Process

Making objects that you can touch, move, smell or even ‘wear’, has been a growing element of my practice. Space in the process, provided the perfect opportunity to explore the benefits these objects may have on a child with autism, whilst providing time to create!

I knew I wanted the project to encompass a fusion of education, design, fashion and play, and I wanted to create handmade objects that would become part of the projects’ pedagogy. I’ve always loved working with textiles, and with help from my assistant on the project, Monika, I found an Aladdin’s cave of colours and textures just a short train ride away in Gdansk.

An added bonus were Monika’s passion for design and seamstress skills! Our combined enthusiasm and love for experimental design was the perfect match, we understood what the other meant when describing unconventional ideas and we both developed an acute awareness of the sensory benefits of the objects we made during the project. We developed a range of designs including items that were wearable and helped you view the word in different way. Our aim was to create elements that provided a sense of security and safety for the children, safe spaces for their bodies.

For a number of years I’ve been making sculptural ‘lines’ from fabric, stuffing and wire. These tactile and malleable structures were initially part of an interactive artwork for Tate Liverpool’s Wolfson Gallery, 2014 as part of the Palle Nielsen exhibition; The Model, which documented how kids ruled the Moderna Museet in Stockholm for three weeks in October 1968 through transcripts, photographs and film. My interactive space was positioned alongside the exhibition as a homage to his ideals. Initially, these lines were used by the participant to twist, connect, loop and coil to create ‘sculptural doodles’, but they became extensions of peoples arms, legs and heads. By attaching the linear forms to body parts, the participants became further connected to the work and the activity. I wondered if the children in the Space in the process project would emulate these developments of engagement and if the children feel positive benefits by engaging with the objects.

During Space in the process, I added scents to the sculptures using lavender and various spices. I found lavender was the most welcomed smell, it provided a sense of calmness to the children who enjoyed it, some children with autism have a hyper sensitivity to smells and find them overbearing, that’s why its recommended not to wear perfumes around children with autism. I also incorporated different textures into the sculptural forms using dried beans of different shapes and sizes and sand. Sculptures containing lentils were explored by mouths, one boy in particular loved the sensation of biting into them and surprisingly, my sewing skills meant that the sculptures stayed in tact! The shape of the lines also changed; they became more limb-like, children loved wrapping them around their stomachs and arms, they were comforted by them, each one like a big ‘hug’. It’s so interesting to observe a child with autism exploring an object with their hands, feet, mouths, stomach or ears. ‘Reading’ an object in such a way must create different sensations for the child. Experimenting with different fabrics was also successful; stretchy lycra, chunky scuba and super silky velvets gave the sculptures a heightened sensory element, I also attached strips of fabric to the ‘lines’, so they could be used to conceal and bind parts of the body.

These sculptural linear forms, worked on a number of levels, they were used to create imaginary creatures, they were woven into the fencing and twisted with other strips of fabrics and paper. Some children enjoyed the sensations they created by wrapping them tightly around stomachs, coiling them around legs, arms and heads. They transformed people into different characters and were explored with different parts of the body. They gave comfort, heightened senses and altered spaces. I intend to continue developing this idea by creating new shapes and forms and exploring their sensory qualities further, my linear journey continues…