Saara Sillanpää and her family where artists in resident at Islington Mill between 23rd October – 4th November that was hosted by We Are Resident. I was really excited to pick them up from the airport as we had been planning this for months so to actually get this residency started felt good. The B&B has a really warm and cosy feeling which has a welcoming atmosphere as soon as you walk through the door. Saara’s youngest son is the same age as Cassius and with my experience of travelling with him I brought a few extras for the children such as toys, books, nappies, baby wipes etc. My husband made soup for the family so they didn’t have to cook, which meant they could eat, unpack and settle in quickly as it was quite late, 6pm when they arrived. I introduced Saara to the studio space which was the gallery, and the first activity session the following day was for the children to work with artist Trae England-Shortt, Shed Play. The concept behind the sheds was that the children had their own spaces to work in with dad Laurent that would allow mum, Saara to work. Planning is all well and good on paper however the reality of actually doing a residency with the family creates a different dynamic and demands on your time as an artist mother. Saara talks about the struggle to balance making work and being with her family on her blog http://familygoesart.blogspot.co.uk .
As the facilitator of this project as the week went on I too struggled with trying to keep everything going with a death in the family and my son being unwell the night before the We Are Resident event. There was a point on Saturday night when my son was really poorly I briefly considered cancelling the event, as I didn’t think I would have the energy to get through it all.
Although with supportive friends and family I got it together to make the event happen which I feel was a success. At times the event felt like a live art happening with children running about and playing with the artwork but felt really important that both artist parent and child could be themselves in the gallery space. I was really happy that the invited artists came to share there work which made the event very special and I have to say a big thank you to Jessica Longmore, Alice Bradshaw, Andrew Brooks, Hannah Connor, Julian Hughes, Tabitha Moses.
Saara Sillanpää made beautiful sandwiches with her family for people to eat and Helen Sargeant performed a reading from her blog she certainly was a mother magnet. I really had no idea if Cassius would perform alongside me and my husband for #work but with a little encouragement from my brother it all went to chaotic plan.
As part of developing links between We Are Resident, Islington Mill, and St Philips C of E Primary School we had been developing an art project with the nursery class. Through spending time at Islington Mill I was inspired by their Pot Luck dinners and Helen Sargeants work making bread. The title of the school project was Breaking Bread and the aim of the event was to bring together children and their families in a meaningful way to share bread from each other’s cultures in a fun, creative and social way. A celebration event at Islington Mill gave the children the opportunity to create their own event by making a large-scale painted tablecloth, bread gift bags, and bunting. Helen Abbott the art teacher I had been working with on this project introduced a book to read at the gallery titled the dot, which is a story about how anyone can be an artist just by starting with a small dot. This story reflected how the children had started by making small which led to a large-scale event. Everyone brought there own breads including the Finnish family and the nursery class made there own bread with the parents bringing there own contributions. At the end of all the tasting everyone voted for their favourite bread.