Thursday, August 29

Tea Party Pleasantries:

When all the quilts came to completion, after being quilted by Penny, and the tops sewn by the girls, the only thing left to do was to go back into the Residential care homes and show the residents what all of their hard work had accumulated into. This came in the form of 3 marvelous tea parties- one held at each home. The girls, with Penny and/or Alice (the Arts and Older People Project coordinator at the Courtyard) went back into the homes to share and rejoice in everyone’s hard work.

Whitchurch's wonderful quilt

The tea parties were a great success! Everyone looks so pleased, their faces beaming, with the final outcomes- a range of beautiful quilts created in an amazing community arts project. Alice mentioned that the tea parties would be a really “special event at each residential home, where friends and family will be invited, to share and celebrate this inspiring project and view all the great quilts that have been created.” And she was certainly right!
Reflecting on her experience, Nicki (pictured) eloquently described her time working in the Red Suitcase Project:
Making friendships and working along side the residents was a precious experience; they had so much to teach and tell, I learnt so much!! Going in as neither a position of authority or an emotionally attached family member provided them with a new kind of relationship and I feel like this dynamic really boosted the ethos. It was great to be able to allow them the time to just talk and enjoy their company. I would like to think that the project added something to the quality of not only their day, but gave them something new to think and do the rest of the week. Now that the quilts have been made, they were thrilled to see how they turned out. It was special to see them reminiscing over the time they spent with us. 
They gave me so much- I've made memories I will definitely treasure and have learnt things to take onto new projects and in my personal life. I am very thankful for this opportunity and would love to do it again!’ Nicki Mead 1st Year Contemporary Applied Arts Student who visited West Eaton House

Nicki and a happy resident.

Nicki wasn’t the only one thankful for the experience given to her through the project, from the residents and staff at the residential homes. The ladies from Whitchurch house told me how they took a bunch of flowers to the home to thank everyone for their time within the project. I think it just goes to show how much the project enriched and rewarded everybody who was involved.

And to finish, I think a few words from Penny (innovator of the project) would be pretty apt to help us all remember how such a great thing came around:

The Red Suitcase Project was an idea which took hold last summer. Hereford is lucky to be home to both a great arts centre and one of the only independent art colleges in the country, I wanted to find a way for HCA to work with The Courtyard on a visual arts project. My own arts practice is quilting, a craft which I feel is all about creating a memory captured in cloth, a personal history that you can literally wrap yourself in. Quilting has a very strong community history where group of women would come together to work on a piece, while they worked they would share stories. The idea of working with a group of students and older people on a quilt brought these themes of memory and community together perfectly. The interest in the project was so great that we were able to set up not one but three residential homes to work with."

Penny and Kirsten show off the lovely quilt.

Saturday, August 17

Praise be to Penny!

When the work at the Residential care homes came to an end, a meeting occurred between Penny Allen and us girls to discuss all of the progress and how the project would be moving forward until the exhibition later this year.  There was lots of talk of experiences, the joy the project bought the girls and how much everyone found the project so rewarding.

Penny then surprised us all with a handmade gift: little red suitcase badges. I think each one of us was so happy with the crafty gifts! It felt a bit strange though to be on the receiving end of the present, when we felt like really the thanks should be going to Penny herself. She was the person who innovated the project, organised it with the Courtyard and Alice Saunders, The Arts and Older people Project coordinator , and arranged for the students at Hereford College of Arts to participate.

So this post is a massive THANKYOU(!!!) to Penny for providing this great experience, from all of us girls! 

Tuesday, August 6

Once the visits to the residential care homes came to a close, it fell upon the shoulders of all of the girls to stitch away all of the beautiful bits that had come out of the homes.

Each home created its own quilt, with the work of the residents being stitched together. Above, you can see Sanya and Clara working away on the quilt for Ross Court home, where Sanya visited. As you can see, the girls are quite clearly enjoying the experience. I think we’ve all become pretty keen Quilt fanatics now!

Monday, July 29

Wonderful Whitchurch:

As I mentioned in the previous post, Whitchurch Residential care home was such a brilliant home to visit, as were the other two. The atmosphere there was amazing, with residents cheerfully singing, and nattering away with us!
Whilst we were there working away with the residents, Alice (The Arts and Older people Project Co-ordinator at the Courtyard) was busy snapping away, capturing those lovely moments shared between students and residents. 

She also managed to get these statements from the residents reflecting on their experience of the Red Suitcase Project.

 “The company of the students is very pleasant and it should be a very useful project at the end of the day” Phil (pictured below)
“I’ve really enjoyed the sessions and seeing new people, everybody is very happy taking part’ Audrey 

It’s fantastic to hear such a positive response from the residents, and to know that the girls really made a positive difference on the people they worked with. The project co-ordinator at Whitchurch shared her experience with Alice too, and I think sums up the sessions perfectly.

 “The interaction between the residents and the students has been brilliant. Although some of the residents haven’t been able to take part physically, they have still been involved in the process – choosing colours, fabrics and sharing their stories.” Shirley Activities Coordinator at Whitchurch House