Creative Connections


Photo: An example of a picture made by printmaking. Hopefully, by next year, I’ll be this good too šŸ™‚

So, I realised I haven’t told you anything about my creative arts course yet, as I got side-tracked by many other things, like Dublin, and the Decemberists and singing Irish men in Aran sweaters. The other thing was, that after the first meeting I had a little bit of a freak-out, because it wasn’t exactly what I thought it was going to be like (that’s what happens when you miss the information evening because you’re driving around the streets of Blackpool), and I wasn’t certain that I wanted to do it. But, I am certain now and I’m really, really, really grateful that I’ve been accepted into the course.
So, first of all, it is a fully-accredited course. Attendance, assessment, the whole bit, though, being artists, they’re loathe to be too harsh with us all in regards to those things. Thank goodness. When I ‘graduate’ next May, I will have a certificate in creative facilitation, meaning I’ll be qualified to run arts courses in community centres, schools, social welfare groups, hospitals – wherever the people need art, I will be there with my paintbrushes and paper. The Irish qualifications are ranked from 1 – 10 (10 being a PhD) and this course will give me a Level 5 (if I want, I can do a little bit more coursework and it will go up to a Level 8 – so, about a Master’s or Grad. Dip, I suppose?). And, I stress again, its FREE. Makes me wonder why I’m paying so much money in HECS fees to UNE to get my Masters in Teaching. I’m going to have qualifications up the wazoo by the time I finish these courses. And, yet, I still have no desire to ‘get a real job’.
You may have also realised by now that the course is based around the creative arts, as in, NOT the performing arts. When I realised that on the first evening, as well as that it was an actual course, aimed at getting us qualified (rather than just us being in a room and dancing to music whilst covered in streamers and paint or whatever) I started to panic, thinking, I didn’t want to be locked into a course like that, I wanted to be doing writing, and performing etc. etc. However, as soon as they got us up and making things on the first evening, I forgot all my concerns and had a ball. I felt 5 years old again. We had to make a piece of clothing that represented our expectations for the course (out of paper and cardboard etc.), so I made a bright pink, green and white dress with streamers for the skirt, so they would move in the wind and when twirled about. I was ridiculously proud of my dress, thinking everyone else must be jealous of my amazing, cardboard dress-making skills. I went home that night and couldn’t go to sleep. I stayed up decorating my folder, making postcards, writing – and I couldn’t wait for the next session.
The second session we learnt about printmaking, so we’ve been etching designs on to bits of plastic, which we then put through a press to print our drawings. I did two, one based on a Decemberists photo (I know, I know, I’m obsessed) and the other from a 1980’s United Colors of Benetton magazine. Again, I was overwhelmingly proud of my of my prints, I kept sneaking out the back to where the prints were drying and staring at them and when people came in, I pretended to be admiring all the other prints, when really I just wanted to keep staring at my own. I was so sad when they told us they thought we should leave them at the community centre, so they didn’t get lost. I wanted to set them up on my nightstand so I could stare at them as I was going to sleep.
We had another all-day session yesterday with an actor/writer from Dublin, named Priscilla, with whom we are creating a ‘pop-up cafe’ for the Cork Midsummer Arts Festival. This is our big project, and I’m so excited about it. If you haven’t heard of pop-up cafes, you should check them out, they are really fantastic. Basically, empty shopfronts are taken over by artists and volunteers for a set period of time, who overhaul the space and create a gallery/cafe/experience to make use of the otherwise dead space. Its been happening a lot over Ireland and the UK, because, of course, there are a lot of empty shopfronts due to the recession, and as I found when I was in Dublin, the result is a dull and depressing city. This is disappointing for tourists, but much more of a concern for residents. So, Priscilla has created a pop-up cafe before, where she tried to recreate her family’s Sunday evenings. She got all the old decor, got her Mum to come in and serve, or sit down at the table and tell stories, got all the old records, made her Dad’s old gingerbread recipe etc. etc. etc. She also had a fantastic charity/second-hand store called, ‘Help Me! Help Me!’ at the Dublin Fringe, where she got rid of a whole pile of her old stuff, but instead of having people buy it, they had to offer her things that would help her (example: ‘How to decide what projects to do and what projects not to do?’ The girl who helped her with this got a love-heart shaped badge). See website if interested:
http://helpmehelpme.com/
So, yesterday, we started talking about places that we liked to visit, and why we liked to visit them, as well as things that made us feel at home, in particular, sayings and phrases that made us think of home (I found this very hard – as I don’t think my Dad was much of a ‘sayings’ man, does anyone have any suggestions?) Half the group was then given a challenge – we were given 20 Euro and sent to a local charity shop and told to get some things that would help us make the space feel like home, as we were going to have a tea-party. The other half of the group stayed at the community hall and started to set up. This was so much fun! Well, no, it was complicated. I was in the first group, so I went to the charity shop, which is something I normally LOVE to do, but, of course, 20 Euro is not much, and we had 9 people, all of whom had very different tastes. In the end, I had to agree to buy a whole heap of things that I would not have wanted to buy myself (an oversized mug with ‘World’s Biggest Hangover’ on the side, for example, a shimmery, metallic green cartoon seemingly inspired by ‘The Wind in the Willows’, for another), in order to get some things that I liked (a white, crocheted pillow and a painted plate from Spain). But, when we got back to the hall, the group had done it up so beautifully! They had made cardboard hats for all of us, decorated with paper flowers, we had gingerbread, tea, sandwiches, coffee, coloured tablecloths, table games, as well as all of our prints, which we were going to look at and tell each other about over tea. We had bright, African music on the CD player, and everyone was in the doorway, welcoming us in. It was so much fun, and I’m very excited about the prospect of creating this experience for other people. What’s going to be interesting is how we resolve the differences of taste and opinion that we are inevitably going to come up against.
The women in the course are all fascinating too. Its a course only for women, by the way, don’t know if I mentioned that before. Anyway, half of the places are for women outside of Ireland/EU, so we have women from South Africa, the Ivory Coast, Romania, Iraq, Somalia as well as another woman from Australia (what are the odds) and the rest of the women are from Ireland. They all have very interesting stories. According to my employer, the community centre is in the very rough area of Cork (I’m to park the car nearby so I don’t have to go walking around the area on my own) – its called ‘Mayfield’, which amused me, because, of course, there’s a Mayfield in Newcastle, which is not the most salubrious of neighbourhoods either – one of the women was in foster care as a child, another made a print from a family photo, and told us it was ‘pretty much the only photo with all of us in it’, which blew my mind. I don’t know if that’s because the family was broken up, or they didn’t have a camera, or it just wasn’t a happy family, but to have only one family photo just doesn’t seem possible to me. Maybe it’s just because my Dad is so snap-happy.
The course is a god-send, though (listen to me with my religious talk… it must be all the prayers and thinking about what a bad person I am and lack of eating Nutella sandwiches), having some time to myself, to get out of the house, to hang out with people around my own age, to be working together on a project, to be learning new skills… all these things are so so so so so beneficial. Ironically, we’re spending all this time talking about home, and what makes us feel at home, but the place I’m feeling so at home at the moment is at the course! I don’t get to go this week because of the St. Patrick’s Day long weekend, and I don’t know how I’ll manage. I’m probably going to Castletownsend with ‘the family’, which should be good. Its supposed to be a lovely town, on the coast, blah, blah, blah. I would be more enthusiastic, except that the eldest girl just came and stole the dog from me (she has only started showing interest in the dog once she noticed how much I liked the dog and how much the dog liked me) and so now I am feeling pathetic and sorry for myself. I know I have no rights over the dog, that it is more her dog than mine, but I also know why she wants the dog, and I see how she treats her pets, and I just feel so hurt and homesick and sad. One of the things you miss the most when you don’t know people, or don’t have great friends around you (well, at least, one of the things I miss the most), is just hugs, and the ability to touch other people in an affectionate way. The dog is one of the few things I have that I can go to for a ‘hug’, or, at least, for some affection when I’m feeling low. The only other one is the youngest girl, and she’s more unpredictable, sometimes she’ll grab hold of your hand, and press it on to her cheek, and hold it there, squished between cheek and shoulder, which makes my heart catch, or, she’ll wrap her arms around your leg as if it were a tree trunk, but other times she’s too caught up with Peppa Pig to care (The eldest girl has her own version of showing ‘affection’. You don’t go to her for hugs. You go to her to be tickled and pinched and licked and hit and have her fingers stuck in your mouth – seriously, why would that be a pleasant thing for her???). Murray the dog gives affection unquestioningly and constantly, she comes to my room to find me and sit on my feet and she’ll sit there quietly and happily for hours. I have an insanely large empty feeling when Murray gets dragged off my feet and into the eldest girl’s room.
*Sigh* Listen to me. I sound ridiculous. Its just a dog. And my charge is just an 8 year old girl. I’m supposed to be the emotionally mature one.
But, its the little things, isn’t it, that keep you happy?


Photo: Murray the Dog. O my bleeding heart.
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