Preparing for Christmas Week!

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Christmas banner made during the session, to be displayed in the common room

Today was another opportunity for me to test my facilitation skills. I decided to continue the Christmas theme from last week, but instead of participants creating solo work I wanted to try a larger collaborative piece. The starting point was a single unfitted bed sheet that I taped to the table. I invited the group to use whatever materials they wanted to create images, text, patterns or anything else.

It took a while for the group to get into the activity, and I feel this may be due to the loose structures I tend to use. Previous sculpture classes had more specific activities using specific materials, and people had found this easier to click into. Using a more prescriptive method like this can also be very effective in stretching people’s creative skills, as they may have to move away from their preferred style and method. However, I think there is also value in a looser structure such as the one I used today. It allows people to follow what they want to do on that particular day, and is a chance to use the skills developed in previous sessions. One method of easing people in to having so much choice was to start of with an outlined image for them to colour in. Once they’d started with that, they were often very happy to continue by themselves. In future I want to combine more prescriptive and looser styles of activity for optimal learning.

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A collaborative piece between myself and Claire

After a little coaxing the group began to engage in the activity, and it didn’t take very long for the participants to appear very enthusiastic. One participant’s engagement with the session was very interesting, as at first he did not want to be involved at all. He resisted coming into the room, and reacted to being offered a paintbrush by physically moving himself away from the table and the rest of the group.  It didn’t look like there was going to be much chance of getting him enthused about the work. However, things began to improve as various support workers went to talk to him and showed him the work everyone else was doing. He started to show some more interest, and came back to the table although didn’t join in.  I came over tried suggesting other ways of working with paint than using a paintbrush. This seemed to go down well; at first we squeezed paint straight onto the sheet and then used our hands to feel the paint and move it around. This went down very well, and suddenly everyone had their hands in the paint. Below is the on of the images created using the hands with paint. This slowly descended into people painting on their faces which, to my surprise, the support workers were fine with. That was a great example of how Sense are very open to the arts! There was a camera in the room, and the participants started to take pictures of each other. I enjoyed the way photography and visual art had begun to merge again, as it did last week.

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A work using finger-painting

At the end of the session we wrote the name of the participants next to their drawings or images. I noticed that many of the support workers were reluctant to write their own names on the work, despite them often having a large input into the final product.  I think there can be a strangeness when you are facilitating a group of people, half of whom are service users and the other half are support workers.  Because one group are there to support the others, and it could be said that all the activities at sense are ‘for’ the service users, there is a fear of admitting if the work was a joint effort. This wasn’t always the case; there are some support workers who are very open to their own creativity and often suggest ideas of how an activity could be altered or developed, which is very welcome as far as I’m concerned.

The Christmas work that had been left to dry from last week had all been collected, which was great to see. People obviously wanted to keep it and possible share it with others. Yay!! I’m always looking for evidence that the work is valuable to people, and not just something they’ve been forced to do. This is massively important hen I facilitate a session; why should I tell people what is good for them to be doing? However I am confident that so far the work created in my sessions has gone down well.

Today and once again made me question different collaborative relationships and methods of working, as well as the nature of facilitation. These ideas still feel rather etherial in my mind, but hopefully they will start to solidify over my final week at sense.

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