Flamingo joins the branch

We have a new member – a flamingo! He joined us on our trip to the Royal School of Needlework, having decided that he wants to live in Carol’s garden.  He may have revealed his name to Carol by now,  but if not then you could post suggestions here. Freddie or  Frederique were suggested.

Do you think he’s hungry? Perhaps he’d like a sandwich.

Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take photos in the exhibition (some of the exhibits have been loaned by the RSN apprentice or student who created them and other pieces from the collection are used by the RSN on cards etc and subject to copyright).

In our own work, some prefer traditional techniques and others prefer more modern techniques, but everyone can admire the incredible workmanship of the pieces that we saw. Exhibits included a wide range of techniques, such as blackwork, goldwork and whitework. Some were historical ones from the collection and some are more recent. We had a talk on the history of the RSN, before being guided round the exhibits. Some of us didn’t know that the EG was originally an ‘offshoot’ of the RSN. Gone are the days when to join the EG you had to submit a portfolio of work so the Guild could see if you were ‘up to scratch’ and would be allowed to join! Now the EG is so different; beginners are very welcome and everyone learns from everyone else.

How exactly do you explain that you are going home with a flamingo?


The flamingo is now spreading his wings in Carol’s garden – see photo at the end. His name is Frankie – apparently there is a link to East Preston and the 80’s. Frankie goes to Hollywood East Preston? No, I don’t have a clue either. Answers on a postcard…

Happy Art

If anyone was feeling under-confident about their creativity, then this month’s talk by Paula Watkins had the power to change that. Paula inspired us with the way she has shared her art in order to help people feel happier and more confident. Like many people, Paula was put off from following art as a career, being told that there would always be people better than her. The reason she shared this part of her story with us was to show how creativity can be fostered and nurtured at any stage of life, despite a lack of initial confidence or direction. Paula’s breakthrough moment was when she went to see a City and Guilds exhibition. Initially she was discouraged and thought she could never achieve anything like it, but she was encouraged by an elderly woman who had completed the course and who told her that if she wanted to do it then she could. This simple encouragement changed her life, and she signed up for City and Guilds and has never looked back. Her approach has been to ‘say yes to everything’ and then work out how to do it once the commitment was made. This led her into teaching art groups in various different community settings, and training as a teacher. Paula has worked in education for many years, and has particularly enjoyed working with people with learning disabilities and people with mental health issues. She is passionate about the way that community learning can transform peoples’ lives. There were several key moments that stay in the mind. One was going to the European Parliament with a group of young people, when a girl who was an elective mute was able to find the confidence to speak up about the importance of funding for creative projects. Another was hearing about the kind of emotional safety net that Paula’s art-groups have provided for people at a vulnerable time of their lives.

Paula de-mystifies art, making it accessible and fun. She uses spontaneous, non-intimidating techniques, with affordable materials. She helps people create work that can ‘evolve’so there is no intimidation over creating designs.

Paula brought with her a lovely collection of art-journals and altered-books, which she kindly agreed I could photograph and share here. She has found that making ‘play-books’ are a very non-intimidating way for children to learn to enjoy a book.  Art journals have been very positive for people experiencing mental health difficulties. Paula spoke about the way that making things and enjoying images can help well-being. Many members of the audience had examples of their own where art and stitch have helped at a time of crisis or depression.

Paula is clear that she is not an art-therapist and doesn’t try to ‘interpret’ people’s art. However, just hearing her talk about her work made people feel positive and happy, so it is easy to see why her art and stitch groups would help people to feel happy and relaxed.