The Bentley Library Chair has finally been unveiled at Bentley Library in Doncaster. A busy afternoon launch saw over 70 people attend to check out their textile artwork that had been lovingly and carefully (trust me!) upholstered onto a Parker Knoll Wingback Sofa.
This project has been one of my all-time favourites since I’ve been a freelancer – lovely people that I’ve become friends with, a meaningful process and a successful outcome. I think one of the reasons it was so successful was that I spent a lot of time getting to know the groups I was working with, doing research, working out what they wanted to do and also learning from them. If I’d had my way, we would be looking at images of a mosaic chair right now but the groups were very definite in their wish to create something textile-based – so we went with a patchwork sofa that eventually was made up of over 100 people’s artwork.
The artwork includes fabric painting, block printing, applique, knitting, crochet, patchwork, quilting, embroidery, woodwork, photography, digital printing, encaustic art, free-motion embroidery and machine embroidery – there’s probably more…
Everything was then sewn together and I upholstered the finished work onto the sofa, having stripped it first – I had to remove over 1500 staples to get back to the wooden frame! Now finished, it is going to live at Bentley Library as a story chair – though I secretly want it in my living room. Bentley Library – you know where to look if it ever goes missing!
The project was part of the Right Up Our Street research programme in Doncaster, which has just received another three years funding – well done everyone!
I’m currently working with three brilliant groups in Bentley, Doncaster on the Library Chair Project for the Arts Council England funded Right Up Our Street. The groups all have a vast wealth of knowledge and skills when it comes to art, craft and other creative stuff – we’ve got a sewing machinist trainer, artists, creative and play facilitators, fabric painters, dressmakers, knitters, crocheters and lots of crafters with years of experience!
We’re just getting started on actual creative sessions and have concentrated on fabric painting so far, painting onto wet fabric then adding detail with fabric pens and opaque fabric paint once dry. The patches are looking good and I’m getting excited about putting them all together.
Lots of the groups are also starting to come up with individual ideas for what to include on the chair – local and family poetry, some handmade wooden buttons, tie-dye sections, crocheted flowers, patchwork quilting, kids’ self portraits, local school badges and emblems, cross-stitch work and lots more – brilliant! We’ve even had a hand-knitted square promised from a lovely lady called Dawn who’s blind. I met her and her wonderful guide dog Zeke at Bentley Library last week.
Over the next few sessions we’re going to concentrate on some block printing and maybe some stencilling. I’m also doing a drop-in session at Spiltmilk Dance’s VE Day Celebration on 9th May – I’m hoping to get lots of tales and stories from everyone that attends.
I’ve been commissioned by Right Up Our Street to create a story chair for the community library at Bentley in Doncaster. I will be working with three local groups to create artwork for the chair using lots of different textiles and fabric techniques, which will eventually be upholstered into a finished chair. We’ll be using Bentley as the theme, so they’ll be lots of stories and history about the area, alongside notable events and people used as imagery and wording. I’m also hoping for a few Bentley jokes, poems and some creative writing to include!
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been meeting some lovely people and groups from the area, all of whom seem up for the challenge – we’ve already got loads of ideas and suggestions for what we might include on the chair, alongside some practical thoughts about the making and upkeep of a public seat. The next job will be to decide exactly what to put on the chair and also have a go at some different textile / fabric techniques. The groups I’m working with have loads of different skills from crocheting, quilting and knitting through to printmaking and painting so I’m going to try and organise some skill-sharing sessions amongst the groups too.
I’m not the only one to be working in Bentley. Spiltmilk Dance are also working with local groups towards a celebration event for the 70th anniversary of VE Day. Their event is on 9th May at the Bentley Pavilion and will feature lots of dancing, cake (yesssss!) and victory rolls.