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Blue Cabin have launched a new and unique set of greetings cards in collaboration with artist Michelle Wood of Sea Tern Print CIC.
The cards were designed with care-experienced people in mind. Importantly, they came out of working alongside the children and young people through Blue Cabin’s innovative Creative Life Story Work programme.
The aim is to sell the cards on a not-for-profit basis. This will help Blue Cabin raise funds for their Associate Artists to work on similar projects which support the creation of items that are inspired by and designed for care-experienced people.
Here, Michelle Wood gives an insight into the meaning behind the cards.
The art in creative life story work
Colour and shape are key elements in the visual language used by artists and in everyday life. They can represent ideas and feelings and are a fantastic means of communication without words; helpful for children of all ages and people of all backgrounds. Recognisable shapes, like a house and a rainbow, are visually captivating and potentially full of meaning.
The house shape is an iconic, recognisable symbol. Artists like Donald Rodney and Peter Kinley used the house symbol in their art to convey something powerful. They are “loaded images that burrow into the memory”; where Rodney’s tiny, hand-held sculpture of a house, “addresses ideas of identity, family, home”.
Where I am
In my Creative Life Story Work sessions with care-experienced children and young people, we use the house shape to think and talk about the place where they live now; their ‘here’. The aim is to enable them to explore “Where I Am” as part of their understanding of “Why I am where I am.”
These are huge questions, which Blue Cabin’s Associate Artists are aware of. So, it’s important to say that all of our art activities have been carefully designed, developed and tested through our training in social pedagogy and in Life Story Work with Professor Richard Rose of Therapeutic Life Story Work International and with our discussions with the social care team from South Tyneside Council. Our work with children and young people is done with care and respect, and they are supported throughout by their key adults and social workers.
Life mapping and reference points
In the particular session about ‘Where I am’, we use the house icon as part of ‘life mapping’ where children plot a map of where they were born and where they’ve lived, leading to their current home.
It steers us to the question ‘What makes a house a home?’. It isn’t just somewhere to sleep or store your belongings, but somewhere that gives you a sense of belonging, of being cared for, of warmth, love, care, kindness, trust, security, respect, family. As Lemn Sissay OBE, Poet, Writer, Broadcaster, Speaker so beautifully relays:
“That’s what family does, it gives you reference points”.
The house as home
For some of the young teenagers I worked with, their current residence was so clearly a home where they were loved, supported, and cared for within a family. As an artist, supporting them through Creative Life Story Work, we only have a glimpse of their ‘Where I am’ and we hope that for each child or young person their ‘here’ does feel like home. The sense that, for them, the place where they’ve ended up is a shared home is powerful to observe. And it can offer them stable foundations for their future.
Kirsty Capes author of ‘Careless’ who spent her childhood in care from the age of two onwards says:
“For those who live their young lives precariously …. access to things like a consistent education, a stable learning environment at home,” gave her
“first, a stable learning environment where I was not moved between schools and didn’t have my education disrupted; and secondly, foster carers who supported and nurtured my aspirations, filling me with the confidence and self-worth to believe that if I wanted to achieve it, there was no reason why I couldn’t.”
You bring me rainbows
Another theme in ‘All About Me’ helps children and young people to explore and communicate their emotions. As part of our sessions we printed and coloured weather symbols using hand-cut rubber stamps and colourful inks to make a ‘Weather Report’ of their feelings. One of the favourite shapes we use is a rainbow.
As Gaia Vince mentions:
“Rainbows are frequently represented in Western art and culture, as a sign of hope and promise of better times to come.”
For most children and young people exploring their feelings in this way, the rainbow signified feeling happy, hopeful and positive.
From ideas to designs
So, the designs I’ve made for the Blue Cabin cards have emerged from an immersive and wonderful process; of developing enjoyable and engaging art activities for Creative Life Story Work, which began back in 2018. It has been a true collaboration with Blue Cabin and South Tyneside Council’s care team and, crucially, the ideas have been shaped by working alongside care-experienced children and young people. These were inspired by those children and hopefully will be enjoyed by anyone with care-experience.
See how the new range of cards uses houses and rainbows within their design.
 ‘At home in the house’ 2012 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhgrbQmYO_Y