Tell us a bit about you and your artistic practice.
Most of my early memories include doing something creative. This includes drawing, building things, and creating imaginative spaces. I’ve been doing it since I was a young ‘un. I always loved anything creative and it led me on a journey through creative education. After completing my A Levels, I attended CCAD (now The Northern School of Art) before moving to Leeds Arts University to study Visual Communication.
University nourished my creativity and inspired me to pursue so many creative activities. I LOVE mark-making, including drawing, painting and printmaking. But on a wider scale, I also enjoy book-binding, sculpture, installation and photography. I love it all, and it all inspires me in my own personal practice.
After university, I moved back to Stockton-on-Tees in Teesside. I knew I wanted to work with people and be creative, and that’s where I took part in various regional projects such as Navigator North’s NICE Programme for early-stage artists and MIMA’s Emerging Curators. These projects cemented my love of creativity and helped me find a path as an Artist and Participatory Artist.
In participatory/community arts, I have worked with a lot of amazing people through collaborative community arts projects. I love how no two days or groups are the same. One day I might be leading a book-binding workshop for a men’s mental health support group and the next I might be in a school working with children and staff to make an outdoor chalk installation. It truly amazes me how varied and amazing my role as an artist can be. I love it!
On the flip side of this, I have worked in the education sector supporting and mentoring students from Primary to University level education. Helping students of varying abilities to reach their full potential. Primarily I’ve worked with neuro-divergent individuals to support them through their academic journey. It can be tiring and difficult work, but there is always creativity and playfulness along the way!
Working with Blue Cabin is like an amalgamation of these roles. I’m supporting creativity through my project facilitation, but also providing an empathetic and supportive hand to those who need support through this mini-journey. I’m living the dream!
Can you share a recent experience of using your skills with care-experienced children and young people?
I’ve always been interested in how creativity and creative activities not only allow for personal expression but also bring people together. I love the sense of awe we get from amazing experiences like street theatre, exhibitions or live music gigs. It fills me with the sense that creativity is meaningful and brings everyone together for special, magical moments of wonder. It happens through making things, observing them, and most importantly through engagement.
I could list a thousand examples of how I’ve witnessed creativity improve the lives of the young people who engage in the activities but I’ll restrain myself to just a few:
Blue Cabin’s Creative Consultation Day
I co-facilitated Blue Cabin’s Creative Consultation Day in collaboration with Artsmark and Darlington Virtual School. We worked with the young people to answer questions about creativity, collaboration and arts venues.
Although the concept was massive, even we artists found it difficult to answer some big questions, but we turned them into creative activities with creative responses – creating and filming a paper town as we did.
At the beginning of the day, we had to guide the young people into giving answers and explain things in a way they could understand. However, after A LOT of creativity, friendship-forming, music and play, the young people had so many answers to the questions, we couldn’t write them down fast enough!
As a result of the focused creative activity, the young people guided us in understanding their thoughts and feelings about creativity and the importance of art in their lives. It was a moment I’ll never forget. You could sense the moment that ‘the penny dropped’ and everyone understood it and just collaborated. It just shows the power of creativity to turn something complex into something wonderful!
A few smaller but just as powerful moments:
After witnessing one young man being shy, quiet and reserved at the beginning of the Creative Life Story Work sessions, I didn’t know how much he was able to engage with the activities or the group in the following sessions. Nevertheless, after engaging in the activities for a few weeks, he took his ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ home to work on. By week four this young man was helping other people catch up on the sessions. In addition, he was to share the things he had done in the week between sessions. Just brilliant!
During one block of Creative Life Story Work, I had one young person who didn’t appear to be engaging much in the sessions. It was not easy to tell how they felt about the creative activities. However, after some discussion with the young person’s carer and social worker, it became clear that this young person found it difficult to engage in these types of sessions.
Simply showing up was a HUGE accomplishment for them. The young person attended every session and bonded more with their trusted adult. In the final session, they chose a playlist of music and we all had a little boogie around to the music whilst doing our final activity. Simply showing up and being seen. That was HUGE for this young person and such a pleasure to know that the creative activities helped them to engage. It also changed the way I work forever. I now know that not everything is about having a big final outcome or a profound realisation. It’s about providing a safe space to just be present and have an experience. I love this work!
My parents are foster carers, meaning there have been care-experienced young people in my family whom I have seen grow and flourish through creative activities. It also means that this work with Blue Cabin is very, very close to my heart and I LOVE working with and supporting the young people to do this!
What are you looking forward to the most in your role as a Blue Cabin Associate Artist?
I’ve been working as an unofficial Associate Artist for a little while now, and I’ve loved every minute of it. As well as Creative Life Story Work, I’ve been involved in collaborating with different producers in Blue Cabin. I’ve worked on The Photography Project, Cool Things and an Artsmark Creative Consultation.
Every group and every project is unique and working with young people brings me just as much enjoyment as I hope it does to them. To see the young people open up through just a day of activity, or grow further through the weekly sessions that Creative Life Story Work offers, is truly an amazing inspiration to me and I cannot thank everyone enough!
It’s been such a pleasure to work on all of these projects and the more I work with the team, the more I love it. Everybody works so hard, but we all love what we are doing and are passionate about creativity and collaboration. I hope for much more in the future. It’s an absolute pleasure and I feel so grateful to everyone at Blue Cabin for being so warm, welcoming and just brilliant! I’m so excited to see where we go next!!
Tell us a bit more about what you like to do outside of your artistic work.
I love exploring the outdoors and travelling! You’ll generally find me pottering around looking for ferns – I especially love the small ones you find growing on the walls of old buildings!
I love to visit new places, and I’m generally walking around with a mini sketchbook in my pocket – or my hand! I always have one (or too many) books that I’m reading and I love heading to outdoor events and generally spending time with my friends and family.
These days, you’ll generally find me covered in paint, mud or saw-dust from working on my house and garden. I’m also slowly filling my house and garden with ferny friends! New members of my small plant family include ‘Fernie Sanders’ and ‘Fernando’. Some of my friends say I need to get a life, but I say I need to get a refill for my label maker to make some more name tags. 😉
You can find out more about Paul and his work on his website, here. Find out who else is in Blue Cabin’s team of Associate Artists here.