March update: Messy Play With The Princes Trust!
I’ve not really explored Birmingham much in the past. I’ve had trains that stopped at Birmingham station, I’ve grown very familiar with the inside of the train station bathrooms, but I’ve not really ventured outside into the city very much at all.
On Tuesday the 29th of March I got to experience a little more of the city! The Princes Trust invited me to their Birmingham location to run a fun little art session with some of their centre employees, and of course as an artist that loves to get people creating I had to say yes.
I first got an email from a friend at the Princes Trust asking if I was interested and then was put in contact with Ben Roman, a lovely bloke that helped me set up this session. Ben honestly was incredible, he helped me get out of a state of mind where I was considering underselling my services, helped with my costs and my equipment needs, and was super supportive throughout the entire planning process of my idea.
I was definitely in good hands and felt very comfortable when the day finally rolled around. Ben even had a little team of wonderful staff members from the trust helping me set up while everyone was out of the room on a coffee break.
So, what did we do?
Well I initially had to think about how to get everyone involved and creative in under an hour. For a lot of people that don’t think they have a crafty bone in their body this can be pretty daunting, so I wanted to throw a curve ball at the team and then immediately make them forget about the art itself for a little bit. Art is something that you do for relaxation and for fun, and I wanted to make sure all the participants were relaxed and enjoying themselves during the event.
So when everyone had sat down and had their cakes, coffees and teas in hand, I introduced myself.
‘Hi! My name is Em and today we’re going to make some art! Now, get your paint, cover one of your hands, and high five the paper!’
That was pretty much the introduction I gave them. I got a lot of confused faces at first but eventually everyone was involved, slapping black paint on their hands and making individually beautiful hand prints on watercolour paper. While they did this I walked around the room and encouraged those that were a bit tentative, praising those that weren’t so sure about engaging in messy play and laughing with the people that were already covered in paint 2 minutes in.
So once everyone was printed and cleaning up, I moved onto the distraction and art warm up. We’ve all heard of pictionary before, the game where you have a certain amount of time to draw something based on a prompt for someone else to guess what it is. Well I made a sort of modified version of this game. I called up four unwilling volunteers and handed them each a different colour sharpie. They were given a prompt, and had 10 seconds to draw it on a large sheet of paper for the other people in the room to guess. If the team drew something well enough, the rest of the room were able to guess what it was!
We had a lot of laughs and fun with prompts such as Bee hive, wizards lair, and coral reef. It seemed to get everyone to relax and put a smile on their faces, which was exactly what I wanted. We played this game for a few rounds, each round with a new set of volunteers, and I made sure to include as many people as possible. From the feedback forms at the end of the day I think everyone enjoyed it!
So now everyone’s creative muscle was flexed I began to explain the art project. The hand prints were going to become maps for their own fantasy doodles. I wanted everyone to create something from the print, turn it into something unique and fun. I provided artist grade pens in black and white, and let them loose with the freedom to create whatever they wanted.
Now for some people this was difficult, creating art from nothing or seemingly nothing can be quite daunting, but I had prepared for this. I produced a jar that I so aptly titled ‘The no excuses jar’.
This was pretty much just a jar filled with folded pieces of paper that I had printed off ideas onto. Some of these ideas we used during pictionary, so I think some of the guys in the room got used to the idea process during the game. If someone was nervous about ruining their piece, or didn’t know what they wanted to draw, I came around with the jar and provided them with ideas. Some people took a handful of ideas and chose their favourite, some took one prompt and went with what they had. I loved the process everyone went through to decide what they wanted to draw, as art has no limits!
We played some lofi Studio Ghibli piano music while we made some artwork. I was so grateful to have Jo and Ben, two fantastic supports for the entire day for me, taking short videos and pictures while we were creating. Those are the pictures you see in this blog post now!
The atmosphere was really chilled out, and I got a lot of compliments on how relaxing and mindful the art session was.
‘Really relaxing, really well structured and led. Good pace and positive affirmations, good to have music, upbeat and nice.’ -Cat
‘Brilliant - really relaxing. Not intimidating for people who aren't ‘arty’!’ - Jo
‘I loved being able to create in such a unique way!’ -Jess
As people were creating I walked around the room and had little 2 minute one on one sessions with some people. I wanted to help them see what I could see in their art, provide more ideas and encourage detail work. I found this really helped a lot of people who were a little stuck creatively, and got a lot of positive feedback on how they progressed. I love giving positive feedback too and encouraging other artists. Everyone makes art differently, and all of that art is valid.
So while the session rounded up I got everyone to put their pens down and walk around the room. We signed our pieces so others knew who did what, and had a little 5 minute gallery exhibition. There were so many positive comments, people had some really unique ideas and created them amazingly. There was a lot of chatter, communication with people they didn’t work with regularly, and I’d like to think the session forged new friendships.
‘Loved it!! Well structured, engaging, clear instructions, found it really relaxing and enjoyable. Good at giving support and ideas.’ -Liz
‘Amazing! It was really nice to have the opportunity to be creative and mindful whilst being part of a facilitated session.’ -Misbah
‘Really interactive, fun way to end a day. A unique way to focus on my own well-being and get lost in creativity.’ -Lici
All in all? What an amazing day. Even the trains being canceled couldn’t wipe the grin off my face when I got home, so excited to tell my friends and family all about it.
Thank you so much to Ben for even considering me for this amazing opportunity. I’m now going to open this service up to all sorts of businesses and corporate events as an art package! Keep your eyes on this blog for more information. And of course a huge thank you to everyone that participated, I couldn’t have had a more receptive audience and a better group of people to run a test session with. So from the bottom of my paint covered heart; Thank You!
And once again, friends.