These photos are from a post I wrote back in 2013 and was posted on my then old ‘Blogger’ site ‘Diary of an Obsessive Creative’. It’s from a very exciting project I was involved in with Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens and was funded by the Arts Council. During 2013, Sunderland Museum hosted the fantastic exhibition by Grayson Perry called ‘The Vanity of Small Differences’. The exhibition was the result of a Channel 4 series in which Grayson meet people from different ‘classes’ and looked at what people felt was important to them, their friends and the way they lived their lives.
I worked with three different community groups to create their own hangings in response to Grayson’s work. Each hanging is over 2 metres by 1 metre. Over ten weeks, each group created beautiful and powerful hangings. During this time, many learnt new skills and gained confidence in what they could achieve. It was a wonderful experience for myself, Jennie and Morgan (from Sunderland Museum) as well and it was just great fun!!
This first hanging is by a group of women who had moved to Sunderland recently, from a number of different countries. Each brought to the project imagery from places of worship, cityscapes, their culture and a love of the city which had now become their home: Sunderland. In this hanging, if you know Sunderland, you would recognise the Wearmouth Bridge, the shipyard cranes, the Winter Gardens, the Stadium of Light but the skyline behind is reminiscent of Hong Kong and some of the places of worship represent other towns and cities.
The second hanging was made by a group of young women from Sunderland. I was extremely impressed with how they all became so involved in the project and were very supportive when they were all learning new skills such as beading, embroidery and fabric painting. They all really enjoyed the process of making the portraits and we had such a great time fabric painting then beading/embroidering the biscuits and cakes for the tea party! The theme came from the idea of the ‘Mad hatters tea party’ in Alice in Wonderland and Lewis Carroll actually spent sometime in Sunderland, which just gave more credence to a great idea!
The last hanging is by a group of young people who really enjoyed photography as a way of expressing themselves and who they are. The hanging is fabric painted and we drew out images they had photographed, turning their picture into a large set of negatives in the positive. This is such a great bold piece and it really stood out as you came up the stairs of the museum before you went into the gallery where the Grayson Perry tapestries were hanging.
The hangings were made using fabric paint, batik, embroidery, photographic transfer techniques and applique. All of the people involved in the projects learnt new skills ‘on the job’ and, as you can see, became very proficient at it!
During this exhibition, I also ran a week of school workshops, a teacher training day and master-classes, exploring the ideas of branding, ‘Tribes’ and identity which Grayson Perry reflects upon in his tapestries.