Lockdown Isolation Blanket
On behalf of the ASCEND learners
ASCEND is an community charity, based in South Oxhey, Hertfordshire. During lockdown more than 40 learners who attend creative courses with ASCEND were invited to create a personal response to self-isolation. They did this through a mixed media of painting and stitching a square of cloth to create individual pieces of artwork that described how self-isolation made them feel. These were then stitched on an original vintage Witney blanket.
Tutor Sian Fenwick said, “Under lockdown regulations, I prepared kits, delivered and posted out instructions and participants were encouraged to add their own items to personalise the piece which could be pictorial or text. They were given 4 weeks to complete their work, one kit even travelled to Valencia and back! I supported and discussed progress through tutoring techniques on driveways and doorsteps. A social media group was set up so the participants could chat and support each other. I gathered all the beautiful pieces and stitched each one to the blanket, each with their own unique stitch to match each artwork. This was very emotional, as I had the opportunity to look at everyone’s work in detail. We had fantastic feedback. The participants said that they will never forget the time when they were in isolation lockdown but came together as a team to share their experiences. They did not feel on their own, they picked each other up and kept each other going, all experiencing highs and lows at different times. On our isolation journey we created these wonderful
unique and personal artworks. There is not a more fitting social comment documenting this unprecedented times than our Self-Isolation blanket.”
Tutor Ekky Archibong supported the Expressive Art and Jewellery groups where participants used mixed media and art materials to express their thoughts. The Jewellery group created beaded and wirework ‘bridges’ between pieces of work to represent new ways of communicating at this time. They also created their own visions of a “Corona virus” using the same materials. Many of the finished items brought a lot of laughter during the online sessions.
Ekky Archibong added, “This project enabled my two groups to focus on their inner feelings while using old and newly acquired creative skills to depict them. The Expressive Artists were supported by a series of ‘how to’ online workshops where I taught fabric colouring and mixed media techniques. These sessions would help them form the backgrounds for their pieces. The jewellery group were provided with beads and other found objects but I found that the links created, were very personal, using found objects that they could relate to during the trying times. As a facilitator, it was also an opportunity to support the sharing of information while also knowing that this blanket was containing all our feelings in one place and helping to improve our wellbeing.”
Margaret Archibong, collated a visual presentation of the creative journey using videos, audio and photographs to tell the blanket’s story. “I used the videos, images and audio materials generated from the project to produce the final project film. It has been very emotional and thought provoking and it is clear that this project has really helped people to network, talk and share during a difficult time. It was great to see everyone’s work come together on the blanket.”
Once it is safe to do so, the group are hoping to organise a county wide tour of the blanket so more people can see it. We believe this Isolation Blanket Project could appeal to many community/ family groups as a creative response to this pandemic. We see it as being equally appealing to all members of a community as they personalise their ‘square of space’, with the finished blanket being hung in a community setting to remind everyone of a time when everyone pulled together to support those in essential services – wrapping their blanket around the community for comfort, security and hope.