Workshops in People’s Homes

10 different workshops, each in the 'home' of the facilitator.
Across Cumbria from 21st May - 12th June 2016

Produced by Abandon Normal Devices.

Workshops in People’s Homes celebrated people and places in Cumbria. Joshua worked with eleven Cumbrian residents in early 2016, to develop a workshop to be delivered to the public in their own homes.

We hope that visiting folk in their homes not only gave you the opportunity to develop a new skill but also learn something about the way that other people live and the stories that they have to share. We aimed to prove that kitchen table-tops and comfy armchairs can be creative hubs. As much social occasions as they are opportunities for training and sharing expertise, Workshops in People’s Homes toasted the domestic.

Devised for audiences interested in learning something new or those curious to visit other people’s homes, Workshops in People’s Homes was a public programme of unique activities and experiences in homes across Cumbria.


The Holy Grain / Sue Thurley
5 June, Ulverston
A pilgrimage celebrating nature, nutrition and the most important plant on earth.

Coco and Sue invited participants to join them for refreshments on their front lawn before leading them through their home for an introduction to the delights of all that is grass. Savannah, prairie, steppe or lawn, the humble grass with its narrow leaves and jointed stem is often overlooked in favour of more ‘showy’ vegetation.

Through dissection, tasting and exploration participants became equipped to separate ligules from auricles, and to distinguish between the Anthoxanthum, Poa, Festuca, and Zea. We discovered the many benefits and uses of the humble grass, before embarking on a two wheeled journey (on bike!) to sort the wheat from the chaff, seeking the powers and richness of the perfect grassland.

Sue Thurley started her working life as a mechanical engineer, moved on to tree surgery before leaving all this behind for a career in nature conservation and or for the last 18 years she has worked on land management, research and community engagement projects. Wild about the outdoors she can often be seen out and about delving into bogs, nosing around meadows, whizzing across the hills on skis or bike, clinging to a mountain crag or exploring the Cumbrian coastline from her kayak.


Double Treble Bobble / Sandra Kendal
June, Penrith
A warm welcome awaits you at Sandra’s pop up Crochet Museum.

This workshop was an opportunity to discover the history of crochet in an illustrated talk and an exhibition of equipment, books, worked pieces, patterns, art and literature. Collected over four decades the pop-up museum in Sandra’s front room contains artefacts and patterns connected with crochet from the early 1900’s to the present day. Visitors were able to see how the craft of crochet has evolved over the years, and learn about the social history of crochet.

Visitors were also able to try their hand at crocheting. Novices learned how to hold a hook and make the basic chain stitch, while those with experience tried their hand at something new. Everyone left with a pattern, yarn and a hook to continue at home.

Sandra Kendal is a newly retired Cumbrian native, living in Cumberland but originally from Westmorland. Sandra is a crochet fanatic. She first picked up her crochet hook at the age of nine after finding some in her Grandmother’s work basket. She is excited to be sharing the meditative qualities of crochet and its wellbeing potential, and mark this new phase of her life by opening up her Penrith home as a ‘crochet museum’. She admires Kirsty Allsopp and, somewhat surprisingly, is an ex-Fishmonger.


Make Yourself At Home / Nicholas Collins
Sat 11 and Sun 12 June, Maryport
Design and make your own unique kiln-formed glass piece.

In this workshop participants were able to design and make a kiln formed glass bowl, platter or window panel for their home. Kiln formed glass has a long history – the Egyptians mastered the technique, which created the colour glass panels on Tutankhamen’s gold death mask, and it is still used today.

This was a hands-on workshop in a fully equipped studio, with all materials provided and plenty of one-to-one support throughout this fascinating process from Nicholas.

Nicholas Collins is a glass artist based in Maryport. His pristine studio is a hidden gem within his father’s rough and ready workshop. He makes kiln form glass, a method involving a fusing technique which results in pieces with extraordinary geometric patterns. He applies meticulous detail within a painstaking process, sometimes travelling to the National Glass Centre in Sunderland to use their specialist equipment. He sells his work commercially and in interested in expanding his practice into commissioning bespoke pieces and potentially running more workshops.


Nest! / Maud Mercier & Jean Wildish
May, Penrith and Penruddock
Felt making, story-telling and creating a home.

Some birds create elaborate nests decorated with colourful objects. Some birds build safe and cosy nests for raising their precious chicks. Some birds are happy to just throw a few sticks together. What kind of bird are you?

Jean and Maud created an enormous fabric nest, incorporating the tales of Cumbria and peoples’ thoughts about home. Attendees learnt a simple felt-making technique: from laying out fibres to rhythmic rolling, and as wool and felt came together they were able to share stories of home. The completed nest was displayed at Woolfest, the original British Wool Festival, taking place on Fri 24 and Sat 25 June 2016.

Jean Wildish is a textile artist and native to Cumbria, some might say she is ‘hefted’ to the landscape in a way she can’t explain. She is a member of the Wool Clip, a co-operative dedicated to promoting British wool and traditional skills. She makes and sells work as Tinker Tailors, using recycled materials, and loves her workshop so much she calls it home.

Maud Mercier is a French native living in Penrith and working as an upholsterer. Her journey began in France and brought her to England where she decided to drop her anchor. Maud’s home is still in progress having arrived in Penrith with little more than a backpack.


Conversation with a Stranger / Katarina Prior
May and June, Penrith
Converse, exchange stories, touch a life.

A conversation is a journey you take without needing to know the destination. You never quite know what will come from a conversation with a stranger. You could get to hear an amazing story, learn new knowledge, and have a laugh, all in a matter of minutes.

Katarina invited participants to visit a residential home and share a conversation with one of the residents – to enjoy a one-off, relaxed chat over a cup of a tea and a slice of homemade cake. The experience included the chance to participate in a new work for an exhibition, which involved cementing the conversation between two strangers through moulding and plaster-casting a hand-shake.

Katarina Prior is a multidisciplinary artist who is inspired by people, in particular their stories and the objects they keep. She is an emerging artist who had her first major exhibition at Rheged Centre which came to an end earlier this year. She is also an Activity Coordinator at Winters Park residential care home in Penrith and is passionate about ensuring the residents have a quality social experience during their time there.


The Tentorium Approaches / Hugh Pottinger
June, Penrith
A shared conversation about how we use spaces in Penrith.

Tentorium: a region of the human brain… also a mobile makeshift tent which passed through the streets of Penrith in June 2016. Shoppers and passersby were invited to follow it as it wandered through the town and stop-off under its awning.

Hugh Pottinger invited the public to take part in a conversation about how we might repurpose the dormant, empty spaces in Penrith. He posed questions, such as; What uses would you like to see them put to? Perhaps a space to run a yoga class, a space to host a record exchange, screen hard to find films…? What would you do? The Tentorium invited the community of Penrith to help build a space that exists for them.

Born and bred in the Eden Valley, Cumbria, Hugh Pottinger has recently returned, having spent time studying art, working and wandering in Scotland and the Czech Republic. Developing an art practice as a way of sighting, recording and interacting with the social fabric of the communities and circumstances he finds himself in, now through the channel of Workshops in People’s Homes he wishes to share this practice with the people and places of his upbringing.


Come As You Are / Di Larfynn
8 June, Arnside
An evening off-grid in Di Larfynn’s seasonal home.

We record everything. The internet is awash with smashed avocado on toast. How does this habit affect the way we live?

This was an invite to spend an evening off-grid as Di Larfynn tackled the meaty topic of a temporal existence (in a light-hearted way!) over fire and food. The workshop questioned the need to document everything that happens in our lives and encouraged us to reflect on nature as we made your own artwork in the landscape.

This workshop was open to anyone, especially nature and art lovers and those curious about different ways of living. It was a technology-free event – Di asked participants to leave their cameras, mobiles and watches at home.

Di Larfynn is a happy-go-lucky spirit living in a temporary home near Arnside with her partner, child, cat (‘Sally Cat’) and dog (‘Dingo Dog’). She is a community artist and runs Stomping Ground, which delivers workshops and events in the community.


Domestic Bliss: Tea, Wine and Cyanotypes / Colin Reynolds
May, Kendal
A two-day workshop creating cyanotypes from your own images and household items.

Have you ever felt the urge to create art in your kitchen? In this domestic artist’s workshop participants learnt how to create cyanotypes at home and modify them with ‘filters’ created from household items, such as washing-up liquid, olive oil and salt.

Cyanotypes, also known as blueprints, were some of the earliest forms of photography and they can be produced easily at home without the need for specialist photographic equipment. They are characterised by their blue tone.

Colin led participants through the entire process – from coating the paper, designing and exposing the print in sunlight, developing the image in lemon water, and finishing with toning and altering the images with tea and coffee – as a kind of ‘kitchen graphic app’.

Colin Reynolds is a landscape photographer based in Kendal who likes to take the lesser-trekked fells and coastlines to document Cumbria. He has a studio on Kendal’s high street where his work can be seen and bought. He also tutors and teaches in digital photography and film/alternative photography techniques.


Dreaming of Home / Celia Burbush
May and June, on the telephone
Have your ideal home visualised in an original artwork for you to keep.

Do you dream of home? Whether it’s an ideal home, a childhood home, a secret getaway, or a place faraway, Celia Burbush proposed to capture people’s dreams of home in a painting.

During a phone consultation Celia collected details about callers dream homes and created a beautiful painting in response to these descriptions and conversations. The finished paintings were then sent to the callers – did her picture match what they had envisioned in their mind? Did her imagination improve on theirs…?

Reproductions of all works were exhibited at Celia Burbush’s studio during C-Art, Cumbria’s largest visual arts event: 10 – 25 Sept 2016.

Celia Burbush is a painter based in Keswick. She paints from a makeshift studio in her basement, work that is thriving with emotion and autobiography. Both Celia and her work embrace the chaos of everyday life and the magic in the simple things. She is passionate about working in educational contexts with groups with learning disabilities and mental health issues, and using art in a transformative way.


Textile Tasters / Barbara Birch
4 June, Gleaston (near Ulverston)
Swap skills, patterns and tips over crafternoon tea.

It’s time to spring-clean your cupboard and look in your loft. Dig out those long lost patterns or any craft-related items you may have that are gathering dust.

‘Textile Tasters’ was an invitation for craft enthusiasts to join in, recycle, exchange items and share ideas. Working in small groups, participants enjoyed a range of different textile crafts and tasted ‘Crafternoon Tea’.

Participants were encouraged to make a ten minute demonstration of a textile craft. It could be embroidery, knitting, crochet, tapestry, dressmaking, patchwork or something else. This workshop was aimed at building a Cumbria-wide network of textile crafters.

Barbara Birch is so keen on crafting she’s even built her own ‘craft outhouse’ in her home in Gleaston, a village near Ulverston. When she’s not sewing, quilting or making ‘rag rugs’ from recycled fabric she is an engineer on the nearby shipyard. Barbara is passionate about bringing together people through craft and leads on various activities to improve her community. She is committed to anything she turns her hand to, this year winning a Double Gold awards at the Dalemain Marmalade Festival for her Seville Orange Marmalade, having never made marmalade before.


The call for participation and to find people who wanted to open their homes and run a workshop began in autumn 2015.

Workshops in People’s Homes was commissioned by Abandon Normal Devices, working in partnership with Eden Arts and Florence Mine. Supported using public funding by Arts Council England.