In the summer of 2011, Arts Alive worked at Vintage Vision in Abergavenny on a ‘Green Fashion’ project. Weekly sessions at Lion Street offered women the opportunity to learn new skills and get creative with textiles, writing and photography.
The creative team led a series of garment creation or customisation textile workshops incorporating photography and writing to explore the significance of specific items of clothing, their social and practical functions, their value, and the memories and narratives they transmit as they are passed down within families and communities. The project also encouraged the participants to think about body image and how this relates to the clothes that we wear.
Textile artist Miranda Thomason, who coordinated the project for Arts Alive, was delighted to work at the Vintage Vision shop and workshop alongside their sewing tutor Emma Jones . “It is a great venue for the project and a partnership that really benefits our participants. Emma provides fantastic technical expertise, and the great thing about this project is that every woman who takes part on a Friday offers helps and encouragement and we are all learning from each other. All the women taking part have been really enthusiastic and such a pleasure to meet and work with”.
Emma, who runs regular sewing classes at Vintage Vision, was really inspired by the project, “It’s always rewarding to find that many of the participants have skills they had long forgotten! By working in the group setting they gain the confidence to reawaken those skills, and learn from each other”.
Toril Brancher was the project photographer and recorded the work each week. She helped create portraits of the clothes, and their creators. “Our starting point was to give each woman a personal journal to collect ideas and images that have personal meaning and significance to them. I bring my own journal along to the group each week, and have really enjoyed sharing the sketches, notes and photographs that I use to inform my own artistic practice”.
Participants brought along their own garments to customise and embellish at the workshops, and a significant part of the project was to record the stories around clothes and where we wear them. Arts Alive Director Justine Wheatley commented “Every woman remembers what she wore to her friend’s birthday party, whether it was an 18th, 30th or 50th, or family wedding so unsurprisingly, the stories that come out each week are really great. The project will be joined by a writer for the final sessions and she will help us capture a flavour of the Friday sessions”.
Amanda Peters, Chair of Vintage Vision, was thrilled by the success of the project. “Friday mornings are definitely the loudest of the week, with a lot of laughter coming from the back of the shop where the project takes place! The shop at Lion Street is a great place to hold workshops, and we’d love to develop more partnership projects of this kind, in the future”.
The project was funded through Arts Council of Wales and New Grove Farm Trust.