The Ground Beneath Our Feet - work with Asylum Seekers during lockdown 2020 - 2021
Working remotely with several asylum seeker families and individuals over the second lockdown, I delivered packs of clay and tools to their homes, with many a long chat on their doorsteps. They had written and illustrated tips on how to work with clay, a couple of making videos to watch and we had a whatsapp group for any questions. Zoom sessions weren't possible as they did not all have internet access. I look back in astonishment now at how anxious I was about the project and how they would respond. I really needn't have worried. They embraced the project with such enthusiasm that it became a much longer project than I had envisaged, and some are still making, six months down the line. Several are keen to learn more and one woman would like to become a potter - she's now been granted asylum, so I hope that, once she's settled in her new home she will be able to attend classes. None of them had ever worked with clay or done anything that they classed as art. And despite English not being their first language, the feedback they gave was so articulate and thoughtful. "We were thinking through our hands." "We learnt through our mistakes - we made over and over again and realised that 'Si tu veux, tu peux'" "It takes away stress - it makes you think of positive things - you think about what you're going to make and how, instead of thinking about the things you cannot change." "I'm having so many ideas - anything I see now, I think, how can I use the clay to make this?"
The 'stones' were made by me using a variety of different clays - some locally dug, some groggy, some not. They were squeezed in the hand by the participants to leave the imprint of their touch. They are a symbol, amongst other things, of the beauty in diversity. The project will be exhibited in Doncaster later in the year. Watch this space!
With thanks to Doncaster Creates doncastercreates.org/ for funding the project.