The Giant’s Blankets – Barnsley Library

A person stands on a hillside, with their outstretched arms covered in patterned blue blankets that blow in the wind.

I’ve been working on something a bit different lately. During the creation of The Many Uses of a Blanket project in 2021/2022 lots of beautiful exchanges happened between a wide range of people and the blankets – they were gifted to a cold baby at a charity football match, they comforted a member of the public who fell outside one of the exhibitions, we’ve had picnics on them and brought colour and comfort to lots of public arts events. As a result of this I decided that there was a story to tell. So with a lot of support I’ve written it, and worked out how to bring that story to life by using the blankets.

In The Giant’s Blankets, a lonely giant shelters from the storm under a mountain of blankets. Travelling two giant steps at a time, she secretly gifts her blankets of kindness and care to people and animals in the town, but nobody notices the giant. The audience travels with the giant through the storm to a place where she eventually feels part of a community. At the moment, I am the performer, bringing this story to life using the Giant’s Blankets which transform into crashing clouds and twisting tornadoes; the giant uses her blankets to make a hammock that rescues a cyclist, a tent to protect an engineer and a sling for a baby; and the blankets make a space for a wonderful community picnic when everyone returns to thank the helpful giant who has made some new friends.

On a beautifully sunny weekend in June, Barnsley Libraries invited me to come and share the story of the Giant’s Blankets to their family audiences as part of their programme of Refugee Week events. The two performances were followed by a stay and play activity where we built dens, created fuzzy felt blankets and enjoyed the colouring sheets.

Magical – it was a lovely performance, really creative and imaginative. 

Really enjoyable. My daughter who is 3 was fully enjoying the story and loved the den building

The Giant’s Blankets has been developed so far with generous support from Wonder Arts in the form of rehearsal space, advice and arranging scratch performances; Kevin Dyer as mentor and dramaturg; R&D funding from St Helens Council Borough of Culture grants; Thatto Heath Primary School and Buzz Hub who took part in workshops to develop and test the story and St Thomas of Canterbury and St John Vianney Primary schools who have both hosted scratch performances of the work.

I’m hoping to develop the project further, if you’re interested in hosting a performance and activity, or can support the development of the work, please get in touch.

Constellations of Kindness – Thatto Heath Primary school

I tested out a few new things for my Constellations of Kindness work this month. I’ve developed how the project can connect with themes within school, using a selection of prepared images to tie in with the school’s Around the World themed week. Two Y5 classes worked with me to create two globe structures that you can fit your head inside and are now installed in the school library.

Black circles of card hang in front of a window. Words are written on each card  with tiny pin holes that form the letters. Fragments of words meaning peace, love, and kindness in english, polish, arabic, french and japanese can be seen.

We also took an opportunity to develop mass participation with the pin-pricking technique with 11(!) KS2 classes, which required a busy night for the Cricut machine that cuts out all the shapes. The whole of the juniors of this 3-form entry school heard the story of Hoshi and the legend of the lucky stars, before returning to class with instructions on how to make their own mini constellation of kindness. A selection of words about kindness and community were translated into the languages of the countries being studied, plus the languages spoken in school and each child was able to create their pin-pricked contribution to the community installation. The result is a window installation of approximately 300 circular constellations, all connected and suspended from each other.

A black background has drawings made of dots of light. Drawings include a happy cartoon-like frog, the Japanese flag, a silhouette of a figure holding hands and the word Japan.

One of the classes I worked with were studying Japan, and whilst hanging these, they felt like fortunes, blessings or hopes for the future that might be found in a Shinto shrine. I think there could be something in this process for when I hopefully expand the project into one with the wider community.

Thanks to Thatto Heath primary for the space to try this out.

Chester Contemporary Schools Programme

The base of a glass cabinet has small books made from paper that are printed with colourful architectural shapes and feature words including "quote, stage, performance, feel good"

Chester Contemporary is a new visual arts event curated by artist Ryan Gander. For the Contemporary, international and Chester-based artists, emerging talent, and the city’s people have been invited to make and show work for Chester’s unique places and spaces, inspired by the theme ‘Centred on the Periphery’.

I’ve been working on the schools programme as part of this new festival with Mickle Trafford Village Primary School creating ‘The City Unfolds’

Chester’s city centre is characterised by its secret passageways, hidden staircases, buildings on multiple levels and interesting places to be discovered. Year 5 pupils from Mickle Trafford Village School have shared some of their favourite places and studied the architecture of the city with artist Claire Weetman to create artist-book sculptures combining paper folding techniques, printing and poetry.

Inspired by both Claire’s artist-book practice and Unfurled, a University of Chester exhibition at the Grosvenor Museum (which ran until 2 July), the class have explored how to use the text, images and storytelling that can be found in books. They’ve combined these book-making elements to create their own sculptural artwork that reminds us of places in the city, including Chester Cathedral, the Rows, the Walls, dance and musical performances, the sound of food being served at the new market, and their top tips for the best pancakes in Chester! Their work can be seen in the display case outside Waterstones on Eastgate Row.

Thanks to the staff and pupils of Mickle Trafford Village School, Mickle Trafford, Cheshire.

Find out more about Chester Contemporary here

Constellations of Kindness

Sutton Oak Primary School
February 2022

Claire returned to Sutton Oak Primary School with her Constellations of Kindness workshops which explore how art can be used to express kindness and empathy.

Beginning by passing our positive actions around the class with a symbolic handful of light, we worked to create a number of art installations which take the idea of stars and how we view them collectively in constellations as a metaphor for how a community can work together. The story of Hoshi and the legend of the origami lucky stars inspires a creative activity where the classes worked together to create their own jars of paper stars.

One night while watching the stars, something happened in the sky that made her sad and she began to cry. The stars were falling out of heaven like a shower. So many of them were falling that she was afraid there would be no more.

The story of Hoshi

With magazine cuttings, found text and images pupils used compositional skills to lay out a design that created a message linked to emotions and kindness, then used drawing pins to prick holes into segments of a black card sphere along the outlines of those shapes. The sphere segments were joined together to create a suspended orb that you can duck underneath and view the pin-pricked drawings from within – the light shining in from the outside creating a universe-like experience, full of symbolic objects and positive text.

This was the first time creating these pin pricked drawings into a 3-dimensional form at such a human scale, and the hope is that more works like this can be created in other locations forming a universe of kindness.

This project is available within St Helens schools via Cultured St Helens, or contact me directly if you want to create more universes of kindness where you are.