The Many uses of A Blanket

Artists: Rebecca Ainsworth and Claire Weetman
Commissioned by: Heart of Glass
With: Buzzhub St Helens CDP, Rainford All Saints, Refugee Women Connect

What do you use a blanket for?

To keep warm in the dark of winter or to picnic on in the summer sunshine? Do you wear it as a superhero cape, or hide underneath it from the world? Does it stay in your home, or can you lay it down on the grass for a picnic?

The winter and early spring of 2021 was a tough time; one where we needed to stay home, tucked under our own blankets when it snowed, finding comfort and connection where we can. As the days get longer, the potential for laying out our blankets on a sunny patch of grass or around a picnic table next to each other grows in likelihood as the days lengthen.

Artists Claire Weetman and Rebecca Ainsworth worked people shielding in St Helens through partnerships with Buzzhub (St Helens CDP), Rainford All Saints and Refugee Women Connect. They listened to participants’ stories of the dark and the light that was part of this last winter and shared activity packs that explored our home environments through a range of sensory activities. Graphite rubbings explored the textures that could be felt, from natural surfaces such as leaves to the soles of shoes that have walked many a lockdown walk. Pin pricked drawings on heat sensitive paper traced around the images of places and objects that hold personal significance. Microscopes that attach to a phone camera took a close look at the objects that surrounded mothers who had to homeschool children, and circular viewfinders brought focus to the colourful flowers and fabrics that offer us hope whilst we area apart from others.

Claire and Rebecca designed a series of printed blankets from the images created by those who took part. For some of the blankets this involved creating cyanotype prints with their rubbings – a form of printing that is created by the light of the sun changing the colour of photosensitive paper. The creations by the participants were selected, combined, digitally collaged and printed as a cosy fleece blanket. The collections of blankets connect the individual participants with the groups that supported them, with the potential for all the blankets from that collection to be laid out next to each other to form a larger space – symbolic of the spaces created by the organisations who supported their community during the isolated times of 2020 and 2021.

Each collaborator will be given their blanket to keep with the hope that a picnic can take place around each blanket – a symbolic act of people coming back together in the light of the summer. This video documents the coming together of the blankets produced by Buzzhub, each individual blanket forming part of a larger space for a picnic with others.