small-things

Reflecting on the ‘Small Things’ Workshop at Union 105 as part of Love Arts Festival

East Street Arts recently hosted a workshop run by Anne-Marie Atkinson, in which participants created a miniature version of themselves. We caught up with Anne-Marie to see what she had to say about this lovely little project.

The Love Arts Festival promotes the value of creativity for improving wellbeing, regardless of whether you experience mental health difficulties or not. When planning my workshop as part of the festival for East Street Arts, I thought about the small actions I like to take in order show care for myself, or improve my day: taking the time to notice the feeling of sunshine on my face; spending some time with my dog; having a cup of fancy herbal tea. Sometimes, when I’m particularly busy or stressed and forget to take time out for myself, I can start to feel lost in a big, busy world.

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‘Small Things’ aimed to give myself and workshop participants the opportunity to take a step back and think of ourselves and the situations we encounter from different perspectives.

Using wire and plasticine, each person made a model figure. Most people chose to make a small version of themselves, while one person chose to represent their late grandfather, who they had cared for in his later life.

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I noticed how participants delighted in choosing which details about themselves to focus on or enhance. Two teenage girls gave themselves their perfect coloured hair styles, which they can’t currently have due to school uniform restrictions.

We then placed our avatars into different situations, showing them carrying out daily actions such as reading, making sound recordings (for the radio producers), watering plants, making cups of tea, deciphering the world. Participants photographed the models in both close-up and from a distance, so in different images they looked large or small in the context of their surroundings. This use of photography allowed us to play with and consider perspectives on ourselves and discuss some of the issues behind the project. In times of stress, do we find it more helpful to try to view ourselves as part of the world around us, to avoid getting lost in our own head, or do we prefer to take time to reassess what parts of ourselves we value, when we’re feeling lost in the world?

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A couple of the participants had come together, and I was struck by their supportiveness and generosity towards each other, sentiments that radiated out to the rest of the group. People shared small reflections on what the activities brought to mind, and most people took home their model, so as to continue the exploration at home. I have since thought about using my model in order to visualise myself overcoming obstacles, creating a story-board that breaks down into chunks self-improvements I want to make that seem insurmountable when faced all at once.

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The workshop allowed participants to work at a pace that was comfortable for them, and chose which elements they wanted to spend more time on. Some used most of the time in styling their figure while others went wild in discovering new situations to photograph using the space and materials we had available. There is something strangely tender about holding and posing a representation of yourself, as if asking you to care for yourself. Still, some of the photographs produced contain a visible humour, and what seems to me to be a kind of contentedness, as if looking from the outside, we really can start to understand ourselves.

To see more of Anne-Marie Atkinson’s work, visit: www.annemarieatkinson.co.uk

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