This case study explores a participatory textile making project by Jo McIntosh. To see more case studies or find out how to contribute one yourself, click here.
Title of case study project or workshop
St Ives In Stitches
Name(s) of practitioner(s) and institution/organisation, if any
Context for project
Independent socially engaged arts project
When did the project take place?
September 2017 – September 2018
Background(s) of the practitioner(s)
Jo McIntosh is a Textile Artist and Tutor and has a B.A. (Hons) Creative Arts degree
Aims of project
The aims of the project was to map all the buildings along Wharf Road and around the harbour in St Ives, Cornwall, UK
Description of project
At the initial meeting in the local Salvation Army Hall in September 2017, I explained my vision for the project, and each person chose the building they wished to represent using textile techniques. They were all given the same size piece of fabric to work on to create textile collages of the building: some chose to hand stitch, some to machine stitch, I left the technique up to them. The group met once a month to show progress and collect more materials if necessary, but most of the work on the pieces was done at home. About 40 people took part, including some of St Ives Guides.
All materials were provided so no-one had to buy anything, making it possible for anyone to take part regardless of income as St Ives does have a lot of low income families.
At the end of the year, two 25 foot banners were produced and exhibited during the 2018 St Ives September Festival in the Salvation Army Hall.
Why did you choose to work in this way?
I did not want to impose a lot of rules about how each person should complete their piece as I felt this may bring up some memories of bad experiences they may have had when doing needlework at school, and I also wanted each piece to show the personality of the person making it, rather than a set of technically perfect pieces. The monthly meetings were important to help bring people together who may not meet in any other way and also give a sense of belonging to something for those who might otherwise feel isolated.
What did you learn from the project?
Previous to this I had never run a similar project so it was a learning curve for me as well as for the people taking part. Although one or two people taking part had an artistic background, most would not have described themselves as creative or talented, so I felt it was my role to nurture their creativity and help build their confidence in what they were doing and encouraging them when they were not sure what to do on their pieces.
Here is a comment from one participant explaining why she chose the 2 buildings to represent:
- Pelican Cottage.
I chose Pelican Cottage simply because it is my favourite of all the harbour front cottages (and it’s my daughter’s favourite little cottage too, she was 4 at the time of the first St Ives In Stitches project). I love the slate frontage, the green front door and the stone flower bed and thought it would be lovely to be able to reproduce all of these lovely details in stitch.
- The Hub
I chose The Hub because it has been the setting of some lovely mother-son time with my little boy (who was 6 at the time I started working on this piece). It reminded me of the occasions where we have wandered into town maybe for an ice cream, collected sea glass in the harbour and ended up at The Hub for a burger before catching the train back to Carbis Bay.
This project was inspired by a piece I saw at a Textile Show which depicted the buildings along the High Street in Crickhowell, Wales, which was led by Lisa Hellier.
Tony Mason of St Ives Videos made a video of the project: https://www.facebook.com/StIvesVideos/videos/1203037666529209/