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Tag: creativity

Windows of my Mind

It’s been a few months since my last post, and as usual, it’s a reflection of how busy I’ve been elsewhere! Since the start of 2018 I’ve been doing a lot more work with Portsmouth Cathedral on their annual theme programme, which has grown significantly even compared to the previous year.

I’ve also been doing a lot more making and even responded to a commission opportunity, so this seemed a good time to fill you in on what I’ve been up to, from a making point of view.

I must include a heartfelt note of thanks here to those wonderful chaps at The Maker’s Guild: Sam, Ming and Gav who have supported me enormously and most importantly, practically with moving my ideas from concept to a solid and sturdy reality. I couldn’t have done what I’ve done so far without their help and intervention.

At the end of January this year, the first of my installations went in. It was called A Journey Through Time and involved various site-specific installations throughout Portsmouth Cathedral building. Those visitors who braved and damp and dismal weather and came along ,remarked on how much they enjoyed it and how different elements spoke to them. The installation elements included projections in St Thomas’ Chapel, an array of mostly handmade candles in the Quire, a fountain in the font (it looked amazing!) and further projections onto the ceiling of the Nave. Each of these sections reflected how time travels and how natural objects can reflect the passage of time.

The next piece I created was for Harbour Church as part of their Good Friday event called ‘Renew’. At a planning meeting I had an idea about a piece featuring lots of small pieces of glass with black splodgy paint on one side and white splodgy paint mirrored on the the other. Although that concept was a bit too complex for the time available (we had only a month to action anything!) I was able to revise it to two larger pieces of glass with words on each side: life/death and hope/doubt. Originally I was trying to fit the word ‘despair’ on the other side, but the letters were so different, I was struggling to make it work. Nemo, who’s also based at Maker’s Guild said simply: “Why don’t you pick another word that means the same thing?” Genius! Yet another benefit of accessing MG (Maker’s Guild) is collaboration.

The finished piece Life/Death Hope/Doubt was constructed with the help of the fabulous Sam Asiri, whose carpentry skills far exceed my own! It was exhibited at Harbour Church during the event and for about a week afterwards.

The font was hand painted from a template I sourced online and it’s modelled on an ambigram – that is to say, certain letters are a mirror image of each other. What you see on the glass is a reflection of your perspective: do you see death, or life? Doubt or hope? Good Friday for Christians is very much about balancing on that knife edge and swinging betweenone and the other.

This piece then saw a new lease of life in the next piece of work I created: Windows of my Mind. For various reasons, I like to try and reuse parts of previous works in new pieces, so we decided to use part of the Life/Death frame in the construction of Windows of my Mind.

This piece was originally inspired by a call out for artists from an art festival in Basingstoke. Although I couldn’t attend the festival, the idea was still percolating in my brain, awaiting the proper time. The ‘proper time’ appeared in May 2018 to coincide with the wellbeing and mental health emphasis which we had as part of the annual theme programme at the Cathedral.

The premise behind Windows of my Mind is simple enough: our mental health changes how we see things. We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. And in the same way we can catch a cold, or strain a muscle, we can also get run down, stressed or overloaded mentally and emotionally. How people are affected by poor mental health is manifested in these different windows. For some it’s despair – cloying and sticky, miring us in grief and inaction. For others its a sense of being foggy or directionless. For some nostalgia is what distorts our view: looking back at another time and believing it to be so much better than now. The whole piece contains 14 different elements which reflect aspects of mental health and it can be viewed in Portsmouth Cathedral, on the High Street, Old Portsmouth until May 25th.

The expanding horizon…

After I got back from CUExpo in Canada (which I’ll write about in a separate post) I was straight back into the thick of it – ‘it’ being the end of one project and the launch of two new ones.

Students at Charter Academy. creating minature stained glass windows for a quiet area at the school.

Students at Charter Academy. creating minature stained glass windows for a quiet area at the school.

The FE Chaplaincy project packed up its’ stuff and moved in with the Deanery Youthwork project and in August 2015 I was appointed as the Creative Engagement practitioner for the newly merged Youth Chaplaincy project. Seeking to bring together the best of both worlds, Youth Chaplaincy works in local secondary schools and colleges and the aim is to ‘create a space for the bigger questions in life’.  More about that in another post!

Children weaving into the community tapestry, one of the activities which took place during LoLou Morris' residency.

Children weaving into the community tapestry, one of the activities which took place during LoLou Morris’ residency.

In addition, I’m delighted to say that the Liturgy Project was also finally brought to birth, but it’s now known as Viewpoint. Based at Portsmouth Cathedral, the project aims to explore faith and spirituality through the arts, and the Cathedral link takes you to all the blog listings, which take you through the journey the project and its artists’ have been on. More about that in another post too!

One of the noticeable changes in recent months, is my decision to give more time over to my own creative practice. This is hard as there’s always a list as long as my arm when it comes to ‘paid work’ and always something else ‘more important’ which I feel I ought to be doing…

But the truth of it is that making makes me happy, and when I’m making it helps with my sense of calm and peace and also enables me to have more ideas which feed into the projects I’m working on. You can find some of my making here on Instagram

So here’s to doing what you love, and being happy whilst doing it!

The Potting Shed – why and how?

Alas my potting shed is still a 'virtual' one, but maybe one day...

Alas my potting shed is still a ‘virtual’ one, but maybe one day…

I have a page on Facebook for my freelance work called The Potting Shed – Home of Apple Seed HQ. It’s not a real shed (although it ‘exists’ as a place on Facebook) but rather it’s a virtual shed. Given that my website is apple-seed and that I’m all abut growing great ideas then it seemed logical that a planting, nurturing, creative growing space should need a shed in which to house all these baby ideas!

I update the Facebook page regularly and its a quick way to link to the various projects I’m involved in, so if you want the latest news, its a good idea to look there:

Someone sent me a question via that page recently, and I wondered if some of you might also be interested in the question she asked and the answer I gave.

So here it is. It kinda sums up my raison d’etre – the reason why and how I do what I do.

If you’d like what you read and would like to find out if I can help you out, drop me a line:

Sharon, I completely love the sound of everything The Potting Shed does. How did you get into doing that? What is your background? (if you don’t mind me asking!!) xx
Thank you very much! I don’t mind you asking at all!
I’d like to say that it’s part of some kind of carefully planned career path…but that would be a complete lie! The reality is entirely more haphazard and accidental.

My background is in youth & children’s work. I’m a qualified teacher and youthworker, but I have a real passion for heritage, arts, communities and storytelling.

This means that I tend to get drawn to projects which touch on those kinds of areas…Children and young people are part of communities and they interact with and affect each other (whether they know it or not!) Heritage is about the story of a place and the people who have, or are currently living in it, and the arts (such as storytelling) is how we can share and explore the locality and community where we live and begin to understand our place in it.

I think my core motivation is around valuing people: I believe everyone has inherent value, because each person is unique. Our DNA, our fingerprints, the combination of character, personality, skills and experience are not to be found anywhere else, or in anyone else.
That makes you uniquely valuable and irreplaceable.

The work I’m involved in – which has come along haphazardly and sometimes almost by accident, doesn’t bring value or worth to the people or places I work with…but perhaps some of what I bring helps to draw out the value of what’s already there?

Does that make sense?

I love what I’m doing, even though at times it feels very stressful (like now when I’ve got two chaplaincy visits this week and an exhibition opening on Friday!!) and I miss being part of a team with other people. Being freelance can feel lonely and isolated at times and I sometimes feel like I bear a heavier responsibility than if I were an employee in a bigger company. There are times when I feel like I’m dangling on a string above a rather cavernous ravine, and it wouldn’t take too much for the string to snap…

But on the other hand it’s a tremendous privilege to be able to work with people and make a big/small difference in their lives! Who can say that they get to do that? I love the variety, the creativity, the opportunity to direct and hold and shape things…And it means I can be very flexible around the needs of my family, which is the most important part.
So that’s kind of it really….!
Got any more questions…do send ’em my way

Somerstown Stories – the story so far…

The first drop-in exhibition/workshop event took place on Tuesday last week at the Omega Centre. We didn’t have high numbers, but those who did come along  had some interesting stories to tell about their own experiences of Somerstown. I was able to interview someone during the event, and have arranged interviews with others to document their stories. This phase of the project will naturally include gathering (and transcribing) some oral history interviews which is, I believe, where the real treasure will lie.

This was  followed in the evening by an archive film screening of Portsmouth, hosted by Portsmouth Film Society using footage that is in the care of the Wessex Film Archive

Meanwhile the Somerstown Stories website, also includes details about the great work that took place at Somers Park Primary School in the Autumn term last year, when the teachers and children were engaged in their part of the  project:

Overall the project is now in its wider community phase, and local people are getting the chance to go on the same journey of exploration. As I start to gather oral history accounts from local people, these along with the photographs and maps will be catalogued and collated into the Somerstown Archive which will be held and managed by the Local History Centre

This means that the conversations that are being started now can continue after the project has finished, and the material will be available for other people to access and add to.

Part of this second phase series of events includes a creative workshop being led by two local artists: Jane Kilford and Julie Graves who are also planning to do some preliminary work with the children at Somers Park, inviting them and their families to bring an object from the past into school to share with others and to use as a prompt for telling their own story of Somerstown.

Meanwhile, Julie has enabled me to make a link with the University of Portsmouth’s School of Architecture Her husband Francis is an architect and senior lecturer and his current cohort of students are engaged in a project whose theme is the redesign of Somerstown and some of the key buildings within it, including the churches of St Luke’s and St Peter’s. This is a beautiful overlap for me, and so I was able to attend the students mid-term review on Thursday of last week and see and hear first-hand their ideas and visions for the area. It was fascinating to see an area I’m so familiar with through someone else’s eyes. Francis has kindly invited me back to speak to the group about the Somerstown Stories project and share some of the resources I’ve found and what I’ve learnt so far. I was impressed with the breadth and depth they are required to consider and include in their planning and I’m looking forward to teaching and learning more about Somerstown with them.


A willow arch showing signs of growth at ALNS

I visited Admiral Lord Nelson School (ALNS) on Friday, where they were having their last PD (personal development) day of the year. Its the only occasion during the entire year when ALL the CP practitioners have been in one place at one time, and it seemed too good an opportunity to miss!

I’ve been working at ALNS for two years now, as part of my work with Creative Partnerships, and its been a real priviledge, as it has at many of my other schools, to be part of a piece of work that has been of real benefit to the staff, students and practitioners.

In some ways, CP work raises more questions than it answers, and this is no bad thing. If an individual or organisation questions something, its because the answer matters to them. Something has been triggered: a thought process or engagement, which won’t rest until its resolved or balanced out in some way. Questions (even those that appear aggressive or negative) indicate engagement and that is a valuable energy that can be put to good use. As my former youth pastor and theologian put it once: “the opposite of faith isn’t doubt; its apathy”.

So how does that relate to creativity in education? Well, if the opposite of faith in creativity is apathy about it, then questioning the value and output of creative approaches in education suggests a desire to see if it really does work? It suggests an engaged and inquisitive mind that sees potential that it can’t quite articulate, or benefits its can’t quite quantify. One of the Senior Leadership team explained to me, in an honest interview: “I still don’t understand it, but I know its important. I know we need it and the students need it and it makes a difference.”

I think Creative Partnerships set out to be a catalyst: to introduce experienced creative practitioners into a community already thrumming with latent creativity, and see what happened next. The results were very often surprising, funny, engaging, moving and not a small bit challenging too.

I have benefited personally from my time working with CP, and this has been particularly true at ALNS: both organisations have enabled me to value and almost re-discover my own creativity, and I have seen for myself  how much can be achieved through an atmosphere that cultivates and values relationships built on trust, and creativity. For to be creative requires risk, and those risks need to be supported by trust, otherwise the endeavour will fail and most of the benefits will be lost.

So adieu ALNS and my other CP schools…perhaps fortune will favour us, and we shall meet again.


Creative practitioners working at ALNS this year were:

Tim Johnson: artist, photographer, basket-maker

Chris Jenkins: scuplture, willow work

Borbonesa: book artists & designers

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