Our socially engaged, interactive and immersive exhibition, Social Scaffolding, was part of Somerset Art Weeks, 24th Sept. - 9th Oct. 2022. We were based in an empty shop in Taunton's town centre, inviting visitors to join us in a number of participatory experiences. Social knitwork was just one of the interactive activities on offer. I had some knitting needles, crochet hooks, pompom makers and balls of coloured yarn and I invited visitors to sit and knit with me. It was very lovely to be able to facilitate this kind of mellow making again.
Follow me on Instagram @socialengagement for more images and details of this and my other socially engaged projects.
There were many delightful interactions:
- a young woman who worked locally came in every weekday lunchtime and at the weekends too. She knitted an astonishing, abstract scarf.
- a single father brought his new born baby in to show us the exquisitely knitted outfit that his cousin had knitted for her. Their grandmother had taught her to knit so he said ‘It’s as if my Grandma made it.’
- a group of Fine Art students - plus their tutors - from a local college spent quite some time knitting and chatting. Some hadn't knitted before.
- a woman from a local knitting group came in to show me what she was working on
- a number of people came and just sat and talked with me
- 10-year-old triplets came and made pompoms with me. Their mum was in hospital and their dad was delighted that they were so absorbed and distracted
- various othere people chose to make pompoms too
I had many interesting and thoughtful conversations with participants as we knitted or made together. It was impossible to document everything as I was too busy knitting and talking:
‘It’s so therapeutic.’
‘It’s cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), isn’t it?’
‘I imagine lots of people knitting in here, until tendrils of knitting are spilling out of the door.’
‘I love free knitting like this.’
‘This is my kind of knitting. Freeform!’
‘Very inspiring, good to be interactive and knit.’
‘Lou Baker was running a drop-in knitting workshop. Our students enjoyed getting involved with this and discussing art and materiality. It was clear that other members of the public were also joining in, some on a regular, daily basis.... The artists’ presence and thoughtful delivery enabled the exhibition to be truly accessible for all visitors. It reached non-art audiences and added inspiration, mindfulness and vibrancy to people’s everyday lives. Our students gained much from the experience academically and intellectually too, as the artworks were of high quality and relevance.’
Mark Fearbunce | Course Leader | Creative Arts, Bridgwater & Taunton College
Research shows that making side by side can result in a surprising depth of conversation; repetitative processes like knitting can also improve wellbeing. I feel privileged to be able to knit alongside visitors and also to talk to them about life, the universe... and knitting!
I have facilitated a couple of iterations of Social knitwork over the last couple of years, both in Bath. I did a month long residency with The Art Cohort and then spent a day knitting outside the Salvation Army cafe on World Wide Knit in Public Day 2022. Both showed me the potential of knitting and conversation as a very lovely way to engage passers-by. I would now like to develop this idea further, inviting visitors to co-create an installation which changes over time.
Thanks again to everyone who has been part of Social knitwork so far!