Amgueddfa Blog: Health, Wellbeing and Amgueddfa Cymru

Patchwork of Memories – Remembrance and grief during Covid 19

Loveday Williams, 13 July 2022

In 2020 Amgueddfa Cymru and Cruse Bereavement Support Cymru came together to support people across the country through their grief and create a lasting memorial full of memories to those lost during the time of Covid-19. It involved creating a square patch containing a memory of a loved one, in which ever way people chose, in whatever words or images they liked. Each patch created demonstrated a visual display of lasting memories of someone they loved who had died, created in unprecedented times.  50+ patches were sent to the Museum and have been carefully sewn together to form a Patchwork of Memories.

For the last two year we have all lived very different lives, with change to our normal the only constant. Losing a loved one is always hard but usually we have the comfort of others and collective mourning at funerals to help us say goodbye and share our memories.  However, a death in the last two years has meant many of us being cut off from our support networks and our rituals or remembrance being altered.  

Rhiannon Thomas, previous Learning Manager at St Fagans said about this project “Helping people with grief is something that I am personally passionate about. Having worked with Cruse Bereavement Support previously to support families I felt the Museum was able to help families dealing with loss in a different way.  Amgueddfa Cymru and Cruse Bereavement Support Wales came together to create a project based around creativity and memory, the aim being to make a lasting memorial to those who have died during the pandemic.” 

Creating something is not a new response to grief, there are several Embroidery samplers in Amgueddfa Cymru’s collections made in memory of loved ones or marking their passing.   This sampler by M.E. Powell was created in 1906 in memory of her mother.   Creativity during difficult times of our lives can help all of us to express deep held emotions that we do not always have the ability to put into words. 

Bereavement Support Days

Alongside the Patchwork of Memories initiative, the Cruse / Museum Partnership also provide a safe inspirational space for the increasing numbers of children and young people awaiting bereavement support and help meet the diverse needs of bereaved children, young people and families who benefit from coming together to rationalise, explore and understand that they are not alone in their grief. 

A series of quarterly Bereavement Support Days are held in partnership with St Fagans, for children, young people and their families experiencing grief and loss. There is specialist support from Cruse staff and volunteers along with art and craft activities provided by Head for Arts and immersive Virtual Reality experiences provided by PlayFrame, which are light-hearted, allowing people attending the chance to make and create things that can be taken home with them and or captured and stored into a virtual memory box. The activities available are designed to stimulate rather that prompt.

Here is the film created by PlayFrame on Ekeko, the virtual memory space they have been creating alongside this project, installing objects, memories and stories donated by participants into a virtual memory box for people to enter and explore:

https://youtu.be/KoQE00ff-rc 

And a link the virtual reality memory space itself: https://www.oculus.com/experiences/quest/6371190072951353/

Alison Thomas, Cruse CYP Wales Lead said “Cruse Bereavement Support Wales provides in person support to children and young people within a variety of settings, so we see first-hand how difficult it can be for grieving children and young people. Their collective support on these days allows families the time and space to verbalise and begin to understand their loss and associated emotions. The focus of the Bereavement Support days is around children and young people, however, the benefits resonate through the whole family including the adults in attendance, some of whom require bereavement support on the day, most of whom stay for the duration and share a cuppa and chat with other bereaved parents and guardians. Following the session, the whole family can have a look around the Museum and spend time together in a safe and nurturing setting.”

Here are some of the written (in their own handwriting) evaluation feedback quotes from children, young people and parents / guardians who have attended the Bereavement Days:

'I feel calmer, less worried.  It was good being able to speak to people my age who understood what I'm going through.'

'I was very included in all the activities and was always involved in conversation.  There was a calm atmosphere making it easier to speak to people there.'

'I was very welcomed and was immediately approached by a friendly face.  It was very inviting and was easy to speak to people there.'

'HAPPY' 🙂

'Love 🙂 happy'

'Thank you Diolch, Diolch 🙂'

A mother of one of the young people said 'I feel much better than I did.'

Another mother said 'All was lovely, made to feel welcome, everything we did was good and the girls enjoyed themselves.'

The two memory quilts will be competed by the end of August 2022, following which we will hold a final project event with Cruse Bereavement Support Wales on 25th September at St Fagans National Museum of History, where we will display the two quilts and invite both the contributors who sent squares and the participants from the Bereavement Support Days to attend, along with the public, to see the quilts and share their experiences of taking part in the process.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Winter of Wellbeing: Tip Tops project

Mali Dafydd, 29 March 2022

Tip Tops was a project devised to up-skill young learners who are operating outside the current conventional school system, in the art of making clothes by hand, reusing waste and locally produced fabrics. They worked on a weekly process from mid January until 23 March 2022, cutting patterns and re-creating anew in Stiwdio 3, Cardigan. Here's the experience of Mali, who took part in the workshops: 

I was quite nervous when I walked into the room, for I didn’t know many of the people there. But then we all introduced ourselves and I felt a lot better as most of the people were my age. I was rather worried they would be a lot older than me.

When I first saw the pattern it looked very complicated, I had never followed a proper pattern before and I was a bit intimidated.

We were shown how it all fitted together and it was a lot simpler than it had looked originally - I was very glad! All the different panels that made up the pattern actually allowed you to experiment a lot. Some of the other people found a fabric that looked like it was made out of lots of squares. When the pieces all got sown together it looked really cool!

The TipTops are very fun to sew. Though I am not very good at matching the squares up, but hopefully I get better! My favourite part of the TipTop is the halter neck as it makes it feels very elegant.

When we finished the mock-up I really liked it, and I felt happy, though slightly tired.

My favourite fabric so far is probably the denim. It’s a very retro look when you combine the different denims together - it’s also very nice to sew. It would be very cool if we could try pattern matching.

The trip to the woollen museum was fun. Though the machines looked terrifying! One of the people that worked there even showed us how one of the looms worked. It looked very time consuming and the bobbins ran out really quickly. In Victorian times they would have children crawl under the machines to get rid of the loose wool. I would definitely not like to work there!

I really enjoyed this course and it was mega fun! I would love to do it again!

Take a look at the video which share some of the project highlights:

Winter of Wellbeing: That time I lay in the woods for an hour: Nature connection, wellbeing and young people

David Urry, 10 March 2022

I plunge my face into the leaf litter on the forest floor and take in the earthy aroma: a sweet mix of damp decay and mossy greens. Have I gone mad? Quite possibly, but no more than most; stuck in a modern world that doesn’t quite make sense, worried too much about too many things, and rarely remembering to stop, look up and breathe. Down here, hidden in this hollow, under a canopy of gently swaying oaks, cheek pressed into the dark rich soil, I actually feel more normal than I have in a while.  

Truth is, I woke up fairly miserable this morning.  Sadly, it’s not uncommon, and frustratingly, it’s often not clear why, or what has caused it. As a result, I tend to focus on what I can control and change. Sometimes, that means a change of scene.  

Nature Connectedness and the Wheel of Wellbeing 

Recently, since working on the Winter of Wellbeing Programme (WoW), it has got me thinking more about what makes me well. At the same time, separately, I have been reading a lot into the power of Nature Connectedness. So, with both of these in mind, I wrapped myself up and headed to the nearest clearing of trees. I am fortunate to have this on my doorstep.  

‘Nature Connectedness’ is the sort of thing that is easy to dismiss as a bit ‘flowery’, but there is an increasing body of evidence showing the restorative power of Nature, the value of access to nature, and crucially, the importance of feeling a connection with nature. In fact, there is a whole research group at the University of Derby working on just this.

As part of the WoW project, we have been using the ‘Wheel of Wellbeing’ as a way of understanding and measuring the elements that make us feel well: Body (be active), Mind (keep learning), Spirit (give), People (connect), Place (take notice), Planet (care). It became clear to me that each of these elements can be nourished through time in nature, something I am keen to explore through the WoW project, as well as through my own forays into the forest!  

The benefits of a connection to Nature  

Nature is a profound teacher and healer, and a sanctuary for those fortunate enough to access and connect with it. When you spend time in Nature, it almost instantly creates a physical change in you - reducing levels of stress, lowering blood pressure, helping you focus and concentrate - as well as a number of other tangible and well documented positive effects, especially around mental health

These benefits are amplified the more we feel a connection to Nature.  Sadly, for many, Nature remains hidden or unnoticed, and their feelings of connection hang by a thread. This is particularly true amongst young people, especially teenagers, where there is a natural dip in connection with nature, just when they might benefit most from the improved physical and mental health associated with Nature connection; to free themselves from social anxieties and find some identity, security and meaning in the otherwise manic world around them.  

Five pathways to connection  

A crucial step, of course, is finding a ‘way-in’ for young people, both physically and emotionally. Many don’t have easy access to nature in the first place, or have little interest, even if they are surrounded by it. Meaningful and lasting connections can’t be forced. They must be made in our own time and in own way. Yet, there are a few things that can be done to facilitate and encourage this.  Even urban environments are bursting with life, which means you don’t have to be in a forest or beautiful flower meadow for Nature to cast its spell. Sadly, most of us have lost the knack of noticing, so rarely dedicate time to truly see and appreciate Nature.   

To help open up our eyes and minds, and bring us closer to nature, the University of Derby have developed 5 pathways to greater connection (https://www.derby.ac.uk/blog/5-ways-closer-nature/): 

  • Contact – multisensory, tangible experiences 

  • Beauty – Engaging with the aesthetic ‘awe-inspiring’ qualities of Nature.  

  • Meaning - thinking about the meaning and signs of nature and what they mean to individuals.  

  • Emotion – Finding and exploring emotional bonds with, and love, for nature 

  • Compassion - Extending the self to include nature, leading to moral and ethical concern 

These were consistently found to be important and effective at making people feel closer to nature, which makes them useful for individuals, educators and practitioners when thinking about the sort of activities and exercises that will create connection with Nature. 

The Natural Health Service 

Even amongst those who would consider themselves connected to Nature, like myself, it is all too easy to forget to nourish it, to go back to the source and refresh now and again. Perhaps we need to view it as less of a luxury and more of an essential part of our human existence, where we are part of Nature rather than separate and sanitised. That is why it is great to see moves towards green social prescribing in the NHS, including research and pilot projects in Wales.

With all of this in mind, back in the middle of my own mini wellbeing crisis, it is tempting to stay a little longer here in this earthy embrace, let a few more winter leaves fall and settle on my back. By the time I finally pull myself up and dust myself down, I have totally lost track of how long I have been here and realise I should probably get back - I’ve still got work to do after all! But now, at least, with moss in my hair and flecks of mud on my cheek, I feel in a slightly better state to tackle it.  

Winter of Wellbeing: Digital Riot

2 March 2022

Join us for Digital Riot! An exciting free workshop celebrating drag, gender identity and its involvement within Welsh protest history.

This project, inspired by the history of the Rebecca Rioters explores identity as a form of protest.

Digital Riot will aim to do this through holding a workshop for young people from ages 10 to 14 at St Fagans National Museum of History.

The day will be divided into three parts.

  • Design your own protest badge
  • Make protest signs inspired by the history of the Rebecca Riots
  • And lastly, wearing our badges and using our protest signs we will visit the toll house at St Fagans to stage and photograph our own mini-Rebecca riot

An ‘Art pack’ filled with artistic resources and materials will be provided to each participant

This free workshop will take place at 12-2pm on the 12 March 2022. Participants can join either at St Fagans in person or digitally over Zoom. To book your space please contact info@galeriesimpsonswansea.com

Digital Riot is a project devised by artist Abigail Fraser for the 9-90 community outreach programme from GS artists Swansea, as part of the Winter of Wellbeing funded by Welsh Government.

Experimental (Indexical) Drawings

Evie Banks, 23 February 2022

Indexical drawings exist all around us!  

Indexical drawings record the interaction between objects, documenting the activity involved.   

Look at this drawing by artist Olafur Eliasson. He created it out at sea in his boat by dipping a ball in black ink. He let it roll across the paper so it could record the waves and movements of the boat across the ocean!   

Why not have a go at your own experimental/indexical drawing? 

Example: 

What you’ll need: a pen, a piece of string, sketchpad.  

  1. Tie the piece of string or whatever is available to you to the pencil or pen  

Hand holding a sharpie pen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 2. Tie the pen with the same piece of string to a tree branch (top tip: choose a thinner branch that moves around a lot more easily!)  

photograph of sharpie being tied to a branch
  

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Hold a piece of paper under the pen and set a timer for however long you would like. We used a 10 minute timer.  

Photograph o sharpie pen drawing on plain paper

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Watch as the wind blows the tree branch, leaving marks of the branch’s movement and the pattern of the wind on your paper!   

 

  5. The result, an artwork created by nature!  

The pictures above are from when I had a go at my own experimental/indexical drawing, drawing the movement of a tree in the wind of Storm Corrie!  

You can track the movement of the branches - in moments of stillness where the pen marks are thick, and in high wind where you can see thin lines!  

Have a go and share your drawings with us. You can tag us on Instagram or Facebook, and remember to use #winterofwellbeing