How Creative Collaboration Builds Confidence

Sarah Pimenta, a participatory textile artist working at Social Fabric, reflects on how creative collaboration builds confidence

Social Fabric delivers unique, high quality participatory experiences for groups of people for all ages and backgrounds in education, community and corporate settings. The name Social Fabric comes from the fact that printed fabrics often result from inclusive, accessible workshop experience where connection, community and creativity are key. For connecting through creativity is a positive influence on our social fabric.

During my years of delivering participatory textile workshops in education with students from reception to Year 13 and beyond I have witnessed how the workshops enable children and young people to have a voice, tell a story, work in a different way and experience being part of a collective, creative experience.

Examples of textile work created by students with Social Fabric

An approach to collaboration

My approach to delivering collaborative workshops is to expect participation and create a supportive and positive environment where creativity can flourish. Activities are carefully planned and organised with clear objectives which give participants space for play, a chance to develop their own voice, and have opportunities to make their mark without being too directive.

A recent group, for example, wanted to work in pairs (a mentor and mentee) and focus on key questions such as: What do we hope for from the future? What will be the challenges? What would success look like? We began the session with a whole group discussion on the questions before looking at how ideas could become visual images then splitting into pairs for further exploration. Each pair was encouraged to respond to the questions in any way they felt most comfortable, and the final visual work reflected that from literal to abstract. Each pair of participants created a small collaborative piece together which was then hung next to the outcomes from the other groups.

Examples of textile work created by students with Social Fabric

Sharing the product

Each piece I make starts with a group discussion before using a layering process incorporating a variety of techniques that the participants engage in including drawing, stencil cutting, block printing, mono-printing, hand painting and screen-printing.

The creative process involves a constant exchange of ideas and feedback throughout especially when working on a collaborative piece of work. The work that is created during the workshops is a sum of many parts. I often hold the colour plan in my head so that the final work has a cohesion, but the imagery, story and making all come from the participants through discussion during the design and making phases.

In schools, it is wonderful to see children point to a particular part of the banner and say, ‘I did that bit’. So often they have popped in during break time to show friends or teachers what they have been doing; I love that, it shows that they are enjoying the experience and are proud of what they have achieved!

Collaboration builds confident creativity

Despite the many benefits of creative making there are many reasons why children and young people may struggle to express themselves creatively – collaborative making experiences are so valuable, even if you are not able to access print making techniques – collaborative drawing, collage and other making pieces can be equally powerful as a group activity. Children and young people are happy to express themselves as a contribution to a shared creative activity as it takes away the responsibility and fear of owning it, some are terrified of the creative process as they are scared about being judged maybe due to criticism in the past and or may be scared of revealing parts of themselves, they prefer to keep hidden – a shared piece allows for anonymity as well as active participation.

Social Fabric delivers high quality participatory experiences for groups of people of all ages.

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