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What a week!

After the 'excitement of launching last week' my usual dive into lots of exciting projects has been scuppered by testing + for covid since Monday :( not the Valentines gift I was hoping for.

So I'm looking back at a past project that probably needs more explination.

I'm going back over 3 years to my first project with Old School Wolverton, little did I know that it would become such a large part of my working practice when I started in Autumn 2018.

I was asked by Marie Osbourne, the force behind Future Wolveron to work with another creative genius that is Rebekah Blandamer aka Mrs B of the MrsB Emporium. They had a vision to style the guest house attached to the Old School project with up-cycled treasures, theming each room in a slightly different way with a nod to the Railway Town and it's history (see below for links) I was asked to work with the young people of *Slated Row school to design and create the fabrics and curtains, what an honour!

I had completed the Old BathHouse Quilts in Wolverton the year before which celebrated the History and Heritage of Wolverton and it's claim to fame being the 'first railway town'.

As the Old School (in Old Wolverton) was around before the Railway town, the theme should be nature and farming with only a slight nod towards the new town up the road.

I started with some ideas for designs, talking to the students about what they thought would work well and images they liked. We looked at native animals and birds as well as farm animals that might have been around. There is a really important tree in the grounds of the school house, a silver birch that had been planted in the 1970's as a silver wedding anniversary gift to the people who live in the house at the time. It was also a case of what the children could draw, or maybe trace and what interested them and as everyone likes tea and cakes, so this featured quite a lot as well. Do look at the fabulous teapot drawn by one of the students, amazing! In the first week we were able to help the students engrave the print blocks and test some of their designs.

The following week, we set to work printing the large quantity of fabric I had bought, which was in fact a linen double duvet set from Ikea in a lovely light mushroom colour. A great neutral colour to print on with a nod to the vintage styling around the house.

Printing the designs: there are a couple of 2 and 3 colour prints, but to keep it simple one colour was enough. The students were very keen to print as much as they could, they needed reminding that animals had to stand up the right way and trees grew up towards the sky!

I was helped with this reminding so much by the staff in the project at Slated Row, we would have had many more 'strange' prints if it wasn't for their eagle eyes. Thank you :)

Photo credits above - Simon Beckett - Factotum Film

I went into work with the students once a week for 6 weeks, we just kept printing until we were finished. I think they got some taste of a production line, but what an amazing creative production line! Sometimes the colour and shape balance got a bit over excited which niggled me, so I was quick to add details with my favourite quick print fix - the lid of a squirty cream canister. It had to be precise and well spaced, so I kept that job for myself, perks of being the lead artist!

We then set about printing the curtains, again I found the perfect match in Ikea - readymade blackout curtains in a dark beige were a great base for our printing designs. The fabric is not a natural fibre, so I couldn't iron it at the ideal temperature to set the fabric paint, but I managed to find a discounted sample in the bargain basement to try the paint out on before I committed to buying 4 sets of curtains.

I ironed them as hot as I dare, washed the curtains and all was good. Phew!

Once the fabric was all printed, I set to work measuring up the foot runners for the bottom of each bed ready for quilting and binding. I quilted simply around each shape and then stitched vertically down to the next shape, they all came together quite quickly.

There was fabric left over, and MrsB had found lots of treasures that needed up-cycling so I also recovered the large lampshade, printed cushion covers, printed the ironing board cover and printed the kitchen blind.

Something I had never done before was ceramic tile printing, I went along to Kilning Me Softly in Newport Pagnal and spent a happy hour using our blocks to print some tiles for the kitchen. My little print from the lid of the cream canister would not have worked on the hard tiles, so I had to make myself a foam version so I could use that motif as well. If you look carefully you can see a bit of a glitch in my printing technique, when I took this photo I didn't notice the dog poop! So rather than use that in the tiles, I went back a month later and printed another (cleaner) version. However Marie loved the poop version and it still features in the kitchen.

Three and a half years after I worked with the school, the house is still looking great and people I don't know comment on the quality and design of the fabrics and of course the wonderful styling from MrsB and her team.

I've gone to to create more art projects for Future Wolverton at the Old School, Marie is very supportive in working with local artists and creating a wonderful community space for everyone. More of those projects in future blog posts.

Stop Press - exciting news this week, Future Wolverton have been nominated for the Milton Keynes Business Achievement Awards - Business impact in the community. Crossing all fingers for the award evening in March and I'm very proud to be going along with Marie and some of the Old School Team.

*Slated Row is a school for children and young people who are not in main stream school system. They have more complex needs but are very capable in some tasks. One of the great outcomes of the whole Old School project is that the young people gain work experience in the cafe on a regular basis.

Links to the partners mentioned:

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Feb 19, 2022

Fingers crossed and good luck for the award in March. Margaret

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