Pocket Full of Sunshine – Garden Fence Gallery

The Garden Fence Gallery has been on tour to Byker! I’ve been working with families living in the famous ‘Byker Wall’ helping them create their own garden fence art. This was part of the Pocket Full of Sunshine project run by Byker Children and Young People Partnership, supported by the Community Lottery Fund.

Alongside the Garden Fence Gallery, participatory artist Betty Hill helped residents create ‘Windows of Wow’ with collages of spirit animals so between us, I think we brought a lot of colour and fun to Byker!

PFoS Flyer with details of all events

First task was to source some plywood – got some great offcuts from a company that line out vans and lorries – they even cut them to fit in my little car! I was also donated a great piece of MDF (thanks Jane next door:)) and the talented team at Northern Stage cut that into heart and easter egg shapes. My associate artist, David then did a grand job of whitewashing everything read for painting on.

I wanted families to work BIG and use acrylic paints but not everyone is familiar with that , so to start off all participants were given a heart, some drawing paper and an acrylic painting kit. The were asked to draw something they love on the heart and then to paint it in bright colours – something to eat, a favourite place, favourite hobby…anything.

The idea being that they would get comfortable with using the paints before tackling something a bit bigger! The next task was to draw an animal onto the paper provided – this could be a ‘Spirit’ animal – one with the characteristics the participant has or wants to have. Or it could be a favourite animal – real or imaginary- anything from the family pet to a Unicorn!

I took the drawings to my temporary workshop at the Youth Centre in Byker and scaled them up on to the plywood. Initially this was done, old school – gridding up and scaling up the grids – took….for…..ever!

Then my lovely fellow artist Betty lent me a proper old school OHP so I could just transfer the drawings to acetate (actually cut up old poly pockets!) and then project them onto the plywood…so much quicker! (Will have to find one for my toolkit)

I worked with quite a few children who enjoy the activities at Kids Kabin – thanks to Angela for introducing me to them and letting me use the Hobby Room as a pick up and drop off location! The animals started to appear – first was this gorgeous panda

Closely followed by these cats, painted by two sisters – I love the bright bold colours they’ve used

Next thing I knew it was nearly Easter and I was asked to help with an Easter Egg trail for residents at the South end of the estate. I designed some egg ideas to get them started and painted a couple of images, then the residents were given MDF eggs, paints and brushes so they could paint their own eggs. Here’s some of the eggs on the trail – beautiful, bright and bonny!

During the Easter Holidays, lunches and activities were offered to families from the conmmunity building on Gordon Road, to make the street look jolly, we asked people to exhibit their artworks along the street – having got permission from residents to use their garden fences and bin stores as the gallery space – everyone agreed and it made the street look very bright and cheerful – despite the cold weather.

At the end of the holidays, the paintings were taken down and returned to the people who had made them – although the Highland cow and teapot heart that I painted got ‘adopted’ by Gordon Rd residents – so I guess they liked them!

We worked with dozens of families across the Byker Wall and heard from other residents how much they enjoyed seeing the art as they went about the streets of Byker. Now the project is complete, the art materials are packed away, but hopefully we can be back in Byker soon to help residents build on their creativite skills.

Published by Donna Cheshire Textiles

I am a professional textile artist specializing in Appliqué and Free Motion machine stitching. In order to create a unique colour palette, I hand dye my own fabrics and then use these to create the landscapes and coastal scenes recorded in my sketchbook. I often incorporate recycled or vintage fabrics in my work - they add meaning to the story the work is telling. I love being so close to the Northumbrian coast and countryside and I especially like taking time walk and draw these stunning landscapes

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