skip to main content

Staying Creative

With people locked down at home, many creatives have spent their lockdown time making artwork and sharing them digitally with others. Online artwork and digital resources have been a great way for people to feel connected and less isolated during the difficult times of lockdown. Bradford Council launched a RESPONSE grant that supported local artists to work on their practice, respond to the pandemic and connect with their local communities.

The Peace Museum Creative Challenge

The Peace Museum received one of these grants which allowed us to work with artist Nancy Haslam Chance who developed The Peace Museum Creative Challenge. Each week from the beginning of June, a new challenge was issued for our followers and supporters to have a go at.

Here’s some of the submissions from our followers: 

You can follow Nancy’s work and see more of the challenge on her Instagram page. 

Mussarat Rahman

Local Bradford artist Mussarat Rahman was also awarded a Bradford Council Response Grant and used the support to create a body of work called ‘Dawning of a New World’. The work is an artist response to Covid-19 and the pandemic and has used household items such as clothing and objects. She has been inspired by the constant coronavirus newscycle and created items like a crown and decorative PPE featuring newspaper cuttings.

Crown of  Unworthy NewsWorthy words by Mussarat Rahman, 2020. 

Wearing Masks: Marianne Matusz

We’ve teamed up with artist Marianne Matusz for this exhibition and she has created some videos with a challenge at the end. Watch this video about how wearing a mask has become the new normal and how you can make yours that bit extra!

Connected by a Thread by Tina Crawford

Going further afield, artists across the country have used lockdown as an opportunity to great creative.

Tina Crawford is a free embroidery artist, she uses the sewing machine as her tool of choice,“the needle feels like an extension of my hands”. With no drawing or marks down when the needle goes in to the material of choice, the line is made instantly. 

Alumnus of Central St Martins College of Art Tina’s work is in Soho House New York and she has exhibited in Leyden Gallery, Shoreditch, Alon Zakiam, Mayfair. Tina’s designs (under the brand Tobyboo) have been used for products in St Paul’s Cathedral, Soane Museum, Museum of London, Kew Gardens and English Heritage. Paul Smith is one of her admirers and the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier, Grayson Perry and Martin Parr own her portrait dolls. Award-winning British actress Emily Watson has a portrait that was stitched directly from a sitting with Tina.

Tina has also been listed in the top 50 female neurodiverse influencers (Women on the Box) due to her dyslexia. 

On March 23rd 2020, Tina started a new piece of work Connected by a Thread.

The piece has been worked on in Tina’s home in Croydon since March, over 100 stories, quotes and even a poem have been included, The fabric used are off cuts from NHS scrubs, it measures 2 metres x 2 metres, it was one continuous stitch going from picture to picture. Engagement came from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Celebrities who have contributed are Mel Giedroyc, Sophie Ellis- Bextor and comedian Rachel Parris. 

This piece of work embodies the four months of pandemic isolation, the digital connections we made and reconnecting of ourselves.

“Without being able to work in my studio, banished to my home with only my sewing machine, no stack of fabrics to choose from, but I was itching to work. Right at the start of lockdown I knew I wanted to create work as a reaction to it; I wasn’t sure what. The idea of isolation conjured up images of embroidery hoops (which I don’t actually use to work with) connected with threads. I genuinely found social media a lifesaver, Twitter in particular – it can be an awful, judgmental place but in the first couple of months of isolation it was a community – I tapped into this. I put out tweets asking for photos of your #lockdownmoments and they came in; gardening, bird-watching, baking, everything was actually quite joyful and I didn’t expect it – I thought I’d get loneliness and rationing of loo rolls. I started embroidering what came in and ‘framing’ them in embroidery hoops with the idea of connecting them but quite soon in, this time on Instagram, Stag and Bow (a lovely haberdashery emporium in Forest Hill) had on offer for collection off-cuts and scraps from a group that had been stitching NHS scrubs – I leapt on it! (well, my husband cycled to Sydenham for them). Once I got the scraps I knew how my piece would look. The off-cuts were different shades of blue and I wanted to just stitch in white.

I started embroidering each photo but once finished I dragged the thread so it was still connected to the next with a gap between the next scrap and so on…. Each piece was connected by a thread exactly how I felt social media was; we all seemed to come from the same place. More stories and photos came in and I accidentally changed the hashtag to #lockdownhighlights because of the positivity; babies were born, birthdays celebrated, and lots of love for pets all the time. I kept the continuous thread going on to the next story …. There is one point where after I cut the thread- I’ve stitched a single black square, not only to mark BLM #blackouttuesday but also to represent those that were disconnected and very much isolated. 

 I knew from the start how big the piece should be, that was easy: two metres by two metres, the distance we should have kept from each other. When I started laying out the piece, I realised just how big two metres is and the problem of laying out the whole work arose –  I didn’t have the space at home. The continuous stitching on the scraps was almost like a very long length of bunting so I cut it in pieces that were two metres long and layered them. I originally wanted to free embroidery haphazard in red over the whole piece to secure it together and to have a visual of the virus, but after seeing the small pictures I’d created I didn’t want to interfere with it; the idea of having a backing fabric was originally something I’d resisted but I began to love the idea – a tactile material that you’d instantly want to touch, because what can’t we do during the pandemic? Touch. 

I chose a rich red velvet, a fabric most of us want to touch – and the thought that you can’t. Also chose red because it meant so much: danger of the virus, blood, a warning, plus all along I wanted it to be a piece of work that was red, white and blue, the colours of the union flag. Lockdown started to loosen, things were going back to normal and the piece needed to be finished. I needed to finish this when lockdown ended. This piece is completely time sensitive – if I tried to start it now it wouldn’t work; people are restless and fed up, community is broken, but for a very brief time we came together, we clapped for keyworkers, we baked, we spent time with our families, we gardened, and we stopped.

My favourite story? There’s an easy winner for this, the picture was of a necklace that was made from part of a spoon – the story is, Susan’s first boyfriend from when she was 16 had been back in touch over lockdown, they chatted, they Zoomed, then he had made and sent her the necklace. The pair of them, over 30 years later are now lockdown seeing each other as a couple. It was almost too perfect a story, so beautiful. 

And my #lockdownhighlight? Obviously making this piece but also, every Sunday on Facebook Live, Sky had “Portrait Artist of the Week” a four hour sitting with a celebrity and a previous winner painting along. It doesn’t sound like it would work but it really did, I shed a tear when it ended.”

Find out more about Tina’s work;

[email protected]

instagram: @sewtobyboo

twitter: @tobyboo

tiktok: @tobyboo 

Inspirational Women

Lyn Barlow from Williton, Somerset has been working on a project ‘Inspirational Women’ during lockdown.

Image: Credit: Lyn Barlow

“Due to shielding I’ve been working on a couple of projects that can be used post pandemic to raise awareness. I’ve been working on 2 quilts/wall hangings, the first is all about ‘Inspirational Women’, throughout history, and affirmative, positive quotes. As a Quaker I wanted to make something which could be used by groups, such as Amnesty, Quaker Action, post pandemic, maybe as a backdrop to events, for instance International Women’s Day. The second was all about how the social housing estate I live in, and our village, has come together and has experienced the lockdown, it concentrates on highlighting/celebrating the role frontline workers have played in getting us through such difficult times, and how neighbours have shown their appreciation through, for instance, the clapping for NHS nights. I received a lot of encouragement from neighbours and keyworkers such as our local postie, bin collectors, who gave me permission to take photos to help with design. Our landlords, a Housing Association, have agreed for the finished hanging to be on permanent display in the local Community Room as a historic reminder of the pandemic and the village library are also going to display it for a period once re-opened. Although I worked on these two projects alone, due to shielding, a good many people have got involved with suggestions as to what to include and as lockdown is beginning to ease I’ve been able to share how they’ve progressed. I feel that, for me, and I’ve heard from many others, especially members of our local craft group, which hasn’t been able to run since Feb, how creativity has played a huge role in so many people’s lives during the pandemic and should be celebrated for the sense of community it has encouraged.”