Tuesday 9 February 2016

The background to making the puppets

This post was initially published on  8-January-2016  on Corina Duyns Blog, who was the project facilitator of the "Life outside the Box" project. 

The IWA and the start of the Puppet Project

One of the puppets- created by Ann
I have been a member of the Wheelchair Association (IWA) for maybe fifteen years. During this time I have written for their Spokeout Magazine, been the lucky recipient of a writing and an art award, but it took me till 2012/13 to become an active member. 
It started with being invited to join the outreach program, which I wrote about here in their Spokeout magazine. Outreach gave me the opportunity to have a day out of my choice supported by IWA staff. One of the things I found challenging was that the wheelchair bus has HUGE lettering on it, proclaiming that whomever is on the bus has a disability. A little more discretion would be lovely... But I got used to it. You get used to anything.

In 2014 I was asked to come along on a holiday to Killarney. To be perfectly honest, it took a lot of persuasion to get me to agree. I did agree. Last minute. When somebody canceled. I found it a rather big step to go. I didn't know any of the members. Did my life really come to a point that I needed a supported holiday? After initial years of being mostly housebound, I had gained great independence over the years, but that had slipped away from me again.  After taking many deep breaths on the bus, I decided to take it all in my stride. And... I had a wonderful time! Met some great new people. We had a great laugh. New friendships were made. 

Aerial (detail) © Corina Duyn 2014
Summer 2014 I was asked (again) to join the resource centre once a week. I gave it a try. I actually looked forward to get to know my new friends a bit better. I had become more dependent on support to be able to leave the house, so a once a week trip out could be very good for me.
As there is staff to support us, I took clay with me to be able to make one of my sculptures. (I was having more difficulties with rolling clay, so having the support to do this was great.)
I made Aerial there. The sculpture developed into something different than I had set out. The people I met, the materials that were around all influenced the final outcome.
A very interesting experience.

As there was quite a bit of interest in my work, I was asked in early 2015 if I could ‘by any chance’ facilitate the creation of a series of puppets and a puppet show with the other members? 
Being awarded the Create - Artist in the Community Scheme, funded by the Arts Council of Ireland, in May of 2015 made this happen. 

Our group consists of about ten members between the ages of 27 to 73. We are living with limited/partial mobility, congenital physical
disabilities, chronic illness, or acquired brain injuries. Most of these conditions are impacting on our finer motor skills. So quite a challenge to sculpt detailed faces etc... But together we found ways around them.
I am immensely proud of what fellow members have achieved.

We met every Monday to work on the puppets. Starting with a stick and a strip of cotton, we made the bases for the heads. Over the following six months the puppets took on their ultimate personalities. We now have nine puppets, a large box, a big hand, a book about the project in the making, and a short film to be shot in a few weeks time. 

The fun we had doing this project, I will never forget. We laughed so hard. And the enthusiasm and hunger for exploring the next step of the process never ceased. 
I am deeply humbled by the experience. 

We all had IWA staff to support us in whatever way necessary, including myself. It would be too great a challenge for me to bring a project of this scale into the world on my own. The IWA setting has given me the courage to go back to teaching.

I will tell you more about the fun we had; share more images of the work we created;  tell you about the film, the book, the upcoming exhibition, but for now, here are a few snapshots from the past few months.

Start of the Puppet Project 

Start of the Puppet Project 

Start of the Puppet Project 

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