A special exhibition for National Recovery Month is highlighting the power of art as a vital recovery tool , says Kenn Taylor
Landmark is an art project created through collaboration between artists Emilie Taylor and Christopher Jarratt and 11 people they met at local drug and alcohol support service Project 6 .
Emilie was a drug and alcohol worker in Sheffield for 11 years before training as an art therapist , and this is her third collaboration with Project 6 .
The project is now the subject of an exhibition in Sheffield during National Recovery Month . The aim is to highlight the importance of place , community and belonging and encourage people to reflect ‘ on how our personal journeys are part of the fabric of the city ’.
MOMENTS OF CHANGE I met up with six of those 11 collaborators – Sam , Ben , Ruth , Matt , Lee and Dave – along with Emilie and Christopher , who details the concept at the heart of the project : ‘ We wanted to map and tell the stories of people ’ s journeys and moments of great change in their lives through the languages of imagery , colour and craft . Inspired by the symbolism from Sheffield ’ s past , we settled on pilgrim flasks and banners as the artefacts to hold and tell these stories .’
I ask the group what they thought of these themes when they were presented with them . ‘ We were going in blind ,’ says Lee . ‘ But I like history and the references were medieval , so I was quite happy with that . The broader context of us all going on a pilgrimage , that ’ s what we ’ ve done through this process .’
‘ When we presented it , I did sense some hesitation , understandably so , but everyone got on board ,’ says Christopher . ‘ Dealing with hard things in your life , if you can abstract them a bit , I think it helps . Embedding our stories into craft I feel is one of the most ancient and effective ways of making sense of the world .’
They met every Friday over 14 weeks , beginning each session talking about whatever came up for them , then drawing and printing in response . ‘ The
‘ Embedding our stories into craft I feel is one of the most ancient and effective ways of making sense of the world .’
most evocative part , drawing something every week , from our thoughts and feelings , opened up something new ,’ says Lee . ‘ That really connected us , was the glue that tied us in .’
After talking and drawing , they moved to creating objects . For the first seven weeks , they crafted the clay pilgrim flasks . For the remaining seven , they dyed and sewed large cloth pennants . ‘ Making the drawings and letting what was under the surface speak could be emotionally deep and very heavy ,’ says Emilie . ‘ Moving into material processes offered a way to sit with the weight of feeling in the room . Craft holds space . There were times , I remember dyeing the fabric after very difficult conversations , the mood transformed into all of us having an absolute riot .’
SIGNIFICANCE Locations around the city that had significant meanings to individual group members became a focus as the project developed . They decided to dedicate one session to visiting places they ’ d each chosen . After arriving , they ’ d share what it meant to them and this was audio recorded . Later , footage was taken of the places and merged with the audio to create a film which forms part of the project . It ’ s clear this revisitation of locations which held strong and sometimes painful memories had a significant impact on them . ‘ My place was the Millennium Gallery ,’ says Ruth . ‘ I went in again recently . It ’ s almost like it ’ s been exorcised from me , through this process . I used to only associate it with bad things , but it ’ s very different now for me .’ Dave agrees , ‘ Like the park , I have found peace with it now . I go and sit at the bridge and listen to the running water . It ’ s that journey .’
I ask about the images they chose for their flasks and banners . ‘ I drew a wheelie bin full of empty wine bottles ,’ Ruth explains . ‘ I never realised how much stress that would cause me during my
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