reFresh Workshop Series, Exhibition and Project Space

Written by Rosie Blake

reFresh is one of the core activities to come from the Climate Beacon partnership and has been led by Beacon members Taigh Chearsabhaigh alongside fellow Uist based organisations Ceòlas and Cothrom. The project ran for 3 months from February to April as a series of public workshops, exploring our relationship to objects and waste in the Outer Hebrides, and finding creative approaches to reusing, recycling and repurposing. 

My role in the project was to curate the project space and exhibition at Taigh Chearsabhagh. I also helped to facilitate the workshops, and I organised a closing event to invite participants of the workshops to talk about their creative outputs and reflect on their experience of the project. The works on display in the gallery acted as a showcase of the fantastic creations made by participants of the workshops and the commissioned artists.

During the closing event I invited the attendees to view the works, and if they felt comfortable, for the makers to talk a little about the process they’ve engaged with. This led to a brilliant conversation about where the ‘waste’ components of the works had come from – one stool was made with wood from a previous furniture project, and slate roof tiles which the maker had discovered emerging from a midden in the dunes. A table had been concocted from an old Christmas tree trunk, the handle of a garden tool and a piece of broomstick.

We were joined by Dr. Tawnya Renelle from Glasgow, who read her essay response and led participants of the workshop to read their own poems and writings.

Here is a wee look at the workshops that occurred as part of reFresh and some of the outcomes that emerged from this project…

Martin Campbell – Woodwork

For his reFresh workshops, designer, maker and woodworker Martin Campbell of Rag and Bone Workshop offered workshops in creative woodworking and furniture making.

Martin engaged participants in making a range of small projects. Martin proposed several ideas including a 3 leg ‘milking stool’ or traditional Scottish ‘creepie’ seat, and a saw-horse or carpenter’s style trestle. Martin led the workshops to offer possibilities to participants of all levels, from seasoned experts to enthusiastic novices.

Participants were able to develop practice skills, gained experience in furniture making and now have a piece to take home with them.

The first set of workshops took place at Cothrom ReStore’s wood workshop in South Uist. Cothrom ReStore work regularly with a range of learners, making all kinds of wonderful pieces from darning mushrooms, coasters and cooking tongs to larger furniture renovations.

The second set of workshops took place at The Grimsay Boatshed, another fantastic community space. Participants worked with both hand and power tools, turning a pile of ‘waste’ wood into an imaginative and usable array of objects, from stools to plant stands to a miniature chaise lounge!

Studio Vans – Recycled Plastic

Studio Vans is a design and build studio in Benbecula focused on using sustainable and recycled materials to convert vans and campervans in innovative ways.

For their reFresh workshop, Studio Vans focused on small scale plastic recycling, beginning with leading participants in harvesting the raw material from a local shoreline. The workshop culminated in the production of new useful objects at Studio Vans’ workshop in Balivanich, Benbecula using professional machinery.

Participants engaged in important discussions around environmental, ecological, and social issues around the locally occurring Ocean and Ocean Bound plastics found across Uist.

Participants made some weird and wonderful pieces, including a ‘Hebridean Tiki’ tray, and a bowl-shaped vessel with Shetland fishing insignia still intact from the original piece of flotsam (a plastic fish box). 

Sue Barclay – Collaborative Textile Collage

For her reFresh workshop, visual artist and teacher Sue Barclay investigated waste textiles and collage artwork. Participants worked individually and collectively to create their own collaborative collages using unwanted textiles, paper, card, and other materials. 

Sue invited participants to follow their intuitive and emotional responses to their environment and life on the island to inspire these works; with an opportunity to explore these responses using various mark-making and construction techniques.

The workshop was designed to bring a fresh perspective to the art making process and was open to anyone open to the possibility of finding new ways of tuning in to their own unique and individual way of expressing themselves.

Workshop participants made a wonderfully expressive series of textile collages, exploring emotions, the meaning of the ‘waste’ textiles and colour. They decided as a group to collaborate on a final work, adding all of the pieces together to make a large scale double sides hanging.

Margaret Joan NicÍosaig Dr. Tawnya Renelle – Paper-making and Experimental Writing

For their reFresh workshops, experimental writer and creative writing educator Dr. Tawnya Selene Renelle and artist and educator Margaret Joan NicÍosaig combined their creative practices to offer two workshops of paper making and writing. The two workshops created a multipoint dialogue between materials and makers. 

Margaret Joan’s led participants through the creation of recycled paper from collected scrap paper or card brought to the workshop from around their home. She encouraged various approaches to making paper including layers and incorporation of small objects– pieces of fabric, threads, or seeds placed between layers or even wrapped into the wet pulp.

Tawnya asked participants to consider the following questions: how do the objects we love become a representation of ourselves? If we listen to them closely enough, what stories might they tell us? She led participants through a series of playful, experimental and fun creative writing exercises to get them interacting and thinking differently about the objects in our lives.

Tawnya also produced her own ‘shadow box’, and a series of 5 writings/poems reflecting on the act of collecting objects.

Exhibition and closing event


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