06/09/17 - Day 31 / Week 5 - Flo's Bedroom with Claire

The beauty of this residency is that we have had chance to get to know the residents and their families well. Flo is a resident who moved into Northbourne Care Home the week before our residency started after living in sheltered accommodation. We have been aware that she may have gone through similar emotions to what we had when initially moving in. I know I felt unsure and lost without my home comforts around me alongside feeling nervous around people I didn't know or understand yet. After speaking with the staff at Northbourne, they told us that families or residents can spend as much time as they like decorating and bringing in their home comforts as it is an integral part of feeling at home. I can understand this as when we arrived at Northbourne our rooms were unwelcoming, sterile and clinical which made us feel even more detached to that 'homely' feeling. We however, were able to detach ourselves, knowing we were going back home after 5 weeks...

Barbara, Flo’s daughter visits regularly and during week 2 of our residency, Barbara mentioned that she would like to decorate Flo’s bedroom. It had some scuff marks on the wall from the previous resident and she wanted to make it feel fresh and lighter for her Mum. I felt elated and excited by the prospect of helping Barbara and it was certainly something unexpected, something I would never get chance to do working within the traditional workshop model. I was also given permission and asked by Barbara to help transform it which came as a result of living in Northbourne. To me, a bedroom in a care home is a safe space for that individual and it should capture them, rather than been an unipersonal space where people sleep and live before moving on. As an artist working with the traditional workshop model, I tend to work with a brief or theme which isn't directly connected to the residents - something like 'Matisse' or 'Colour' that everyone can tap into. The idea that the brief would be Flo suddenly felt emotionally deeper and more meaningful. Naturally, I was worried about time and how long we had to create something. Time seems to go so much quicker in a care home and you worry how well Flo will be from one day to the next.

Flo's bedroom is like any other care home bedroom, they are nearly all identical but have a range of magnolia paint shades on them. Photographs adorn the cabinets and sweet treats on the side but it all feels quite temporary. I would love to be able to use my skills and develop ideas to bring to life her room with story, colour, textiles and stitch. One of her main recollections, that she repeats often, is of biking from Chadderton to North Wales with her three brothers when she was young. The ride was approximately 100 miles there and 100 back. She also talks a lot about working in the cotton mills in Chadderton from the age of 14. 

Flo's bedroom so far....

After lots of deliberation and looking through lots of colour swabs from Homebase, Flo chose the colour for one of the walls - a very bright pink! She looked through them again and again matching them with her favourite cardigan. She was elated that someone would take the time to work with her on a one to one basis to change her room. 
Barbara, Kate, Flo and I painted the main wall in Flo's bedroom bright pink and Barabara has recently painted the three remaining walls white. It is certainly on the way to feeling much fresher and personal...

This idea was evoked by Barbara during week 2 of the residency and I originally had the deadline of the 8th of September to have it all completed by. Why was I rushing it? Why did it need completing by then? The worries I had were ‘What happens if Flo’s story changes or another poignant memories comes up?’ ‘What if the familiarity gained from living here fades and collaborating with Flo starts to feel detached?’ ‘How can I stop being so 'deadline-driven' and instead enjoy the process and moment based activity?’

I have decided to work with Flo and her family in a reciprocal way up to Christmas on a weekly basis to be able to really collaborate with Flo, trying various methods and techniques. If the above worries happen, then these are the challenges I need to face creatively and they will really enable my practice to flourish and be debated.

This is an initial sketch of my thoughts...and each small drawing was created working with a group of residents in the main dining room using a variety of techniques and processes. It felt important to include as many residents as possible in each aspect to inspire connections and conversations with Flo.