Making Alongside – Our Weekly Online Get Together

Creative Studio

At Designs in Mind, we have a plethora of things going on throughout the week. You may have recently read our blog, showcasing our in-house Reading and Singing group that takes place on Monday afternoons.

The middle of the week are our three Member’s sessions, so that leaves Friday open.

Back during lockdown, ‘Making Alongside’ began its journey via Zoom, initially as a support to keep our members occupied and connected. It was so popular, it still runs to date!

Our current host took over the running of Making Alongside in 2021. The original team hosting were Stuart and Rhi. Big ‘thanks’ to you both for that time when it was so important to keep members connected.

Sylvia is now our weekly host for the get-together. She is a long-standing former member, now part of the staff team. Sylvia was part of the original project at the outset of Designs in Mind, way before that name we all know and love came into being.

Sylvia has been a member of staff since 2004. Her staff role was originally Studio Coordinator.  For almost two decades, she has now part of our Listen & Connect staff and a valued part of the team.

During Making Alongside, Sylvia works on her embroidery pieces that honour many of the classic artists, such as Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Edvard Munch’s The Scream, to name but a few.

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Sylvia revealed to me that her personal favourite artist is David Hockney. Here is her embroidery interpretation.

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Here’s a sneak peak of Sylvia latest piece she is working on, perhaps you’ll recognise it from the snippet in this picture.

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I sat down with Sylvia to glean a few comments on what Making Alongside means to her.

She shared: “It gives me that space I need to do my embroidery pieces, it allows me a time slot. Life can get busy and hectic, so it’s refreshing to have this weekly session set aside for just sewing.

I also enjoy seeing other people work, how it evolves over time. Being with other members is a good boost to the end of the week too”.

I asked if being our host has a positive effect on Sylvia’s general wellbeing and mental health challenges?

She said : “In many ways, as it makes me feel a part of Designs in Mind outside of the studio, plus having this as a weekly commitment, helps me to have purpose”.

All in all, it really is apparent that Making Alongside continues to be a valuable session. Not just for those who live further away from the studio, but also to those who may struggle to leave the house.

It’s also available for any of our members, who may be interested in joining our creating from home session. So if your a member, do consider joining us, you’d receive a warm welcome.

Making Alongside runs every Friday from 1.30pm to 3.30pm. Sometimes we have an extra half hour to 4pm, if Sylvia is available to extend that time. Members can jump in for the full session, or just part of the time were online.

So… what happens during these sessions I hear you ask?

Well, it varies greatly on what those who attend, are currently working on. The clue is in the name “Making Alongside”. We are all there together to chat and make. This may be crafting, painting, drawing, embroidering, slow stitching, jewellery making and more!

For example, I once attended while I was making food in a batch cook! More recently I joined for the last 40 mins of the session and was feeling tired, yet in need of a connection and my “Making Alongside” was simple brew, making a cuppa.

It’s often the same people attending each week, however we are always open to newcomers, who will find the Zoom link on our private Facebook group, Good Things. If you’re not on the socials, members can ask for details on how to join when they are in on their day at the studio.

I asked some of our current Making Alongside attendees to share what the benefits of joining in each week have been for them.

The feedback has been so positive and it’s great to hear just how supportive this session has been to all involved. It’s a real lifeline for many members and staff too!

Wendy & Ryan shared:

“We joined Making Alongside in 2020. We both enjoy Making Alongside, as we love art and talking to people who are non-judgemental, as they ‘are in the same boat’ so to speak. We enjoy seeing everyone’s work and showing our work to others in the group. It has definitely helped us both!

Generally, having ‘me time’ to spend doing artwork, something we both enjoy and seeing people regularly once a week to catch up. We have known some people for over 2 years now and we see them as understanding and supportive friends.

We don’t attend group sessions in person as Ryan finds social contact with people extremely daunting due to his Autism, Social Anxiety, Depression and CPTSD. I don’t attend as I live in Whitchurch, where there isn’t any public transport to Oswestry and I find travel hard with my mobility issues.

We look forward to our Friday Making Alongside Sessions for the art and for the friendships that have helped us navigate some very difficult situations”.

Here is a picture Ryan drew at Making Alongside, its a personal favourite of mine.

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This is one of Wendy’s paintings which is so cute and beautifully put together.

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Jenny B wrote:

“I’ve been joining in Making Alongside on Friday’s , with Sylvia since it started on Zoom during lockdown. It was a lifeline at the time but also now too. My studio day is Tuesday, so it’s great to have more Designs in Mind family time at the end of the week, before the weekend begins.

We are a small section of the Designs in Mind creative community. I get inspiration and creativity as well as company and a laugh.

We are not a closed group, so welcome any other Designs in Mind members to join in. It is on Zoom every Friday from 1.30pm to 3:30pm. You can come for the whole time or just part of it”.

I was keen to hear Jenny B’s feedback on how she feels, about any positive effects Making Alongside has had on her general wellbeing.

Plus if it’s helped with mental health challenges. She shared: “For sure. It helps me feel able to get through the weekend on my own. It’s a chance to be yourself and check in with others, while making whatever art we may like to, at home. I have often found it is hard to motivate myself to pick up my art projects at home , on my own. So Making Alongside has been of great benefit to me. The time goes so quickly. It’s also been a volunteer role for me to host Making Alongside, when Sylvia is unable to. This gives me purpose and a feeling of giving value to others. Sometimes I’m not in the mood to create, so I’ll just come to join in the community spirit. There is always my colouring books, if I’ve no particular projects on the go.

More recently I’ve been burning wood designs with my pyrography and making paper beads, turning them into earrings to sell for charity. I’ve also been experimenting with airdry clay to make beads and plaques that I will write quotes on. Often my Christmas projects get started on early too.

Jenny B’s beautiful pyrography etched box

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Jenny B’s handmade bead earrings

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Jenny shared further: “I really value this online studio session, especially as my health issues can prevent me coming into the studio. Thanks to Making Alongside, it means I don’t miss a whole week of contact.

It is really great that we still have online members attending who joined during lockdown. Some of them aren’t able to get to the studio at all, but can still access a taste of our creative time via the weekly Making Alongside, online session”.

Jenny G, Staff, Systems Administrator wrote:

“I’ve been attending Making Alongside since it started in the Spring of 2020 (during the first lockdown). I get to engage in informal chat with other Designs in Mind people, which is difficult to do for an extended period when I’m at work, as I work in the office”.

I also enquired with Jenny G, if she feels these sessions have a positive effect on her general wellbeing and mental health challenges?

“Yes I do, as I don’t socialise much, partly as I tend to dislike one-to-one socialising but also as I live in a village with patchy public transport and can’t drive, so I’m still able to benefit from this weekly social Zoom during Making Alongside.

During the time I work on my paintings/collages, though sometimes sewing. It has been very interesting learning about other attendees, and I also get to keep-in-touch with and support my old-colleague(s) Sylvia and her stand-in, the other Jenny in continuing this brilliant service”.

Jenny G’s sketch of family pet, Darcy, what a little cutie!

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Big heartfelt thanks to Sylvia and Jenny B for holding the Making Alongside Sessions for our members.

Not only is it greatly appreciated, it is crystal clear, that it’s a vital, ongoing part of what we offer our members.

Long may it reign!

We hope to see more of our members attending soon….

Thanks also, to all who contributed their words and pictures to this blog, it really is very much appreciated.

Blog Written & researched by Willow, Member & Social Media Coordinator