It was a delight to partner up with The Mother House, Stroud as part of “GPS Embroidery”. This is a project which takes mothering arts practices beyond the domestic sphere by using the to and fro of the GPS signal to scrawl across city, suburban and countryside locations in an attempt to broaden ideas about who-gets-to-write-what-where in and about the British landscape. I have been running these workshops with people who mother in a variety of contexts, both alongside children and without, but this was a wonderful way not only to enable artist-mothers to keep working, but to broaden the audiences for our practices by carrying them out in the public space of the library.

Using a variety of playful mapping techniques, and with GPS trackers to trace their routes, participants created their own representations of the city. Whilst commuters may use maps as a tool to show main roads and businesses, we might not see the other, unpaid kinds of workers who are making paths through the streets. Whilst tourists might use maps to find sights and attractions, the details of life that escape the municipal overview are not often acknowledged or recorded, but are equally memorable and fascinating. Mapping allows us to experience details of the world we might otherwise miss, and to share a glimpse of these perspectives by exhibiting the maps in the library.

 

In parallel workshops facilitated by The Mother House Stroud’s Rebecca Stapleford  and inspired by the stories of ‘A River’ by Marc Martin and ‘The Magic Paint brush’ by Julie Donaldson the group explored the theme of place using a variety of playful mapping and creative painting. The children’s work was exhibited in the library space, too. 

 

 

The project was the starting point for Gloucester Library’s Creative Mothers Programme, which has been developed by producer Hannah Brady and aims to develop sustainable networks of mothers within the area.

The work has helped us explore the complications of making work with babes in arms and roaming toddlers and demonstrates the possibilities of what can be achieved in a short period of time within a supportive environment.

It was wonderful to work with such a creative and friendly group, and to be able to share our work with the library staff, visitors and general public. I hope that together we have helped to raise the visibility of maternal work (both artistic and caring) another notch, but I would like to give the final word to the artists:

 

These lines represent walks I have made with my daughter since becoming a mother. They portray a growing sense of discovery, beginning and ending from our secure base, our home. They begin small and close and with time they grow, branching out into new pathways. This is symbolic of the neurological development of an infant’s brain, and our journey together stepping out into a new world.

Ruth Bide

 

Drifting around the city I felt invisible. Everyone was going about their usual business but I felt unusual. My senses were heightened and everything was amplified. Sights, sounds, people, faces. I wanted to notice everything but it didn’t feel overwhelming. It felt glorious. As if I had permission to stop and stare, reflect and enjoy whatever caught my eye.

Sharon Bennett

 

When walking with the intention of observing I noticed details. I wouldn’t normally pay any attention to these details at all. As Sylvia slept in the pram, I took photos of these details then overlaid them on the map of Gloucester. I like the sense of scale between the items in the drawings and the streets represented by the map.

Athene Whitaker

Supported by Gloucestershire Art of Libraries, The Arts Council, Procreate Projects and inspired by Mother House Studio.

Participants: Chloe Kempton, Sharon Bennett, Athene Whitaker, Katrina Rosser, Jessica Timmis , Ruth Bide and Oonah Davies