This project has several aims. In line with previous arts based projects in the Grange the work is intended to have therapeutic benefits for the participants. The work is around reminiscence with individuals encouraged to draw on their life experience to build the imagery employed around the self-portraits.
The artistic aim is to help the participants to create low or bas-relief self-portraits in clay by hand modelling an image of them selves, which is then enhanced by being surrounded by significant images from their own lives. So the final piece is an object, which carries a sense of the tale of the individual’s life.
The process to create the work begins with discussion and questions to begin to identify images and ideas, which are important to the participant. This takes the form of a questionnaire from which the answers create a pen portrait of the person. At the same time a photograph is taken from which the self- portrait is done.
From the answers an image search is done to develop an image bank for each individual. For example you may look for pictures of ships if someone worked in the shipyards or one person talked about her husband driving trains so images of trains could be included.
To start the modelling the individual is given a tray of clay to work into and from. This has the advantage of creating a common format, which will help with the final mounting of the work. Each person works in different ways but generally they start with the central self-portrait and then work around this to put in the images which complement and illustrate their story.
Once complete the portraits are cast using a silicon rubber material. From this mould a plaster cast is taken. The participants then work to paint the work using acrylic paints.
Alongside the self-portraits, several portrait pieces have been produced with individuals whose hands are no longer strong enough to work the clay. However they can be very involved through the pen portrait stage and in the decisions around what images are used.
Richard Broderick – Artist/Sculptor for the project