The majority of Noticing Nature participants have three sessions, one a week for three weeks. In the first session it’s very much about meeting and getting to know each other. I’m very aware that for some people having a stranger (me) come to meet, talk and make with them in their gardens is a new and unusual thing to do. To be honest, it’s pretty new and unusual for me too, so a little anxiety is to be expected, and we do everything we can to alleviate that.
Before I arrive, each participant will have received a printed flyer with dates and times, an introduction to the project and a photograph of me, and will also have had a conversation on the phone with someone from the Celebrating Age Wiltshire team, to answer their questions and address any concerns they may have ahead of the first session.
I see my job in that first session as putting people at their ease, reassuring them that we are using art as a way to notice, record and share, that it’s about being playful and experimenting, and that we are focusing on the process rather than the end product.
Some people have made artwork before in the past, but have moved away from it, whether for health reasons, or after a bereavment, whilst others haven’t drawn or painted since school. I ask them about their gardens, and we look at them together. I introduce ways of recording what we notice, and slowly I start to get a sense of what each person prefers in terms of the different media on offer.
‘That’s inspired me now, to get some of my own materials and experiment!‘
‘It’s really given me something to focus on…‘
In each session I bring along resources (materials, books, natural objects) that I think will fit with a particular person’s interests, and which will build on the session before, and everyone is either given or makes their own sketchbook, so that their investigations can continue between sessions, or beyond the end of the project.
‘In the first workshop I didn’t know what to expect… in the second I started to get the hang of it, and in the third I didn’t want it to stop.’
As a reminder, if you’re not directly involved in the project sessions, you can still either download the Noticing Nature Resource Pack (contact Celebrating Age Wiltshire for a printed version for someone who doesn’t have internet access), or watch the Noticing Nature Short Film, both of which share examples of techniques and activities that you can use to record what you notice about your own local patch.