Getting Crafty at Home

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From making cards, and Easter and Christmas gifts together, to puzzles, colouring, painting, and quizzes over zoom, Amanda Brown, our art tutor, has kept the ‘arts and crafters’ of Cross Gates & District Good Neighbours’ Scheme CIO entertained during lockdown.

Amanda moved to Leeds from Scotland in 1987, and dedicated her time to community arts and craft classes, working as an activity coordinator in the NHS, and being part of the learning support team at Leeds City College. Before starting her classes at the Scheme in September 2018 with 18 members. The crafts classes would often focus on fun things they could create to sell and help with funding, like seasonal gifts.

As her classes became so popular, Amanda  agreed to take over the painting class too, when the previous tutor left: “I was more a cutter and sticker than a painter, but I thought let’s go for it.”

This all changed very quickly in March last year due to the pandemic: “The only thing I could continue was the activity packs, starting with an Easter theme for the first lockdown.”

These packs included large print word puzzles, colouring pages, and quizzes to keep members occupied at home. Amanda became more creative with themes as time went on: “Everyone had to celebrate VE day from home, so I sent them a pack which included a flag, and a colouring poster to put in their window for the occasion.”

Painting by zoom

After a few months, the members of the painting group ended up setting up their own WhatsApp group and decided they’d like more structure to the activities. So ‘Friday’s from home’ was born

Zoom classes it was!  Amanda began putting together themes every four weeks; watercolour paintings, acrylic, and pencil drawings too. To switch things up a little, Amanda had members painting on slates, pieces of wood, and oil pastels on black paper.

Amanda says this keeps members occupied, not just for the hour and a half on a Friday, but throughout the week as well:

“If anyone has done any paintings in the week they have a show and tell on Zoom before the class starts.”

Like everyone, Amanda has faced some challenges switching to Zoom: “I’m so used to just popping over someone’s shoulder when they need help.  Thinking of different things to do remotely can be tricky, but I think we’re all used to that now.”

A positive impact for all

It’s not just the members’ motivation it’s helped, Amanda says: “I think I get as much out of it as they do, it gives structure to my week. Some have said it motivates them to get up and get on with it, which they wouldn’t do on their own accord. It’s not just the activities, but it’s an excuse for everyone to have a chat, even to people they may not have chatted to within the centre. In a way, I think members are more confident painting from home because they don’t have to worry about people looking at their work.”

Amanda has had some lovely feedback from her class members:

“Your classes lift the gloom for everyone.”

“Fridays provide a sociable oasis in the week thanks to you, Amanda.”

“Your lessons are great and I thoroughly enjoy the varied subjects and ideas.”

“The class is the highlight of my week.”

Reading the feedback, Amanda says: “If it keeps them going, it’s worth it.”