Batik at Derringham Bank Methodist Church.

[8 February 2017]

Butterflies Memory Loss Support Group operates from a number of venues throughout the city during each month. Moving around the city allows other group members to attend sessions that are nearer to them.

Today’s creative session with Frances was held at Derringham Bank Methodist Church on Willerby Road where the 2017 resident artist was setting up a session involving a textile imprinting technique called Batik, which originates from Indonesia and involves candle wax and inks.
batik at Derringham Bank - Butterflies
The batik technique involves first painting with the clear wax on to the material, then washing over the areas with inks. Later when the fabric is dry, the wax is removed leaving the original design framed by the ink washes. It’s akin to using a template the areas where the wax is cannot take the ink so remain blank thus creating the borders of shapes and patterns the viewer sees.

First concern is safety and enabling everyone to participate safely whilst still getting as much out of the session as they wish. This wasn’t the first time Frances had done Batik with Butterflies, but due to the nature of some memory loss conditions, the various processes had to be explained quite a few times. The difference between the wax brushes and the ink brushes, the importance of not confusing the two. Also the nature of painting on material with wax which is inherently white is a counter intuitive. Where as with paint you can see the marks you are making but with wax, that is not so easy to do, you have to trust a little bit to luck that you are in the place you think you are within the design. Add to that sight issues, despite being in a well lit open space – and frustration can creep in. Happily all of the group at Derringham had a go at the batik making and surprised themselves with the resulting array of different images.

A number of choices had to be made, decisions around the design or picture each wished to create and also choice of colour of inks. The inks all had a dark hue in the see through pots, so it was not always easy to immediately see which was the purple which was the red, the dark blue, or the green. Two of the men in the group chose designs that referenced a recent memory stimulus namely the barriers in the city centre, the planned new layout of Castle Street and recalling David Hockney being in the news this week, a fair attempt was made at recreating his particular landscape style. The discussion on Hockney led to detailed recollection, of visiting the large landscape that was exhibited at the Ferens a number of years ago.

Each design was discussed involving lots of interaction between participants and staff. This kind of one to one interaction reinforces a sense of staying in the moment, helping focus the mind and so both get the best from the session. The group, as ever talk with each other, as they dip their brushes in hot wax or the inks and create their works of art. All the while prompting memory recall, actively taking part in the session, asking questions of each other and of Frances about different ways to get the best effects.

The effects of Dementia are particular to each person, capacity and attentiveness can differ greatly – and not just from person to person but also from one week to the next for the same person – awareness of this variation has to be taken into account with each interaction. This can even be down to recognising the staff or volunteers at each session. You might liken it to those instances where you meet somebody not in their usual place, you associate them in one area of your life but in another context you don’t recognise them.

At the end of the two hour session the group had created a wide range of pieces, including images inspired by the natural world, psychedelic patterns and abstracted mark-making. All the artworks are to be exhibited as part of the Reflections element of Butterflies Hull 2017 programme.

[Michelle Dee]
Stacks Image 11

Supported by Hull UK City of Culture 2017