Make Sense
The Tree House, Elephant Park

a person painting into a gyotaku print

As part of the newly renovated Elephant Park, Arts for Dementia commissioned us to deliver five print-making workshops, with an opportunity to display the work as part of the Urban Elephant Festival on the 15/16th September.

A woman monoprinting
Wendy creating a monoprint

With most of our workshops operating in Camden, Hackney and Tower Hamlets, this was an exciting opportunity for us to work participants from south of the river, in Lambeth and Southwark. Elephant and Castle has recently experienced a lot of contentious development, so utilising the Tree House for community engagement was a valuable chance to also improve social cohesion. The five print-making workshops we delivered were: nature printing, cyanotype printing, screen printing, foam printing and gyotaku (the Japanese method of fish printing).

Prints being hung on the wall by two men
Nature prints on display in The Tree House

The workshops engaged 6–7 people living with dementia as well as another 6–7 who were either carers or volunteers. It was great having a park right next to the workshop space, as this meant processes like nature printing and cyanotype printing could leverage materials from the outside to use as part of our prints. The nature prints were particularly successful and contributed to a stunning reflection of the Elephant and Castle area during the Urban Festival at the end of the programme.

Blue print of a clocktower
Ronald and Emily in the process of nature printing
people cyanotyping
Participants in the Elephant Park preparing their cyanotypes

The Urban Festival included a huge array of music from different nationalities including Peruvian dance, traditional Somalian music, folk songs from Columbia. This was an exciting environment to display our artworks, while also fitting, as our foam prints were made in response to sound, and certainly displayed a visual dynamic that was an nice accompaniment to the live music on the day.

an exhibit of foam prints
Foam prints on display in The Tree House

During the festival we had a really positive response to the prints created by the participants using the gyotaku method, with many attendees asking if they could purchase them. Gyotaku is a hugely sensory process where you print with real fish, as this was a way of Japanese fishing people being able to document the type and size of their catch. The success of these prints has given us the encouragement to explore how we can help artists on our future workshops profit from their works if they wish.

a person painting into a gyotaku print