After being awarded Leverhulme Artist in Residence in January 2016, I promised myself I would keep a diary and blog about my experiences. It hasn’t really happened.

 

I really admire the younger generation for their ability to vlog, blog and write so confidently. The economy of sharing seems to come quite naturally to the millennials. It’s not that I’m adverse to sharing – I just don’t know how to put my raw thoughts out there. As a self-employed founder of three unique businesses to date, I am quite used to talking about myself (or my business/’s) but writing something which may be of consequent value may take some practice. If you’ve made it this far, thank you.

 

I’ll start with something simple – A chronological summary of the past 28hours.

 

Mohamad Khayata is a Syrian born artist, living in Lebanon for the past four years. During an event this morning, ‘Coffee Shop Conversations’, Mohamad’s work, ‘Stitching My Syria Back’ was discussed with an audience as part of Journey’s Festival, 2016; organised by Artreach. I was asked to chair this event at The Leicester New Walk Museum, which is one of ten venues hosting some of his above mentioned project. There are some synergies between our recent Lightseekers project ‘Connecting Cultures’ and Mohamad’s work, since they are tapestries, combining the thoughts, feelings, energies of hundreds if not thousands of individuals. During the event, we discussed the sacred nature and inhabited qualities of worn cloth/garments. The recycled saree’s sewn together for our tapestries might have been worn during births, deaths and marriages – these garments contain elements of the divine.

 

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(L) Hannah Pillai,Gina Mollet – Artreach

(R) Hema Parmar, Kajal Nisha Patel, Lightseekers

 

Mohamad should have joined us for the festival, but his visa was rejected. I spoke with Mohamad yesterday and he explained his frustration that the visa office rejected the application on false grounds (insufficient evidence of financial, professional documents etc). Mohamad showed me his submitted documents and it was clear that the case was not fairly assessed. The most upsetting part of this exchange was that the officer provided links in the letter, detailing media links of the situation in Syria. Mohamad’s response can be seen here.

 

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We did manage to connect with Mohamad, via Skype. Unfortunately it was too noisy in the cafe to engage in meaningful conversation as the event had intended but it was an enjoyable event which brought together many people who were keen to share their own stories and textiles work.

 

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After this event, Hema Parmar & I walked over to City of SanctuaryThe intention behind our visit was for a social engagement project, ‘Woven Stories’. We are in the process of connecting with as many individuals and groups as possible with a view to working with them on a craft & storytelling project. The artwork created by these participants will form part of an exhibition at The Charles Wilson Building at The University of Leicester towards the end of 2016.

 

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As we toured the building looking for spaces for our workshop, I came across Olivier Ilouquet

who was taking photographs of a lady and her daughter. French-born Olivier is freelance Designer, interested in media research. He is also currently distance learning MA Visual and Media Anthropology at Freie Universität Berlin. We had some thought-provoking conversations and I was intrigued to learn more about his research and a participatory project which he is currently running with those seeking refuge and asylum.

 

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We then visited a local craft & textiles exhibition ‘Precious Objects’, which includes the work of 10 local artists. Ornamentum is a group of seven professional designer-makers from Leicestershire working in a wide range of craft disciplines. The show runs from 2-13th August 2016 at LCB Depot Lightbox Gallery, Leicester. I have been inspired by the work of Ruth Singer for many years and her work in this exhibition did not disappoint. Current themes I am exploring relate to masculine and feminine energies and objects which connotate male and female characteristics.

 

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Lunch Stop at Detox Shack. One of few healthy eateries in Leicester, but was unfortunately expensive with a tiny portion size. Very confusing menu. All was not lost, however since the light and ambience was good upstairs – We made time for a portrait of Hema for her profile.

 

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Next stop; BHS closing down sale and my contribution towards Philip Green’s new yacht. I was looking for a stand for a sculptural concept which I’m thinking about. More on this later, if it works out. I learned about the BHS fixtures & fittings sale from Hema who has inherited the Indian bargaining gene. She is worth her weight in gold because she is always on the lookout for interesting, useful and relevant information and products. I would advise artists working on large projects to find a mentor or someone to share your ideas with.

 

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Penultimate stop. After a very long day, I went back to my studio at Attenborough Arts. I had to drop off two stands, modified by my dad yesterday to hang the children’s artwork tapestry. It was a pain loading/unloading but it was worth the effort to see it displayed at The New Walk Museum earlier. As I was unloading, I bumped into Gurdeep Sian, artist and dear friend who is evidently a constant source of inspiration, compassion and love to all in his path. With him is Sarah Heeley, a hatha yoga instructor amongst other interesting things. 

 

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Last stop; Home.

 

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As I move towards that which is good and true, the universe conspires to assist me along the way. Everything is energy. We are all connected. We are one.