Mapping Heritage: Milton Keynes Arts Centre / The Rothschild Foundation

“Woven postcards that capture a heritage of community, childhood and craft”

Over the past 12 months Milton Keynes Arts Centre has been working with designers and artisan makers to deliver a heritage craft project called ‘Mapping Heritage’ to school groups in Milton Keynes, exploring the history of craft in Milton Keynes and Bucks to create objects using traditional techniques and materials, whilst also strengthening social bonds to encourage and support place making in the city.

I was invited by the MK Arts Centre to lead 10 workshops in Tapestry weaving with pupils from Southwood Primary School. The project, supported by The Rothschild Foundation, encourages pupils to explore their local environment through storytelling, art and culture. Pupils were invited to research their local history and the natural world around them, expressing ideas through a combination of stories, images and colour in their sketchbooks. The project incorporated a wonderful afternoon at Waddesdon Manor, investigating the rich craft heritage and art on display for inspiration. Many pupils found ideas in the application of materials, such as mother of pearl inlay in Louis xv tables, or the use of light in Dutch Master paintings. Other pupils discovered a rich history of nature in the choice of place and street names in their local area, which they applied to their tapestries.

The tapestries produced by the pupils are visual woven postcards of their heritage, environment and community. Their sketchbooks examine the various ways of seeing and thought that goes into the process of making. The final results reveal how the pupils have considered choice of materials, colour, theme and symbolism then applied those ideas to create beautiful 3D woven art. The work challenges their understanding of the local environment through weaving that takes inspiration from the diverse heritage of craft and storytelling in the area. 

The most rewarding aspect of this project is watching children grow in confidence; being encouraged to reflect and think critically about their environment enabled talk. As a former teacher, structuring talk is a useful skill that truly empowers young people. Through the act of making the room went from silence to chatter, from apprehension to self-assurance, it was a tangible connection through cloth.

David & George