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Blog 2 – Lorna Watkins, Visual Artist and TAP+ Tutor

Project with Youthreach and MSLETB in Sewing and Sustainability in Sligo, Carrick on Shannon and Mohill. Image credit: Lorna Watkins

Lorna Watkins
Lorna Watkins

Lorna Watkins lives and works in North Sligo having graduated in Textile Design at NCAD after studying at the Grennan Mill Craft School and Edinburgh College of Art.  Her practice includes painting, drawing, printmaking, textiles and collaborations with communities and other artists.

She was selected for the 188th, 191st, 192nd and 193rd Annual Exhibition at the RHA, Dublin and the 197th RSA Annual Exhibition, Edinburgh this year.  Her paintings and drawings have been shown in invited group exhibitions in London, Berlin, New York, Chicago and Beijing.

She was awarded a Fellowship by the Ballinglen Arts Foundation in 2019 and has been awarded residencies at Cill Rialaig and JOYA:AiR in Almeira, Spain.  She is a recipient of the Agility Award from The Arts Council and Thomas Damann Travel Bursary.

Lorna has been working with TAP+ in Sligo since 2022 and was a TAP+ Summer course tutor in 2023.

Threading needles with Youthreach

This year, I was hired to do a project with Youthreach and MSLETB in Sewing and Sustainability in Sligo, Carrick on Shannon and Mohill. It was also designed as a few hours in the week to help ease anxiety in students post Covid. The students were studying catering, hairdressing, computers or LCA in the various centres.

We started off the six week project with the basics of the sewing machine, learning how to thread a machine and how to fix it if it stops working. We went on to cut out a basic pattern for a gender neutral top in curtain lining or fabric the students had at home. The students worked in groups of two and threes at a machine so everyone got a go. Some struggled with going from a 2 dimensional flat piece to a 3 dimensional garment but eventually got it when they saw the finished article. I love sharing my passion for me made clothes and by making your own clothes, you can make garments to fit every body shape.

I found a few challenges as the artist working in this context. There are new students starting not every week, but frequently and absenteeism is common so it became normal to have students at different levels at the project, which is tricky when you are trying to build on skills every week and to keep having to start again at the beginning.

I sometimes forget that a lot of young people are not used to working with their hands and it can take a while for students to get that hand eye coordination going. Basic instruction like threading a needle can be very frustrating for students in the beginning but when they persevere with it, they find it really rewarding and I know from the tutors when they walked into the room they couldn’t believe how quiet the class was, the students were completely engrossed in the task, it’s an extremely mindful pastime.