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Blog 3 – Lorna Watkins, Visual Artist and  TAP+ Tutor

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.

Self-care and Textiles

I realise that the work I’ve done so far with Arts in Education has not touched on the curriculum. So far in my experience, teachers are using the projects as some time out for students to relieve anxiety post Covid both in primary and secondary schools.  I suppose this is reflective of what we are, what we all need as a society post-Covid.

Working on the TAP+ project with Our Lady of Mercy Primary School in Sligo with Niamh Middleton is such an example. Niamh had identified 11 students from first class up to sixth class who were struggling for one reason or another. There were children suffering from high levels of anxiety, trauma, poverty and we wanted to give these children something special, some time out and they were just so thrilled to have been chosen.

There were different needs and abilities in the group, and the children didn’t know each other at the start as it’s such a large school.  We decided on a rough plan of doing taster sessions every week but we were letting them lead on what they liked doing best. Firstly we did tetra pak printmaking and it turns out their favourite bit was rolling the ink.  If I had left the glass pallet there for two weeks and the children could’ve kept rolling the ink they would’ve been so happy!  I love that you CANNOT predict what the children will gravitate towards.  They were not that bothered about the actual printing and we didn’t push them, it was all about what was making them happy in the moment.  They just loved mixing the colours and it was the lovely sticky sound it makes which I can appreciate!

One of the weeks we decided we would try pom pom making and the children absolutely LOVED it.  They were helping each other out, making multi-coloured ones and giant ones.  Niamh thought it would be great to spread the pom pom love throughout the school.  I had talked about guerilla crocheting and how I had yarn bombed a tree in Sligo with 400 pom-poms and they were very interested in this. We picked a tree in the schoolyard that was looking a bit sad so we could decorate it with pom poms.  We decided it would be great for the students to go back into their respective classrooms with me and share with their classmates what they had learnt and how to make pom-poms so that every child in the school could then contribute to this pom-pom tree.

In my own practice post-Covid, I have returned to textiles as a self-care tool and I make my own clothes, knit, crochet, and quilt. It’s so useful when I’m trying to work out a painting, I take a break, do a seam or knit a row. You are still thinking about the work but there’s something about having textiles in your hand that eases and clarifies things.  It is a mindful activity, you can’t be scrolling or thinking about 1 million other things. So I can see why the children responded to it, the tactile quality, the bright colours.  What’s not to like?




Multi-art form

School Level