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  • Writer's pictureRae Story

Stepping into an Oasis

After we ran our Hapa Zome workshop at Hulme Garden Centre in September we wanted to return and offer a workshop to the centres volunteers and today was the day!

We began by introducing the Quiet Spaces project at St Luke’s Art Project and how that came about. We then asked the volunteers why they chose the Garden Centre for their volunteering and we got some really interesting discussion about the benefits of being in nature for our health and well-being and general positivity.

Kath who works at HGC then lead us on a sound walk around the garden, stopping in various different spaces around the site to do 1 minute sound samples. This method allows us to capture the different soundscapes and acoustic environments by listening and recording all the sounds we can hear within a 1 minute window.

The group were really engaged with the process and there was lots of discussion about the sound, listening, using planting or constructing temporary buildings as a way of sheltering from the traffic sounds.

What we found when we listened is that actually there is a lot of roadside noise at the site, with a difference in sounds coming from the traffic. However, despite the traffic sounds being a constant presence, the actual experience of being in the site was quite the opposite. People talked about it being 'calming and peaceful', about it being a 'sanctuary' and 'an oasis'. So despite the actual sound levels the experience was very different. We thought the reason for this is the variety of different sensory experience available all over the site. The close up sights, smells, sounds fill your senses and your mind moves away from the traffic sounds to the experience of nature that is vivid and immediate. This is similar to what we found on the canal walk about distant and close sounds giving the experience of space and perspective. Somehow, our brains are filtering out the city sounds and we are invited into a different space where other things take over.

The Willow Arch (above right) is known as a ‘Moon Gate’ and represents the continuous cycle of birth and death and was created by a partnership with the Confucius Institute.

We finished with some close looking and drawing in the poly-tunnel, which finished off what was a really lovely and informative afternoon. It was cold to be drawing outside, but we managed to all do one or two focused drawings. One of the volunteers who hadn't any drawing for a while said that t now they will bring a sketch book when they come to volunteer and begin to do some observational drawings. These kind of drawings are about looking closely and really trying to capture the essence of what we can see in front of us, capturing the beauty, the joy, the moment, and being one with your subject. You can see the group drawings below, they all do that beautifully:

This bottom right image was done by using the actual plant to create the colour - by pressing the Myrtle leaf and berry this subtle reflection of the plant was produced : Myrtle. And here is the beautiful specimen which was the inspiration as well as the materials, here we can see leaf, berry, bud and flower!

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