As part of part of Touchstone’s BME Dementia Service’s on-going partnership with Pavilion, artist Simon Warner delivered a workshop with the Cha Da Cup group who regularly attend Touchstone on Mondays to exercise,  share food, meet with friends and get involved in lots of different activities.
Simon’s workshop was centred on creating silhouettes, an age-old art form which first became popular in the mid 1700’s due to the work of physiognomist Johann Caspar Lavater. There was an air of mystery before the workshop, as we began setting up a large antique chair designed to create silhouettes of the sitter’s profile.
When the group had finished their regular Tai Chi exercise routine, we welcomed them to listen to Simon’s explanation of the chair and a short introduction to the art of silhouettes and shadow portraiture. Working in pairs, we took it in turns to sit for our portraits, while our partners drew our silhouettes. It was fascinating to see the details the silhouettes brought up and we could easily identify the person featured in the shadow portrait due to each individual’s distinctive features. It is important to sit very still whilst sitting for your portrait, which was a challenge for some people, and even more of a challenge for their partner’s who had to draw them!
One gentleman reminisced about a time when he (almost) had his silhouette drawn by a portrait artist at the beach:

“I remember going to Blackpool beach many years ago, there was a man there drawing portraits by hand… he didn’t have a chair like this. There was a long queue and it was very popular. After waiting a while, I finally got to the front of the queue and I was told I wouldn’t be able to have my silhouette drawn because he didn’t know how to draw my turban!”

Once the silhouettes were drawn out, we worked on reducing the size of the portrait which would then be cut out and mounted. Using a pantograph to reduce the size of the silhouettes brought back happy memories for some members of the group, as they recalled learning to use these in school.
When everyone had finalised their shadow portraits, we gathered together to see each other’s work and celebrate everyone’s creations. We look forward to our next arts workshop with this group in February.

Interwoven Histories aims to engage elders from different BME communities, and in the upcoming months we will be reaching out to elders from Roma and Caribbean communities. If you know someone or a group of people who may like to get involved in this creative project, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
For more information on the Interwoven Histories project please contact:
Georgina Baker (Arts Worker – BME Dementia Service)
Touchstone Support Centre, 53-55 Harehills Avenue, Leeds, LS8 4EX
0113 219 2727