Sheila de Rosa

Sheila de Rosa / News / Thu 06 Oct 2022



In May I responded to an Open Call on the Creative Hertfordshire website for the My Story Artist-in-Residency Programme run by Hertfordshire Libraries. The process was straightforward and required expressions of interest to include a one page Proposal; a CV/biography and links to previous relevant work, which I provided through my website. Following a virtual interview with Teams (which was challenging due to occasional breaks in reception – most probably the fault of my laptop), I was selected to take residence at North Watford Library as their Artist, and after a short delay due to Covid, I started in February 2022.
The brief, to explore the role art can play in health and wellbeing through a programme of engagement; this included day-long sessions with groups of people from the following organisations:-
• Hertfordshire Libraries Staff (approx. 15)
• West Herts College Students (approx., 12)
• Home-Educated Students (approx. 6)
• Drop-In participants attending more than one session (approx. 37)
• Watford Women’s Centre (approx.. 8)
• MIND (1)
… and Drop-In sessions available for all Library users, and lasted between 2 to 2.5 hours.
Participants Experience
All sessions were well attended – see above numbers.
Day-long sessions included groups who had booked onto the course, following a discussion by Library Manager Claire Power and myself on who we felt it was important to include – see above. Claire Power had many challenges to access these groups – schools, for instance, face difficulties now to take students out of school to attend extra-curricular course and none responded to the invitation – but including Hone Schooled children was an inspired solution by Claire.
These longer sessions were based on memories of Watford and participants were encouraged to bring along photographs that were poignant to them – a stock of Watford images was kept for participants who didn’t have an image(s).
A process called Transfer printing was used to establish the Laser photographs onto Fabriano Printmaking paper with a high cotton-rag content, this took the first couple of hours to complete. The second part of the sessions was devoted to Printmaking Processes – stencil, monoprint, stamps and collage - and often included the Printing Press (which Claire Power kindly transported from my home to the Library – no mean feat!)
Below are some comments I have received
"It was so much fun! Thanks for having us, awesome experience." Zuzanna - West Herts College

"Absolutely loved being a part of this today." Roxanne - West Herts Student

“This has made me make the effort to get out of the house”

“I just popped in for a book and stayed for the art session”

“Thank you so much for today's Art session. We both really enjoyed it and Sheila was fantastic! My child sometimes struggles with group activities as he's quite shy but everyone was so lovely that it made him feel really comfortable and he really enjoyed using the print machine!”

Drop-In participants made Paper Houses and Artbooks on the theme of My Watford Memories. Over the weeks images of Watford were assembled and offered for use in these projects. A template of paper houses was provided by the artist and the images of Watford were either photocopied onto the reverse of the templates or glued onto the backs. The instructions were to cut out the shapes and assemble as a 3D paper object.
Similarly with the artbooks – participants were asked to select an image/images (some were reversed and some inverted and then butted together to form a long narrative) with which to create accordion books. Long strips of heavy-weight paper, black paper or cotton-rag paper were used and participants were instructed on how to fold the paper to form a long zig-zag form. Embellishments, such as drilling holes, colouring in with oil pastels, cut-outs or collaged additions were encouraged (burning edges looks great but could not be undertaken in the Library – where this has happened participants took them home to burn the edges and brought them back). Hard card boards for front and back pages were added, with the addition of an end print/image to provide context and support.
These activities provided quiet time to work and concentrate, alongside a friendly and undemanding atmosphere in which to chat with other participants – this is an essential element of wellbeing. This work resulted in very personal takes on what Watford meant to them.
One lady who happened to be in the Library and saw the activities joined the group. And, paraphrasing our conversation, she told me that since retirement she was lonely and lacked things to do; she told me that the Drop-In session was a most welcome addition to her days and the undemanding chat and friendship was what she had wanted and needed – she returned for further sessions.
My overall experience
Following lockdown and the cessation of all Art-related activities this opportunity provided me with the perfect antidote to time spent alone. It was rewarding to interact and get to know a wide selection of Watford residents, and wonderful to be passing on my experience and expertise again.
Throughout this opportunity I was welcomed into the North Watford Library family and enjoyed being part of that community – all of whom were helpful and encouraging.
My new-found knowledge of what means most to residents of Watford has led me to acknowledge the importance of open and natural spaces like Cassiobury to the residents; but also an appreciation of Watford landmarks like the Odhams building with its association with Print in Watford; the Museum, the Colosseum, the library and the skate-Park.
Talking to participants I have been told that any future workshops to further their artistic/printmaking skills would be welcome. Hertfordshire Libraries has offered me the possibility of conducting future workshops in the library for which I can charge, and I am hoping this will be something to provide me with a regular income.
I am very grateful to be selected for this Residency by Hertfordshire Libraries and consider it a very positive and rare opportunity to further my practice.

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News Location

North Watford Library Hertfordshire

North Watford Library,
St. Albans Road,
WD24 7RW
HP23 4NJ

Telephone: 07821 177 685

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