Chapter 5 The umbrella group
The sun umbrella group consists of both men and women who used textiles found in residents cupboards to make objects reflecting personal histories. A series of newly strung (sun shade) umbrellas were then made of fabric stretched over a form as "mobile places fostering a sense of identity". These can be placed anywhere in the village since they were designed with flexibility in mind to provide people in search of a refuge from the sun with some shade under relics of the village's history. The group's product palette has expanded and now also includes cloth carrying bags, apron lamp shades and potholders. The umbrella group has continued to meet regularly even now, after the project concluded.
About the umbrella group
At an art conference towards the end of April 2013, an announcement was made: we're setting up groups!
This led to the establishment of the sun umbrella group.
Interested residents now meet every Wednesday at 2pm. When we started, 5 people took part from our community. Later, as many as 10 people came to sew.
At the same time, a call went out for donations of fabric and to loan us sewing machines.
Tablecloths, bed linen, apron dress, curtains and other pieces of fabric with a history were gathered and then used.
Nine umbrellas were taken apart to use for making sewing patterns for sun umbrella covers. Then, the puzzle-fitting started: which patterns fit together, which colours? What takes everyone's fancy? This way, people started communicating which each other: people from Blankensee and Pampow, who vaguely knew each other from sight got to know each other in the process learning to appreciate each other and getting closer.
Barbara purchased a sewing machine and a seamstress in the group was happy to instruct whoever wanted to learn how to sew and was able to deal with whatever direction a project was taking, caring out sewing rescues, making it a success.
New ideas came into play and pillows, clothes pins' dresses, cloth carrying bags and lampshades were sewn too.
These sewing gatherings were where a cosy group enjoyed each other's company, drank coffee, had some cake and a chat too.
Barbara was also able to get local children enthusiastic about her activities. At the community children's festival, she led younger residents in making children's sized sun umbrellas too.
The children selected their fabrics, cut them out and then had the chance to try their hand at the sewing machine. Later, on Wednesday, they came back to complete the job they'd started.
In total, 8 sun shades were sewn. In both Blankensee and Pampow, 2 were offered as prizes at a tombola at each village fête.
Each sun umbrella featured a little label indicating who donated the fabric, which would've otherwise continued to gather dust in their cupboard, for that umbrella, thereby taking on stories from the past and giving them a new lease on life.
A highlight for the sewing group was the realisation of a farewell dress for the artist, Barbara who, before leaving, donated her sewing machine to the group.
Since the art project came to an end late in September 2013, the sewing group has continued to meet every month. We sewed little booties for the village Christmas party as well as Christmas bags. We intend to continue to experiment with fabric thanks to the impetus Barbara gave us.
Christiane Hering & Wanda Giese