Anything But Plain, Darling!

Anything but Plain, Darling! is a community arts project for women, living in villages and around forces bases across Salisbury Plain, in Wiltshire.

Based on feedback and requests from our previous arts projects, Anything but Plain, Darling! was created to reach out and directly involve many women living in rural areas and/or associated with the Armed Forces across Salisbury Plain.

“I’ve had so much fun doing these Batiks. Alex has been an inspiration and made it all seem so easy! I’m bringing all my family and friends to Lacock Abbey!” Joy

The project creator, community artist Alex Grant, has worked closely with Army Welfare, (Salisbury Plain), and village community groups to establish contacts and arrange accessible local workshops to reach many villager women and those associated with the forces in Larkhill, Bulford, Netheravon and Tidworth.

“ This is what we village women want to do. High quality arty stuff not painting jam jars. When can we do this again?” Mary

Army wives and partners find it very  difficult to integrate when new to an area. They want to take part in activities for themselves, as individuals but there is little opportunity for this to happen within their everyday routine as an army wife. These workshops gave them the chance to explore their creativity within a safe and fun environment. The workshops encouraged women from both civilian and Forces backgrounds to create a large communal artwork for the final installation.

Circular Arts has facilitated these workshops with the aim that the participants will feel encouraged to begin to build up a supportive civilian/forces network, enabling them to feel more confident to approach others for support.

“My family life is so difficult now that John is in Afghanistan. This Batik workshop has given me time to myself, and I’ve even made new friends!” Mo

The Workshops
Throughout the summer of 2012, workshops were held in many different locations across Salisbury Plain, so that they were easy for the participants to get to without travelling long distances.

Guided by Alex, the women enjoyed working together in groups to design, then wax and dye large Batik Flags for this installation in the grounds of Lacock Abbey. The designs were first drawn onto paper, then the flag placed over the top and the lines traced over with hot wax. The wax forms a barrier between the different colours of dye and when it is removed leaves bold white outlines. Most of the participants had not worked in this medium or on this scale before, and although some were initially apprehensive at their own capabilities, they were all thrilled at what they were able to achieve

In total over 200 women took part in 17 workshops at 15 different venues.

The Installation
The flags are now on show at Lacock Abbey until Monday 17 September 2012, then they will become the property of their creators and returned to the workshop participants.

Grateful thanks go to all those who have made this project possible.
Anything but Plain, Darling!! has been funded by:

Plain Action,
Armed Forces Community Covenant,
Circular Arts
Amesbury Area Board
In partnership with the National Trust

“The colour and flowing movement of these large flags will create quite a contrast to a rural based exhibition environment and definitely draw many people to view and experience these new expressions from the lives of isolated women. This is a wonderful opportunity for these women to join together, integrate and take part within a major Arts event. This project will enable them to express the stresses, storms and delights of rural and Forces life. Taking part in this project will definitely raise the women’s self-esteem and enhance their emotional well-being, and it was so much FUN!” Alex, Artist