Nancy & Affiong - a creative collaboration
As part of Volunteers' Week, we're catching up with the fabulous team who give up time to help in our Hackney day centre (when it's open!). We'll be asking about their experiences of volunteering, a bit more about their lives outside of Headway, and the ways they've been connecting with our community since lockdown.....
Today we're meeting Nancy - a Headway Support Worker who also ordinarily volunteers at our day centre on Mondays. An artist herself, we asked her to get involved with our "Home Not Alone t-shirt range" - which sees 4 external artists pair with 4 of our Headway artists (shop here). Nancy teamed up with Affiong, who she also works with as a Support Worker - we caught up with her to find out more about the project....
What do you like most about Affiong's work?
Affiong’s work opens up a whole world of plants, vines, beautiful flowers, singing birds and creepy crawlies. She has told me that since acquiring her brain injury she feels more connected to nature and animals. Lockdown has allowed me to slow down and feel more connected to these things too. I have spent a lot of time recently sitting on my back door step, looking at the weeds growing in between the cracks in the path and thinking about how beautiful they are. Maybe I am beginning to think a bit more like Affiong? She really cares about the earth and her impact on it and you can feel this in all of her work.
I chose to respond to a poem called ‘Secret Garden’. I liked it because when I read it I was transported into this secret imaginary world created by Affiong. Here I crawled through ferns, dipped my toe in a pond and cuddled a bee while it purred like a cat. It was wonderful to be allowed to escape from reality for a short time. Thank you Affiong!
As well as writing beautiful poems, Affiong is a very talented artist. Before lockdown we were going to a portrait drawing class together during our weekly support work sessions. I find drawing next to her very inspiring. I’m not sure if she knows it but I think the whole class is really very envious of the work she produces. Knocking out amazing drawing after amazing drawing with such ease.
About the process....
I thought I’d keep it simple and stick to black and white. I was quite inspired by a Headway t-shirt I have and wear all the time, designed by Tony Brooks. It’s black and white with a big boxer dog on it and I love it.
I like drawing people and have done a series of drawings based on my experience of being a support worker at Headway. I knew I wanted to include figures in my design and combine them with the visual imagery of nature in the ‘Secret Garden’ poem. So I think that is why I was especially drawn to the bees who like being cuddled and stroked. There are two figures in my drawing and I think that one of them must be me and the other Affiong.
What's it been like collaborating from a distance?
As well as being an artist I work as a Community Support Worker for Headway East London and sometimes volunteer in the Submit to Love studios. Although missing face to face contact it has been so great to be able to keep in contact with people remotely since lockdown began. It helps to maintain some normality and I have enjoyed chatting to Affiong over the phone each week. We’ve been working together for almost a year now so it’s strange to have gone so long without seeing her. She has been sharing her new poems with me and I’ve been typing them up and sharing them with other Headway staff members, who then in turn share them with other Headway member’s. Having an audience is important for Affiong, like it is for most artists, so she’ll be happy that one of her poems will now be printed on the back of a t-shirt for people to wear and spread her words far and wide. Affiong doesn’t really use the internet so I’ve been doing drawings in response to her poems and posting them to her in the mail. I’m really excited for her to receive these ones and I hope she’s not disappointed by the lack of colour, especially green. Affiong loves green! And I hope we will work on more collaborations in the future.
You can shop Affiong & Nancy's t-shirt as part of our "Home Not Alone" collection on Everpress until 10th June (HERE). All proceeds go towards Headway East London's emergency fundraiser to recoup the estimate £75,000 losses resulting from Covid-19.