Elderly residents in care homes can often lack stimulation or a meaningful focus to their day. Sociable activities that help to connect people with each other and encourage movement and response are beneficial and above all fun.

hugging the finished cushion

hugging the finished cushion

For this project the brief was to devise an art in care homes activity that anyone could join in with, whatever their abilities. As many residents have memory impairments the activities have to be engaging and produce quick results.

The plan was to print our own fabric and make bright cushions for the communal areas and individuals’ rooms.

We are usually working in the lounge or dining room area so materials must be safe and easy to clean off surfaces and people!

two friends feeling proud of their cushions, art in care homes

feeling proud of the cushions

Five care homes joined in with the project, and each had 3 art sessions so for several weeks I was driving around York with a car full of printed fabric drying on the back seat and all the other paraphernalia needed to run community printing sessions.

What happened?

rolling colour over the taped fabric, art in care homes

rolling colour over the masked fabric

In the first session we made designs from masking tape on the white fabric, the tape was cut and torn to produce different qualities of line and shape.

We rolled, brushed and sponged printing ink in various colours on to the fabric.

People love using the decorating rollers – they are speedy, and long handled ones enable people to reach right across the table.
The rollers spark memories and stories of decorating houses and avoid the self-consciousness that comes with the idea that ‘I am not an artist’.

The musicians played requests for songs about colour so we sang while we worked.

The second session started with peeling some of the tape off to see the white shapes left behind, then we added more tape over the first patterns and another layer of coloured inks.

peeling tape off the printed fabric, art in care homes

peeling the tape off

With extender added to the fabric ink the colours become translucent and it is fun to see them mixing and producing new colours as different hues are overlaid.

By successively covering up and revealing areas of fabric the designs develop gradually, new shapes appearing due to the interaction of the layers of tape and colour. The final result is a surprise as it is hard to anticipate just what will be revealed with the last of the tape is removed.

The third session was spent eating cake, stuffing the cushions, and having fun dancing and posing with them.

Cushions make you feel good and multi coloured ones you have printed yourself are even better!

Art in care homes brings people together

It is very satisfying to be part of an event that brings so much joy to residents and staff; staff have reported that after the sessions they can tell which people have participated as they are much more are alert and interested in life for the whole of the rest of the day.

colourful cushions in the lounge, art in care homes

colourful cushions in the lounge

Musical Connections has been promoting music and art in care homes in York for over 10 years.

I join the project a couple of times a year to lead some visual arts activities alongside the music mix so these sessions are a combination of arts activities, music and singing, as well as
tea, (sometimes sherry) and cake.

Please have a look at Musical Connections website to find out more about the project.

For more detailed information about the technique see the fabric printing with masking post.

This activity is great for a whole range of different people of all ages and abilities, if you have tried it, or something similar please leave a comment to let me know what you did and how people found it.