Local artists were among the first to lend their skills and energy to grow the Bromley by Bow Centre when we were founded in 1984. A number of key pioneers in this initial phase included Chilean sculptor Santiago Bell, local artists Frank and Margy Creber, Sheenagh McKinlay and Paula Haughney. They developed a series of art studios and workshops, which sat alongside a children’s nursery, dance school and community cafe – an early stage blueprint for the innovative community organisation we share today.

At the Centre, we support people with a wide variety of integrated services based on their individual needs. Evidence shows that being creative is linked to improved health and wellbeing and offers a great way to bring people together. Our community of resident artists run all-ability workshops on stained glass, stone carving, ceramics, mosaic, textiles and more. 

We now have four resident artists and we caught up with them to find out what they’ve been up to during their time away from the Centre, and how lock down has affected their work.

Sheenagh McKinlay – White-on-white patchwork

Resident stained glass artist, Sheenagh, has recently picked up a project she’s had in her mind for over ten years. Repurposing white fabrics gathered over the years, Sheenagh has so far created seven, white-on-white patchwork squares. 

“I could not bear to bin the fabrics as the details are so lovely. Turning them into something else has been a plan for at least a decade. Each square is approximately 1ft 6ins square. When I have enough, they will be joined together and turned into a quilt”.

It’s slow, but therapeutic work, as each square can take up to two days to assemble, with lots of pinning, stitching and ironing. 

“I don’t have an iron so I had to steal my daughter’s”. 

Although it’s a very different set of skills and materials, the selecting of pieces and fitting them together, has not been so very different from making glass or mosaic works.   

“I am making improvements in my straight line sewing, but I’m still better at it on glass with a glass cutter… 

“The biggest difference to my usual work was the lack of colour. A whole area of anguish and agony was removed by the lack of choice in that respect.  This seemed important during the uncertainty of the pandemic.  I’m now considering monochromatic work with glass, sticking with texture instead”. 

Frank Creber – virtual exhibitions and portraits of key workers

Frank organises regular exhibitions to showcase both his own work and that of other artists, alongside running weekly art classes with members of our social care service at the Centre. 

Since lock down began, he’s had to postpone four shows that he was organising in collaboration with about 50 other artists. Like many of us, Frank’s been going virtual instead.

“I have been running regular online sessions with the social care group at the Centre, as well as designing and making arts and crafts activities, which are sent out each week to 50 people, so they can do activities at home”.

The first exhibition due to go ahead before lock down, Being with Trees, is also now online until December. 

“Other shows I am part of organising in the Alan Baxter Gallery and Gibraltar are going ahead at later dates in 2021”.

He’s also currently working towards a solo show, “Comedy Club” in Thames-side studios Gallery, which is one of South London’s largest single exhibition spaces with a 2,600 sq foot gallery.

And as if all of that hasn’t kept him busy enough, Frank’s also painted two wonderful portraits as part of Portraits for NHS Heroes.

Paula Haughney – from sculpture to drawings

Paula’s been working in her own studio on various sculptures, and she’s also enjoyed picking up drawing again. 

She shared a picture with us of a work in progress – a carving of her own hand in black vein alabaster.  

“Since lock down, no touching and distancing is the norm. This hand is reaching out.” 

She also shared with us a photograph of a collection of shoe drawings, for one of the art packs that she and Frank Creber have been putting together for a online social care sessions, this one (below) was about different types of footwear and where they take us. 

Paul Shaw – Traditional Scandinavian knitting designs

Like Sheenagh, Paul works with stained glass, but while he can’t access the studio at the Centre, he has started work on a different craft. 

“I have turned to the fibre arts and taught myself two colour stranded knitting”. 

Paul has created 90 small squares to turn into a blanket, designing over 60 of the patterned squares himself, most of which are based on traditional designs from Scandinavia.

We have a weekly programme of classes for adults with disabilities or for people who are socially isolated. To find out more about our specialist groups and how we’ve adapted our service during the current crisis, contact our Social Care team.