Tomorrow in Briton Ferry

Tomorrow I’ll be in Briton Ferry for a Family Fun Day run by Neath Communities First. This area of Neath has a massive community vibe and everything in this small town is run with community in mind.

Studies in the UK are showing that community has massive health implications. Local people who work together to support each other are more likely to stay healthy. It’s awesome to think that recent trends on well-being and prevention are finally getting the prominence they deserve in the press.

Of course in Neath they’ve known about this for years which is why health, well-being, sports, holistic therapies, good eating, and fun have always been prominent at community events. Supporting families and individuals to be better, healthier, versions of themselves is a common sense approach that I’m happy to support and be involved with.

We’ll be kicking off at 11am tomorrow at Hengwrt Barn in Llansawel Crescent. It costs nothing and everybody is welcome. I’ll be encouraging people to have a go at taking alternative pictures of themselves and considering how photography can be good for your mind and soul.

See you tomorrow!

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Big Pharma

I haven’t written for a while because I’ve been busy working on some of my own personal artmaking. This blog is not just a front for the workshops we run but also for my own practice. It’s no good running workshops telling people how to relax and get the most out of their creative side if I’m not doing the same!

I’ve been working on various different things at the moment which are not in the realm of my usual artmaking. It’s good to leave your comfort zone every now and then and rise to a challenge. My art is usually cut photographs, collage, and picture based work. It’s really refreshing to diversify into 3D works and try something new. I’ve been playing with Lego with an idea I’ve had for an exhibition in Denmark. I’m considering what the far future might hold and what kind of world we might live in.

Miniturization, globalization, and innovative uses of existing materials is where I think we’ll be at. Thinking about it, that’s where we’ve always been at. We’re always trying to adapt and improve our lot to make ourselves better. We’re always striving for longevity and trying to harness nature to provide us with either a quick fix or a long-term strategy depending on what frame of mind we’re in. As we become more technologically advanced we’re more and more reliant on tech to get through our day. Would there be a way to exist without it? It’s hard to see how we can ever be independent of technology. Are we becoming so dependent on it all that we’re in danger of becoming a world of addicts. What will Big Pharma hold for us in the future?

Below: Big Pharma 6cm x 6cm x 8cm. Made from Lego and found little plastic people.

Melanie Ezra_Big Pharma [left side view]

Animated ASDES

We’ve been spending this last month with ASDES and working on ways to give participants from the service a voice…. No…. that’s not right…. Participants from ASDES have always had a voice. They’re smart, funny, animated, intelligent, articulate, caring people who deserve to be listened to.
Let’s start again…

We’ve been spending this last month working on ways to enable our ASDES ambassadors to make their voices heard. We’ve been recording their message to employers with ideas on how to get the best out of people with autism when they reach interview. ASDES works closely with individuals to ensure that they’re best supported when entering the workplace so it’s important we get the message right.

We’ve been shooting so that we can create a short film to show employers that people with autism do not match a particular stereotype and that a few small tweaks to the interview process is all it takes to make everyone feel a little more comfortable. We can’t wait to edit this Animated ASDES film and share it with the world. Congratulations to everyone involved int his project and well done for trying all sorts of new things to get the story across. That’s a wrap people!

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Does the label matter?

We’re continuing today with our work for ASDES. Our participants all have an autism diagnosis and are wanting to get the message out to employers that being autistic doesn’t stop them being amazing employees. We’re making a short film to explain to employers that a few small modifications to the way they do things can help make the applications process accessible to all.

It’s shouldn’t matter what type of person you have in front of you at interview, but what does matter is the style of questioning and the approach to your potential employee. Our film will discuss what questions are confusing, pointless, and overwhelming; but we’re also looking at what we can do to help employers get it right. Our group felt that clear job descriptions, giving interview candidates the questions in advance, and being open about what is expected is important to someone with autism. Hey, hang on, isn’t this important to us all? It’s not rocket science. Just be clear about what you want and everyone has a fair and equal chance!

We’re raising awareness of what it means to have autism by showing that there is no stereotype. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, learning styles, and behavioural quirks. Around the table today were just a bunch of friends having a chat about their experiences. Their voice, and their messages, will be throughout the film that we’re making. All the ideas and questions about being employable have come from this small group of talented people. Their message so far is clear:

“Get to know me. Be patient. All you need to do is adapt a little to how I work and I’ll be the best worker you’ve ever had.”

If I was hiring, I’d take on any one of these wonderful people.

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Talk and Test Shots

We’re working closely today with the Autistic Spectrum Disorder Employment Support (ASDES) again today. The Animated ASDES project is designed to give people a voice in letting employers know what they should be doing to assist those with autism. We’ll be guiding our participants to present themselves in a short film which can be then used to educate employers.

Today has been all about getting ideas that we can work with. We’ve been talking about the application process, interview questions, what employers get right, and whether the autism ‘label’ is something that needs to be talked about. Labels help us identify our place in the world and help us feel like we belong, but they can also give others false impressions and lead to stereotyping. Of course, any good prospective employer wouldn’t use stereotypes to determine whether or not someone is any good but it does sometimes happen. To smash the stereotype we’re putting our participants in front of the camera so they have the chance to tell it like it is.

Today’s discussions are helping us form ideas on what to film and what messages we want to get across. It’s important that the finished film is something that participants can feel confident and proud of. We want to encourage employers to look at ability rather than disability, and know that with a few alterations to the employment process they are able to give these awesome people a chance to shine as part of their company.

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Small World Futures

I’m kicking off 2018 with a new group exhibition over in London. Small World Futures will be shown at the #unsettledgallery near London Bridge throughout February. The #unsettledgallery is unique in that it has no fixed address and no fixed hours. Some pieces in Small World Futures will appear for a few minutes, others perhaps for more than a day. All artworks featured in the show can be picked up by the public for free so they really could end up anywhere.

Over the last few months of 2017 Collect Connect have been discovering a small set of public art spaces (niches, ledges, railing, flowerbeds etc) called the #unsettledgallery. The artworks from 18 artists will be placed one by one in these spaces as part of the Small World Futures exhbition.

My small sculptures have been inspired by what I consider to be possible futures for the human race. All have been created from found objects and recycled parts. ‘Found’ really does mean found in my case. I’ve been out into the garden and found snail shells, pieces of bark, and bits of bamboo. I’ve matched these up with buttons, beads, and doll parts from my recycling and mending box.  By making little sculptures from these found bits and bobs I’m thinking about how our world with its limited resources needs to get more inventive if it wants to create a future for itself.

I’ll be sharing more about these pieces as they appear in the #unsettledgallery. For now you’ll have to make do with the publicity poster. You can find out more about the inclusive art exhibitions run by Collect Connect by clicking HERE.

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Time to Stop

Today we’ve been working with Swansea Carers Centre on a one day photography course looking at how we can be more mindful. Carers are often on-call 24-hours a day and with little respite from their duties and so telling you not to worry, or to empty your mind of any stress, when you have a world of responsibility on your shoulders isn’t always very practical. Instead we considered how we could be more mindful by taking time to stop and admire the world around us using cameras. Looking at life through a lens can be a great way to consider how we can be calmer within ourselves.

This morning was all about seeing and looking. We took time to examine some of the more historical aspects of Swansea. We found elephants on the High Street and dragons above Union Street which formed part of some of the old cinemas in town. We chatted about the castle and how we often overlook it as we’re whizzing past on our way to other places. Finding what makes a place tick is something that can help us come to terms with the rhythms and stresses around us. Looking, and really seeing, what we have on our doorstep can bring us closer to feeling great about what we have.

After lunch we looked at how we can create our own feeling of calm. Our participants were encouraged to find their own space and photograph what they saw when they felt they had reached a moment of calm. Creating an image of your own calm space can take a very short time and can instantly transport you back to that moment. The calm memories that our group created today should help to keep them centred and focused on the good things that are happening in the world around us. Taking a little time to stop and stare is sometimes all it takes to be more mindful about what life can be about.