Andreja Brulc's Blog

Twiddlemuff: Knitting for Dementia

Posted in Craft, Projects by andrejabrulc on 21/05/2015

Have you ever heard of twiddlemuffs? Nor did I, until last Friday! Please read on, if interested.

As this week (17–23 May 2015) is the Dementia Awareness Week, I decided to have a go in making my first twiddlemuff in order to support a patient with dementia as part of the Forget-Me-Not project carried out by various NHS Foundation Trusts across the UK (for your local one see Dementia Action Alliance) asking knitters to contribute into. I am not a professional knitter but I use various craft techniques using yarn in the making of my illustrations and art projects. Knitting and crocheting reconnect me to the roots of my earlier female generations, so I am very grateful to my mum and grandmother who taught me all these ‘skills-for-life’ when I was a child, so that I am now able to make this contribution to a sad but beautiful project of LTC – Love, Tender and Care.

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What are Twiddlemuffs?

According to Bradford Teaching Hospital (the link has the pattern & instructions), twiddlemuffs are knitted hand muffs using various left-over yarn and being decorated with interesting bits and bobs attached inside and out. ‘They have been designed and developed to provide simple stimulation for active hands, while promoting increased flexibility and brain stimulation.’ Furthermore, Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital says that people with dementia ‘often have restless hands and like to have something to keep their hands occupied.’ The twiddlemuff ‘provides a wonderful source of visual, tactile and sensory stimulation and at the same time keeping hands snug and warm.’

Not only is, as recent studies have shown, the craft of knitting a therapy for depression – depression is one of the risk factors for developing dementia – but I also learn from Alzheimer’s Society that people with dementia remain involved in the community through knitting. As Adele Lacy, Dementia Support Worker, who runs Knit2gether group, says:

‘I thought of knitting because, even when people have forgotten everything else, it is an automatic skill which never goes. People might not be able to do a lot of things but knitting is something they can still remember and it is great for the members to see a finished product and think “I did that”.’

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Dedication of my Twiddlemuff

To me, it is impossible to imagine all the harrowing emotions charged, both, from the prospective of the diagnosed patient seeing one’s own inner decay as the illness progresses and from the prospective of his or her family. I have recently watched Julianne Moore’s outstanding performance in Still Alice, playing a role of a linguistic professor diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The film is so emotionally powerful, shown through the eyes of someone, who faces ‘a harrowing challenge as this terminal degenerative neurological ailment slowly progresses to an inevitable conclusion’ that we, survivors of the afflicted, all dread.

Also, over the last few years I have witnessed how my very close friend of mine (and his family) was coping and was emotionally effected by his father’s Alzheimer’s, who was given a full care at home with all LTC from the onset of the diagnosis to his recent death. I, therefore, thought I would dedicate my twiddlemuff in the memory of my friend’s father. I only wished I had known about these twiddlemuffs earlier!

twiddlemuffe_before decorationThe Story in the Making of my Twiddlemuff

As an image creator, often working according to briefs, I enjoy opportunities where I can experiment without rational thinking! I love building up stories that take me to the unknown, as I am interested in how different stories, through recycling and collaging, come together to make a new narrative. For this kind of experimentation I keep various kinds of boxes containing ‘bits and bobs’ – a Wunderkammer of history when things get pulled out!

As my friend and his family could not stop giving all the LTC to his father right to the end, for which I admired them so much, I thought that the overall design for my twiddlemuff needed to express that. I added a cross-stitched ‘LTC’ on the inside right at the end, but the overall design, however, really began to develop from the red and white striped ribbon with hearts before the base was even finished. The ribbon came with a Christmas present – a home-made jar of pickled herring –, given to me by my Danish colleague in 2007, and made and beautifully wrapped by her mum. In addition to the hearts, the reds became the centre to the colour scheme – also, because I wanted to include the left-over wool in bright red that my mum used to knit a striped jumper for me, which I wore when I started school back in mid 70s! It is here used as a central stripe and also for stitched outlined hearts. Furthermore, although a flower motive – daisies, fuchsia and, needless to say, most importantly, a forget-me-not – is more appropriate for a female patient, my friend’s dad was a very keen gardener, so it does make sense after all to add a touch of beauty from nature. Last, as the act of knitting is paramount to this LTC cause – to knit for the patients and the patients to knit –, it is important to pass such skills to younger generations as knitting is ‘an automatic skill that never goes away’. As I taught my little niece a stocking stitch a few years ago and as the twiddlemuff is meant to be embellished with buttons among many other things, I added one button, which I had to remove from her first-communion dress by her order! Although she and buttons are not best friends, she found it rather amusing that her ‘unlikable’ friend found its prominent place in the middle of the big heart!

As patients with dementia love hearing stories being told, I decided at the end to add a pocket in order to carry a note with all these amusing anecdotes in the making of his or her new twiddlemuff! Of course, I shall omit my friend’s dad’s story. R.I.P.

twiddlemuffe_after decoration

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Beletrina ’36 Top’ Book Covers / 2007–2011

Posted in Books by andrejabrulc on 06/10/2013

A selection of ’36 top’ book covers made in March 2012 for my ‘artist-in-residence’ application in Oaxaca, Mexico. The book covers were produced during my first five years of the Beletrina contract (2007–2011). My statement for this selection made in the application is below.

1 part_2007-2011 2 part_2007-2011

Statement

The largest body of work I have produced, often involving crafts in the context of contemporary art and design, consists of designs and illustrations for book covers for Beletrina, a major literary imprint of the Slovene publisher Beletrina Academic Press.

In Nov 2006, having just finished my professional studies at the London University of the Arts, I won a public competition in Slovenia to become principal cover designer and illustrator for the imprint, and after nearly six years in this role I will have created from my London home around 200 book covers. The publisher, subsidised by public and private funds, has gained its reputation primarily by introducing prominent works of contemporary national and world literature to Slovene readers, including Mexican authors such as Octavio Paz and Sergio Pitol. The publisher’s goal is to set standards for a new publishing philosophy which, in addition to focusing on non commercial titles and giving priority to inventiveness, freshness and directness, respects authors and invests a considerable effort in the promotion of their work. Their philosophy and my close-knit relationship with the publisher has helped me to develop a highly individual and recognisable style and branding for the imprint over the last nearly six years.

The branding is defined by a central stripe of a single colour with separate but unified design elements above and below. The artwork encompasses the entire jacket. The whole collection is uniform in style, but at the same time each book is visually distinct as each requires a different response in method and technique depending on the content of the book – I am a passionate reader, so all the books are read before I get to visual thinking in the sketchbook, creating artwork and finalising the book for print!

Designs involve mixed media including photography, drawing and silhouette, montage and collage (cut and paste techniques), the use of typography, organic and man-made textures and patterns, textile, threads and so on. The illustrations in particular often use traditional craft techniques such as hand printing, stitching and patchwork, embroidery, knitting and crocheting, and industrial materials such as sandpaper and scrim tape. I also apply traditional techniques to unusual materials and use new techniques with traditional materials. I experiment with different possibilities in which images are juxtaposed in a tense relationship to one another and blended together through mixed media, thus creating different realities and perceptions through the interplay of natural forms, narrations and emotions. The choice of using the traditional crafts as a subversive technique is primarily in order to respond to the content of the book but at the same time to explore and challenge certain traditional ideas ad taboos, expressed in that content, that are deeply rooted in our society, such as cultural, political, social and geographical situations.

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