Journeys Making

Exploring contemporary craft in early years

A Craftspace exhibition

Finding Spaces – Treasure Boxes (Photo: Anand Chhabra, Marcus Rowlands)

The Custard Factory – Birmingham
4 – 25 May 2007

Find out more about our 2018 early years and families project at Birmingham Settlement, Making Together.
Journeys Making is an exhibition that was on show at the Custard Factory in Birmingham in May 2007.

“Everyone working with children/young people should see this exhibition and also parents. Beautiful and thought provoking” Visitor comment from the exhibition

Background Information

From 2004 to 2006, children, parents, artists and teachers explored contemporary craft together through projects organised by Craftspace, Treasure Boxes and Finding Spaces.

These projects focused on the creative exploration of materials and on providing opportunities for parents and children to develop their creativity together.  Children aged between 0 and 5 worked with materials such as willow, plastics, metal and clay.

Treasure Boxes was a year-long residency for very young children and their parents/carers from St Thomas Children’s Centre in Birmingham. Families worked with mixed media maker Ruth Spaak, potter Jon Williams and jeweller Rita Patel. Each maker worked at St Thomas Centre over a period of 6 weeks working with a nursery group in the morning and a play and stay group in the afternoons. Each maker created opportunities for parents and children to work together and introduced new materials, tools and processes. Each residency was documented by artist Marcus Rowlands. Photographs were taken throughout the project capturing key moments and journeys of individuals and different relationships within the project. Following the residency, each maker was commissioned to create an object or objects for young children to explore. These objects along with 3 commissioned books form the Made for Play resource.

Finding Spaces continued the exploration of parents and children working together in an open-ended way. Willow artist Laura Ellen Bacon worked with families from 3 Birmingham nurseries (St Thomas Children’s Centre Nursery, Princethorpe Nursery and Bloomsbury Children’s Centre) to create dens and spaces using willow and other natural materials. Sessions were very informal and became an opportunity for narrative play as well as considerable skills building for children, parents and staff. Each residency lasted for 7 weeks and included opportunities for children and parents to explore Laura’s willow structures and forms and to create their own work.  Parents and children have been able to work together and individually and as part of the project families from each of the settings visited a willow farm.  Laura has also made site-specific work for each setting and a commissioned piece for this exhibition.

A key focus of both projects has been the exploration of how documentation can be used to support learning and the importance of a reflective evaluation process.

The exhibition

The exhibition ran from 4 -25 May 2007 and included images/documentation from the two projects as well as commissioned work developed by the makers in response to the projects.

During the exhibition, nurseries were able to take part in half day sessions at the gallery with makers Jon Williams, Ruth Spaak, Rita Patel, and Laura Ellen Bacon.

There was also an open day which allowed families to drop-in and participate in creative activities with makers, and two seminar study days, for early years practitioners and makers/artists working in early years, looking at how artists and contemporary craft specifically can impact on early years creative learning.

Organisations involved in early years work were also given the opportunity to use the space for an event or for training.


  • Jon Williams – Potter
  • Rita Patel – Jewellery designer & maker
  • Ruth Spaak – Glass/Plastics maker
  • Laura Ellen Bacon – Willow artist
  • Marcus Rowlands – Documenter


Where Next

A metal brooch designed with motifs of barbed wire and a skull.

Show Your Metal

Archive 2019 : Show Your Metal exhibition.

a Black woman rests her elbows on a table in a studio and looks at the camera. There are spools of thread, a box of yarn and other textiles and tools around her.

YARNING: Tales from Birmingham

A podcast series about Black women knitters.

Sign made out of different fabrics with a stitched message about mental health and metal stars.

Craft in Mind

From the archive 2013: Young people talking about mental health and wellbeing through craft.

Shelanu: Migrating Birds

This jewellery range is inspired by the women’s experiences of migrating to Birmingham.


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