Making Together: What happened? – with women living in refuge

Exploring metal with Rita Patel and Melanie Tomlinson
Spring 2019

Working in partnership with Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid (BSWA), we developed our families project Making Together for women and early years children (0-5) living in refuge. The project used metal as a material focus, working with Birmingham based makers Rita Patel, a jewellery maker, and Melanie Tomlinson, an artist and illustrator.

What did we do?

Encouraged to explore, play and make with their mums and staff, children explored the textures, noises, shapes and movements of metalwork tools and objects including metal balls, hammers, shim, wire, nuts, bolts, magnets, bowls, boxes, wheels, bracelets, bangles and necklaces alongside softer, malleable materials like raffia, playdoh, felt pens, paints and feathers.

Offering a rare opportunity to carve out time to learn and develop their own interests in making, the sessions provided a series of directed making activities just for the women.

Working alongside one another in a relaxed, social setting, participants created special items for themselves and the spaces where they were living. They were taught new, sometimes challenging metalwork and jewellery making techniques: metal and hot foil embossing, saw piercing, filing, forming, hammering, buffing, soldering, polishing, oxidising, texturing, metal stamping, riveting, drilling and wire work.


The open-ended approach enabled a different type of play to develop for the children, and one that offered a wide range of possibilities, directions and outcomes. Whether they were sat on their mum’s knee, engaging in pretend play with other children and staff, playing one to one or by themselves, the sessions offered gentle, accessible ways into play that could be adjusted to each individual child, appealing to their different interests, moods, skills and ideas.

Despite the challenges presented by their circumstances and hectic everyday lives, the women committed to every piece they made, making their own creative decisions and producing a range of beautiful objects including jewellery boxes, mobiles, silver plated bracelets and bespoke sterling silver rings.

a flower design made from cut and coloured metal.

Through Making Together the women learned new skills, tried things they have never done before and began to see themselves as creative. They experienced relief from stress and felt pride in themselves for what they had made. One woman told us how it had helped her to feel normal, and that for two hours she didn’t need to think about her problems.

Deirdre Buckley

Where Next

a young hand pushes into wet clay.

Making Together: What happened? – Clay

See what happened at the clay workshops.

An older man works with a young boy hammering a metal punch.

Making Together: What happened? – Metal

See what happened at the metal workshops.

A woman shows a lady how to use a piercing saw to cut a sheet of metal. They're both smiling and happy.

Making Together: What Happened? – Celebration

See the results of our work with families.

Three clay heads of various sizes with different coloured slips, shapes and decoration applied to them.

Made for Play

The creation of interactive artworks designed for very young children.


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