Postcards – a methodological, making workshop



I am off to the Art of Management conference in York next week with my great colleague and friend Ann Rippin. We are running a workshop where we’ll be asking participants to make ‘stitched postcards’! We‘re framing the workshop around identity, suggesting that sending a postcard is a conscious piece of identity work – there is a visual element to it where you choose the picture on one side and the written message that you choose to write on the other side. However, this workshop is primarily concerned with the creative, making process – here, creating a small piece of art – in order to help participants engage in reflective practice. We’ll be asking our participants to write a postcard to, for example, their younger self starting out at work, their future self at work, their leader or mentor and so on…and use fabric, beads, buttons, paper, ribbon and found objects to create a piece of art that says something about these reflections.

The postcards I have made to take with me as examples are pictured here; the first postcard is  written to the REF Panel – those of you in the academic world might note the ‘toxic’ symbol on the front and the representation of ‘jumping through hoops’?!; the second is to my younger self – reminding me there are many paths to life and fun to be had in between the work, PhD and career choices!; the third is to my self outside work – the self that is a bride-to-be!

For more information on this conference, visit:



‘Cloth Ears’ and the importance of listening…

Just reading some stuff about active listening, listening to oneself and processing what you hear in some of the coaching and mentoring literature…and it made me realise how many phrases and expressions there are that make reference to our ears and the importance of listening! Many of these echo (!) with my experiences as a mentor this year…and I have tried to reflect some of these in my ‘cloth ears’!

A word in your shell like

‘When our ears do glow and tingle, some do talk of us in our absence’ – Pliny


Ear to the ground

All ears

Bend your ear

To fall on deaf ears

To give ear to

In one ear and out the other

Lend me your ears – Julius Caesar, III

Prick up your ears

Pin your ears back

Teachers and their summer holidays…

I recently met again with one of my mentees, an NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher), and we spent time talking about her past academic year, the imminent summer holidays and her year ahead. In particular her reflections on the tensions between family, friends and taking time off, versus preparations for the coming year resonated with me and I spent some time considering this.

I found it useful to interpret my thoughts and her reflections using fabric, words and symbols…just as I had done after our first mentoring session. It seemed appropriate to do this again after our last session of the academic year…

My textile here says something about my mentee’s feelings about ‘stitching up’ the past year and folding up her anxieties…about acknowledging what her triumphs have been and the hard mountains she has had to climb in her year as an NQT. This is reflected in the folded blue fabric and the words attached.

Equally, the white fabric represents the year ahead, starting in the autumn – hence the use of autumn coloured buttons! This part of the fabric is unfolding and incorporates her thoughts and feelings about the things she will do, will remember, what she has learnt…and may do better.

The golden threads and ‘pearls of wisdom’ running across the textile are symbolic of those wisdoms learnt, to be reflected upon and to take into the future.

But it is the period of time in-between that interested me (the orange/gold fabric). The summer holidays for teachers last around six weeks and so often I heard people say to my Mother, a teacher herself (now retired), “…you teachers have so much time off!” or “…you lot get such long holidays!”. But of course, this was never the case and is a somewhat mis-guided view of teachers and their summer holidays…

Now, as a teacher myself, I recognise that this is a time to ease off but a time to question experiences and prepare for the next year – the last term seems to so easily merge into the next! My mentee’s reflections highlighted these tensions and drew attention to this period in-between. In particular, for her, it appears to be a period of liminality – moving from a ‘first year teacher’ to someone who might be expected to ‘know more’ and who is no longer ‘new’! It’s a time for her, she says, to be free to think, feel, rest, regain a sense of enthusiasm and look in the mirror. It’s also a time for her to set things in motion for next year, prepare her classroom, worry and make decisions.

Teachers and their summer holidays: a space for freedom and constraint, departure and arrival, joy and apprehension.