WORK IN PROGRESS by Mercedes Blanco

I have an interest in the Arts and Crafts and in working with children and young people. I started making jewelry four years ago as a way to create personalized pieces for people looking for original designs. I began using beads and wire, but soon I found myself wanting to explore different materials and styles, to mix and blend together and see what unfolds. I love working with materials that I can bend, squash or wrap with my hands exploring new ideas and create something totally unique.

I like variety in my work and I am constantly exploring new ways of making wearable designs. I am naturally curious and find endless sources of inspiration by traveling to different places or observing nature’s patterns, colours and textures. I like using bright colours to make my pieces more playful and lively.

I work from home. In my early days I only had the kitchen table to work on and had to manage with moving materials all the time, which was making the process more difficult. Now I have a special room to be creative in, though I have to admit that the old kitchen table is still very handy!

In parallel to my personal creative work I have started to train and learn how to facilitate children and young people through art. The Foundation course “Working with Children through Art” delivered by Art to Heart started me off and the gratifying experience, advice and enthusiasm I got from it encouraged me to train further.

I attended a summer course in Art Therapy in Crawford College in Cork, I have just completed a Certificate in Youth Arts with the National Youth Council of Ireland and I am doing modules in NCAD evening classes. I really enjoy learning and I don’t seem to get enough of it!

During the year I also started volunteering in The Ark – the Cultural Centre for Children in Dublin. Since I started assisting in their programmes of visual arts, music, theatre and dance, I have had the opportunity to learn and observe how the different artists work, to learn from their experience, gain new skills, and share thoughts with them. The experience in The Ark is influencing my work in many ways, but mainly it gives me confidence and reinforces my beliefs. Children and young people are naturally very creative and open-minded and they benefit from being free to explore their own ideas no matter how they choose to communicate them. It is a real pity that society and the education system start establishing limitations and boundaries very early on often inhibiting their imagination and creativity!

Through The Ark and Art to Heart, I had the opportunity last spring to participate in a remarkable project with a group of beautiful children from the Autistic spectrum. When I embarked on this fantastic adventure I knew I had a lot to learn from the group and from the artist-facilitator who took me on board, but I didn’t know how rewarding the experience would be. Following a flexible visual arts approach I have witness that it is possible to communicate without words, to have a voice without speaking and to be heard without talking.

I feel that at last I am doing something that gives me the opportunity to express myself freely and to follow my interests. It hasn’t been easy. For years I kept denying myself what I could feel so strongly and the little voices in my head had more power over me than the ones from my heart, so I kept working at something that I didn’t enjoy and had no interest in. The path I needed to travel was in front of me but I didn’t want to see it.

At last I got the message and here I am, still uncertain, still doubtful but much happier.