Our most recent temporary exhibition at Whitehall is a vibrant display called A Good Yarn by Samia Tossio (SamiArt). Sadly, due to current restrictions, we’ve had to temporarily close our doors at Whitehall, which has meant the exhibition has been cut short. Therefore to ensure our visitors and followers have the opportunity to engage with this exhibition, we’ll be sharing images and snippets of stories from the project over the coming weeks, both here and across our other social media platforms. In addition, we’re also extending the dates for the exhibition so that visitors will still have the opportunity to see the displays in person when we reopen (N.B no confirmed date as yet but watch this space!)
The artist and her work
Sutton based community artist Samia Tossio (SamiArt), uses finger knitting to inspire, share, connect, and create in playful ways. She first launched A Good Yarn project in May 2019 with a series of pilot workshops held in collaboration with Refugee & Migrant Network Sutton. Along with storyteller Andy Copps, who helped facilitate the workshops, these workshops aimed to demonstrate the common bonds we share and the essential need for humanity, kindness and balance in life. The outcomes from these initial workshops helped form the basis of a successful application to the Mayor of London Culture Seeds grant programme, which enabled Samia to run additional workshops with two homeless charities. Samia also approached Sutton’s heritage team around this time, to see what possibilities there might be for an exhibition at one of the Borough’s heritage houses – an exhibition would provide Samia the opportunity to present a culmination of the work she created as a result of the Culture Seeds grant. The result of those early conversations was a collaboration to install A Good Yarn exhibition at Whitehall Historic House in December 2020.
As well as a selection of textile pieces created by Samia, the exhibition also presents audio recordings and video documentary, featuring stories from workshops held with Sutton Night Watch Charity for the Homeless, Single Homeless Project, Westminster, and Refugee & Migrant Network Sutton. During these workshops Samia used finger knitting as a creative tool to influence a common or shared mindful experience amongst the groups. The act of finger knitting helped participants feel at ease to connect with others, share their stories and experiences, and to potentially forget for a moment any outside worries.
A main feature of the exhibition is a vibrant mixed media installation which uses a Sleep Pod as the central focus – Sleep Pods are an emergency aid designed for rough sleepers in severe weather conditions, to help keep people warm and dry. Influenced by stories shared during workshops held with homeless charities, the installation aims to pose the question, ‘what does ‘a roof over our heads’ or ‘home’ mean to some of us?’
Highlighting and supporting the work of the charities who participated in the workshops is important to Samia, who has decided to raise funds by donating 20% of orders for selected handmade products placed during the time of the exhibition, via her website. The selected charities are Sutton Night Watch, and Refugee & Migrant Network Sutton. Smaia’s website is full of information and videos about the project, the future plans she has for the initiative, plus easy to follow finger knitting tutorial videos.
If you would like to keep up to date with when Whitehall might reopen, sign up to the Sutton Cultural Services Newsletter here. Published once a month, the newsletter provides information about services, activities and events run by Sutton Cultural Services, this includes all libraries in the Borough and Sutton’s three historic house museums – Whitehall in Cheam, Honeywood in Carshalton and Little Holland House in Carshalton Beeches.
To end this post, we want to share one of the stories from Samia’s workshop with Sutton Night Watch, which brings our thoughts back to the essence of what A Good Yarn is about, to demonstrate the common bonds we share and the essential need for humanity, kindness and balance in life.
AGY 005 SNW – ‘Kieran is also benefiting from being on the 12-step programme. His partner always encouraged him to be crafty, like she was. After she passed away from cancer, Kieran fell into a downward spiral which led him to Sutton Night Watch. His choice of yarn was inspired by a memory of his partner’s jumper which was triggered by the vibrant colours of a knitted beanie laying on the table. He chose to use her favourite colours to knit with, saying, “She would be so happy to see me being crafty”
He also went on to say, “The hardest thing is being alone with time”, and that he used to play guitar and wants to get back into it. Establishing that he didn’t own a guitar, Andy brought a guitar in from home as a gift for Kieran at the next session.
Kieran – update: he’s doing really well, he’s been re-housed, he’s on a rehab programme and his head is in a much better place.’ – Samia Tossio
One thought on “A Good Yarn at Whitehall”
Hoping to see the exhibition when Whitehall reopens.