The story unfolds.......
This is the story of how WingSmith started and how it has evolved, very quickly, over the past 6 months……
It all started with three people (Matt, Nick & Graham) who came up with the idea (pre Covid), to have a project that would provide respite experiences, in the forge, blacksmithing with people who have suffered trauma, PTSD, etc., mainly from the armed forces and front-line services. The project was all ready to start then Covid halted everything, and a new way of thinking had to come through - experiences with groups of people was just not going to work.
Matt and Nick continued to brain storm ideas and the main theme running through their ideas was that of a ‘community project’ - bringing the people together, as a community, supporting one another. The community project idea took the form of a pair of wings (2.5 m tall), filled with individually made copper feathers which members of the public could come and make, and also make a small keepsake as a memento of their time at the forge. By making the feathers people would become engaged in the world of coppersmithing, pure alchemy, and feel part of something larger within their community. This project could also provide respite experiences for font-line NHS staff and other groups as and when the Covid rules were lifted.
Whilst Nick had been working with copper wings and feathers for some years and their symbolism, along came someone with a natural connection to feathers - Karen and her amazing birds of prey. Karen has for the past 20 years been working with birds of prey, and for the past 8 years in the therapy sector with her birds providing amazing healing experiences with people with PTSD, trauma, physical and mental disabilities - one of her birds is known to surround the person with its wings to hold them, protect them, make them feel safe. This is what we wanted to do with the WingSmith project - a symbol of community strength.
Our first forge day took place in September and everyone who came along thoroughly enjoyed themselves - even Rosie the European Eagle Owl enjoyed the forge experience! BUT there was something missing, and WingSmith needed to evolve yet again.
Another lockdown impending and new ideas are coming through as to the main purpose of this project - one of education, especially with children within our community.
Lockdown and Covid have really instilled into our children the new normal of how to behave and to perceive the world - is it right for our children to be fearful if they don’t wear a face mask, is it right that it is normal for our children to have no physical contact with one another (no hugs, no holding hands), is it right for our children to fear the outside world? Through Matt, Nick and Karen’s normal day-to-day work they have all seen the devastating impact that the new way of being is having on the children growing up today. WingSmith can be a way of bringing those children back to the natural world, the world full of greenery, of plants and trees, animals, birds…..feathers. One feather holds the wonder of the natural world in all its detail. We need to get children (especially those that have become traumatised by current events) to engage in the natural world and feel they belong within the larger community of all our children, and help make them less fearful of the world around them.
So WingSmith now wants to focus more on the educational and therapeutic side of the project - taking the project out to schools, engaging children, allowing them to make a copper feather for the winged sculpture, but also ask them to make a card feather and on that feather place their thoughts, words, pictures, feelings of how they really feel during this time. But also understand that connection between the feather and the natural world and thats where Karen and her birds will come in too; introducing and teaching children about feathers and taking her birds into the school environment with the WingSmith team.
Our vision is to see this project in all its glory as a 2.5m tall set of wings, in which people can step into, feel held, knowing that so many contributed to each feather to make the wings strong. Behind the sculpture we envision all the children’s thoughts, memories, words, pictures on those card feathers as a reminder of why we need to do this.
We would still like to get individual people to help make a copper feather and forge days will stay go ahead once lockdown restrictions have lifted….and we still need funding to help make this project unfurl its wings and soar.