StoryPatchwork: theWholeStory at Two Temple Place alongside Unbound

Since 2011, theWholeStory have worked with Two Temple Place alongside our Winter Exhibition Programme, to help bring to life our exhibitions for state primary school children from around London. In this post, Josh Gaillman and Lily Penders, co-founders and partners of theWholeStory share their ideas behind their concept for working alongside our most recent exhibition, Unbound: Visionary Women Collecting Textiles.

"The idea for StoryPatchwork (or ‘what it means to be young in London today’) came to us, theWholeStory, at the first schools’ programme planning meeting for Two Temple Place’s Unbound exhibition. It wasn’t called that at the time, more something like ‘let’s-get-all-the-kids-to-do-an-autobiographical-response-as-a-kind-of-textile-bee-hive-shape-you-know-thingy-patchworkquilt-type-thing’. The name for the workshop was not clear but the concept of creating a large collective work of art as engager was key.

Video showing the development of the Story Patchwork at Two Temple Place

Two Temple Place have given us free reign to create the school workshops since their first William Morris exhibition 8 years ago. We’ve always wanted so much from each day a Year 5 or 6 class spends with us. With Unbound we finally settled on wanting each pupil to understand the purpose of art (expression); to value textile as art as well as craft; to express themselves through this medium: as individual/community/culture. To achieve this they would be inspired by the exhibition, impressed by the skills required in the making, designing and collecting of textile. And they’d consider the difference between curation and personal collection.

Story Patchwork at Two Temple Place

So far so conceptual – but what would they do? They’d create the most beautiful, impressive, personal, fun, beautiful, individual, collaborative, beautiful, collective, beautiful, textile artwork currently on display in London The World.

Close up of the Story Patchwork at Two Temple Place

Impressive. High expectations. How long did we give ourselves to do this with each of the 30 classes? A 90 minute session before and after their highlight of the day: (when’s) lunch? We had something important on our side. Inside information; the experience of every previous workshop we’d run had taught us to make it fun, for them and for us.

Close up of the Story Patchwork at Two Temple Place 

A storyteller (Josh Gaillemin) and a theatre director (Lily Pender) set up theWholeStory and we have dedicated the last 15 years of our lives to helping our clients reap the benefits of applying storytelling to their working lives. Our work ranges from CEOs understanding and clearly communicating their organisation’s strategy, to training volunteers so that they can deliver compelling tours, to GPs inspiring their colleagues to take part in the changes they believe in for a more productive health service. Pretty varied stuff, but the constant is always understanding the narrative taking place and how to connect others to it.

Close up of the Story Patchwork at Two Temple Place 

The same principle is true in our school workshops for Two Temple Place. Our hypothesis: If the children have a purpose, through achieving it they’ll get something memorable from the exhibition. We created a story frame for their mission: help us, poor put upon and unloved collectors, get a textile piece (the finest piece) into the Unbound exhibition. Since the powers that be don't respect us, we’ll go under the radar. We’ll commission it to be made in house. By children. In the vault of the education room. And we’ll get visitors online via Instagram and invite all participants to show it off to their friends/families/carers over the holidays.

Close up of the Story Patchwork at Two Temple Place

So how did we (or rather they) do it?

The morning of each workshop began with us involving the class in the story of commissioning a work art from them. They explored the exhibition considering and sharing what they connected to and why. They heard stories about the lives of the visionary women collectors and how what they collected said as much about them as what each piece could tell about the maker or artist. We highlighted ‘The Wanderer’ by Yinka Shonibare to unveil the levels of meaning and story that can be put in by an artist and found by the viewer alongside the immediate appreciation for a beautiful object. We wanted to ensure they respected all those who had embroidered and woven and stitched and printed and dyed and applied all the other textile techniques – we wanted them to experience appreciation for just how skilled they’d been. So, armed with a magnifying glass they sketched a detail of their choice. Not to initiate the next generation of Royal Academicians but to get children to slow down, to look, to see, to notice.

Installation view of Yinka Shonibare, The Wanderer 2006-07, Wooden model with 'wax' printed cotton sails. Cartwright Hall, Bradford Galleries and Museums. Photography by Richard Eaton Photography

Installation view of Yinka Shonibare MBA, The Wanderer 2006-07, Wooden model with 'wax' printed cotton sails. Cartwright Hall, Bradford Galleries and Museums. Photography by Richard Eaton Photography

In the afternoon they created their own hexagon piece of textile art to be added to the StoryPatchwork. Just as the pieces in the exhibition shared something about the artist that was personal or about their community or culture, their piece would also be autobiographical. Like Yinka Shonibare’s 'The Wanderer' their piece would be beautiful and full of meaning (even if it wouldn’t be immediately obvious to the viewer), and learning from one of the collectors, Edith Durham, who added handwritten labels to pieces in her collection, each child would write a hexagon label to explain how their patchwork piece represented their life."

Close up of the Story Patchwork at Two Temple Place