‘Loose Women’ from Finglas create inspirational art with chairs

The ‘Loose Women’ are a group of young mothers who meet at the HSE St. Helena’s Family Resource Centre in Finglas, Dublin and take part in courses and activities that are run at the centre.

Recently they completed an art project entitled ‘The Chair Project’.  The project involved each of the women creating a unique piece of art by taking a chair, something that is part of our everyday life and transferring an idea or emotion into art and onto the chair.  The group created a collection of nine uniquely designed chairs each with its own inspirational message.

One of the artists describes her chair, “I chose to do my chair on cuddles and hugs because I am the mum of three children, two of whom have autism and they love mum’s hugs and cuddles.  As they are getting too big to lift, this chair will help to support me as I support them.”  The brightly decorated chair has red and soft heart shaped cushions to represent the heart and love mothers feel for their children.
Another chair represents depression in the eyes of the artist.  Describing the chair, the artist said “the lower half resembles all the tangles and fears inside the person, how we can bind ourselves in knots and can’t find a way out of the darkness. The words around the chair indicate the feelings we carry with depression e.g. fear, darkness and loss of hope.  The hand symbolises the struggle to lift ourselves out of the darkness and try to gain back control of our lives. The two masks show the sad face (depression) we have inside and the face we want to have in today’s world (hope, love and positivity). The chair’s colour changes as we lift ourselves up with support from the community, our family and friends.  This is very close to my heart as I learnt that not only I, but many people are in this darkness and this can lead to dangerous consequences like thoughts of suicide and self-harm.”

Eileen Kavanagh, Manager, St. Helena’s spoke of the thinking behind the project.  “As young mothers who are managing family life and looking after children, they have a lot of potential and talent, but very little time for themselves.  This project was an opportunity for them to express their talent and reflect on subjects that matter to them.  Over the course of seven weeks it was exciting to see the chairs taking shape and to see the women chatting openly about their thoughts and personal experiences. This was not only an art project, but an opportunity for them to work on issues that were very close to their hearts – ranging from depression to teenage pregnancy, drugs to cancer etc.”

The chairs were recently exhibited in the Finglas Library, some of the comments from the public included “Excellent! The meaning of each chair is so heartwarming, the exhibition opens your eyes to everyone’s needs and feelings and art is a great way of expressing that”.  “A great surprise in the library today, just popped up to collect someone and I got to see some amazing creative work.” 

The exhibition of chairs are currently on display at the Finglas Addiction Support Team (FAST) offices.  FAST are a local community group who provide support to individuals and families that are affected by drug and alcohol misuse in the Finglas area.  

The idea of the ‘Chair Project’ came from ‘TASK Kilkenny’ – a training programme that aims to support people to maintain good mental health.  The programme invited people to create chairs on the topic of mental illness which were displayed at the Kilkenny Arts Festival in 2012.

St. Helena’s Family Resource Centre provides a focal point for activities for the local community and offers a range of services to participants of all ages from the early breakfast club to local school children to groups for the elderly.  It provides a home to a range of community, voluntary and statutory groups and organisations who avail of rooms in St Helena’s.