Choice, freedom, establishing connection and embracing uncertainty can allow people with visual impairments to freely explore their own tactile interactions with material.
This artwork is a creative response to my arts-based research project investigating ways visually impaired makers can connect and collaborate with textiles.
Providing space and time at the start of the workshops, to develop deeper connections with textiles through explorative touch, discussions about personal preference and each fabric’s distinct properties encouraged a greater understanding and increased knowledge of materials, creating meaningful engagement that was evident through the participants’ individual choices and personal experiences that shaped their making process.
The research fundamentally shifted my own arts practice. By observing participants’ engagement with materials, my awareness was drawn to the tacit knowledge demonstrated through their hands, gestures, deft intuitive movements, and silent assessment. These experiences are present in my own practice but were never consciously acknowledged. Instead, I simply credited my visual sense during the making process and never centred my own sense of touch or the material as the active, even dominant, agent.
Throughout the making of this artwork, I have embraced and explored a dialogue with materials borne from this tactile approach and awareness of tacit knowledge. I strove to articulate textiles through this undervalued language, consisting of gestures, instinct and somatic knowledge, a language that normally remains unspoken.