Inside the Creative Mind: Twist and Tie

13 June 2013

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Artist Elaine Duigenan is working with young women at New Horizons Youth Centre. She has devised and is running a series of six workshops that explore connections with works in the current Wellcome Collection exhibition, Souzou: Outsider Art from Japan. She’ll be writing a blog each week to relay some of the ideas and outcomes in words and pictures; here’s the third.

In many ways the work of Shota Katsube was the first thing that fired my enthusiasm for the whole ‘Souzou’ exhibition. The ordinariness of the material, the inventiveness and the sheer numbers (like humans, each one unique) were an inspiration. It immediately made me want to handle the material to see what could be done. I sourced an array of twisty ties from the internet, including the metallic colours that Shota uses.

For this workshop, I needed participants to first handle the material and get used to its properties. So we simply wrote our names in joined-up writing, first on paper and then by manipulating the twist ties. Initially this was a challenge, but a kind of concentrated silence came over the group as the twisting and tying got underway. I put a lot of emphasis on the fact that perfection is not required and that there are no rules, just Souzou – imagination and creativity.

I showed them images of Shota’s work, and the girls immediately reached for the ties to make all manner of figures and creatures. This is always the wonderful bit; although the inspiration and directions are the same, everyone goes off on their own meanderings, creating everything from Donnie Darko to spindly giraffes, owls and stars. It was clear from the comments that yet again, this kind of ‘simple play’ was therapeutic and wholly absorbing. There is an element of surprise at the pleasure derived from manipulating the most ordinary of materials and transforming them into something new. ‘E’ commented that it was a bit like taking the top of a champagne bottle and making it into a chair. ‘A’ said she knew someone who made ‘chairs’ out of the labels on bread bags.

The final task was a little more complicated and involved a weaving technique that soon turned into carpets and coasters. ‘A’ commented that we are “losing some of our skills these days, like how to sew on a button. In the past we were made to do it!”

So, again, a very enjoyable time with the group and more lovely creations directly inspired by Shota Katsube and the amazing outsider artists.

Find out more about Elaine’s work at