#Chumbrella- The Power of the Chat

When by chance I bumped into Sarah Nadin at the Burslem School of Art in 2008 I could never have known how important it would be. She was hanging photographs for an exhibition that my (then) boyfriend was showing at too. We did know each other loosely through our mutual friend Megan, so I stopped to chat with her. She explained that she and her partner were looking for a place to live, I suggested the Live/Work units next door where I lived and the rest is history.

Where it all started

At that time I was struggling for work, I suspect with hindsight, because I was barking up the wrong tree creatively. I called on Sarah to help put me in touch with local commissioners and gallery owners. The result of this meeting was a joint pitch for a commission to design for one of the Newcastle-under-Lyme subways, which to my surprise we won. Thereafter we continued to win commissions, we had hit upon a winning formula. We bounced off each other, conceptually chiselling away at briefs to come up with the neatest, most original and relevant idea we could. Our partnership, Dashyline (named because of our propensity to use this visual element) went on to produce 2D and 3D work all over the country and abroad.

Over time we came to realise just why it was that we worked so well together; it was because we had pretty much the same agenda. We felt that participation in the design and realisation of our work was intrinsic to our process. Eventually this aspect of our practice rose to the forefront of our concepts, culminating most recently in UNEARTHED. This project was our most audacious yet, requiring nothing less than mass participation to make it work. It was hard, but we did it. At least 3,000 people were engaged, but realistically it was probably more like 10,000.

Now we’re more focused than ever on what is important to our practice, scaling back and back in the quest to produce art and creative tools that people can incorporate into their daily lives to make them happier, healthier and better equipped to deal with the modern world.

So we come to #Chumbrella, a conceptual tool designed by Sarah that is currently making a splash (rain or no rain) in our beloved hometown of Stoke-on-Trent.

   

This umbrella is a tacit invitation, by the user, to anyone to come under and share the space. Its simplicity is its power; the space is for two or more people to do with as they choose. The obvious implication of #chumbrella is that it encourages people to share, both physically and conversationally, with each other. This sunny yellow and white everyday object is actually a radical statement- against the anonymity and false closeness of social media and for the power of simply connecting with others in our shared spaces.

the hashtag is also intrinsic to the concept. Rather than shun social media altogether, #chumbrella aims to include it- to invade a place of superficial exchange with the evidence of the authentic  kind. The users are encouraged to tweet/facebook/instagram etc. about their conversations, creating a digital bank of experience under the #chumbrella for others to benefit from. This will become an open source public record of the project.

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So, if you’re looking for evidence of the power of the chat, go back to the first paragraph. Had Sarah and I not stopped to chat in the Burslem School of Art 6 years ago, quite possibly none of this would have happened, at least in the way it did. I can tell you that my life would have been drastically different. So keep an eye out for a #chumbrella on your travels, scoot under, talk to the person, you never know what it might lead to.

For more info about #chumbrella visit

The Facebook page

http://www.chumbrella.org

Twitter @mychumbrella

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