Celebration Series Blog 2: The Creative Mothers Programme

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The Creative Mothers programme is an initiative between Art of Libraries and artist Lizzie Philps, supported by Procreate Projects and inspired by the Mother House Studio.

With the aim of developing sustainable networks of mothers within the area, the idea for this project was meant as a starting point to build new networks, help to explore the complications of making work with babes in arms and roaming toddlers and to demonstrate the possibilities of what can be achieved in a short period of time within a supportive environment.

Artist Lizzie Philps lead a group of woman to explore a variety of playful mapping techniques, using GPS trackers to trace their routes they each created their own representations of Gloucester.  The group produced a series of artwork in response to the workshops that were displayed around Gloucester Library. Their children worked alongside them with Mother House Stroud to create parallel work that was on display in the children’s library. 

Playful Mapping


Lizzie describes the process, “It was a delight to partner up with The Mother House, Stroud as part of “GPS Embroidery”. This is a project which takes mothering arts practices beyond the domestic sphere by using the to and fro of the GPS signal to scrawl across city, suburban and countryside locations in an attempt to broaden ideas about who-gets-to-write-what-where in and about the British landscape.

I have been running these workshops with people who mother in a variety of contexts, both alongside children and without, but this was a wonderful way not only to enable artist-mothers to keep working, but to broaden the audiences for our practices by carrying them out in the public space of Gloucester library”. 

Using a variety of playful mapping techniques, and with GPS trackers to trace their routes, participants created their own representations of the city. Whilst commuters may use maps as a tool to show main roads and businesses, we might not see the other, unpaid kinds of workers who are making paths through the streets. Whilst tourists might use maps to find sights and attractions, the details of life that escape the municipal overview are not often acknowledged or recorded, but are equally memorable and fascinating. Mapping allows us to experience details of the world we might otherwise miss, and to share a glimpse of these perspectives by exhibiting the maps in the library.

In parallel workshops facilitated by The Motherhouse Studio, Stroud’s Rebecca Stapleford (and inspired by the stories of ‘A River’ by Marc Martin and 'The Magic Paint brush' by Julie Donaldson), the group explored the theme of place using a variety of playful mapping and creative painting. The children’s work was exhibited in the library space, too. 

Gloucester Library’s Creative Mothers’s Programme – Art of Libraries

 The project was the starting point for Gloucester Library’s Creative Mothers Programme, which has been developed by Creative Catalyst, Hannah Brady and aims to develop sustainable networks of mothers within the area.  

Hannah comments, “I am so pleased that we were able to provide an environment where a group of highly committed and inspiring mothers could explore their creativity. The project has allowed us to pilot new ideas about how a library can be a space to support creative programmes and help build new creative networks in Gloucester. I am very excited that one of the participants of the project Ruth Bide has set up her own Creative Mothers group who meet regularly on a Wednesday morning at the library. This is a group for mothers and their little’s ones to come together, learn new skills and be creative.”

Lizzie concluded, “It was wonderful to work with such a creative and friendly group, and to be able to share our work with the library staff, visitors and general public. I hope that together we have helped to raise the visibility of maternal work (both artistic and caring) another notch”. 

A final word from the mothers involved

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“These lines represent walks I have made with my daughter since becoming a mother. They portray a growing sense of discovery, beginning and ending from our secure base, our home.  They begin small and close and with time they grow, branching out into new pathways. This is symbolic of the neurological development of an infant's brain, and our journey together stepping out into a new world”.

Ruth Bide

“Drifting around the city I felt invisible. Everyone was going about their usual business but I felt unusual. My senses were heightened and everything was amplified. Sights, sounds, people, faces. I wanted to notice everything but it didn’t feel overwhelming. It felt glorious. As if I had permission to stop and stare, reflect and enjoy whatever caught my eye”.

Sharon Bennett

“When walking with the intention of observing I noticed details. I wouldn't normally pay any attention to these details at all. As Sylvia slept in the pram, I took photos of these details then overlaid them on the map of Gloucester. I like the sense of scale between the items in the drawings and the streets represented by the map”.

Athene Whitaker

My daughter and I really enjoyed the Creative Mothers project. It was lovely to come together with other mums and have the opportunity to spend some time doing something for me. I particularly liked going out with the GPS trackers as it gave me the chance to spend some one on one time with my little girl without day to day chores getting in the way. It was also nice to go for a walk with no set destination. I liked seeing the path that was taken in a visual representation on a satellite image”.   

Katrina Rosser 

Supported by Gloucestershire Art of Libraries, Arts Council England, Procreate Projects and inspired by Mother House Studio.

Participants: Chloe Kempton, Sharon Bennett, Athene Whitaker, Katrina Rosser, Jessica Timmis, Ruth Bide and Oonah Davies

More info on Lizzie Philps 

My current work explores walking practices as a way to articulate the maternal experience. Performance, exhibition and publication contexts include DIEP’s Performing Parenthood festival (2017), LADA’s Study Room Guide to the Maternal (2016), Walking Women at Somerset House (2016), International Motherhood and Creativity conference at London Southbank University (2015), The Walking Encyclopedia (2014) and Ways to Wander (2015). I developed the performance documentation The Pilgrimage of the Prodigal Daughter (2013) as part of Bristol Old Vic’s Ferment.  My practice- based PhD research considers walking documentation and its potential to re-frame the maternal beyond the suburban and the sentimental.