A NEW exhibit created from an eight-week art project held at the Museum of Royal Worcester for people living with dementia has been unveiled.

The piece was created by the project participants – all local residents living with dementia and their carers – and inspired by the work of Worcester Porcelain craftsman George Owen (born in 1845) who perfected the art of cutting holes in wet clay to produce unique patterns in vases. His reticulated work is unique and internationally acclaimed.

The project, called Creating the Past, was held at the museum in Severn Street, Worcester, and run in partnership with the Museum of Royal Worcester, the Alzheimer’s Society, Worcestershire County Council and Worcestershire Arts Partnership.

The aim was to offer people living with dementia and their carers a couple hours each week to have some fun doing creative activities linked to the ceramics industry, meet new people and socialise, learn about Worcester Porcelain and swap their own stories and memories with others.

Each week they had the opportunity to explore a variety of techniques and create small pieces of art inspired by the hundreds of beautiful items and colourful stories displayed in the museum, which would then be used to create the final artwork.

Museum manager Amanda Savage said: “It all started a couple of years ago when we took a couple of collections to the NEC and had an exhibition at the antiques fair.

“We took some of our pattern books and a film of the 1950s. We were talking to the public and we had a visitor who was living with dementia. While he was at the stand he heard the sound of a vehicle on the film and knew which car it was and started talking about it. He came to life. He was a different person.

“Our collection touches so many people’s lives and from little acorns grow...” She said they wanted to see how anyone living with dementia would benefit from the sessions. “This sort of activity also breaks down barriers and it is for both those with dementia and their carers.”

She said the aim was to bring some enjoyment and relief from the condition and a sense of achievement, while using the backdrop of the porcelain museum which would act as a stimulus.

“This was about how we can use our collection and work with the community and how we can deal with visitors who are aging. There is so much for us to learn and hopefully offer.”

She said the series of workshops had been a huge success and were full almost every week.

“We have really enjoyed it and it has been a really fun thing to do. The participants have all enjoyed it and so have the visitors to the museum when the sessions were held in one of the galleries. Our young members of staff also embraced it and working with everyone.”

Each session, which was run by artist in residence Caroline Tredwell, had the added bonus of a special guest - international ceramics expert, broadcaster and one of Worcester’s best loved treasures Henry Sandon.

He took along some items from his personal collection, told stories relating to ceramics and explained some of the techniques used.

Amanda added: “Henry brought his knowledge and Caroline involved everyone in the decision making about how the final piece of art would look.

“I hope this is just the start of something that grows and grows. The county council has helped fund the project. I know the people who took part thoroughly enjoyed being a part of all these art workshops.

“It is nice to have something in these galleries you can touch. Most of the exhibits are behind glass,” Amanda added.

Artist Caroline said: “It has provided me with a wonderful opportunity and I am so grateful. I could not have met a more positive and interesting and engaging group of people.

“I hope the success of this project will indicate to others that it is possible to do a project like this and it will set the scene for future things in this area and nationwide.”

Steve Wilson, Worcestershire County Council arts officer, said: “A project like this is only as good as its partners and the people taking part – without them there would be no project. We hope to do a lot more. Art can make a big impact on people’s health and well being.”

Gill Read, service manager at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “The feedback we had was that nobody wanted the project to end. The other thing that was wonderful was having Henry Sandon there. He shared wonderful stories about his work here and on the Antiques Roadshow. It has been really special.”

The modern art created from the project is made from small pieces of tubing, into which the participants placed scrolls containing a memory, an anecdote or a small part of the person’s creativity done in the workshops.

Museum visitors are encouraged to pull out the scrolls, have a look at what it shows, place them back in the same hole and look through the visual diary. The exhibit is now on show in the gallery upstairs at the museum and will be in place for three months.

• According to the Alzheimer’s Society, there will be 850,000 people in the UK with dementia by this year and that figure is expected to rise to 1 million in the next 10 years.

• There are more than 100 different types of dementia with a huge spectrum of symptoms

• Craftsman George Owen perfected the art of piercing, producing individual, unique patterns of tiny holes, designing them to fit accurately onto totally blank areas. Every hole was cut by hand using an oiled knife when the clay was still damp. One slip of the knife would mean starting again!

• The Museum of Royal Worcester holds over 10,000 ceramic objects and provides world-wide access to its fascinating collection of Worcester Porcelain. Situated by Worcester Cathedral, the museum is one of the most important museums of heritage in the West Midlands.