Seniors​ make a splash with wearable art entry

“I thought, 'how can there be a wave in a dress? There’s no way you can put a wave in a dress’," Silver Chain client Gloria said.

“But there it is.”

A group of elderly residents from Mandurah gave up their bingo dates and got their hands dirty to create their first garment for this year’s Mandurah Wearable Art competition.

The residents, which are part of Silver Chain’s social centre, joined forces with residents from Fremantle and Rockingham for the occasion and got Mandurah artist Carol Hazel on board to give a hand with the design.

Silver Chain social centres coordinator Mandy Holmshaw came up with the idea after watching last year’s wearable art showcase.

“I thought we could enter this, we’ve got senior ladies that have craft abilities that they no longer use and that love being involved in the community,” she said.

Sands of Time uses the topic Oceania to talk about the lives of some of the clients in Europe’s fishing villages before emigrating to Australia and settling in coastal towns.

The garment features a gliding wave skirt, shiny shells, an octopus headpiece, a fishing net cape with hand-knitted bubble wrap fish and glass beads, seaweed and hand-crafted seagull wings.

It is made up of four separate pieces and powertex products, making it completely adaptable to models of different shapes and sizes.

“We created it as we went,” artist Carol Hazel said.

“It was a lot of trial and error.

“We weren’t sure who the model was going to be so we had to make allowances for all, it’s completely manipulative.”

Both Ms Hazel and the project participants agreed that despite the challenges, the experience was a learning process, not only about creating wearable art but also about using new materials.

Art of the body: Detail of the headpiece of Silver Chain clients' wearable art creation Sands of Time. Photo: Supplied.

Art of the body: Detail of the headpiece of Silver Chain clients' wearable art creation Sands of Time. Photo: Supplied.

“Nothing is sewn by machine or anything, it’s all done by hand and with old hands that was,” Silver Chain participant Marica said.

“Sometimes you didn’t get what you want because of arthritis but we managed.”

Ms Hazel said the most thrilling part about the whole experience was giving the residents a sense of meaning and purpose, and seeing them come to their weekly date full of excitement.

“One of the ladies even scheduled her medical appointments around the sessions,” she said.

“It gives the clients meaning and pride.”

Silver Chain client Doris agreed.

“It was just something to look forward to coming and meeting the other ladies and joining in with them,” she said.

“Before I thought ‘I’ve got nobody to talk to today, what am I going to do?’, but this has been wonderful.”

“We wanted to keep going,” Marica added.

“I think the hardest part is now that it’s completed.”

All the participants are already thinking about what they are going to create next year for the competition, and wish to encourage more elderly residents to get on board.

“I’m just immensely proud of the whole group and the way the clients have just embraced the whole project and got very excited about every little bit that they have done,” Ms Holmshaw said.

“It just gives you goosebumps to see the ladies faces and what they’ve achieved.”

32 Silver Chain managers, coordinators, volunteers, clients and carers will take to Mandurah in June to have dinner together before watching Sands of Time take over MPAC’s the stage in this year’s showcase.