Making Memories

Project Leaders: Emily Öhlund, Alison Mercer

Number of participants: 5 days

Duration: 20 people


This is a workshop-based project investigating the role that memory plays in the process and experience of making. How does motor memory guide our hand in the act of creation, can memories inhibit our creative decisions, or the act of forgetting enable a renewed approach to making.


  • To establish an understanding a few of the different types of memory that we have, how we use them and what happens when they are absent.
  • To explore the role that memory plays in the process and experience of making.
  • To identify when memory comes into play throughout the making process.
  • For each participant to explore the raw practice of making stripped of the influence memory has on us.



Led by Emily Öhlund

The Taxonomy of Memory


Emily will Introduce herself and give a brief outline of the aims of the project, then go around the room briefly for the students to introduce themselves.


RCA Metalwork Doctoral researcher Emily Öhlund talks about her research and about the impact of working memory deficits on craft practice and the role of motor memory in the process of making.


Group reading and discussion of a selection of literature:

Focusing on different forms that memory can take- motor memory, long term, working memory and their practical applications in the realm of the applied arts.



A workshop exploring making when you are forced to continually stop, revisit and reevaluate your work, disrupting the original perspective, approach and intent.



Open discussion about subject of the day

Materials List for day 1; Pens, sketchbook, pencils, long ruler, scissors, paper, iphone/ipad/camera


Led by Emily Öhlund.

Making Without Memory

Guest speaker

Art therapist Professor Diane Waller (tbc) talks about working with individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s.


Group reading and discussion on a selection of literature:

Focusing on pieces of writing on the subject of lost and loosing memories, questioning the nature of and potential value in forgetting. What does forgetting do to the process of making. By forgetting we are forced to look again and reassess, which can lead to seeing different things, drawing new conclusions and a state of mindfulness.



A making workshop exploring making with and without the memory of purpose. Each person engages in a form of making; drawing/painting/modeling/sewing etc. each with different specific instructions. After some time the group swaps work with each other part way through the process, the completion of the piece would then be done without prior memory of the intention of the assignment and its planned development, just following the evidence of what has already been done and the special layout of materials and tools. After a period of time, they can read the original instructions and continue to make with that in mind if they choose. Continuous open discussion while making is encouraged to really explore how memory or the lack of impacts the making experience.



Open discussion about experiences of the day. What was your experience of working without that knowledge and working with it. How did your process change with and without that information?

Materials List for day 2; Pens, sketchbook, pencils, long ruler, scissors, paper, PVA. iphone/ipad/camera


Led by Alison Mercer

Beginning the Conversation with the Subconscious


RCA Textile Doctoral researcher Alison Mercer talks about her research –‘What’s going on during textile making’?



How do we begin to bridge the conscious making we do and the subconscious activities that follow through? The activities during this session will engage a conversations with the subconscious using a range of making and thinking activities to stimulate a closer look. Participants will create a small book art structure in preparation of the homework in the evening.



A short walk around the college to collect found objects to stimulate emotion, memory and subconscious thinking.

A mandatory homework of a dream diary will be set for the following days activities.



Open discussion about experiences of the day

Materials List for day 3; Pens, sketchbook, pencils, long ruler, scissors, suitable paper for folding, an arrangement of your favourite found objects, PVA. iphone/ipad/camera


Led by Alison Mercer.

Making Memory with the Subconscious

Guest speaker (tbc)

All day workshop

The day will comprise of an auto-ethnographic approach to making with materials. During the workshop exploration of materials and making will be interspersed with self reporting, dream diaries and intuitive self reflection to reveal a deeper sub-conscious encountering.  Identification of when and how memories are used during making will be explored. Self conversational analysis will provide a stimulus alongside making activities.

Materials and making will be explored using cross modal experiences, techniques for self reporting (eg visual, aural, written, built/made, use of metaphor and analogy) will be implemented to identify and articulate making processes bridging the subconscious aspects of making known.

The workshop will involve drawing, playing with material, writing, using phones and recording images and sound.  Using these techniques will produce a variety of outcomes that raises questions of validity, accuracy, reliability, and representation/ translation of thoughts and responses and reactions to the emotions and memories of making.

Participants will be requested to question their assumptions about why they think they use making for.

Materials List for day 4; Your favourite materials, Pens, sketchbook, coloured markers, sharpies, pritt stick, A4 paper, scissors, blu tac, camera/ iphone/ ipad/ (mobile phone for session)


Led by Alison Mercer and Emily Öhlund



Kensington Site 10am onwards

Pecha Kucha presentation

Materials List for day 5; Tape for having artwork, large white sheets of paper, if 3d artworks small plinths, Pens, sketchbook, pencils, long ruler, scissors, any. iphone/ipad/camera