A group of final year textile design students have created a series of beautiful bespoke silk scarves as part of a hamper of traditional Christmas goodies and UK souvenirs to be donated to the Chernobyl community.
Twelve students, who are all in the final year of their BA (Hons) Textiles and Surface Design and BA (Hons) Contemporary Textile Products degrees at Cleveland College of Art and Design (CCAD), designed the scarves for the ladies – traditionally known as Babushkas –- within the self-settler community to enjoy, and are now destined for the Ukraine.
Aimee Monkman, 20, a final year Contemporary Textile Products student from Hartlepool, created a design which featured the skyline of Hartlepool blended with a building from Scotland. She said: “I created a colour palette using a combination of yellows, greens and blues after being inspired on a recent trip to Scotland, and merged the building and skyline together with the colours and trees surrounding them.
“I’m quite proud to know that my work will be taken over to Chernobyl, as it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to hand over such a bespoke gift. I won’t get to meet the ‘Babushkas unfortunately but at least we get to send them a little bit of Hartlepool this Christmas.”
22-year-old Olivia Kiss wanted to create a cheerful and bright floral design using pinks and greens. The final year Textiles Surface Design student from Linthorpe in Middlesbrough said: “I chose this style for the older ladies as it is nice and colourful for them. This was a brilliant project to work on and made me really happy, as the community in Chernobyl don’t have a lot and it is really nice to send them something individual and made just for them.
She added: “I’m really looking forward to seeing the photos that Claire brings back of them opening their parcels, it will be really heart-warming to see their reactions.”
The designs were then printed, steamed and made into silk scarves by the college’s textiles department before being stitched by textile artist Jo Stenberg. Previously a dressmaker, Jo has donated her time to hem each scarf and help create the unique works of art.
CCAD alumnus Jo, who graduated in 2016 with a first class degree in textiles and surface design from the specialist art and design college, said: “All the designs are wonderful and will be perfect for the Babushkas with designs ranging from vibrant floral to edgy abstract to melting pastel prints.
“I’m thrilled to be involved with the project and so happy I can add my skills to it. I just wish I could see their faces when they receive their gifts. They have very little, if any at all, luxury in their lives so it’s fantastic to give them something they would probably never otherwise receive.”
Accompanying the unique works of art will be a Christmas parcel full of festive items that are usually impossible to obtain by the self-settlers of Chernobyl who live in poverty, isolated inside mainly abandoned villages within a guarded exclusion zone. These include shortbread, English tea bags, chocolate, fudge and Christmas decorations, as well as pretty gardening gloves and a few toiletries and essentials.
Claire Baker, a lecturer in textiles at Cleveland College of Art and Design, will be playing the role of a Christmas Fairy and delivering the seasonal hampers when she heads to Chernobyl on 19 December for a charity tour with a team from tour operator, www.chernobylwel.com
A regular visitor to the Ukraine, Claire has already travelled to the country three times this year in her role as one of the organisers of the first Chernobyling Festival, which celebrated arts and culture in the region.
She is looking forward to visiting the homes of the Chernobyl community and handing out the specially designed gift from the students, along with the other festive goodies.
Claire said: “After the festival I undertook a series of lectures and some visitors kindly donated money, so we have taken these generous offerings and used them in this wonderful opportunity to help a community which has very little in terms of material goods but is still strong in strength and spirit.
“The Babushkas of Chernobyl love scarves and usually wear wool so silk will be real treat and something for ‘best’ rather than something to keep them warm for a change. The students were very excited to do this and it will mean that some of the Babushkas will have a one-off unique work of art that has been made especially for them, the loveliest thing being that they will know that there are people ‘outside’ thinking about them.”
Tania Bezpalko, a Chernobylwel.com guide and the Chernobyl.TV presenter, said: “People from the Chernobyl community will really appreciate the souvenirs, especially traditional gifts associated with Christmas and the UK. This will create the holiday atmosphere for sure and make a lovely present from the people of your country.”