Discovering hope and friendship in life’s scars – the Kintsugi Women Exhibition at Worthing Museum

Russell Pet-Gallacher, Turning Tides; Sophia Williams, Kintsugi artist; Richard Greenfield, Turning Tides; Emma Walder, Worthing Museum and Art Gallery and Daisy Cole, Advice

Turning Tides and Safe in Sussex Kintsugi Woman’s exhibition

Their collaboration with other charities forms an important part of their service users’ journey, and many of the women who come to Turning Tides are through referral from Safe in Sussex. This created a partnership between the two charities when creating the Kintsugi Woman’s exhibition at the Worthing Museum and Gallery.

Anyone’s life can unravel into homelessness, and for women this can be a particularly challenging and complex time. Women who have to sleep rough can become invisible, and hidden away, always in fear of their safety. Others stay in damaging relationships due to the fear of homelessness and vulnerability on the streets.

This year sees 30 years of the charity Turning Tides, who bring together individuals and organisations to transform the lives of homeless people in their local communities and changing perceptions of homelessness.

The traditional Japanese art of Kintsugi is the repairing of broken ceramics and pottery using lacquer mixed with gold. It embraces flaws and imperfections, creating something that is stronger and more beautiful than it was before. A suitable metaphor for the work of both charities, and with the woman who are exhibiting.

Exhibition forms friendships between homelessness victims

“We want visitors to understand the reality of homelessness and domestic abuse in the local area. There are so many significant pieces and so many stories showing amazing courage and strength through fixing themselves back together and discovering themselves and their unique qualities for the first time – truly amazing women!” Sam Otway, Safe in Sussex

The women who were supported throughout the project by Turning Tides and Safe in Sussex were invited to highlight what they value about themselves, or something difficult they have learned through their experiences.

Sophia, who has been supported out of homelessness by Turning Tides and who has created art for the exhibition tells us, “I went to the Turning Tides community hub to be part of the art group, it was great to have that space to be able to do that, to look forward to meeting people and the friendships and relationships that I made, it made you feel a part of something.”

Throughout this Kintsugi project relationships were formed between the women, friendships that empowered them to express themselves through their art and share their healing journey. These bonds allow for the shared hope that the life they lead can now be a choice, and the past doesn’t have to predict the future.

“People experiencing homelessness are broken in so many ways, nobody chooses to be on the streets, especially women. Kintsugi is also known as the art of precious scars. What breaks us makes us stronger. This exhibition tells of our precious scars.” Explains Jules, artist, project leader and service user at Turning Tides.

Kintsugi artist talking at Sleepout event

Sarah Palmer, Individual Giving Fundraiser at Turning Tides said, “With every visit I notice something different. The way the women have used their creativity to tell the viewer about their experiences is inspiring and moving.

“We were lucky to have Sophia, one of the Kintsugi artists, come and talk to us at our Sleepout event last month – I know participants were very glad to hear what she had to say about her experience.”

Sophia on the difference being involved in the project has meant to her, “Being at Turning Tides has really brought me back to a creative mindset. Having the time and the space along with the encouragement from staff really gave me a focus to direct my time and attention. Which is why I started going down to the art group, and later getting involved in the Kintsugi art project.”

Turning Tides supporter Kelly said “Completely inspiring. There’s such a stigma attached to homelessness, but it really could happen to anyone – it just takes a run of bad luck.”

Sophia’s talk finished with the contribution that Turning Tides has on the homeless community, “Turning Tides don’t just deal with the problem of homelessness but the vast array of problems that come with it, they tailor a personal holistic approach to a client’s array of needs.”

“I think this is one of the great things about the Kintsugi art project. With its representation of not being broken and the beauty of overcoming adversity. Kintsugi, in my opinion bridges the gap between mental health and homelessness. I don’t see these as separate problems just one problem with many possible outcomes. I hope to raise awareness and promote change with this.”

Visiting the exhibition and supporting homelessness

Turning Tides and Safe in Sussex sees the friendships formed through the art of Kintsugi born from a mutual understanding of the shared life challenges these women face, and how these solid lasting connections are like gold.

People can visit the Kintsugi Women exhibition at Worthing Museum and Gallery until Sunday 25th September during Museum opening times. Free entrance.

Several women found friendship and hope in this project, and Turning Tides help hundreds of people every year, but they need your support. Last year Turning Tides supported just under 900 local people but as living costs rise the need for their services are escalating.

They are tackling the ‘perfect storm’ of homelessness and are asking for your help to ensure their services can stay open, so no one faces the trauma of homelessness alone. You can find out more here.


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