“It’s a bit like having a Penpal…”

In the summer of 2011, artist Deborah Aguirre Jones was commissioned by Creativity Works to undertake a residency with women experiencing challenging times of transition who were involved with the criminal justice system or had mental health issues in the South West of England.

Inspired by some of the women’s enthusiasm for card making, Aguirre Jones set up a series of visual conversations between service users in two Bristol settings and contemporary women artists in the region.

The basic process looked like this:
- A series of drawing sessions were run with women from Teign Ward and Eden House.
- In the first session, participants were invited to make an A5 drawing.
- Each of these drawings was taken to an interested contemporary woman artist who had accepted the project’s protocols and guidelines.
- They drew a reply which was returned to the original participant.
- In some cases this developed into an image-based conversation for up to 9 drawings without the women meeting one another.

Facilitating the exchanges allowed Aguirre Jones to explore questions around stigma, communication and dialogue. The artworks produced and shown here reveal something of the unfolding relationships which emerged between the women.

For further context and reflections, please see the Drawing Together book.