Hanging My Heart


Hanging My Heart is an ongoing arts and learning activity that aims to find new ways to express and work through thoughts, feelings, pains or worries in a shared, empowering, and creative way.

votives4metal votive offerings from Catholic churches of Europe and Mexico (taken from http://www.saniapell.com/athomeblog/vintage-finds/emotive-votives/)

L0035934 Clay-backed uterus. Roman votive offering

terracotta votive womb and foot from ancient Rome, 200BC-AD200 (taken fromhttp://blog.wellcomecollection.org/tag/ancient-world/)

The Hanging My Heart workshop is part of a long tradition of the collective making and giving of objects to express individual needs. The workshop interrogates ideas of transforming physical, spiritual or emotional pains into gifts to be shared. It explores the age-old practice of embodying the material world around us with our own preoccupations. It connects with an ancient idea that making effigies of parts of the body can help to heal them – by literally taking ourselves outside our self.

In this contemporary version of votive giving we explore how psychological as well as physical hurts might be visually expressed. We want to engage people with what the past has to show us about how to heal ourselves, and how our creation of the past in the present can heal our futures.

This project makes feelings public and blurs lines between performer, scholar, artist, audience, curator, and witness. And it provides the opportunity to share knowledge and artistic skills and techniques. This project plays with the relationship between body parts and sites of feeling – for example, how the heart is the zone of love and pain.

We make a space for participants to create small ‘votives’ which represent their thoughts, concerns, hurts or worries through two intersecting performance zones:

  • creative workshops where participants make votives out of metal and clay, inspired by this practice found across the world, such as ancient Rome and modern Mexico.
  • an ongoing going sculptural ‘shrine’ onto which the made objects can be hung.

Please get in contact if you would like to discuss bringing Hanging my Heart to your organisation, community or place of learning. Our team has experience working with young people, older people, and other groups with special needs, in educational and creative environments. For more information please email makinglearning@gmail.com.

For more information on votive-giving ancient and modern see:



Feedback on Hanging my Heart:

“I really enjoyed the opportunity to talk, think and make simultaneously… Licence to create! Good balance, excellent facilitation.”

“Very supportive atmosphere and created safe space… I felt really at home! Engaging facilitators who clearly knew what they were on about…”

Read a reflection piece on the project by Jen Grove here.


Taking Risks… 


We have been on a little European adventure! On the 24th March 2015 we held a unique workshop at the fantastic M Mueseum Leuven.



The workshop was the opening night extravaganza for a conference exploring the relationship between Psychology and the Classics. It was an opportunity for us to explore in more detail, and with an audience of academics, some of the themes of the project – the relationship between the past and personal feelings, anxieties around learning, and knowledge-sharing through the act of making.


It was a risk. Us being there, with glitter. The risk was palpable in the room. The risk, in hindsight, was part of the process. The whole session was about connecting, reconnecting, disconnecting, playing with, diverse and all too often mutually exclusive, objects, feelings, and practices. And to do all this in front of academic colleagues. Playing can be risky for some.


We framed the session by discussing the work that we’ve been doing and the theoretical and methodological ground of the workshop. We called it a camp assemblage of high and low culture, a bold play between the personal and the academic, and a creative exploration of how our bodies read, receive, and re-conceive, bodies and bodily fragments which are no longer here.






The feedback we received focused on feelings. And, much to our surprise, even highlighted how relaxing the workshop was.



To support a dialogue across disciplines, it seems, you have to be playful, you have to be a little risky, and you have to have glitter.


We would like to thank all those who came to the workshop, to the Museum, and to the organisers of the conference, for taking a risk to glitter with us.


Easton Arts Trail


On the weekend of the 14th-15th of July 2014, Hanging My Heart took part in the fabulous Easton Arts Trail at the Greenbank Pub.

In these sessions we took the idea of votive making and giving as a practice of working-out-feelings and resituated it into the local area of Bristol’s Easton and Greenbank.


steam train going through Stapleton Road station, 1958.

In the run up to the workshop we collected images and words that focused on the histories of the area, as well as Bristol more broadly.


an impressive votive of an old newspaper cutting condemning Bristol for its ‘filth’…


Victoria Hughes, one of our all time favourite Bristolians.

We encouraged participants to make connections between the history of the place and their personal memories, their presents, and their futures.




Some of the votives highlighted the creative and artistic contribution of the area.


Some of the pieces expressed thanks to the accident of being placed somewhere that feels like home.




However, the workshop created the space to express feelings about the area that aren’t always so positive. And some of the pieces stand as reminders of the costs spaces and times have on bodies, buildings, and histories.





The act of making small metal objects to express something that can’t easily be put into words or said out-loud, produced some evocative pieces.








We would like to say a huge thank you to the Easton Arts Trail organisers, The Greenbank Pub, and to everyone who came, made, shared, talked, and gave a little something back to the many different places and feelings that we call home.


If you would like to know more about the Hanging My Heart Workshop or anything else that Making Learning has done, or to commission a workshop or exhibition, please email makinglearning@gmail.com

You can see more photos on https://www.facebook.com/makinglearning

Follow us on Twitter for interesting thoughts, more pictures, and links to interesting things: @ThoughtsMaking


Supernormal Festival, 9th – 11th August 2013

One cloudy August Thursday we arrived at the beautiful Braziers Park, home to one of the oldest secular communities in the UK (Braziers website describes the community’s mission as to ‘endeavour to create a space which enables people to integrate both learning and teaching, and to find and develop their full potential in all aspects – intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual’ which seems fitting for our makinglearning aims). We had arrived for the setting up of Supernormal Festival, an experimental arts and music event which has grown out of the communal and creative atmosphere of Braziers.


We set up our workshop marque and began to construct inside a space for exploring the ancient practice of votive-giving and for reconstructing it for the modern age. Pictures were hung on the wall and our secular ‘shrine’ put up to house the ‘votives’ we hoped would be created in the coming days as festival punters arrived and attended our twice daily workshops.

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We were not disappointed. We had a good attendance at each one of our sessions. The workshop began with a nice, calming meditation from Georgie, in which we imagined travelling out into the Universe before coming back to Earth, to England and finally to the workshop space itself… We then traveled to ancient Rome where Jen took us around an ancient sanctuary and introduced us to the sort of objects left behind by ordinary Romans in thanks or to ask for something from the gods of healing and well-being. We also thought about the modern practice which continues today in Catholic and Greek Orthodox religions.

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We thought about how we might use this tradition of expressing how you are feeling on the inside (a physical pain or psychological worry), externally, through a material thing.

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Then came the making bit and everyone got into the spirit of crafting and being creative. We used thin pieces of tin which people embossed, as well as air-drying clay and lots of beads and buttons and other bits. Discussions went on as we made, lead by Alex, including on creativity, on art as a therapeutic practice, on the culture of gift-giving and on giving something up or dedicating something as a way of communicating with others, with ourselves or something bigger…

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A particular theme throughout the weekend was the importance of not being caught up with ideas of being ‘artistic’ or creating something aesthetically pleasing but the benefit of just having a space where everyone feels comfortable to have a go, whatever their experience and skills.

big red 4big red 6big red 7big red 8 BE4uEaqBQan89CP6IW1GAjAdCO2_6XV_4FdERB2c4DQ

As the weekend progressed our collection of votives, carefully hung and placed on the ‘shrine’, greatly increased. What we were left with at the end of the festival was an incredible snapshot of the thoughts of people at Supernormal festival – their preoccupations, cares and concerns, from the mundane to the very emotive – an nice echo of the hoards of ancient objects which have been found and which archaeologists have for years tried to use to work out the thoughts of ancient peoples. Our modern participants shared what their creation represented by making small labels for them, if they wanted to, but everyone left something of what they were feeling in the tent, embodied in the diverse and wonderful collection we amassed over the three days.

big red 10 Thanks to everyone who came and joined in. If you would like to stay in touch and find out about future events, please email makinglearning@gmail.com big red 9 *Thanks to Gina for the photography (and the wheels!). ================================================================

First Workshop! 04/07/13 


During our second making session we discussed the relationship between contemporary Art Therapy and the ancient practice of making, buying, and giving votives. We discussed how both attempt to enable and make changes and transformations – whether of one’s physical or mental or emotional health or of the wider environment.


Art therapy and votive offering seem to about the act of giving – time, patience, object, thought, image, care – to make changes.


Using clay, beads, thread, and tin foil we made objects that embodied something about ourselves or the wider world which wanted to change or give thanks for.


After we made our votives we made labels which acted as archive tag and other voice (and votive) to speak our wishes.

main tent IMG_0568[1] Along with developing the structure of the workshop and talking through ideas about the place of art and craft in the antiquity and today, making some more votives to hang in our museum/library/shrine/tent/hearts was really productive and empowering. IMG_0563[1] ================================================================

First Practice Session, June 2013


In June we held a practice session in preparation for our first workshop. We worked with metal cut from disposable backing trays and used pens, nails, and scissors to create a series of ‘votive’ objects by cutting, embossing, and marking.


With a little help from the excellent Nemi to Nottingham website we discussed how the process of giving up or giving over an object as a gift or a votive re-makes that object full of meaning.


The process of marking and embossing the thin sheets of metal left haunting traces appearing from the background, and disappearing back into it.


We discussed how the enmeshed process of making and giving worked to re-shape understandings of body, self, and the wider environment. In talking about histories of votive making and giving we were performing the very processes we were discussing; giving something up, sharing, and making new.


All in all the session was productive in developing and sharing skills, discussing ideas, and making new connections between this project and other ideas.

For more information on this workshop, feel contact makinglearning@gmail.com


One thought on “Hanging My Heart

  1. Pingback: Reflections on making votives (A guest post by Dr Jen Grove) | The Votives Project

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