Grangemead Garden

Out of our garden shed we are co-designing and co-producing a garden for a pioneering East Sussex County Council care home. 'Well-makers in residence'.

We are testing the notion of a 'well-maker-space' that continues our ongoing research theme that explores the agency of maker spaces within different social, cultural, economic and environmental contexts.

We have been commissioned by East Sussex County Council Head of Adult Care Services to develop a garden. 'The process is the product' in many ways and we are deploying several inclusive and new design methods with residents and staff alike.

The process is exploring the role of 'well-making' and 'making well' (Gant, Hackney & Hill 2017). Can co-creativity respond to the 'crisis in care' and support staff as well as clients to improve their well-being and environment through co-creativity.

Thanks to all at Grangemead, Julie Roberts at Culture Shift and to Brian Clifford with help on photos. Jim Wilson and our creative studio team of staff and students.

Video discussion about the design process

The 'Well-Maker-Space'

Heat pressing plastics
Re-using clay from the site to make garden objects
Patrick's painting of radishes framed as a leaving gift
Patrick's painting of radishes framed as a leaving gift

Our approach is to 'grow the garden' from the space. The whole process being developed collaboratively and responding in careful way to emerging opportunities. We are literally 'making a difference' through the space.

We will be publishing findings on this but already we are seeing the value the space has in inspiring new collaborative creative activities, supporting the recycling of materials and not least keeping us dry during the build!

Garden pond security grill

Recycling rubble into accessible raised beds

Seeding ideas

idea 'seeding' kit

Our seeding kit is a user friendly way of gaining insights into thoughts, opinions and ideas from the diverse Grangemead community.

It has a series of prompt cards related to a range of 'values' identified by the community - in turn people respond to them in their own way. Clients and staff can work individually or together (if required) in their own time and then pass on the seed box.

At the end we unpacked the box together (which was quite an occasion)! We then reviewed all the responses together as part of our design studio meetings.

Co-design studio sessions

We had ongoing design studio sessions as a team of clients, staff parent carers and Community21 folks. This led to a range of of innovative ideas emerging such as a memorial garden (to remember the community that comes through the centre and those that have sadly passed), a memory map table (where we can keep items from trips out to help people with recall and reminiscence) and many more.

We were interested at which point participants felt like they had gained their 'artistic licence' and were empowered as designers. We will be publishing data and research on this later!

Recycling site clay

Recycled clay in collaboration with Local Works Studio

Clay dug from the pond

We are making our very own recycled ceramics!

It turns out that the clay we dug out to make the pond is a rare clay unique to this part of sussex. It is sometimes blue and reddy colours.

It is very pure and with help from our friend Ben Bosence making it into pots and planters, plates and tiles for the garden!

Brick dust is also helping to improve the clay for firing and to make new colours.

Jet-washed grafitti

How we all doing?

Julie from Culture Shift helped us make sure we checked in with everyone at the beginning and end of every design studio workshop session. This helped to make sure we were all ok and to flag any concerns or anxiety, also to see what changed after the workshop.

Recycled feather bird-box hung tile

Our inclusive 'cool wall'

The clients suggested 'what we need is a cool-wall'- a fantastic way to develop ideas and allow everyone a way to see what we were discussing and to participate. Those with limited or no language capacity could indicate 'higher-or-lower' in the heirachy of importance of ideas.

This could then be shared with all the community after each session. Others could add cards.

The cards all have our co-designed values framework on the back so we can critique and assess the critical value of the things we designed together against these values.

Initial development drawings

Our pavilion

Having sent the clients out on a design 'homework' trip they discovered some modern shelters in Bexhill on Sea. They identified how the different sides of the buildings offered different protection from, or experience of, the elements.

This featured high on our 'cool-wall'.

Ours offers different types of shade or protection from the wind if you want or a sunny spot if you prefer depending on which side you are.

Waste not want not.

We think there is a relationship between recycling in a community like Grangemead and well-being. By recycling any and every material we have we create new (wonderful) things but don't impact so much on the environment.

We are doing our best to use everything that was created by the demolition of the old garden.

Bricks are being made into gabion structures for the garden or crushed to make 'grog' which improves the clay for firing.

Recycled cement in collaboration with Local Works Studio

Great stuff

We are recycling waste from the kitchen like onion and fruit nets and carrier bags and plastics from packaging to make new things for the garden.

Bunting went down well and we sparked a whole new community club to make bunting using an old t-shirt press in the maker-space (shed).


By 'hacking' some festival trolleys we have made a range of moveable planters and features. If you can't go to them, they can come to you!

They are made entirely from recycled materials and can be completely dis-assembled if when we don't want them anymore!

'Well-making' origins

Nick and Community21 have been collaboratively exploring different maker spaces for some time. (See home page).

The Well-maker-space' idea has been developing for sometime with colleagues Prof Fiona Hackney (Wolverhampton) and Katie Hill (Leeds). Here is what we have been asking..

'Global economic and social structures creak and groan under the burden of ever increasing demand for social services in times of austerity – so can the maker community and maker spaces come to the rescue? Making is good for us right!? If so what now for modern maker-spaces in this context? There has long been an implicit notion that making provides benefits beyond the mere function of object, artefact or product creation. However, recent research has helped catalyse a demand and opportunity to develop understanding of this idea, not only to provide a more rigorous and explicit evidence base for how making practices support health and well-being, but also to demonstrate this and put it into action in multiple ways. The ‘Maker Community’ is on the rise, evidencing a growth of interest in communal making and making places, and along with this the opportunity and the need to understand the implicit health benefits of making, or well-making as we term it, become more pressing. So what would a maker-space dedicated to health and well-being be like?' (Gant, Hackney & Hill 2016).

International research workshops

AHRC Wellcome Trust Workshop
Design Days H2020 Brussels
AHRC Wellcome Trust Workshop
International Making Futures Conference Workshop
International Making Futures Conference Workshop
International Making Futures Conference Workshop
International Making Futures Conference Workshop
International Making Futures Conference Workshop
AHRC Wellcome Trust Workshop
AHRC Wellcome Trust Workshop
Design Days H2020 Brussels

Along with Fiona Hackney (Wolverhampton) and Katie Hill (Leeds), Nick ran research events at the 'Design Days' Horizon 2020 event in Brussels, we also ran a research workshop with people from across the world at the International Making Futures Conference 2017 and an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded workshop at the Wellcome Trust 2017.

Garden Kitchen

Reminiscence map table
Reminiscence map table