Value of Art & Craft in Scotland's Wellbeing

Clinical Collaboration

Image: Fiona Hermse / Photography by Cro & Ko

Image: Fiona Hermse / Photography by Cro & Ko

Photography by Shannon Tofts

Photography by Shannon Tofts

Art and craft are at the heart of wellbeing with a key role in Scotland’s hospitals.  

This Winter, NHS Lothian Charity’s Tonic Arts and Craft Scotland come together to shine a light on the value of art, craft and creativity in Scotland’s healthcare settings with a storytelling and promotional campaign including five brand new case studies.  

This campaign will highlight the work of leading Scotland-based artists and contemporary makers now on show in two new hospital projects in Edinburgh and The Lothians. This exciting project was funded and managed by NHS Lothian Charity’s Tonic Arts programme and co-ordinated and delivered by Arabella Harvey at Round Table Projects. Learn more about this project.

Part-two of the series focuses on clinical collaboration in the East Lothian Community Hospital (ELCH) with site-specific work co-created through craft workshops hosted by maker Fiona Hermse. Plus, learn more about Alex Allen's colourful art installation that is not only uplifting but also supports patient's physical rehabilitation. 


Explore the full series with the Craft Journal:



Fiona Hermse - Weaving in Collab with Patients at ELCH - Tonic Arts

Image: Fiona Hermse Weaving with Outpatients at Herdmanflat / Photography by Fiona Hermse

Clinical Collaboration by Arusa Qureshi

“There’s a multitude of studies with evidence that people actually heal and repair more quickly in a creative physical environment,” Arabella Harvey, Director at Round Table Projects and Tonic Arts project curator, notes.

As the curator of a bold and creative project at East Lothian Community Hospital (ELCH) in Haddington, Arabella has seen confirmation of this first-hand, improving the physical and mental wellbeing of patients, staff and visitors through the incorporation of art and craft.

Working with a range of artists, makers and creative practitioners, the hospital has implemented a holistic strategy that focuses on encouraging compassionate environments where creativity is integral to physical and emotional healing.

Artist and jeweller, Fiona Hermse, was commissioned for the project and invited to provide creative workshops for mental health outpatients and for people living with dementia in the inpatient ward, both of whom would be relocated to the newly developed ELCH site.

“The main priority for the workshops was to provide a valuable creative and social experience with high-quality materials for mental health outpatients and inpatients throughout their transition to the new hospital site,” Fiona explains. “The workshops were intended to calm and soothe the patients as well as provide mental stimulation.”

 Fiona Hermse - Work in Collab with Patients at ELCH - Tonic Arts

Image: Fiona Hermse's workshop materials / Photography by Arabella Harvey

The success of Fiona’s community-making project and the way it resonated with patients resulted in it being extended by many months, highlighting how valued her work was within the hospital community.

For Linda Sneddon, Team Manager at the Occupational Therapy department, Fiona’s inventive craft ideas and her enthusiasm for the project were of great benefit not just to the patients, but to the staff too.

“Having Fiona there gave us the chance to actually do what our job is. She was able to facilitate the activity and then we were able to do more assessment and more working alongside patients to observe and support.” 

Linda speaks passionately about the role of art and craft in the rehabilitation of patients, adding that in her view, it can do wonders in aiding recovery, as she witnessed with Fiona’s residency. 

"Having outlets for creativity is incredibly important in healthcare settings. It can promote freedom of choice, give a voice to the voiceless, provide a source of pride, a means of self-exploration and expression and enhanced levels of connection to others and to the outside world." - Maker, Fiona Hermse

Fiona’s workshops included tasks like printing with leaves, card-making and macramé, and the feedback from patients was hugely positive across the board. Like Linda, Fiona believes that such collaborations with hospital teams can be a vital step in recovery and rehabilitation.

"Having outlets for creativity is incredibly important in healthcare settings. It can promote freedom of choice, give a voice to the voiceless, provide a source of pride, a means of self-exploration and expression and enhanced levels of connection to others and to the outside world. I have found that this is particularly relevant to people who are vulnerable due to social isolation and/or living with serious mental and physical health challenges."

“Beginning a creative activity, especially one that involves a new skill, takes courage,” she continues. “Witnessing people, often with very low confidence in themselves, surprise themselves at what they are capable of creating does wonders for their sense of wellbeing, confidence and sense of connection,
which are critical aspects of rehabilitation.”

AlexAllen_Ramp-3_Credit_Matthew_Barnes 2

Image: Alex Allen / Photography by Matthew Barnes

Outside the hospital, within the grounds of ELCH, another artist – Alex Allan – was commissioned with physical rehabilitation specifically in mind. Alex’s sculptural interventions invite people to navigate a series of  colourful structures, encouraging movement and therapeutic use of the outdoor space.

Speaking on Alex’s project, Arabella comments; “These participatory works show that art can have a really practical role to play in rehabilitating people mentally and physically. I think Alex’s project is probably quite unique in an arts and health context in providing physical objects to interact with and to support recovery.”
Advanced Physiotherapy Practitioner Guy Whitehead worked with Alex on the project and agrees that it’s been a popular addition to the hospital grounds. “From a physiotherapy perspective we’ve been delighted,” he says, “especially so with the ramp and steps Alex created for us on the paved area at the back of our department. It is both ideal functionally and infinitely more interesting than something ‘off the shelf’. Alex was super motivated to create installations that worked for us as therapists – allowing us to present appropriate challenges to our patients for balance or lower limb rehabilitation, or simply for exercise groups.”

In a similar manner to Fiona’s project, close collaboration with the hospital department was crucial to the effectiveness of Alex’s sculptures and working with Guy and the team, Alex was able to see directly how his art could be transformative to patients.

AlexAllen_Block 2-1_Credit_Matthew_Barnes

Image: Alex Allen / Photography by Matthew Barnes

Alex says: “I spent a lot of time on the ward with the physios, going through their daily routines and seeing people that maybe had just had strokes and were struggling to even just stand up.” Alex says. “It is an unbelievably therapeutic thing and not just inside hospitals. As we’ve found out through this project, getting people outdoors and having people prescribed exercise is extremely beneficial.”

"In this instance, art can play a direct role in rehabilitation as the pieces have been created by Alex to encourage people to interact with them physically,” Guy adds. “Working with Alex, he gained an insight into our rehab requirements for challenging lower limb strength and balance, and the need for whole body exercising – from cardiovascular to strengthening and stretching. We couldn’t have asked for more.”

Both Alex and Fiona’s projects emphasise how art and craft can be embraced in healthcare environments in completely different ways, while still yielding rewarding results for staff and patients alike.

Such collaborations between medical teams and artists, as exhibited in the wider ELCH strategy, offer sound evidence for the future transformation of health services, particularly when considering both healing and rehabilitation.


>>> You can also download a PDF version of this case study


The Art Strategy for the Edinburgh Haematology Centre and East Lothian Community Hospital were delivered by Round Table Projects for NHS Lothian Charity’s Tonic Arts Programme. Promotion in partnership with Craft Scotland.

For full media release, images and interview requests please contact Owen O’Leary, Oh Really PR via email owen@ohreally.co.uk.  


Materials Ceramics

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