Whether it be drawing the first line on an architectural plan, chiseling the formative channel out of a section of wood, stitching the inaugural row of an embroidery, making the initial downstroke of a letter, or being brave enough to make a brush stroke on an empty canvas, drawing a line is the first mark we make in any creative endeavour.

Drawing a line, in my experience as a restorative practitioner, is also how many of my clients, both people harmed and people responsible for harming (victims and offenders), describe their hopes for their restorative justice process. Drawing a line under the harm caused.

‘person responsible, person harmed’, print and thread on handmade paper from shredded case notes, Clair Aldington, 2017

I haven’t posted on my blog for a while as in April last year I was awarded Arts and Humanities Research Council funding to study for a PhD full time. As a result, much of last year became about endings and beginnings, packing and unpacking, goodbyes and hellos, leaving and arriving. Most importantly, it became about realising where home is.

Consequently, I struggled to find the words, to make that first mark on a page …

To commence my studies, I left a place that is often drawn between the lines of a box on maps to live in a place that has the borderline between two areas drawn down the middle of the street. In my journey between the two I watched the shoreline of home, marked by lights, recede into the sea and the night. As light dawned, I passed over a different shoreline and drove through a borderline between two countries; a line that has gained renewed significance over the past couple of years with the Scottish independence referendum and the Brexit vote.

The drawing of lines may be just marks on a surface but sometimes they become more profound than that.

That is why I have chosen to entitle my PhD research proposal as:

‘Drawing a line: the role of the co-created artefact in engendering solidarity between participants in a restorative justice process.’

‘solidarity’, stitch on tracing paper, Clair Aldington, 2017

The co-created artefact is formed out of a working relationship between an artmaker and a person responsible for causing harm (offender) and/or the person harmed (victim), as part of a Restorative Justice process. On completion, the artefact is gifted (with appropriate consents and risk assessments) to the other person involved in the conflict or situation of harm.

In my research, I am focussing on the act and process of the making and gifting, alongside the role of the artmaker as enabler and co-creator. In particular, whether those processes can imbue the co-created artefact with enough significance for it to engender moments of solidarity between participants in a restorative process, even if both parties are not present at the gifting.

As an artmaker and restorative practitioner, I have been working in this way for 16 years. I see my PhD as a privilege as well as an opportunity to critically reflect on my practice and to analyse it in the context of related areas of expertise and research.

During my studies I will post regularly on my blog with updates about my research project … and other things.