Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Taking Threads and Chatter to the Green Patch

After the first successful session at Kettering Buccleuch Academy last week it was decided to take it along to the children who come along to the Green Patch community allotment.

It is a wonderful space where fruit, vegetables and flowers are grown, hen, geese and ducks flourish and a little nature is allowed to inspire the folks that live round about.

This is a lively bunch of children, as you would expect from youngsters who enjoy the outdoors so getting them to sit and create indoors was always going to be a challenge.

I took along all kinds of materials for them to explore and decided to extend what I had already offered the group at Kettering Buccleuch Academy.

Bright green elastic, buttons, hama beads, fine wire, and old coloured telephone wire.

Note the grubby hand from being outside.
After an initial introduction, the group were encouraged to explore threading beads and buttons onto elastic or telephone wire to create a bracelet.

As I had forgotten to bring needles they all had to make their own out of the fine wire I had brought along.  It was interesting how the group was very much divided in their choice of either buttons or beads.  Not many mixed them.

If you would like to read more about the View From Here Project please click on the following links:-

View From Here Project starts here
View From Here Project: Threads and Chatter wrapping threads at the Green Patch
View From Here Project:  Threads and Chatter wrapping threads at KBA
View From Here Project:  Threads and Chatter threaded Mandalas at KBA
View From Here Project:  Threads and Chatter gathering papers stitching handmade books
View From Here Project:  Preparing for World Book Night at KBA and The Green Patch

Thursday, 6 November 2014

View From Here Project begins......

And so by laying some much needed foundations, Carole Miles, Project leader has organised for the first session of "Threads and Chatter" for the "View From Here" project to be held this week at the Kettering Buccleuch Academy.

The thing I love about doing workshops is you are never quite certain who will turn up and what personalities your will meet.  I think for this session I was expecting mainly adults.  However, the reality was a cacophony of sound from a band of excited young children supported by very few parents.

This always creates a challenge as, cutting through the excitement you are left with questions, "What skills do this group already have?"  And when I mean skills I am not just talking about creative skills, I am talking about interpersonal skills.  Can they work together? Are they able to follow instructions? Will they be patient enough to allow me to get around the group.

All the children were keen to get started.  I brought a goodly scoop from my button collection and a selection of colourful chinese silk cords.  It's always good to offer choice.  Buttons quite often become a bonding agent.  The adults in the group perhaps would remember grandma's tin of buttons, the children not so much, but oh, the fascination of buttons, the colour, the shape and the feel as you emerse your hand in the depths of a button tin.

Getting them to choose a selection of buttons kept them engrossed whilst I wandered round the room engaging with each child and adult allowing them to choose which colour of cord they favoured.

I noticed that a few of the children greatly relied on Mum to do the task in hand for them, giving up after a few minutes. Then good old Mum or Grandma stepped up to the bar even though this also was a new thing to her.  Was this lack of confidence perhaps or the fear of the unknown on
the part of the child?

This was soon resolved when the group soon discovered that they could move on from making a bracelet to
creating a necklace.  Through careful negotiations I was able to steer these reliant children into becoming independent makers, thus allowing Mum to be able to access her own creativity.

As the session developed I noticed that almost by magic the group started to help each other and realise that they were no longer in competition with each other.  Lots of colourful buttons and cords available for everyone.

This was a lovely first session, and it was captured beautifully by Carole on her camera, who is a whizz at documenting the moment.  We even got some lovely feedback from Rob Walker who is our school contact,

"It was great to see children, parents and grandparents learning and having fun together!"

If you have enjoyed this blog post about the View from Here, more can be read over at Back to Books which is where Carole Miles documents all the projects she is involved with.

View From Here Project : Taking Threads and Chatter to the Green Patch
View From Here Project: Threads and Chatter wrapping threads at the Green Patch
View From Here Project:  Threads and Chatter wrapping threads at KBA
View From Here Project:  Threads and Chatter threaded Mandalas at KBA
View From Here Project:  Threads and Chatter gathering papers stitching handmade books
View From Here Project:  Preparing for World Book Night at KBA and The Green Patch
View From Here Project:  Threads and Chatter presents sewing a bookmark

Monday, 27 October 2014

Wild Networking

Wild Networking is something that is organised and curated four times a year by artist Sophie Cullinan the Education Co-ordinator at Fermyn Wood Contemporary Gallery.  This is an opportunity for artists to meet up from different media and to come together, use the Lodge and the space around  it, experiment with new ideas and learn from each others skills, knowledge and experience.

The brief or central theme for the meeting was 'Rural Factory',  allowing artists to respond to what the countryside has to offer in the form of inspiration and materials.

If there's one thing I'm not so keen about being a freelance artist is network meetings.  The bringing together of complete strangers in the hope that there will be a melting pot of ideas, sharing and offering opportunities that you may have come across.  In reality, like most people, this is an uncomfortable situation to find yourself in.  Trying to gain eye contact, and then starting a conversation and being English, my first line might be relating to the weather or how far a person has travelled or simple, asking what they do often like drawing teeth.

I feel like a cross between a cold caller and a Rolodex, hoovering up useful information and future allies for my business toolbox.  Like in life, many of these people you will never meet again, some will be more memorable than others depending on how much they engaged you in that very first conversation.

I have noted (as in note to self) the Wild Networking before and was curious how I would fit in with these strangers whoever they might be.  I often feel as a designer/maker I don't quite fit into the art world, all very high brow and pompous, not designed for my lighthearted view.  I often feel like the child in the Emperors' New Clothes who points out the obvious.  So I have skirted this opportunity a few times before I finally decided to attend, "Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway" quoting the book of the same name.  Then panic started to set in, what was I going to do when I got there?

One thing that I have in my favour is that I really do enjoy adventures.  Every opportunity that comes my way, be it an exhibition, a trade or selling event, a workshop or attending a talk is always viewed as an adventure.  I don't know what will happen, who I will meet, what I will do but if viewed as an adventure it becomes more palatable and easy to handle.  One more thing, I knew there would be three familiar faces that were attending the day.

The journey to Sudborough Green Lodge is always one of pure pleasure and I am always left feeling how wonderful it would be to live in relative isolation.   To get to the lodge you have to come off the main drag and travel through the forest via dirt track, slowly, for about 10 minutes until you reach a wooden gate which takes you into a field with a double cottage in it.  The freedom that you are away from the noise of the everyday is the most joyous experience one can feel in a modern world of noise and technology.

The lodge has 3 bedrooms, which probably sleeps 5 or 6, so ideal for an artists retreat although on this occasion I would only be there for the day.  The most welcome site was the wood fire, which was in full burn and exuding a wonderful warmth into the room.  A few of the artists had already arrived so I said my hellos before I was given a hot mug of tea.

I had brought with me some threads, wire and a needle.  My thoughts were to take myself to the place I am most happiest and that is making.

I went into the kitchen and gathered up some tools I would need, cutting board, sharp knife and a plate, then I went outside and gathered some apples which a subsequently sliced up in readiness for the next part of the process.  Whilst I was outside I introduced myself to Sue who was collecting stones and apples.  It was quite cold and I wondered what had drawn her to be there.

As I busied myself at the table in the dining area, I noticed that one of the artist was weaving small branches together which looked interesting, I tried to strike up a conversation but I could feel that she wanted to be in her own creative bubble so I left her to her own devices.

Before I set about assembling my apple wreath, I thought I would see what others were up to.  Carole was in the other small room printing and another artist was taking photographs.  I chatted to him and he shared a little about his job and his need to get back to his art.  Then I had a look at how Sue was getting on.  She had quartered apples and had them arranged on the table in such a way that when the wind blew the apples wobbled together in unison, I found that both intriguing.  There were other mini installations she was testing which I was eager to revisit later.

The apple wreath was carefully assembled then hung on one of the apple trees.  It seemed fitting for it
to go on the one that had actually lost all it's apples, it was my act of homage to the tree to celebrate the abundance it had provided.  My wreath took pride of place but I decided to apple bomb the trunk and one branch to add fullness to my art installation.

All too soon it was time to have lunch and break bread with my fellow artists.  On entering the dining area I noticed that the other artist I had tried to talk to had finished her piece and had made an effigy using twigs and an apqple as a head. The meal consisted of orange and carrot soup, parsnip and apple soup, quiche, baked potatoes, cheese, nibbles and orange juice.  The atmosphere was very relaxed and natural and we all shared aspects of our practice from projects we were currently working on.

All in all I could take a sigh of relief knowing that it wasn't as bad as I first thought.  This is a relaxed opportunity to really self indulge yourself in art for you and no-one else.  I came away with more than I went with; apples which I will make into chutney, the knowledge that it is always good to challenge yourself and step into the unknown, a collection of shared experiences, and a mini exhibition invitation entitled "Size Matters".

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Workshop Treat - learning how to make buttons with Gina-B Silkworks

Question:  When do I ever go to a workshop that isn't run by yours truly?

Answer: Very rarely.

On Saturday 11th October I booked myself on a button making workshop which included all sorts of buttons; Dorset, Death's Head, Shirt Wing with Gina Barrett, star of Create and Craft.

It was a few months ago whilst researching the technique of Dorset buttons that I came across her book, Buttons, A Passmenterie Workshop Manual and subsequently bought it.  I absolutely adore technical books and exploring new techniques.

When I taught myself how to do lace tatting a couple of years ago, I could find no-one to show me despite getting in touch with the Ring of Tatters organisation.  So teaching myself was literally all trials and tribulations, starting off, then realising that I had been working back to front, getting the tensions right, understanding patterns, basically the whole kit and caboodle.

Before I bought the book I had researched a little on the subject and come up with what I thought were successful attempts at Dorset buttons but kept wishing that there was a workshop available to attend as some of the button structures were quite complicated. I had seen that Gina had received plenty of requests to do a workshop.  I signed up to her mailing list, as you do, to keep up to date, hoping upon hoping that I wouldn't be inundated with email after email asking to buy this and buy that, offer this and opportunity that.  I really hate that don't you.  I like to think that occasionally an artist will let me know what's going on in their world then I can attend exhibitions, workshops or talks if they are close enough.  I just like to be informed not nagged.

Anyhow, digressing slightly, when I did receive the newsletter I had been waiting there happened to
be the long awaited workshop opportunity, as you can imagine, I was right on the button (excuse the pun) in making sure I secured a place for the day.

The workshop was held at the Whipper Inn at Oakham in Rutland.  Lovely location very rural town, lots of interesting shops and a few galleries to explore.  The workshop was held in the conference room so was a great space with plenty of room.  Perhaps my only criticism was the lighting was a little poor in the afternoon but then conference rooms aren't designed with stitchers in mind.

I arrived ever so slightly late due to my SATNAV's insistence that I wanted to go the market square which is where the front of the hotel is situated.  I hadn't missed too much fortunately and very quietly and quickly got out my scissors, notebook and pin cushion.  All eyes were then on Gina.

The first button we explored was a Death Head button (green button) which immediately made me think of the moth's with a similar name.  I don't think there was one person, apart from Gina, in the room that didn't worry about overlapping their threads as they wrapped their way to the first completed button.  Along the way we discovered how to keep our tension in check and how there are different ways to achieve this by using pointed wooden dowels of various thickness or a mental pokey tool similar to my bookbinding awl.

Everyone worked at their own pace, which is how I like it in my workshops.  I managed to squeeze in a second Death Head button.  (black and white).  Lunch came around to quickly.  Some of the group had brought lunch with them, others like me ordered from the bar.  As a veggie there normally isn't a great deal to choose from and the same was said for this venue., unless I wanted a large sit down meal.   I opted for a cheese salad roll (very special roll) and some onion marmalade.  Sounds lovely?  All I can say was it was a bit strange to have marmalade and red onion mixed together as a condiment and not onion made into marmalade as one usually expects.

In the afternoon we moved onto other buttons including the shirt wing (blue button) and passementerie button (small round button).  By this time the group had become very loose and a little more confident about trying new techniques and different styles of buttons which Gina moving attentively around the group to ensure we all were happy with our attempts.

I thoroughly enjoyed my day and would highly recommend the workshop with Gina.  The fabric buttons are very versatile and could be used in a myriad of ways.

Monday, 23 June 2014

This is what I'm working on right now......

Over the past few years my focus, sadly, has come away from book sculptures and moved more towards designing and creating jewellery pieces.  Much as I love my sculpting my books the demand at the moment is more for my jewellery.

I was thrilled when I received an email from Charlotte Kingston regarding an upcoming exhibition at Craft in the Bay gallery, Cardiff, that was to be curated by Becky Adams.  If you haven't seen Becky's work, get yourself jolly well over to her website promptly.  As a fellow paper artist she is truly inspirational.

The exhibition theme is related to your favourite children's books or those that have been a part of your life.  My temptation is to use Alice in Wonderland, but I won't as I feel it has been reinterpreted time and time again.  At this stage, I won't share which book I have chosen as my theme, but I can share the book I am going to use.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Flock of Words - Part One held at Spalding Library

During May and June Carole Miles and myself aka The Eloquent Fold have been engaging the lovely people of Spalding and encouraging them to share stories of journeys made to and from Lincolnshire.

Using creativity we have Transported people to places and destinations from the memories that connect them to Lincolnshire.

We have heard stories of Prisoners of War; how Mum met Dad over a supermarket trolley and all about how people have found themselves living in places like, Spalding, Crowland and Long Sutton.

Having welcomed returners from our engagement last year was a joy, and seeing those people yet again enjoy our company and the creativity we had to offer put the icing on our cake which we served with tea served in china cups.
Both Carole and myself have spoken to many and have taken heaps of photographs to document our journey into Lincolnshire which will inspire our own art that we will install in each library at the end of August.

And so we leave behind Spalding Library and move onto our next destination which is Crowland library.  I love the abbey and adore the banter that can be experienced when listening to the lovely ladies of the knitting group who spoke of Jackdaws, a local term for those born in the village.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Not Speed Dating, or Speed Crafting but Speed Collaboration

This week saw me attend the Design Factory Speed Collaboration meeting in readiness for the second Synchronise exhibition.

In 2105 the Design Factory will celebrate its 10th Birthday and what better way than to launch another collaboration opportunity and encourage as many of our members as possible to take part in it. The second Synchronise exhibition will take place in the Roof Gallery at the National Centre for Craft & Design at Sleaford during July-August of next year.

In addition to this year-long collaborative project  there will be the opportunity for a number of 'mini collaborations' running for about 4 weeks, where members names will be picked out of a hat.

Synchronise was an initiative launched by Design Factory and the National Centre for Craft & Design in 2012. The project challenged members of the Design Factory to team up and produce a new collabor-ative body of work which was exhibited at the NCCD. Synchronise was more than an exhibition; it acted as a catalyst for new
ways of working and skill sharing. I certainly gained
an insight into how other artists work.  My collaboration was with mixed media ceramacist Samantha Robinson and Paper Lighting Specialist Sharyn Dunn.

Those that took part approached collaboration in a variety of different ways, including 'swapping' materials or influences, learning skills from a partner, producing work of a different scale or making work that was more commercial/conceptual than the work normally produced 
For myself, I was finally able to produce a large scale piece of work.  This trio of panels is currently being exhibited at Walford Mill Gallery in Wimbourne until 18th May 2014.

Last year I feel in some ways I took the easy option by choosing two makers that I have worked with before either in collaboration or organizing group exhibitions. This time with the "Speed Collaboration" meeting organized I was able to chat to other Design Factory makers which will give me the opportunity to choose someone I haven't worked with before.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

BCTF, The British Craft Trade Fair 2014

The British Craft Trade Fair is an annual event that has been running for 35 years, giving designer, makers and artists a platform to showcase their work to galleries and shops wishing to stock all manner of interesting things including jewellery, homeware, illlustrations, ceramics and sculptures for the garden to name a few.

This was my fourth year sharing a stand with Samantha Robinson Ceramics.  We work well together and always have a well turned out stand. 'The show was the quietest I've seen it.  In general there seemed to be less people at the show and a definite decline of students.  Of course this is only my opinion.  It depends on who you talk to and what wares they are showcasing.

My stand was devoid of my usual array of books sculptures and this was a decision I'd made so that I could display more of my jewellery. This year I took a new range called Be-laced; a combination of lace tatting, pearls, jet and paper beads with oxidised sterling silver and and extension of an existing range called Organic Repose.

Barinder Gahir on her stand
My work is always well received and the welcome orders and the promise of future exhibitions keeps me going for another year in my practice as a designer and maker as I continually build relationships with galleries and shops.  I did noticed that there were a lot of Design Factory members this year including some that were making their appearance for the first time.

One such maker had a stand opposite me.   Her stand Barinder Designs was a colourful display of silk scarves which would delight any outfit. I noted that her stand was well thought out, but she had the same problem as most stand holder this year.  Due to the change in shell scheme, it was very difficult to adhere display items in the stand, this mean periodically items fell to the floor.

Katie Almond on her stand
Another first timer was Amelia Kirk who creates intricate sewing themed silver and copper jewellery.  I hope to write a blog post on Amelia, she has come through the ranks of the Prince's Youth Trust and eventually became an ambassador for them for a while.

Then there were regulars such as Katie Almond.  There is a
universal appeal to her work and each piece is essentially a canvas for decoration and collage which is combined with drawings and found ephemera.  And Rachel, from Facets of Avalon, this is her second year at the event.  Last year we did an exchange of work as we were mutually taken with each others creations.

This year my exchange was with Suraya from Mahliqa Knitted jewellery.  She will be featuring in a future blog post about my favourites from the show and there were quite a few.