Exhibitions: Black Swan Arts, Fresh Air and 50 Bees

Just a brief update on a few exhibitions and events that I’m taking part in this Spring.  I hope you will be able to visit some of them.

‘The Future Can’t Wait’, recently opened in the Long Gallery, Black Swan Arts Centre, 2 Bridge St, Frome, Somerset BA11 1BB, 18 March – 5 April (see attached poster/invite).  A show of exhibits from 30 Bath Spa MA postgraduate students across four disciplines – ceramics, fashion and textiles, fine art and visual communication.

I’ve been involved in linking this up with BBC’s get-creative-weekend.  On Saturday 8 April, from 2-4pm, Black Swan artisans will be offering drop-in taster workshops for adults and children over ten years old, and MA artists will work with young people offering activities for children of all ages, exploring concepts of their current exhibition.  I will be doing one of the workshops.

I’m still working on my piece for Fresh Air ’17.  Too large now for my studio, I am making it outdoors.  Spring weather is helping a lot!  Quenington Old Rectory, Quenington, Cirencester, Gloucestershire GL7 5BN, 11 June – 2 July, open daily 10am-5pm, (£5 Adults, children free).

I’m also making a small sculpture for Fifty BEES: The Interconnectedness of All Things, at ACEarts, Somerton, 1-22 July, open Tues – Sat, 10am-5pm.  The topic is close to my heart.

Have a lovely Spring!

Lead Lines

Months of research and writing for research methodologies on my MA  is now finally over and I am looking forward to focusing more on developing my practice.

I have been looking at worms.  I studied an earthworm through a magnifying glass.  Its semi-transparent body enabled me to view its internal organs which buckle and coil as it moves. I am intrigued by a pulsating deep pink artery that runs centrally through the length of their bodies, delineating this coiling movement.  My ideas are revolving around lead lines, reinforced with steel rod in parts, that suggest huge 3d worm forms, skeletal, with linear coiled pink innards made from copper wire, heated red glass, orange twine and plastic strands.  This may change, perhaps it will seem too representational, although the expansive forms meandering through space could be quite breathtaking.

Worm casts, graphite drawingStudy of worm's arteryLead lines

As an experiment, I have created a small worm colony in an old fish tank, with dead leaves for them to munch.  In a few weeks I plan to remove the worms by attracting them to the top, then cast their tunnels.  If it works, it will be interesting to see what their tunnels look like, how they interconnect.

I have cast some more 3d lead lines, using routed wood blocks as moulds, made with a friend (Nick Weaver)’s help.  The wooden lines were gouged with 4 different router cutters, so that I have a range of curved and v-shaped lines.  The process was slow, as the lead didn’t melt properly on my studio electric hob, until I directed a gas blowtorch flame into the hot pan too.  When I poured, the slag remained in the pan, so the lines were smooth, clean lead.   I am considering how these might become more 3d, or whether they don’t need to, and how to convey message with method and materials, creating forms that carry natural associations, bridging the gap between science and art.

Collaboration

'Flock in Flight' All Hallows Prep School group work

Each project brings with it new challenges. Sometimes several projects run alongside each other and the art of juggling can be a challenge in itself. Some of my roles overlap or interlink. This can be a good way to function, ‘killing 2 birds with 1 stone’ (though I hate killing), easing the problem of having too many things on the go, but isn’t so straightforward if you don’t want to compromise the work, and it can create a bottleneck time-wise, amongst other complications. I’ve enjoyed working alongside other artists/makers of all ages. I like collaboration – at its best, combined effort multiplies output and result, it’s more fun and creatively, one can learn so much from working with others.

The past month has been full-on. With a bit of time to reflect now, here’s a look at what went on in my little creative world (in the bigger world – all I can say in a nutshell is PLEASE CAN WE UNITE AND STOP KILLING).

Teaching, Workshops, Talks, Demonstrations

On 12 June I spent a day at the Hidden Garden Art Show (Maureen Michaelson Gallery, Hampstead), part of Chelsea Fringe Festival where my sculptures were on show with other selected artists, demonstrating my work process, running a drop-in workshop and giving a talk about my work to visitors.  Although it poured with rain all morning, the sun brought a magical shimmer and quite a crowd in the afternoon, including Tim Richardson – founder of Chelsea Fringe.

Drop-in workshop at Hidden Garden Art ShowWorkshop participant's beetleMe talking to Tim Richardson (leads Chelsea Fringe)

I teach 2 evenings a week at All Hallows Prep School and as I’ve been involved in the Secret Swans Art Trail (one of Black Swan Arts’ 30th anniversary events and part of Frome Festival), I devised a project to involve the children in the Trail.   We created a flock of flying swans in wire, which were installed on the exterior wall of Black Swan’s historic Round Tower.  Inspired by my recent trip to Sophie Ryder’s exhibition at Salisbury Cathedral, we used her ‘scribbly’ technique to add more black areas.  It was an effective solution given time constraints.  The final lessons getting the work completed was a mission as some children were absent due to end-of-term activities.  Thankfully others stood in (special mention: Ellie West and Nick Somerville!). The swans looked like faint drawings, quite lovely and ethereal, though visitors had to look hard to see them.

Student's work in progress - making the All Halllows swansStudent's work in progress - making the All Halllows swansMy contribution to 'Flock in Flight'Installation on Round Tower, Black Swan Arts Centre

Preparations for Priddy Festival included some ‘birdy notes’ as we called them.  A team of Mendip Creatives made them from wire and paper, for marquee decor.  A large willow hog was also made, led by Angela Morley.

I worked with a couple of schools recently (Bishops Wordsworth & North Town) making wire figures and mini creatures.  Bishops Wordsworth was a 2 day slog over to Salisbury in a hire car (my truck was broken) giving 4 x powerpoints/making sessions to 128 children in fairly swift succession. The short sessions of 2 hours per group had limitations, but it’s amazing what children can do when focused!

North Town Primary students making Giacometti-inspired figureNorth Town Primary student making Giacometti-inspired figureGiacometti-inspired figureGiacometti-inspired figureGiacometti-inspired figureWire Fish by Yr 7 pupil - Bishops Wordsworth School Wire Dragonfly by Yr 7 pupil - Bishops Wordsworth School Wire Seahorse by Yr 7 pupil - Bishops Wordsworth School Wire Crane by Yr 7 pupil - Bishops Wordsworth School Wire Woodlouse by Yr 13 helper - Bishops Wordsworth School

Volunteering Roles

Secret Swans badge (illustration by Belinda Brownlee)

I continue to be very involved in the Black Swan Arts centre as a trustee, especially this year, with its 30th anniversary.  We have held several special exhibitions/events to mark the occasion, which have so far been a ‘resounding success’ (Christina Oswin), with great feedback, overwhelming support from the public, serious funds raised, heightened the BSA profile and engaged the community.
1000 Postcards attracted over 1000 postcard-sized artworks (including 2 of mine) for a massively popular exhibition with over £10,000 of sales so far and visitors galore.  Unsold postcards can still be bought online.  Preparations for the Secret Swans Art Trail, which followed straight after, grew more intensive.  30 artists in 30 venues around Frome.  I made a piece, ‘Resurrection’, (using reclaimed steel, copper wire, tar, rope and scrim) and sited it by the river.  It only recieved slight damage, easily rectified and many positive comments, so am grateful to most Frome residents for their respect!  In addition I worked on the All Hallows piece, helped Nick Weaver with the organisation and was largely involved in the PR for these events.  They are great examples of a huge team effort by Black Swan volunteers.

Sketches for my Secret Swans work'Resurrection' - ‘Black Swan’ is a metaphor for the impossible becoming possible. This piece is about hope, endeavour, yearning, striving for truth, purity (‘we will never know everything’), freedom from constraints, environmental pollution. Swans represent love, which ‘conquers all’, symbolised by the crucifix. 'Resurrection' - ‘Black Swan’ is a metaphor for the impossible becoming possible. This piece is about hope, endeavour, yearning, striving for truth, purity (‘we will never know everything’), freedom from constraints, environmental pollution. Swans represent love, which ‘conquers all’, symbolised by the crucifix. 'Resurrection' - ‘Black Swan’ is a metaphor for the impossible becoming possible. This piece is about hope, endeavour, yearning, striving for truth, purity (‘we will never know everything’), freedom from constraints, environmental pollution. Swans represent love, which ‘conquers all’, symbolised by the crucifix. 'Resurrection' detail 'Resurrection' detail Secret Swans piece (detail) by Edgar PhillipsSecret Swans piece by Tessa Farmer (detail) Secret Swans piece by Alicia Merret Secret Swans piece by Angela Morley - detail Secret Swans piece by Annie Fry

I’ve been involved in various Somerset Art Works meetings, a couple for an exciting new project that might come off next year with Anna Best, and for Somerset Open Studios ’16 (17 Sept – 2 Oct).  As Rep for East Mendip, I’m keen to make sure we do Somerset proud.  I’m part of a cluster group in my area called The Mendip Triangle; we have a specially designed map (by Michel Linthorst) to help direct SAW visitors to our lovely rural Studios in September.  Looking forward to seeing this year’s SAW guides being delivered next week!

SAW flyer 'The Mendip Triangle' by Michel LinthorstSAW flyer (back) 'The Mendip Triangle' by Michel Linthorst

New Work, Exhibitions

I made a new Nest and Mini Dung Beetle & Ball for the Maureen Michaelson Show, in addition to existing work.  ‘Resurrection’ will be sited at the Devon Recycled Sculpture Trail, Teignmouth seafront from 23 July – 4 Sept, and I am now curating our forthcoming step in stone exhibition touring to Salisbury Art Centre (18 Aug – 24 Sept), with Amanda Wallwork’s help. 2 of my main outdoor pieces will be on show.  If you missed any step in stone artscapes last year, try to visit!

Nest detail'Cirri' created for step in stone, installed at Westdown Quarry, found and reclaimed steel, copper, aluminium, twine, wool, netting, rope, plastic. Photo by Duncan Simey

The garden and studio get quite a battering after big projects, so it’s time to tidy up!   My good intention of simplifying life, with less to clutter the brain is still in the development stage – I hope it will happen one day.  In the meantime, the juggling continues!

Secret Swans

I am currently working on a new piece for Black Swan’s Secret Swans Art Trail.

In celebration of the Black Swan Art Centre’s 30th anniversary, the Trail will be part of Frome Festival and Open Studios, running from 1-10th July.  A free event, it involves 30 swan-themed artworks in various media and styles.  Sculpture, drawing, textiles, ceramics, light and other surprising forms will be on display at venues around Frome, such as shops, cafes, public buildings and outdoor locations.  An opportunity for families, art lovers, school groups and adventurers to discover and buy intriguing collectable pieces by selected artists, ranging from silver jewellery, etched and linocut prints to large willow, steel and glass garden pieces.  Visitors can make secret auction bids for the work at each trail venue and the winning bidders will be notified at the end of the festival.  Badges will also be available for everyone who identifies all 30 artworks and there will be the opportunity to enter a prize draw at the Black Swan.  Artists involved include Tessa Farmer, Edgar Phillips, Ian Marlow, Bronwen Bradshaw, Chris Lee, Alicia Merrett, Nina Gronw-Lewis, me, Nigel Evans, Caroline Walsh-Waring and Angela Morley.   I will also be working with pupils from All Hallows School on a group wire piece for one of the trail artworks.   
 
The Secret Swans Trail hopes to raise much-needed funds – sales being split between the artists and Black Swan. Trail leaflets will be available from Black Swan and Frome library during the festival.  Organiser Nick Weaver says: ”It’s been wonderful to see the variety of interpretations of the swan theme and the quality of work by some great artists.  Visitors are in for a treat!
Hope you can come and visit!
Secret Swans poster

Sense of achievement

Around this time I normally write a winter newsletter, but it feels like I’ve only just finished the autumn one!  Time has really flown by.  It’s been a very intense and challenging few months for me, full of achievements and not quite burnt out yet!  ‘step in stone’ – an ambitious art in quarries project I organised – took over my life for many months and is now over.  It was incredible seeing it through to fruition, and so fulfilling working with quality artists whose work I admire.

Overall, ‘step in stone’ was a tremendous success, very well received by an extremely varied and broadly based audience.  Combining the role of project manager and curator with that of being a participating artist was demanding.  Considering time constraints and my other roles, I feel I achieved a great deal, though disappointed that I could not fully explore more possibilities with my commissioned artwork for the project. ‘Cirri’ was intended to be more numerous, (based on Fossilised remains of ancient sea life forms).  I relished the opportunity to explore new concepts and media in my piece ‘Eviscerated Earth’ installed at Fairy Cave Quarry – recycled wax, cloth, scrim, paper and wire combined with found, rusty scrap steel collected from quarries.  It linked to the story of Fairy Cave: destruction of caves and beautiful (speleothem) formations within.  I would have liked to create more work for our Black Swan Exhibition – a beautiful show – but management of the project took over and time ran out.

step in stone catalogue pageEviscerated Earth recycled wax, cloth, scrim, paper and wire combined with found, rusty scrap steel

Now that the excitement is over, and I’ve reached the end of the arduous (but revealing) evaluation process for it, I’m starting to look forward to new ventures and getting inspired.

I visited Ai Weiwei’s exhibition at the Royal Academy, London recently.  It’s not often art brings tears to my eyes, but his work is so powerful, I was deeply moved.  The cell depictions of his sordid incarceration by Chinese authorities made me feel voyeuristic, angry and amazed at the brilliance of them.

A fortnight ago I sold my Nestling Cocoon to Mark Owen of Take That for an anniversary present to his wife Emma.  I drove from Somerset to North London to collect the piece from Maureen Michaelson (Gallerist), then to Sussex where I delivered it, then back to Somerset, in time to teach my evening art classes… all in a day!

I’m currently working on a life-size steel Bishop commissioned for the gardens at Bishops Palace, Wells, and will then start on a new commission for garden designer Sarah Eberle’s Artisan Garden at Chelsea Flower Show 2016, to create a 4 metre square woven canopy.

Bishop design

Other opportunities in the pipeline include showing with Maureen Michaelson again next year for Chelsea Fringe.  In the immediate future, I have been selected to show at the The Grant Bradley Gallery, (1 St Peters Ct, Bedminster Parade, Bristol BS3 4AQ) as part of a mixed show entitled ‘Bristol Green Capital in the Frame’. Celebrating and reflecting on the year that Bristol was voted The European Green Capital, it embodies a green theme: recycling, the importance of green spaces and wildlife.  The exhibition runs from 5 Dec ’15 – 2 Jan ’16.  You’re welcome to come along to the Private View: Fri 4 Dec 6-9pm!

In case you’ve tried viewing my website gallery pages – apologies!  There is a plug-in issue due to server updates, so some images are failing to open.  Hopefully it will be sorted soon!

 

Spring in my Step

Hello to budding spring!  (I guess there is a spring in my step, though sometimes I feel like my feet are dragging – especially early mornings).

A few updates about events you might be interested in.  My Art in Quarries project ‘step in stone’ is progressing well, having achieved a fantastic result through generous donors via crowdfunding on Ideas Tap and more recently a successful Arts Council England/National Lottery application. Heavily involved in bringing it to fruition, I am trying to reserve slices of time to make art. We have a new step in stone website, in addition to our facebook and twitter pages, so do please visit, follow and share. The best bit of the project is working with artists and other experts I admire.  I’ve been getting increasingly inspired by the history, geology and nature of the quarries, with new sources of information from scientists such as Gill Odolphie from Somerset Earth Science Centre and friend Nick Weaver.  I hope you’ll be able to visit the project this summer.

Fairy Cave Quarry

Part of the step in stone project will involve a young Sculpture Design Competition, kindly hosted by Black Swan Arts online from 1st April – 18th May. The winner will create their design as a full-scale sculpture to feature in our Trail, and all entries will be shown at the Black Swan, so any under 20 year old budding artists you know might like to have a go: http://www.blackswan.org.uk/sculpturedesign2015. Somerset Earth Science Centre (BA3 5JU) are hosting a Launch for us to explain more about this on Monday 23 March, 6-8pm. Come along if interested!

Sculpture Design Competition Poster

I feel honoured to have recently been elected onto the Black Swan board as a trustee and hope I can do the role justice in time. I love the Black Swan, it continues to provide excellent quality Arts in the South West, despite it’s huge crash in Council funding a few years ago. I hope it will gain further funding to be the best it can.

Nest 1 - final idea for Sunflow radiatorIdeas for Nest radiator

A radiator company, Sunflow Ltd, commissioned me to produce a 3-d sculptural piece for their new line of interesting Arty Radiators earlier this year. A challenging concept, I created an organic piece (no surprises there) involving copper piping and a woven nest on a layered backing of cut out metal, which we then sprayed (see design left and link above). These radiators are unusual – beautifully engineered, slim and very low heat. Mine is a prototype, so further one-off versions can be commissioned from me via Sunflow.

This June I will be featuring in the GROW London Fair, Hampstead Heath, London (18-21 June) represented by Gallerist Maureen Michaelson. My work will also be on exhibition at the Hidden Garden Art Show, Hampstead, London NW3 from 6-28 June and ArtParks International Exhibition, Sausmarez Rd, St Martin, Guernsey GY4 6SG.

Workshops and teaching continue to keep me connected with surrounding schools and the community. I’m looking forward to some great projects ahead with students, making large insects, birds and a dragon.

Spring - Wire work class

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fundraising success!

I was elated when news came through in January that my grant application to Arts Council England/National Lottery (via Grants for Arts) for step in stone was successful!  This is the icing on the cake after several hard-going months fundraising and a few other succcesses including our crowd funding on IdeasTap.   It’s really not my thing, so I feel a huge sense of achievement and relief!  I owe thanks to several people who helped and supported me, particularly Nick Weaver, for his patient editing.

Since then, work’s got even busier!  In between organising our step in stone Artist Research Trip (image below), doing step in stone PR and some art teaching, I have a commission I’m working on.  Once complete, I will post images.  It’s a new departure for me and I’m sworn to secrecy about it at the moment.

I was also delighted to be invited to join the Black Swan Arts Centre team as a trustee.  It’s a great honour, and I’m looking forward to getting more involved with the Centre.

step in stone Artist Research Trip, Jan 15

 

 

 

BBC Radio interview

A couple of weeks ago I did a radio interview with Martin Evans at BBC, Bristol.  Zoe Li (SAW) and I went up for an interview to plug Somerset Art Works Open Studios Family Friendly weekend, which we did.  Martin then suggested a separate interview about my work.. so here it is – live for 7 days..!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0287hwn

Crowd funding campaign launched for step in stone!

I have just launched a crowdfunding campaign for step in stone on IdeasTap:

http://www.ideastap.com/crowdfunding/project/stepinstone

The link leads to full details about my planned step in stone project, together with a short related film, made by Jack Offord.  Please visit and support. We hope to be successful in raising our target amount for an exciting project!

It’s All Happening In Somerset

Somerset Open Studios ’14 is now in full swing, we had a great open evening doo to kick off and I’m happy to say our venue (140 – Cranmore BA4 4RH, shared with Nick Weaver) made several sales this weekend.  With over 52 pieces on show in the garden alone, it was a big job setting up (and clearing up my studio ready for the event).  I ran a brief workshop for several art students from Wells Cathedral Junior School and will be running similar taster workshops on the next 2 Sundays (11.30-12.30).  Please book if you’re interested: (01749) 880394.

Wire workshop with juniors from Wells Cathedral School Laundry Cottage on show SAW '14 - Nick's stools and my Nest SAW '14 SAW '14 - Found Now Missing on show

Last weekend I visited Hauser & Wirth’s new Gallery space in Bruton for their Private View of Piet Oudolf’s newly created garden.  Phyllida Barlow’s work inside provided a tactile (though you can’t touch), raw and quite spectacular use of the barn buildings.  Her work seemed to celebrate the space: multi gigantic pompoms suspended and massive colourful structures reaching into roof voids.  It was invigorating, while Oudolf’s garden was soothing.  Luckily we could touch his wonderful, feathery grasses – it would have been torture not to.  And it was a treat to see one of Louise Bourgeois’s Spiders (much smaller than the one I saw at the Tate Modern, but still great!)

Louise Bourgeois' Spider Piet Oudolf's garden Piet Oudolf's garden (detail)

Fundraising is not my forte but I’ve had to do it as part of a major project I’m organising entitled ‘step in stone’.  The film we’ve been making for a crowdfunding platform is now ready to launch on IdeasTap.  This will go live in the next day or so, and I hope we will have some success through it.  We have now made the final selection of featured artists, and it is all getting very exciting and absorbing!  More news of this project soon…