AA2A Residency – University of Central Lancashire

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Since October last year, I have been artist-in-residence at University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) in Preston.  I’ve been working on a specific project to create a piece called The Absence of Nature, which (I think) will be a series of chairs highlighting the increased extinction rates of beetles due to climate change and loss of habitat.

I knew that I wanted to use metallic and iridescent inks to screenprint fabric for the chairs so have spent a large amount of my time at UCLan experimenting with different inks, finishes, fabrics and pigments to get what I wanted.  I’ve finally started to achieve something with Golden’s interference colours (thankyou Golden!) but it took a lot of research and experimentation.

I have also spent some time at Manchester Museum‘s entomology department, drawing from the thousands of specimens they have.  I plan to go back and do some more research – Dmitri and his colleagues  at the museum couldn’t be more helpful and to draw from real specimens is invaluable.

As part of the residency I’ve been experimenting with textures and fills, using trugrain and various media to achieve what I wanted, playing around with levels and exposure in Photoshop and when exposing the screens.

I’m finally starting to see the results I want – just need to create the final designs for the fabric using the many beetles I have been sat drawing since the residency started…

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Community-Created Sofa

For the last three months, I’ve been working with community groups in Ashton-under-Lyne on a project based around illegal money lending.  Aimed at educating and raising awareness about the dangers of loan sharks community groups created lots of textile patchwork art that I am in the process of upholstering onto a two-seather sofa.

Whilst similar in style to the Bentley Library Chair, this sofa features more drawing, writing and printmaking than the other one which had a lot more sewing, applique and other needlecrafts on – maybe due to demographics of the groups and also timescale of the project.

Funded by the national Illegal Money Lending Team, the sofa will be used around Tameside as an educational and promotional tool before going to it’s permanent home at Cashbox Credit Union in Ashton.

Work in progress

There’s something here – I’m not sure what yet, but the awfulness of these dolls (their design, colour, body shape and permanent make-up etc) is going to be used to create some kind of suspended installation.

I’m currently concentrating on their heads – I like the slightly macabre feel of the doll’s eyes looking at you as the heads rotate on their strings but the bodies deserve to be used too.   Just as a note of interest – before their redesign last year, the shape of a Barbie doll’s body was such that, if real, she wouldn’t be able to walk…

NB. Please contact me if you have any Barbie, Sindy, Disney, Bratz or other dolls that you don’t want any more.  I’m happy to have ones with missing legs, feet, adapted hairstyles etc that might not sell so well on Ebay..!

Chester Zoo BumblebeeAbode

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Since September last year, Arbarus and I have been working on a commission for Chester Zoo‘s new Bumblebee Garden to create a home for Bumblebees.  Based around a used garden shed, the structure houses a number of Bumblebee boxes to provide a safe, dry environment for the bees to nest in.

The project kicked off last year on a sunny day in September with a drop-in workshop at the Zoo’s Wildlife Connections Festival.  We worked with Chester Zoo’s visitors creating lots of artwork to decorate the outside of the shed, whilst learning about the best flowers to plant in your garden to attract bumblebees.

Over the winter, Arbarus did lots of research into the right type of home for bumblebees, designed and built the shed and then we worked together to finish it, using all the artwork created at the festival to decorate it.  The shed was installed on a chilly January day, to give it time to bed in and for the brilliant horticulture team to create the shed’s green roof and plant up around it before the queen bumblebees start to emerge.  We aim to return soon to get some pictures of the shed with some green around it, instead of just some January mud!  Fingers crossed that some bumblebees will have moved in too…

STOP PRESS!  Whilst we await with bated breath for good news from Chester Zoo, Arbarus has had success with his own bumblebee boxes.  Two of the homes are now occupied by queen bees and there is a quiet satisfaction in watching them go in and out of their nests…

Gallery Oldham Residency

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Next month, I’ll be completing a residency at Gallery Oldham and creating work in response to one of their upcoming exhibitions ‘Art Forms in Nature’ which opens in mid-October.   The exhibition, touring from the Hayward Gallery, features work by Karl Blossfeldt and I am using his images as inspiration for an installation of weird and wonderful plants made out of paper.

For the second part of the residency, I will be offering drop-in workshops to add to the installation – making oversize blooms out of paper, using lots of different techniques such as origami, paper cutting and folding.

The event and workshops, called Nightshade, are also part of the Manchester Science Festival – there’s lots of different things to see and do during the ten day event – have a look at the programme here.

I’ve been doing some test pieces for the installation, concentrating on creating poisonous, carnivorous and parasitic plant forms.

 

Plantlife Commission

Since earlier in the year, I’ve been working on a commission for County Hospital in Stafford.  As part of a major ward refurbishment, I was asked to work with patients, staff and other stakeholders to create a ‘medicinal herbs’ themed piece of work for the new Elective Orthopaedics Ward.

We eventually decided on some large scale silhouettes of herbs with a watercolour texture for the eight-metre long corridor walls.  These were printed onto vinyl and then cut out with a plotter so each herb was an individual piece of work.  Patients and staff created some of the textures for the herbs alongside some smaller pieces that will be framed and hung in the waiting room.  Everyone did some fantastic work – I’ll post some pictures of the framed pieces once they are up but in the meantime, here’s some of the wall vinyls and some work from the creative sessions.  I’ve also included some of the original drawings for the herb silhouettes and the designs for two posters I’m screen printing that explain the symbolic meaning of the herbs featured in the artwork.

Animating Lordship Lane

I’ve just finished a commission for arts event ‘Animating Lordship Lane’ in East Dulwich, London organised by Fantasy High Street.  ‘Mille Fleurs’ was a curtain of suspended paper flowers, for the window of a fragrance shop called Roullier White, which moved and rotated in the breeze to create interest and animation in the window.  I also ran a paper flower making workshop during the event, whereby we made tissue paper flowers, origami flowers and origami butterflies.

Most of the flowers for the ‘Mille Fleurs’ commission were created from thick watercolour paper, stamped and laser cut into various shapes and then hand rolled to create the curve of petals.  Other flowers were created from floristry crepe paper (a much thicker crepe paper than normal) which allows for a lot of stretch and shaping to create delicate petals and flowers.

Thanks to Miriam from Roullier White for the fantastic photos!