Myself and Arbarus (Richard Dawson) have been delivering the Abirdabode Project for the last eight months. Funded by Oldham Arts Development, the project aims to bring art and nature together by building bird boxes using a variety of different creative techniques and skills.
We are currently working with a number of different groups in Oldham including the Dove Stone Youth Rangers, the Barrier Breakers, an Age UK older people’s group and the Grassroots Community Allotment Scheme in Failsworth.
We’re making lots of progress on the bird boxes which is good as deadlines are fast approaching – there’s an exhibition of them at Gallery Oldham in March and April. The exhibition opens on Saturday 14th March and will have all the bird boxes made during the project on show. Once the exhibition finishes, the bird boxes will be distributed to various communities, gardens, allotments and housing schemes around Oldham – get in touch if you’d like one for your community!
Most of these images are from Grassroots where we’ve been building a large-scale bird box for the exhibition!
One more thing… we’re doing a drop-in workshop at RSPB Dove Stone Reservoir on 22nd February. This is to celebrate National Nest Box Week (14th – 21st February) and to kick off the RSPB’s Discovery Sundays for 2015. We’ll be based at Ashway Gap (halfway round from the main car park) between 11am and 3pm – come and see us!
Elizabeth Gaskell’s House in Manchester has just reopened after a £2.5 million refurbishment programme. Elizabeth Gaskell, famous for writing Cranford, Mary Barton, North & South, Ruth and Wives & Daughters amongst others lived in this house in Plymouth Grove from 1850 until her death in 1865.
As part of their half-term activities and for the 2014 Big Draw, the Elizabeth Gaskell House Team asked me to run a printmaking workshop based on the beautiful patterns and objects found around the restored rooms. In preparation I had great fun and felt very privileged to spend an afternoon photographing the House to create an exciting exploration game for the workshop.
I’ll post some pictures of the workshop when I get them – we had a professional photographer there and everything!
I’ve just handed in my completed screenprint for the Hot Bed Press 2014 ’20:20 Print Exchange’. The 20:20 Print Exchange is a yearly event whereby printmakers are invited to produce a print measuring 20 x 20 cm in an edition of 25. You then submit your prints to Hot Bed Press and an army of volunteers (including me today!) sort them into boxes. Every entrant gets a box of prints back randomly chosen from the thousands available. Last year 585 artists took part producing 14,625 prints between them.
My print this year uses some drawings taken from my Clarendon Square Shopping Centre workshops whereby young people drew their houses for a larger piece of artwork. I scanned these drawings into the computer, tweaked them (a little!) and created a five colour screenprint called ‘Houses of Hyde’.
I’m pleased with the result especially as I wanted to experiment with using overlays of colours to create further colours and it worked really well. I also continue to use ‘Frisk’ Film for the stencils rather than the more traditional paper / newsprint. Frisk Film doesn’t buckle and concertina on the screen so colour registration is much easier and more constant.
I’m going to give the school an artist’s proof of the final screenprint as a thankyou!
It’s a while ago now but over the summer I worked with some brilliant schools to produce drawings, monoprints, collages and paintings all based on the buildings and landmarks of Hyde. Some of the artwork produced can be seen in a previous post here.
I had the humungous task of scanning all the artwork (which totaled over 300 pieces) and then creating a 20 metre long frieze from it all for permanent installation in Clarendon Square Shopping Centre. The final artwork was printed on a matte vinyl and installed by myself and Chris from Sign Solutions Plus. Being 20 metres long and on a corridor wall it was fairly hard to photograph but here are some images of the final artwork.
Over the last couple of weeks, myself and Richard Dawson (Arbarus) have been working on a series of creative workshops for our RSPB Ribble Rediscovered commission. Aimed at determining what wildlife and subjects should be included within the final pieces of sculpture, we worked with young people, the public and the brilliant RSPB volunteers making lots of brilliant artwork and chatting about the interesting wildlife that can be found on the Ribble Estuary, what the important and notable species are for the area and what lives in all that mud!
We did a special mud-dip workshop whereby we looked at the species that live in the mud and provide food for the thousands of birds that visit and live in the area. From this we created block prints of the hydrobia snails, crabs, rag worms and also the birds that eat them, making a brilliant frieze of artwork on brown paper.
We also rocked up to the 20 year anniversary event of the Ribble Discovery Centre and chatted to lots of knowledgeable people about the birds and wildlife found on the estuary. The three others artists involved in the commission were also there – Bryony Purvis, Rebecca Chesney and Sophy King.
Next job – design the final artwork ready for approval by the RSPB, the volunteers and steering group and Fylde Council…
Richard Dawson of Arbarus and myself have finally got the Bromley Farm cast stone artwork installed! Consisting of three ‘totems’, the artwork was designed by young people from Bromley Farm in Congleton and features their artwork and cast hand shapes. The artwork spells out ‘Bromley Farm Community Centre’, with each letter created by taking a subject or item relevant to the area and incorporating this within it’s design. For example, the ‘B’ features a bear’s paw, which comes from a local story regarding a dancing bear.
The young people came up with the idea and created the original lettering in a series of creative workshops over the summer. Molds were then taken from their artwork to turn it into cast-stone panels to fit within the three pillars.
A bit of a departure this week from the usual visual and public arts stuff I do – I’ve ventured on stage! Don’t worry I wasn’t actually allowed to act, sing or dance (though I did pull a muscle trying to hula hoop on the first day…).
The project, based in Tameside, was to create a theatre piece based on The National Theatre’s production of War Horse. Working with young people from St. John’s Primary School in Dukinfield and West Hill Comprehensive School in Stalybridge, we put on a production at the beautiful Stalybridge Civic Hall on Saturday night called ‘Over the Wall’.
In the lead up to an intense week of workshops at the Civic Hall, StoneSoup and Arbarus worked with some of the students from St. John’s Primary School exploring themes, building prototype puppets and helping to prep the script. Then we arrived in Stalybridge on Monday morning with lots of ideas, lots of equipment and materials, seven artists of various descriptions, a fabulous empty space and 75ish young people.
By the time Saturday night’s 45 minute show in front of 250 people had finished (standing room only), everyone in the group had been involved in most parts of putting on the production including – the music, the acting, the set design and build, creating props, creating (and puppeteering) dog and bird puppets, making costumes, and lots of other stuff I’m sure I’ve forgotten.
The boys from West Hill School in particular were absolutely fantastic and really came into their own on the ‘art department’ side of things, essentially leading on a lot of the design, set-making and puppets with a massive amount of effort put in to get everything completed for the Saturday night deadline.
A special mention to the teachers and TA’s from both schools who got completely stuck in and were brilliant!
I was too busy to take any of the pictures myself, so another special mention to the young people of West Hill who took all of these photographs (apart from during the production – thanks to Richard Dawson of Arbarus).
At the weekend myself and Richard Dawson started our new art bird box project ‘abirdabode’. Over the next six months we will be running a series of workshops and creative activities for abirdabode; exploring urban and rural habitats, trying different art forms and making beautiful art bird boxes for our feathered friends in Oldham. We will be working closely with Oldham Arts Development and the RSPB to develop the project.
The project launched with a drop-in session at Festival Oldham where we invited members of the public to decorate a bird for the outside of our large-scale bird box. Despite the rain we had lots of visitors, all fascinated by the bird box and the mini-gallery inside showcasing the first art bird boxes and accompanied by local birdsong.
Find the abirdabode project here and keep an eye out for upcoming events.
A couple of weeks ago I took a group of Year Seven students from Alder Community High School into Hyde Town Centre to do some urban sketching. We spent the morning wandering around the Civic Square and Clarendon Square Shopping Centre drawing interesting buildings, objects and views. Lots of the group opted to draw the beautiful Hyde Town Hall, with the clock tower being a favourite part of the building.
We also went inside Clarendon Square Shopping Centre (not just to warm up!) and did some quick drawing exercises, doing sketches in 1 minute and 5 minutes to try and loosen up our drawings.
We then returned to the school, had a little lie down to recover from the walk back and went for lunch! In the afternoon, we created imaginary high street scenes on large sheets of cardboard, drawing and then painting them. We didn’t get them finished so some of the group stayed behind for Art Club to do a bit more work on the paintings.
We did however make the local paper (fame at last!). Here’s a link to the Manchester Evening News and here’s a few of the group’s brilliant drawings. Thanks to Alder Community High School – I’m hoping I can return to do some more work there.