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The Bentley Library Chair Project in full swing

bc08I’m currently working with three brilliant groups in Bentley, Doncaster on the Library Chair Project for the Arts Council England funded Right Up Our Street.   The groups all have a vast wealth of knowledge and skills when it comes to art, craft and other creative stuff – we’ve got a sewing machinist trainer, artists, creative and play facilitators, fabric painters, dressmakers, knitters, crocheters and lots of crafters with years of experience!

We’re just getting started on actual creative sessions and have concentrated on fabric painting so far, painting onto wet fabric then adding detail with fabric pens and opaque fabric paint once dry.  The patches are looking good and I’m getting excited about putting them all together.

Lots of the groups are also starting to come up with individual ideas for what to include on the chair – local and family poetry, some handmade wooden buttons, tie-dye sections, crocheted flowers, patchwork quilting, kids’ self portraits, local school badges and emblems, cross-stitch work and lots more – brilliant! We’ve even had a hand-knitted square promised from a lovely lady called Dawn who’s blind.  I met her and her wonderful guide dog Zeke at Bentley Library last week.

Over the next few sessions we’re going to concentrate on some block printing and maybe some stencilling.  I’m also doing a drop-in session at Spiltmilk Dance’s VE Day Celebration on 9th May – I’m hoping to get lots of tales and stories from everyone that attends.

The Bentley Library Chair

I’ve been commissioned by Right Up Our Street to create a story chair for the community library at Bentley in Doncaster.  I will be working with three local groups to create artwork for the chair using lots of different textiles and fabric techniques, which will eventually be upholstered into a finished chair.  We’ll be using Bentley as the theme, so they’ll be lots of stories and history about the area, alongside notable events and people used as imagery and wording.  I’m also hoping for a few Bentley jokes, poems and some creative writing to include!

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been meeting some lovely people and groups from the area, all of whom seem up for the challenge – we’ve already got loads of ideas and suggestions for what we might include on the chair, alongside some practical thoughts about the making and upkeep of a public seat.  The next job will be to decide exactly what to put on the chair and also have a go at some different textile / fabric techniques.  The groups I’m working with have loads of different skills from crocheting, quilting and knitting through to printmaking and painting so I’m going to try and organise some skill-sharing sessions amongst the groups too.

The Bentley Library Chair

I’m not the only one to be working in Bentley.  Spiltmilk Dance are also working with local groups towards a celebration event for the 70th anniversary of VE Day.  Their event is on 9th May at the Bentley Pavilion and will feature lots of dancing, cake (yesssss!) and victory rolls.

The Abirdabode Exhibition at Gallery Oldham

Art Bird FlockOn 14th March, Richard Dawson (Arbarus) and myself launched the Abirdabode Exhibition at Gallery Oldham.  The exhibition celebrates eight months of hard work by various groups across Oldham to create art bird boxes* and showcases these bird boxes alongside the Art Bird Flock, which was created at public drop-in sessions over the last year.  Almost 250 people attended the launch and was a great success – people seem to really love the art bird boxes and we got a lot of great comments and feedback.

All of the bird boxes created have been made to the BTO’s (British Trust for Ornithology) recommended guidelines and following the exhibition, will be installed around Oldham to become the Oldham Art Bird Box Trail.

The groups we worked with included the Dove Stone Youth Rangers, the Barrier Breakers, Grassroots Community Project and Age UK Oldham.

Dove Stone Youth Rangers (DSYR) are a group of young people from Oldham aged 11-19 years and meet every Sunday to plan and participate in activities focused on the environment and the outdoors.   The Dove Stone Youth Rangers created their bird boxes from concept right through to finished product,  drawing plans, making macquettes, using power tools and bandsaws to create the nest boxes.  They also spent several (chilly) sessions in my workshop painting and decorating their bird boxes ready for the exhibition.

The Barrier Breakers are a group of young people supported by Oldham Integrated Youth Service and gives young people the opportunity to have fun with friends whist working on issues that affect children and young people with additional needs.  The Barrier Breakers came up with their own ideas and themes then created their bird boxes from kits of parts, using power tools to construct their boxes and also cut out wooden detailing for individual designs.

The Grassroots Community Project is a community orchard and allotment and supports adults with additional needs and young people excluded from education.  We worked with Grassroots to create the ‘Andy Abode, a large-scale bird box created from reclaimed and re-purposed materials.  The group created the bird box from scratch, constructing the frame, creating the different claddings for each side and also building a sparrow hotel to be installed on the inside.  Following the exhibition the ‘Andy Abode will return to Grassroots and will be used as a shed and storage for Andy, who works there.

We also worked with a group from Age UK Oldham to decorate some bird boxes.  The group created a ‘terrace’ of boxes with each one representing a redbrick house, complete with windows, doors, chimneys and even a TV aerial.  Though they didn’t make the exhibition launch, Age UK Oldham organised a special trip to Gallery Oldham so the artists could see their creations.  We met them there to show them round and indulge in a spot of tea and cake at the Naked Bean Cafe.

All in all, a fantastic launch of the Abirdabode Exhibition, which runs from now until 2nd May 2015 at Gallery Oldham.  If you’d like to know more about abirdabode have a look at the project website here.  We are also asking for people to nominate locations for the bird boxes once the exhibition is completed.  The location should ideally be in the Oldham Borough and be a ‘community’ space or organisation, a school, a public park, allotments or gardens for supported housing etc.  Please email hello@abirdabode.co.uk for further information or to nominate a bird box location.

Here’s just a few of the bird boxes made during the project…

Abirdabode Art Bird Boxes

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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 – Big Draw Workshop

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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!

Hot Bed Press 20:20 is here again!

2020-01I’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!

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Clarendon Square Shopping Centre Artwork

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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.

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