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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.

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!

Hyde Art Project – Urban Sketching

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.

Hyde Art Project ‘I Love Where I Live’

I have been commissioned by Jones Lang LaSalle to work with local schools in Hyde and create some artwork for the Clarendon Square Shopping Centre.  The theme of the project is ‘I Love Where I Live’ and is going to be a long frieze made up of lots of drawings, prints, photos and paintings of buildings in Hyde.

Last week I began the creative workshops with an initial session at Flowery Field Primary School.  I worked with a lovely group of Year 6 students who created some drawings of their own houses and then did some monoprinting of some favourite things in their lives.  We got so carried away with the monoprinting that we didn’t have time for the last part of the workshop which was to work in groups to create a large scale collage of a high street.  I’ve arranged to go back for another session to finish off the work.

In the meantime, I’m starting to put together some of the fantastic drawings produced at the session…

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Photos from car parks

Last month, I mentioned that I’d been asked to remove myself from a car park’s top floor, after taking pictures of the (amazing) views for my urban sketching and screen printing.  Consequently, I put in a request to a certain car park company to be given permission to take pictures from Manchester’s numerous car park roofs.

That permission has been refused due to a number of reasons, which were:
A. There’s too many people asking to take pictures from car park roofs
B. Its a car park, not a photography opportunity
C. You don’t want to pay for the privilege (We’d let you if you had a big budget, a load of cameras, crew, cast and an important company name).

Grrrrrrrrrr. Watch this space.  Who thought taking pictures from the roof of a car park could be so anti-establishment?!  I’m going to try just standing and looking and see what they say then!  I also think that all the people who want to take pictures from car park roofs should get together and mass storm Manchester’s car parks in a flash mob /critical mass style gathering.

Anyway, here’s a picture to be going on with…
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Commission for Royal Brompton Hospital, London

Whoop whoop – I’ve been selected to create some mosaic artwork for the courtyard at the Royal Brompton Hospital in Chelsea.  The courtyard has just had all its plants and greenery removed due to a weight and water issue and they now need replacing with some colourful mosaics.  During June I’ll be working with patients, visitors, parents, staff and anyone else who wants to get stuck in to make something lovely and mosaicy.Royal Brompton Hospital Mosaic Commission

Colshaw – The Return

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Following on from last year’s art project in Colshaw, myself and fellow artist Richard Dawson were asked by Cheshire East Council and Lime Art to return to the estate to run another project with the same group.  Last year’s project focused on creating artwork for part of a concrete wall on the edge of the park.  As the wall is (very) long and fairly unattractive, we decided it would be good to continue with this theme and create more artwork for the same wall.

Despite numerous and repeated predictions that the original artwork would get vandalised, only one part got burnt (a letter ‘S’ that was wrapped in varnished string) which was quite an achievement.  As part of the second project, we were also asked to replace this ‘S’.

We worked for several evenings with the group of young people to come up with ideas and concepts for what the artwork could be.  Then, during the October half-term we worked for three days to produce the work, which involved creating designs, large-scale drawing, using the fret saw to cut the shapes, sanding, painting and adding final detailing.  Each group member produced a large scale ‘character’ that they drew, cut out of plywood and painted.  We then took them away to varnish (the horrible, toxic, smelly bit) and brought them back to install on a freezing cold Saturday with the help of Steve from local housing association, Riverside.

As ever it was a pleasure to work with this group of young people from Colshaw.  Their energy, enthusiasm and interest in the project made it an incredibly satisfying and rewarding project to work on.  Yes, the group require a fair amount of discipline and control and it is hard work but the kids from this estate are some of the best I have ever worked with and I would choose to work with them again in an instant.

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