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.
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.
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!
I’m in a book! My origami installation work has been featured in Paper Art II (find it here), a book showcasing international artwork, installations and designs created from paper.
I’m fairly pleased as the last book I was in was my dissertation (which I wasn’t technically in – I just had my name on the spine!).
Following last year’s project for Bentley Library where I worked with local groups to create a community library chair, I’ve been itching to have a go at making/upholstering another one. So, for a recent exhibition at Hot Bed Press, I decided to create some screenprinted textiles for a new piece of work in the shape of a Parker Knoll armchair.
‘Infestation’ is upholstered in silk, hand screenprinted with hundreds of beetles which appear to be crawling out of the chair. Each piece of material features an individual design created from my drawings of beetles. There are about 100 different species of beetle in the surface design from the Javan Fiddle Beetle (Mormolyce phyllodes) to, my favourite, the Long-Necked Shining Fungus Beetle (Datelium wallacei) – you can’t beat that for a name. The chair also has it’s very own beetle legs, brilliantly made by Arbarus.
The work is part of an ongoing series in which I’ll be exploring chairs and similar products, questioning their form and usability (does a chair have to be functional to be a chair?) and reimagining the original design and finish to manipulate reaction and perception.
To create this installation piece I firstly used Photoshop to generate full-size artwork from scans of my beetle drawings, which I then turned into screenprints. I created individual screens for both the fill colour and the key layer (the final line). I’d pre-cut and labelled the individual pieces of silk for the upholstery so I could control which part of the pattern was on each part of the chair. Once the fabric was printed, I set about upholstering!
I’ve been printing leaves for about six years now and during that time I’ve been developing my technique, exploring different methods and constantly trying to improve the results to achieve what I want. My process currently involves inking each leaf individually and then printing from them, which means only one-off prints are achievable.
During recent research for an artist residency application, I came upon a technique that seems to recreate what I do and is a recognised form of printing which I had never heard of! So…. Nature Printing “the name given to the techniques of taking prints from natural objects such as leaves, flowers, or feathers, without the interposition of an artist who, interpreting the form of the original, will often distort it”. So writes Roderick Cave in his brilliant book ‘Impressions of Nature‘ which I now own and has lots of notes and scribbles over already.
In reading this, and other information on nature printing, I came across a technique developed by Alois Auer at the Staatsdruckerei (the Austrian National Printing Office) and later, by Henry Bradbury. This technique was called electro-typing, which involves pressing the subject between a plate of steel and lead, then using the impression in the lead plate to create a copper plate in an electrolyte solution. This plate can then be inked as an intaglio plate and printed.
Henry Bradbury produced a book ‘The Ferns of Great Britain and Ireland’ which contained over 100 plates printed using the electro-typing process. They’re absolutely beautiful – you can feel the impressions of the ferns in the page and (for all you letterpress enthusiasts), the type too. The process is something that I’d like to consider researching further but it is going to involve a lot of head-scratching and deciphering of scientific language – not my strong point!
The Bentley Library Chair was part of the Right Up Our Street (RUOS) Project, which is part of Arts Council, England’s Creative People and Places Fund. As part of the RUOS funding, every artist involved has to keep an artist’s diary, write progress reports and an evaluation report once the project is finished. I’ve just submitted my final report and wanted to share a few of the comments we got at the launch of the Bentley Chair at Bentley Library. They make me really proud to have been a part of this fantastic and successful project (I honestly didn’t bribe anyone for these comments!)…
“Never been so impressed in something in all of my life, and when you see your work among it… wow”
“It’s absolutely fantastic. Brings the community together – an absolute pleasure for all!”
“What a fabulous piece of community work. It got everyone talking and evoked a lot of memories. A thing to treasure, lots of memories for young and old.”
“I really think the chair is absolutely beautiful and I feel proud being part of it.”
“I think it’s amazing- I’m so pleased. My grandson’s drawing is on the front. It would look the business in my new kitchen!”
I was asked quite early on in the project what the point of the chair was (which I thought was a really good question) and at the time felt that creativity, teamwork, ownership, engagement, pride and self belief were some of the main reasons for doing the project. I think that these comments show that this was achieved – well done everyone for taking that leap of faith and believing we could make this brilliant piece of art – who said a canvas had to be square!