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…
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!
The Bentley Library Chair has finally been unveiled at Bentley Library in Doncaster. A busy afternoon launch saw over 70 people attend to check out their textile artwork that had been lovingly and carefully (trust me!) upholstered onto a Parker Knoll Wingback Sofa.
This project has been one of my all-time favourites since I’ve been a freelancer – lovely people that I’ve become friends with, a meaningful process and a successful outcome. I think one of the reasons it was so successful was that I spent a lot of time getting to know the groups I was working with, doing research, working out what they wanted to do and also learning from them. If I’d had my way, we would be looking at images of a mosaic chair right now but the groups were very definite in their wish to create something textile-based – so we went with a patchwork sofa that eventually was made up of over 100 people’s artwork.
The artwork includes fabric painting, block printing, applique, knitting, crochet, patchwork, quilting, embroidery, woodwork, photography, digital printing, encaustic art, free-motion embroidery and machine embroidery – there’s probably more…
Everything was then sewn together and I upholstered the finished work onto the sofa, having stripped it first – I had to remove over 1500 staples to get back to the wooden frame! Now finished, it is going to live at Bentley Library as a story chair – though I secretly want it in my living room. Bentley Library – you know where to look if it ever goes missing!
The project was part of the Right Up Our Street research programme in Doncaster, which has just received another three years funding – well done everyone!
On Saturday 23rd May it was Festival Oldham time again and I delivered a drop-in workshop making Oldham Wish Flags. This involved 28 metres of fabric (I don’t joke) that I had to cut into 6×14 inch rectangles using pinking shears. I even ironed them (and you know its a special occasion when I get the iron out!).
Oldham Arts Development asked me to make some example flags – I had great fun coming up with some wishes and then turning these into little bits of fabric artwork using paint pens, eva foam and some block printing.
We had a great day at the festival (we were part of of the ‘Rooted’ section) outside Gallery Oldham. Tori, a member of the Dovestone Youth Rangers, and her friend Poppy came along to help Richard and myself and they did a marvellous job of prepping all the flags and hanging them on rope once completed. We made over 100 flags in total to add to the ones I’d already completed. They are all going to be displayed in the foyer of Gallery Oldham so come down and have a look – there’s some great wishes. My personal favourites ‘I wish I was a fairy’ and ‘I wish I could teach basic IT to senior citizens of society’ – aaaahhhhh!
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.
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.
As part of the Abirdabode Exhibition, myself and Richard Dawson couldn’t resist creating some of our own art bird boxes. We got so carried away we couldn’t fit them all into the Gallery as part of the main exhibition so came up with a sneaky plan to install them into the library downstairs.
Having got the go ahead from Oldham Library, who were brilliant and completely open to our weird requests, we spent an afternoon installing the boxes on the shelves in the main library. The ten boxes have now formed an art bird box trail amongst the books and the only clues to find them consist of Dewey Decimal numbers and subject headings.