On 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 firstname.lastname@example.org for further information or to nominate a bird box location.
Here’s just a few of the bird boxes made during the project…
Last week myself and Richard Dawson spent a day at Dove Stone Reservoir installing the new RSPB Wayfinders. Made from solid oak, with CNC’d lettering and mosaic detail, the posts have been carefully designed and created to be sympathetic to the space at the same time as being useful! The mosaics all show flora and fauna found at Dove Stone and aim to inform visitors about local wildlife.
We had beautiful weather after a very wet Friday (nice soft ground) which made for a relatively easy installation, apart from the stones and the inaccessibility of some wayfinder sites by vehicle. Thanks to Sam and Joe who came and did some excellent hole digging and lumping of heavy things! And thanks to the lovely dog walker who supplied us with some wine gums in Binn Green car park.
Here are 18 of the completed mosaics for the RSPB way markers at Dove Stone Reservoir. The mosaics will be inserted into wooden fingerposts which are being made by Richard Dawson who has already created this wooden arch at the reservoir. The flora and fauna shown in the mosaics are all found at Dove Stone with the Peregrine Falcon and the Mountain Hare being particularly important to the site.
Following six months of consultations, workshops, meetings, fabrication and lots of sanding, the Hyde Indoor Market artwork was unveiled on Saturday 6th April. As I’ve mentioned previously, the artwork consists of 3D letters which spell out the words ‘Hyde Indoor Market’, with each letter representing something different sold within the market.
In terms of fabrication the letters presented a variety of challenges as they all required different processes to complete them – these included mosaics, mould-making and casting, decoupage, illustration, knitting and painting to name but a few. Detailed images of each letter can be seen here on the Woodend Artists flickr page but I’ve included a select few below.
Myself and Richard Dawson have been commissioned by the RSPB to create some way markers for Dovestone Reservoir in the Peak District. Each way marker will contain a small circular mosaic that depicts flora and fauna found in the area. I’m currently working on the drawings for the artwork but in the meantime here’s a mosaic of the RSPB logo which I did just to get me in the mood!
Last year, myself and fellow artist Richard Dawson were commissioned by Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council (TMBC) to create some artwork for Hyde Indoor Market. The aim of the commission was to increase knowledge and awareness of the market – we worked with the market tenants to come up with a design and concept and worked with local community groups to produce some of the artwork.
The final design is a sign that says ‘Hyde Indoor Market’, with each individual 3D letter depicting something sold within the market. The letters are a mixture of box frames containing various items, are clad in objects or have graphics applied to their surface.
This is the letter N, which depicts the ladies wear, menswear, footwear and jewellery stalls with an illustration of a wardrobe and the items contained within. The images show the first pencil drawing of the wardrobe and the inked-in versions and then the final one, which was scanned in, cleaned up in Photoshop and then colour rendered in Illustrator. The final letter has a wood effect finish on the sides, with a printed vinyl applied to the front with the illustration on.
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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It’s been a long time coming but we’ve finally got planning permission to turn a small parcel of land into a community garden in Farnworth, Bolton.
Initial clearing and digging of pathways was done by a group of fabulous Prince’s Trust lads. We then got Ambec Fencing to come along and install a new fence along the front and back borders of the property. The right hand-side faces onto a cricket club and on the left is Bolton at Home residential housing.
The project has been funded by Symphony Housing and is going to create a garden filled with lots of things including a playhouse, raised beds for growing vegetables, composting area, sitting areas, flower beds and fruit trees. However there’s lots of digging and landscaping to be done first made much harder by the fact that a rubbish tip and half a housing estate seems to be buried under the ground! Digging goes something like this… put your spade in an inch, hit something, dig around the two bricks you’ve struck, remove them, try putting your spade in again, hit something different this time, discover a black bin bag of rubbish, dig it out, try again and hey presto – you finally get to something resembling soil!
We’ll also be creating some art with local communities to put in the garden – this is likely to include mosaics and withy sculptures. Alongside this, we’ll be creating a film about the process which will include some timelapse. some animation and also some interviews with our willing volunteers and other local people.
Just before the build fortnight on the RHS Tatton show garden, I had 10 days in the rain (plus one dry day) installing artwork in the Hyde Park Community Orchard. Not ideal weather for installing a mosaic which is mounted on paper but we soldiered on and (almost) got everything finished.
First job was a dry fit of the classroom floor mosaic to check it all fitted together onto the 3m concrete base. The mosaic was separated into 27 sections, so it took a bit of work to make sure it all went together as it should.
Richard Dawson was also installing his oak benches and banquet table at the same time. These were the holes for the foundations of the banquet table to sit in. There’s about a foot of water in them here… another couple of hours and they were full.
Next Hyde Park Community Orchard post – the finished artwork!