Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Catching up with myself



So university has broken up for four weeks - do I get a nice relaxing holiday? No of course not, in fact I sometimes wonder if university is the thing I do to escape! For the last 3 months I have been saying to myself 'When I get a break I will........' and now the time has come to catch up with all the other things I have put on hold.
As you can see the biggest project to organise at the moment is the building of my new studio which is speeding along while we have a break in the weather. There is also a push to get the majority of the outside completed before Christmas. It is then that the hard work starts as we are completing the internal structure ourselves, so plumbing, plaster boarding and electrics are all on the horizon.
All of this is in preparation for my graduation and for me to be able to consolidate the majority of my projects into one location. 'Downend Studio' will be a centre for art and craft tuition, art materials, picture framing and a fully functioning workshop in the heart of North Dorset.
Alongside this and my work as Gallery Shop Manager at Walford Mill Crafts, the past few days has seen me writing all my classes and workshops for the 2013 spring term. I love writing classes and deciding what projects myself and my students will tackle in the coming months and the new year is going to see me re-visit some old favourites with new twists and techniques. The two monthly Thursday night groups will be looking at a very specific subject matter and introducing a new media to each. The Drawing Group will be considering 'Trees', particularly textures in both watercolour pencil and water soluble ink and The Painting Group will experiment with 'Flowers' in Acrylic paint.
The Saturday Workshops will continue once a month and are already booking fast. In January we will combine charcoal and ink to represent Rocks and Sea in an atmospheric and expressive way and in February, alongside the programme in the painting group, we will use Acrylics to record Vintage Vehicles. The term will conclude with a very popular subject - Farmyard Animals - but we will mix our media in order to exploit the best of watercolour and collage techniques.
If you would like any more information regarding my classes or view my work, please visit my website: or email me: and I will be happy to help. In the meantime have a wonderful Christmas and see you all in the New Year.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Screen Printing from Scratch

This week has been a logistical challenge. I always knew that juggling all my commitments would make this a difficult year, but didn't really appreciate how it would end up consuming me. This week marks the start of our build up to the end of term (is it Christmas yet?) and as per usual I have agreed to a number of things in order to push my degree work as hard as I can. One aspect of this was to start looking into the possibility of constructing my own exposure unit for screen printing. This idea manifested itself after I realised that if I wanted to produce replica documents, maps and correspondence, I need a method of reproduction that gave me a good chance at replicating the original.
After experimenting a little with screen printing last year, I decided this was probably going to fit all the criteria but one aspect would prove tricky. Access to our print room at university is difficult as it is in very high demand, the printing would be no problem but preparing the screens would take too long if I didn't have the facilities to be able to work 'out of hours'.
The complicated part of the method of screen printing that I wanted to pursue, was that of using photo emulsions and ultra violet exposure. I wanted to be able to exactly copy certain documents in my possession and to do this I would need to scan them to a high resolution and copy them to the mesh screen using a UV exposure box. Was it going to be possible to build myself?
After hours and hours of research into UV lighting, exposure times, methods and equipment, I am happy to say I now have a homemade unit which was tested over the weekend and (after many trials and errors) is now fully functioning and I ran my first prints yesterday with great success.
Tomorrow sees the the return of the first 'critical evaluation' of my work by a visiting tutor - Jeremy Akerman - so we will see how it is received and I will keep you posted as to how it goes.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Since we last spoke......

Not being the most committed blogger, I have neglected my duties over the summer, so in making a pact with myself to re-instate this blog and to use it frequently, I have realised what I have not blogged about since April!
Rather than bore you all with all the little details in one go, how about we catch up as we go along? The main purpose of writing here again, is to continually test my writing skills and also to keep the small community of you that kindly follow me, up to date with what is expected to be one of the busiest years of my professional career.
However, let's not get ahead of ourselves so I will get back in to blogging slowly and let you know what is happening to me this week. Tomorrow I will be interviewing Emma Ayling, Head Curator at The Priest House Museum, Wimborne Minster as part of my latest university project, exploring the significance of 'the artefact'. I have already subjected my mother to the interview process, asking her to talk about the family heirlooms and discussing the personal attachment that we all have to various valuable and non-valuable items in our possession and now it is time to explore this from a museological viewpoint. I am looking forward to the filming, not only because Emma is a complete wealth of knowledge and incredibly supportive of me and my work, but also because I am a novice to film making and editing so this is a new challenge for me.
This is all part of a much larger project that I am collaborating on with The Priest House, which I have only just acquired, I am being given the amazing opportunity of curating their Georgian Parlour - a fantastic honour and one which I am very excited about. I will be writing more about it in the very near future but for now, I am spending the majority of my time researching, experimenting and attempting to think very laterally.
I look forward to keeping you all up-to-date with my adventures over the next twelve months.......

Sunday, 29 April 2012

A slightly damp update

Well the weather has not been kind to us but we are artists and we adapt to circumstances!
All the artists converged on the gardens on Wednesday, all prepared to start putting work up but everything had to be delayed until the Friday as the rain was just too incessant to be able to do anything constructive. As far as my pieces went, I am glad to say, the night before I gave the surfaces an extra layer of silicone which I am now very grateful for.
Friday was very exciting seeing months of planning and construction finally go up and as my pieces were one of the first to be assembled, the public started to interact with them almost immediately. One thing I have to thank the weather for is that the storms held off for our private view, which was a glorious evening. The Mayor and Mayoress were genuinely impressed with what we had all achieved and a good time was had by all.
Now comes the hard work! On Tuesday I have the first of two assessments where two tutors come down to the gardens and critique my work. These sessions are interesting and you never quite know how they are going to pan out, but hopefully it will give me a bit of a kick towards what to discuss in my end of year presentation. So now I am going to spend the next few days documenting, drawing, recording and writing so that I have plenty of information to call upon when I stand up in front of my peers at the end of the term. I will keep you posted as to what I am planning – stay dry everyone!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The day before the chaos

So, tomorrow is the 'put up' for Benchmark. I feel scarily calm at the moment but I am sure when we all arrive in the Lower Gardens, it will be very different. Wednesday and Thursday will be spent making sure everyone has what they need and Friday is the opening but in actual fact my pieces aren't going up until Friday as I have already tested that they work in the space and won't take me long to install.
The last few days has seen me refining the work that is going on display and for me, this is the most fun part. After a lot of tutorials and late night discussions with my very practical and down-to-earth boyfriend I came to the conclusion that as the whole piece is called 'Are You Here?' it required some sort of visual map. So as you can see from the photographs, I have (quite clinically) illustrated the views that are directly in front of the information points in order for the rest of the piece to take shape around.
I have been thinking a lot about Susannah this week and as always, have returned to her correspondence to provide me with that little spark of inspiration that is required when I need it most. So I have been feverishly practicing my copperplate handwriting and experimenting with how I can document what I see and hear while I spend time in the space. I am actually quite excited now about what is going to happen over the duration of the exhibition. I will endeavour to keep you all updated as it happens so all I need now is to do a little sun dance and pray for good weather! Hope some of you can make it to the exhibition and if you do, make yourselves known it would be great to include you in my piece.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Time for some experimenting

When your car breaks down and it's hailing outside, something tells you that you need to stay in and experiment. Today I am looking at the actual way I can document what I see and hear while I am in the gardens and how my documentation will look in the displays that I have built.
The concept is to document conversations, observations, really anything that I encounter while I am at my 'station' in each of the three locations whilst experimenting with aesthetics associated with writing, drawing and traditional correspondence. So this morning I have been looking at traditional writing implements - dip nibs, holders, indian ink - and styles of writing. With only a week to go (eek) I can't master the art of copperplate handwriting and after a few hours at it, have found it really doesn't suit the way that I write at all. So I have created a kind of 'hybrid' lettering drawing on traditional capital letters and my own, more staccato, lower case. I think that this is probably the compromise that I am after and while I like a challenge, don't want to make things too difficult for myself as this whole event is going to be such a leap of faith anyway.
So. happy with what I have got so far, this afternoon will see me experimenting with drawing the views I see in my locations and how I can pull the two disciplines together. Please visit again to see how I get on......

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Susannah has returned!


O.k. so my blogging intentions have waned ever so slightly but I am now back on the straight and narrow! As a mature student I am finding it increasingly difficult to juggle all the things I have on the go but now, with the end of my academic year in sight, I am concentrating on this project started all those weeks ago with the seed of an idea. As you can see from the pictures, my 'carpenter' and I have been madly making my information points and last week we took them down to the site to see how they looked in the space. For those of you new or asking what these are about, let me explain. Our fantastic group exhibition 'Benchmark' will see 20 artists install site-specific art work into the Lower Gardens in Bournemouth for a 10 day exhibition. My piece will see me experimenting with documenting the activities that occur while I am there using traditional methods of writing and drawing and then leaving the evidence in these displays for the public to view and hopefully realise their importance in the space. Over the next week I will be trying out various methods of how I am going to achieve this and I will also be spending much more time on this blog in order to hopefully get some feedback from you all in the run-up to the exhibition therefore any comments will be most welcome!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

What a difference a week makes..

In the interests of this blog being something that people want to read (rather than me bullying them into it), I have just re-read last week's post in order to catch up with people and can't believe how much has happened in just one week. The big news is that my proposal was accepted! The first submission - 'Are You Here?' was the piece that they decided would be worthy to include in the exhibition and I am literally waiting at this moment for a tutorial to discuss the finer details of where I start. Tonight we have our first group meeting where hopefully, everything will begin to be organised and we can start working towards an amazing show.
Also this week I have almost finished my major essay, which is such a weight off my mind and my Histories and Contexts lecturer seems to think that it will be ok with a few minor tweaks.......
I am becoming acutely aware that I haven't 'made' anything for a long time and I don't want to fall back in to that rut of all theory and no practice so I am going to have to make a conscious effort to start drawing and writing very soon. I have an idea about experimenting with calligraphy and attempting to combine it with line drawing but this is stuff that is just in my head at the moment and until I have been to the meeting tonight, that is sadly where it is going to have to stay for the next couple of days. Any thoughts people?

Monday, 13 February 2012

Time out for an essay

So, it seems like I haven't done much 'art' in the last week. My proposal for the gardens was sent off, received and I 'm waiting for the results to be published tomorrow (14th). At the moment I am at an interesting crossroads with everything - will I be disappointed if I don't succeed with my proposal? Probably but then I'm a great believer in things happening for a reason so at the moment the plan is to develop the idea further and then see if it would work in another context.
This feeling of limbo isn't helped by the fact that we are in the middle of a unit which requires us to write an essay contextualising our practice. The word counts needs to be 3000 and to be honest I still can't decide if I think 3000 is a lot or a little. I seemed to rattle off the first 2000 without too much of an issue but I am grinding to a halt in editing and summarising. Being the organisational demon that I am, I still have three weeks before it is due in so hopefully the essay fairy will come along soon and bless me with an ending that will impress my tutor!
Well, fingers crossed for tomorrow and I will let you all know where I'm going from here.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Getting my proposal ready and some inspirational news!

So, today I got up early and promised myself that I would put every effort in to writing my two proposals. If you are new to this blog then let me explain...
As part of my degree course we are offered the opportunity to propose work to be placed in the Lower Gardens, Bournemouth as part of an outdoor exhibition which will be run by the students themselves with the assistance of a Lead Artist and this year we are lucky enough to have the services of Emma Purchase, who I have found to be very inspirational and enthusiastic. Part of this process is to be able to write a succinct and informative outline of the work we intend to produce, a way of 'selling' ourselves if you like. Carrying on from my previous investigations and using the letters from my ancestor Susannah Middleton, I have provisionally made two proposals. The first I have named 'Are You Here?' and I intend to place 'information points' at three locations in the space where I will spend an allotted time each day recording what I see and hear around me, encouraging the general public to be included and to participate by leaving my documentation behind in a perpetual display. The second is titled 'To whom it may concern...' and this is the piece I have been experimenting with recently (see the previous entry) as it hasn't all gone to plan. However this week a very helpful member of staff from the Gardens has been very patient in answering my questions regarding litter picking (it will all become clear from the previous blog!) and has made some suggestions on how this could logistically work. The proposals have to be in by the 8th but I have finished mine early because:  a. I have OCD when it comes to deadlines and b. to see what other people make of the document before handing it in. We are going to be notified by email on the 14th to inform us whether we have been successful or not and as you can imagine, I have some very talented classmates so fingers crossed.
In other news, a few weeks ago I sent a cheeky email to the assistant archivist at the Caird Library (National Maritime Museum), Richard Wragg, who has been very supportive and interested in the work I am producing. He kindly replied to me a few days ago with the news that he is willing to include my work in the blog that he produces for the library. This news could not have come at a better time for me and has really boosted my confidence so my warmest thanks go to him for making an artist very happy and if you get a moment, please do go and visit the site as it is very interesting. You will also find Susannah's original letters mentioned there as they were December's 'Item of the Month'.
I will keep you all posted as to how my proposals are going but if you have any comments or ideas in the meantime, please do post your opinions as they are all very helpful.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

And that's why we test these things out!

So how did yesterday go?? Well put it like this, if it was the closing shot of a movie, it would have seen me sitting on a bench chuckling to myself like some sort of lunatic surrounded by squirrels. Let me fill you in. Yesterday afternoon, armed with my camera and a variety of paper to experiment with ideas and to be able to jot down my findings, I travelled down to the Lower Gardens, determined to test myself and my proposal. I started by spending a great deal of time wandering around the site, thinking very hard about where my 'information boards' could be placed and where they would be most likely to give me plenty of subject matter. I observed for a good hour before picking a bench to install myself on and gave myself 15 minutes to listen and look whilst all the time documenting what I could. It was surprisingly difficult as I found I couldn't write quick enough and began writing in the first person which I somehow hadn't expected. I also hadn't anticipated how much information I had considering the very few people there were using the gardens at that time. It did work though, so feeling like I was getting somewhere I took a deep breath and started writing a letter with the intention of leaving it exactly where I was sitting. This I found very enjoyable, detailing why I was there and what I was experiencing sitting in that spot and folded it so that it gave a tantalising glimpse (or so I thought) of the words it held. I labelled it 'To whom it may concern' and tucked it into the structure of the bench to await its recipient. I had already noticed a good vantage point where I would be able to watch the bench from a distance without looking too much like a stalker and made my way towards it to see what happened. Almost immediately a woman walked past and noticing the piece of paper, lingered momentarily whilst I was whispering to myself 'go on, go on' but then decided to continue her walk. Feeling encouraged and fiddling about with the focus on my camera I neglected to see the member of the park staff approaching on his motorised vehicle, trailer full of refuse being towed behind. Yes, you have guessed it, in the blink of an eye he had removed the letter, screwed it up and thrown it in the pile of rubbish! So it's a small step backwards for me today to have a long hard think about this and how I can alter the outcome in future. Today is also a day of writing up my findings, drawing maps and trying to persuade my boyfriend that I am going to need his carpentry skills if my first proposal is accepted. I will update you all very soon.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

It's all about the preparation.

Today I have been working on a proposal for a project that is available to us on the Fine Art course where we are given the opportunity to experiment with our practice in the Lower Gardens, Bournemouth. I have had two ideas for pieces and it was suggested to me by our Lead Artist, Emma Purchase, that I actually go to the site tomorrow and test out some of my ideas. Hopefully this will have two outcomes:
1. It will be a way of seeing if each idea is actually feasible in the site &
2. I may actually get a response via this blog if it does!
My first proposal is to produce some 'information boards' around the gardens, the type that usually say 'YOU ARE HERE' for you to be able to get your bearings, however, I want to use the aesthetic of the display to start documenting what I see and hear as a way of recording how the gardens are being used, as it happens. This goes along with my fascination of social history - why someone was in a specific place at a specific time and what they did while they were there. I need to look at (if my proposal is successful) where I could possibly site these stations and how they could be sympathetic to their surroundings whilst not being susceptible to acts of god or teenagers. There are still lots of aspects to consider with this idea but I think going to the site tomorrow may answer a few questions for me.
My second proposal is more subtle and needs the help of the general public to be a success. It basically uses the same premise as the first but following on from how my ancestor Susannah used letters to connect with her sister, I am going to attempt to start a discourse with individuals by leaving notes/correspondence in areas of the site where people may stop for a while and happen upon them. This is the idea that is more exciting for me and I think has a great deal of potential but needs the most thought and experimentation.
All of this of course is entirely dependant on the weather! I am watching the skies and if it looks fair, will head down tomorrow afternoon to start this process. So if you find yourself there and happen to see a letter, please take time to stop a while and be part of the art. If you have found yourself at this blog because of one of my 'notes' then welcome! Feel free to leave a comment as I would love to hear why you were there and what you thought.......

Friday, 20 January 2012

The story so far......

The whole point of being an artist is to investigate and that is what has found me here, creating a blog which may or may not be interesting to people but to have the chance to invite people to interact with my work.

So, the story so far....Last year I discovered that an ancestor of mine (Susannah Maria Middleton) had a series of letters that were in the collection of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, which detailed both her journey from Portsmouth to Gibraltar and the life she found when she arrived there. The letters are written to her sister and provide a fascinating insight into the social life of a young woman in 1805.
These letters provided me with an incredible amount of inspiration which is sustaining me and inspiring me a year later. I have used them in a variety of ways to test my practice, some of which were a triumph and some a disaster but it has all been fascinating and that is what has led me here.

At the moment I am planning to propose two pieces of work for my second year major project entitled 'Content and Context' where we are being asked to create work for the Lower Gardens in Bournemouth and our lead artist Emma Purchase planted the idea of running a blog alongside any work I produce.
So, hopefully there will be a lot to read about as I go about working out what I do and how I do it and you might even be part of it by participating and interacting!