Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Not what you do every day...

Sometimes an opportunity comes your way which you would be nutty to turn down, no matter how much it scares you. What is it people say? 'Feel the fear and do it anyway', well yesterday I was given the great honour of being invited up to Newark, to the headquarters of the Society for All Artists, to film for their very popular programme 'A Splash of Paint' which airs on the Painting and Drawing Channel on Sky.
I had been before to film a web clip ( which you can see here ) but this was going to be very different as I had prepared 3 paintings to demonstrate, all 26 minutes each. Yes, 26 minutes. Not 25 or 27 or 'that's near enough' but 26 minutes of what I hoped was going to be encouraging and useful information for all abilities of painter. Now, those of you who know me well will appreciate that when I'm given a set of instructions, I do tend to make sure I'm well prepared, but this isn't as easy as simply practising. How do you anticipate how long a wash will take to dry? What if you have to deviate from the plan and paint elements in a different order? How would I be able to show something worth watching for that period of time? (I couldn't decide if it would be all over in a flash or feel like an eternity).
All I can tell you is that once I was in the swing of it and my nerves were pushed to one side, I had the most fun I have ever had demonstrating. That would not have been possible however, if it had not been for the team at the SAA, who were just phenomenal. They are warm, friendly, professional and fantastically efficient which made my job there a joy and I would not have had nearly as much fun without their patience and willingness to help me out. I would particularly like to thank Gary and his team in the studio who taught me so much about presenting and were encouraging and fun whilst being incredibly professional at all times.
So my contribution will be aired next year sometime, and don't worry I will keep you informed, but until then, pop over to channel 191 and watch this very informative programme. Alternatively you can catch up on-line at any time via this link Enjoy!

Friday, 11 October 2013

Exciting Experiments

After 'Thirty Days hath September' it has been a complete joy to be able to get back to what I do best - painting and teaching. The promotion and marketing aspect of my job is always good fun but any time away from my palette makes me artistically itchy and longing to get back to being creative. This week I have been testing 'Millford' watercolour paper on behalf of the Society for All Artists (SAA) as the paper is relatively new to the art materials market. It is produced by the St. Cuthberts paper mill as a replacement to the old 'Whatman' paper originally used by JMW turner. I was a huge fan of Whatman when it was around as I loved the quality it gave to my paints, it lent itself very well to my impressionistic brush strokes and the fact that I like to use soft edges in my work.
Millford is everything Whatman was and more! I can imagine that people might be afraid of it due to its cost but believe me, it is worth every penny. Yes, it is a very different surface and you have to be nice to it but this is only to my advantage, as it means I can't 'faff' (my favourite artistic term) about with it too much and have to trust that it will grab hold of my paint and diffuse the colours as I want it to.
So here is the painting I worked on last night:

We have a herd of deer at the back of the farm where we live and I have been desperate to paint a stag ever since I heard him calling last week. The Millford paper has given me the soft, foggy atmosphere I was looking for with very little effort from me and I am really pleased with the result.
I have used a variety of techniques here, but I won't talk about them yet as they are still in development and I want to make sure I am confident with them before passing them on.
So please keep your eye on the blog as I'm sure there is lots more to come with this paper, I can see it fast becoming my favourite!
If you would like to have a go on this paper, you can order it through me or by visiting the SAA's Home Shop:

Monday, 30 September 2013

Day Thirty......of Thirty!

I don't think that I ever planned that my last day of Thirty Days would be spent as it has been today. I have taken the last day of my project off! Maybe I should have exited 'Thirty Days hath September' in a flourish but it has been such an extraordinary event that it has required me to use the last day reflecting and planning what comes next.
The last month has really pushed me to consider what I want from my creative career and how I can progress it after graduating from my degree. I have worked with some truly amazing people over the period of the project, travelled far and wide and the result has been a list of opportunities that I'm looking forward to incorporating.
Which brings me to the result of today:

Those who know me, know of my love of the list. I run my life by them, am constantly ribbed by my fiancé for making them (and for leaving them for him) but for me they allow me to pour out all the information that is constantly revolving around my head. After I have made one I feel calmer and more in control of what I need to achieve and what order it needs to be dealt with. They don't rule me, I'm not so tragic that every last minutiae of my life is recorded in them, but for someone with the portfolio career that I have, they are a necessity. 
So today I have been thinking about all the things I discovered during Thirty Days, all the projects that have been engineered for the next 12 months and planning what classes I can teach next. All I can say is keep watching this space, there is so much I am looking forward to achieving and thank you for continuing to indulge this artist in her creative ramblings.

Monday, 23 September 2013

What a week!

When allocating your time for marketing, Facebook and blogging, you always have the very best of intentions. The reality, however, is that your artistic activities completely take over as it isn't exactly a nine to five job.
Last week saw me taking a trip over to Guernsey to visit the fantastic Sarnia Arts and Crafts club who are always a pleasure to teach and demonstrate for. We did two days of mixed media workshops together, plus an evening demonstration for the members. It was great fun and I want to thank Sara Serafin the President of the club for her support and the very gracious Ellen Gallienne for putting up with me for three days and being my sat nav around the island!

The end of the week was a whirlwind of an exhibition! Four years ago myself and four painting friends got together to form the female collective 'Artemis', a stress-free exhibition group who are brilliant to work with. This year we were showing in The Cedar Room at Haskins Garden Centre and, despite the power cut we had a magnificent time talking, demonstrating, seeing friends and eating a vast quantity of cake!

My thanks go to De Ashton, Tracey Collyer, Ruth Elrington-Browne and Theresa Nutting for their tireless good humour and for putting up with my absence during the past year. I will make up for it with our exciting plans for 2014!
So now it is the 23rd day of Thirty Days, who thought it would race by SO quickly? This week is just as thrilling though as I will be working with jeweller Emma Calvert, photographer and PA extraordinaire Jasmine O'Hare and the very talented band Under Fire. More later in the week...

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Day Twelve of Thirty

I just had to write mid-week to share with you a couple of artistic activities that have already occurred since we last spoke. I have been testing out some new surfaces recently, the latest being a watercolour paper called 'Millford' which is being made as a replacement to a paper I used to use years ago. Although it has it's drawbacks, I have to say that the replacement is just as good as the original and from a traditional watercolour point of view, is a beautifully receptive surface to my brush and has been a treat to work on.

Here is the end result of my work:

This week I have also held the second of my free taster sessions, last night's was watercolours for those of an intermediate standard. Such a fun class made up of people who I have taught before but had different reasons for coming back to my classes again. We did a 'paint by numbers' lesson last night, which means that I helped them through their painting step by step but as you will see below, they all turned out very differently which meant that each person went home with something unique. I had a really great time, teaching is never a chore for me but it's even better when you can have a giggle over a cup of tea too! 

I have a busy weekend ahead, a day workshop on Saturday and then preparing for my trip to Guernsey next week and my exhibition with the Artemis girls starting on the 21st, Thirty Days is certainly full to bursting!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Day Seven of Thirty

Wow! What a busy week!
I thought that Thirty Days might start with a bang but never thought it would begin with such a pace. So since we last spoke, day four saw my first class in the studio which was a very successful taster session for complete beginners who wanted to have a try at watercolours. It was a lovely evening and I met some very interesting people, who I introduced to watercolour paints and pencils and they were very successful with their new found skills.
Days five and six saw me hanging my latest exhibition with the amazingly talented Krishula Auckland at Walford Mill and taking part in some fascinating experiments with Caroline Parrott which, although they didn't go according to plan, will probably turn out to be great collaborative pieces next year.
Today has been a complete joy as it was the first all day workshop in the new studio and it was great to have all the equipment I needed right at my fingertips. We were doing some experimental printmaking, using a variety of relief techniques but ended up talking about making cards, gift tags and even a discussion on stitching back into our work. I had a great time...
This week I have been thinking about posting a few videos on to this blog, describing some of the techniques I use and here is my very first. It's no Cohen brothers production but hopefully you will see a little more of how I paint and the tolls I like to use. This video short shows me using a tool to remove masking fluid and if you would like to see anything specific in future, just let me know and I will do my best.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Day Three of Thirty...

...even if it is a bit late!
I have just arrived back from an amazing day at the headquarters for The Society for all Artists (SAA) and just wanted to tell you all about it as soon as I got home. I was fortunate enough to be invited to film a web clip for their website to help to promote both myself and their organisation.
When I demonstrated for them in London at the end of July, I was struck by what a friendly and helpful team they were, and today just reinforced that opinion. Myself and the two other artists I was with - Paul Acraman and Peter Millward - were met by the SAA's Managing Director Richard Hope-Hawkins and immediately given a very friendly reception, followed by an incredibly informative day of learning how to present to camera, filming our web clips and given a complete tour of the SAA's facilities in Newark. Paul and Peter both demonstrated their skills of acrylic painting and chinese brush painting respectively, and as we were incouraged to watch each person film their 'bit', we were able to swap ideas and support each other. You can see more of Paul's work here.
I had so much fun doing mine, although I can't tell you what I said as it passed in a bit of a blur! I will have to wait and see the finished result when it has been edited together and published on their website later in the month.
So tomorrow is Day Four and jam packed! In the morning I will be recovering from the four hour journey back from the SAA and preparing for my latest exhibition at The Bistro at Walford Mill Crafts with the amazingly talented photographer Krishula Auckland (Krishula's website), then in the afternoon I begin the first of many collaborative projects with contemporary aluminium maker Caroline Parrott (Caroline's website) and then the evening will see my first official class at the new studio - a beginners taster session in watercolours - which is fully booked. So just how I like it, busy, busy, busy...oh and the studio is open to the public too!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Day One of Thirty

Today is the first day of September. An obvious statement but never the less, one which sees a new chapter in my creative career, as today is also Day One of 'Thirty Days hath September', a project which will see me take part in a different artistic activity every day for the whole month of September. I actually started a little early as yesterday was the grand opening of my new working studio at my home in North Dorset. I had such a fantastic day and was given so much support from my family, friends and clients that it really made me feel very humble. As an artist, you tend to get used to working on your own as it can be a very solitary career, however when you organise an event and people take time out of their own busy schedules to participate, it makes you very grateful for their support.

So Downend Farm Studio is now open to the public (for opening time please see Alison Board's website) and my classes officially start on Wednesday with a FREE taster session for Beginners who would like to have a go at Watercolours. It will be wonderful to be teaching again, as well as being able to do it from the comfort of my own studio.
Today has been a much quieter one, I have been at Walford Mill Crafts where I am lucky enough to hold the post of Gallery Shop Manager and myself and my assistant (the talented Jasmine O'Hare) have been plotting what our Christmas displays might look like. I realise that the 'C' word shall not be mentioned before November, but sadly my team at the Mill have been putting together our exhibition 'Inspire' since May! I have always found being part of a retail establishment very useful as an artist, as it gives an insight into how early galleries and shops expect work from you for their busy season.
Today I have also been planning for a great adventure! Tomorrow myself and my father are making a trip up to Nottingham for me to be able to take up the Society for All Artists (SAA) on their offer to film me for a webclip. I am very excited about the prospect and very nervous all at the same time. Dad has kindly offered to drive me so that my fiance Richard can keep the Thirty Days programme of events in check at home and I think he was taking pity on me driving for four hours and turning up disheveled and stressed - not a look you really want to adopt in front of a TV camera! So watch this space for more news on how it went and I will write again next weekend.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

A new chapter

So the university part of my career is over. After a short break from my blog I can tell you that I am now a fully graduated alumni of The Arts University, Bournemouth having completed the Fine Art Course with a First Class Honours. Graduation day was really great fun, although poignant, and I am already looking back at it fondly......
So now on to the new challenges! 
My new studio is coming along at a fast pace now and will be opening to the public on Saturday 31stAugust 2013. Keep your eyes out for more information and all the events that you can take part in during my launch event 'Thirty Days hath September'.
I am also pleased to announce two projects with the Society for All Artists: The first will be a demonstration as one of their Professional Associates at their ‘Its All About Art’ show at the Business Design Centre, Islington on Friday 26th July at 11.00. This will be my first national demonstration and I am looking forward to being showcased by them. The second project is a real sneak preview for you all as my work has been selected to be part of a book they are publishing called ‘101 Art Techniques’ – my first publication!

Thirty Days hath September
This is my big event for the year (as if my degree wasn’t enough) and will see me undertake a different art-related project every day for 30 days including the opening of the studio, collaborations with at least 8 other artists/makers/individuals, two exhibitions, numerous classes/workshops and a residency in Guernsey! Keep your eyes out for all the details as they will be heading your way very soon and please take part in the pre-thirty days competition below.

In preparation for Thirty Days, I will be running a competition from now until the studio opening day (31st August). It is really simple to enter, all you need to do is pass on my email address (see below) to as many friends, relations and colleagues as you can, inviting them to be part of my new mailing list. Ask them to send me an email, stating that they would like to be part of my mailing list and making sure that they QUOTE YOUR NAME. In return, the person who gets me the most new contacts will receive a FREE lesson at the studio for themselves and 3 others for a morning or afternoon session. There will also be 2 runner-up prizes of a signed limited edition Thirty Days screenprint. GOOD LUCK!

Email Address:

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Are we there yet?

I think I might have finished.
I didn't want to trumpet that piece of information, as invariably it might be that at 3a.m. tomorrow morning I wake up in a cold sweat, remembering a small snippet of information I have forgotten to include. But I really think I am done.
Tomorrow between 12.30 and 13.30, all the BA (Hons) Fine Art Class of 2013 will be handing in their supporting work that (hopefully) backs up their Final Major Project. As my tutor succinctly put it: 'Pencils down, your time is up'. Of course there is still our degree show to tweak ready for the opening at the end of June, there is still a graduation to attend (even more hopefully) after results day, but these are things to enjoy and revel in and believe me, we will revel, but there can be no more work. It all comes down to handing over a box that at the moment contains a variety of folders, portfolios and every conceivable piece of documentary evidence.

I have spent the last year ricocheting between loving my work, hating my work and wanting it just to all be over but now, it seems a little sad and the end of a chapter. And of course it is, I have spent the last four years building up to this point and the new injection to my career starts here, but I will strangely miss it. I will especially miss all my class-mates who are the most eclectic, talented, funny bunch of lunatics I have ever met in my whole life and it will leave a huge hole not seeing them as often as I have, but I'm sure we will all bump into each other often and I wish them every luck both for tomorrow and our results day on June 21st.

Friday, 17 May 2013

A long but productive week

This week has been tough. Our degree show has started to be installed and in order to install it, our year group is required to be in the studios every day for as long as we possibly can. The technicians on our course encourage us to make it fun but by the end of a week that has seen people getting soaked in a skip, scraping year old paint from a vinyl floor and working in very close proximity to each other, I would challenge the most ebullient of individuals to retain their cheery disposition. Group show installation is always a challenge, it is just not possible to work with 54 other people (and creative types at that!) and all get on like a house on fire. However, I am very lucky that I have been able to work with some amazing people so I feel like I have managed to dodge most of the personality clashes and apart from us all being exhausted, we have been a fairly cheerful bunch.

 Although not very clear, here are my classmates Amy (Queen of Skips) and Katy, slashing a hole in one of her own canvases...

Apart from the technicians, tutors and my peers, my family and work colleagues have also been incredibly supportive this week. I haven't been able to be at my desk at Walford Mill much this week and have returned home exhausted every day so when I hear derogatory remarks about students and art students in particular, I make sure that I put people right about how hard they have to work but also what a strain a degree can put on their nearest and dearest.
Next week is our hand-in. The date which it all comes down to. So I will try and blog again before then and let you in on the last minute research I have been doing.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

The day before the week before..

Hand in tomorrow! There is no other way to put it. You can't be subtle in these matters and after spending all week feeling like I am top of things, I suddenly find that an email from my tutor stating a fact that I knew anyway, has sent my head into a flat spin.
If you have a work ethic like mine, you will understand that there is always more to do and you always feel like you haven't done enough. Should I have stayed up an extra hour to work on that film edit? Should I have written another evaluative paragraph? Should I? Should I?
Sadly the answer is probably, but you have to draw the line somewhere. The email from my very supportive tutor only outlines when and where we are supposed to hand in our work but you start to doubt that you have done everything and it is all ready to go.
In actual fact, tomorrow is the hand in for our degree show piece, and as mine is to be The Archive, it was complete a while ago. We still have two weeks of being able to edit our supporting work and I have plenty to do as far as that is concerned as I keep thinking of elements I could add to the information which backs up the last 6 months' work.
I think it is simply because I have spent the last four years of my life, devoted to studying. This degree was such a dream of mine and I have the finishing post in sight, which you might assume would be an enormous relief but contrary to what I expected, it is now very daunting. The end of a very big chapter and I want to give it my all, right to the conclusion.
I will keep you posted on the setting up of the degree show and obviously right up to the end, but keep your fingers crossed folks and stick with me...

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Days Five and Six: Sound, Tea, Gossip and Fabrics

Apologies for the lack of blog yesterday, I planned a very full programme for the week and just didn't get a chance to write.
Yesterday was my penultimate day here at the museum, and it began with my third year tutor Tom Hall paying me a visit. It was great to be able to discuss the intricacies of the project in situ and thrash out ideas of where I go from here, Tom is fantastically enthusiastic and always full of suggestions and advice and an incredibly busy man, so I appreciated him taking the time out to come and see me.
The morning saw me install a sound piece in to the space, based on what doesn't occur in the room now. Three artefacts had repeatedly caught my attention: the long case clock, the square piano and the fireplace, all of which were designed for a specific purpose and all were no longer used in that way, whether for reasons of conservation or health and safety. So it occurred to me that it would be interesting for the public to experience them again through sound, so I amalgamated the sounds of a fire burning, a clock ticking and authentic music of the time being played on the correct kind of instrument. It's amazing what you can find on iTunes!

The afternoon was an incredible amount of fun and although I am a twenty first century kind of girl, I actually felt transported back to the time period. I hosted a tea party, with all the trimmings including biscuits made from the book by Elizabeth Raffald, a Georgian housekeeper. Myself, visitors and friends sat around our elaborate table, played Cribbage and gossiped until late into the afternoon. I am sure Mrs. King would have enjoyed it too.

The evening was the Private View and the room was lit as it would have been in the Georgian period, to allow the guests to appreciate the architecture in a different light. The wonderful De returned to sing and it was a great opportunity to be able to thank everyone for putting their trust in me.

So, on to today and it is going to be a day of fabrics. The King family were Mercers, traders in cloth and records have been found to show their dealings with all the local estates for furnishings and material for staff. I have placed a display of my interpretation of the fabrics they may have dealt with and this afternoon I will be conducting a fabric printing workshop, so if you are around, call in to see me and have a go!

Thanks for following this blog over the last week, and please keep checking in as the end of my degree is in sight and there will be many more projects to follow in future.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Day Four, a day of experiments

A blog in sections today, as I am here, there and everywhere, so apologies for the disjointed entry....
It is the start of the day and I am waiting to begin a day of working with the museums's education programme by encouraging people to come to the museum and work with me and the collection. I am hoping that people will drop in all day and be able to participate in all the elements that I have prepared. The main event today will be asking the audience to draw specific pieces of the collection, but their only reference will be a description I have written and by listening to my singer De's sung version too.
I have no idea if this will work as a concept, but it will be interesting to see how each person interprets it and I have prepared many opportunities for people to feedback information via sheets and I will also try and persuade them to let me film them. It has surprised me how reticent people are to be filmed, even with assurances that it will only be seen for research purposes. Is it just the thought of being captured on camera or that people are wary of their comments being verbalised? Interesting....
So we will see how it goes today and I'm sure I will have a lot of valuable information for my research by the end of the day.

A very interesting day, I was fortunate enough to have people dropping in all day - friends, colleagues, students and visitors all eager to see what I was up to and very willing to participate in the various aspects of the project that I have built up over the week. People found the drawing experiment quite difficult but as many of them said to me afterwards, once their pencil had touched the paper they were off on an exploration of shape and context. Most found that they would be more careful in future to consider an artefact rather than dismiss it and everyone said that it was an interesting project and made them feel included in the room and the museum as a whole.

So I am off now to my 'day' job at Walford Mill Crafts, where I will be teaching a class tonight, but I am looking forward to tomorrow which will consist of sound, display and a tea party!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Day Three, live from The Priest's House

So, my blogging 'view' today is a little different. Usually I am sat at my desk, inspirational pictures pinned to the wall ahead of me, but today I am lucky to have a live view of the beautiful gardens of the museum.

Also I am testing out my technology and using my iPad to blog for the first time, so it will be interesting to see whether I can grapple with it and find a good 3G signal to be able to upload!

Today is a relatively quiet day in terms of my project and a day for experimenting and reflecting. I have installed three white plinths in the room today which house three different screen prints of three different artefacts from the room. I have attached plaques which describe the objects from a curatorial point of view and instructions encouraging the visitors to take a print away with them. The purpose is to get the audience to think about what they take away with them from a visit to a museum and what information they retain when they have left.

I was a little uncertain as to whether this idea would work or not, and how much encouragement the visitors would need to participate but I am glad to say that one of the first sets of visitors through the door were very interested in what I was doing, and were more than happy to have a 'souvenir' of the room.

Today I am also lucky to be having a reflective meeting with the Head Curator, Emma Ayling and no doubt we will discuss at length the various aspects of museum display, audience and interaction. I am looking forward to taking some of her very precious time talking about my project and making plans for the future.

I am also looking forward to tomorrow, as I get the opportunity to work with the museum's education programme, but more about that in my next post....

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Day Two and the singing begins!

It isn't difficult to understand people's trepidation when they hear that an artist is going to 'curate', 'intervene' or 'interpret' within a traditional museum space. So today was always going to challenge the visitors but it gave me a fantastic opportunity to gain some honest feedback.
I am fortunate to know some wonderfully talented people and for today's project I called on the skills of my friend and fellow artist Deirdre Ashton as she adds choral singer to her list of attributes.
One of the first avenues I wanted to explore with this project, was to ask if it was necessary to learn about an artefact, just by looking at it. Was it possible to find another way of describing it, without it being in front of the spectator? The joy of working with someone who thinks like you, is when you approach them and you say 'I'm thinking about getting you to sing the collection', they say 'Fantastic, when do you want me?' De not only responded like this but brought a wealth of ideas to the concept too, including the flexibility of adapting what we thought would work as we went along.

So we began this morning, having planned three performances during the day, and I had written for De, descriptions of five specific pieces of the Georgian collection which she proceeded to deliver in a variety of singing styles. After each of the days performances which I filmed, I also sought the opinions of willing members of her audience in order to ascertain what they thought about the project as a whole.

Between performances, in order that the room was not left abandoned, I assembled a variety of footage for the visitors to watch.

Now as an artist, feedback is always valuable, regardless of whether it is positive or negative. In fact, as long as it is given constructively, it isn't really possible to get a purely negative response as it is an opinion and can be worked on and responded to. I was aware that throughout this residency, I was not going to have a 100% agreement with what I was proposing, but that that was the point, to gain the audience's opinion. Today I have had both, but thought that I would share one visitor's written feedback as it is as valid as anyone's and will be something for the museum to consider in future.

I quite understand that not everyone enjoys sound, no matter how it is delivered and this, together with the film I have gathered today, provides me with excellent framework to present my findings to the museum. Come back tomorrow to find out how Day Three's project was received...

Monday, 22 April 2013

First day of the project

The first day of months of planning and I felt both excited and nervous to be embarking on this project in conjunction with The Priest's House Museum. The enormity had hit me over the weekend when I was asked to do a radio interview and I actually described what I was doing to an audience who had no prior experience of me or my work, so I arrived at the museum hoping that everything I had stated I would happen on day one, would be achievable.
My mission today was to clear The Georgian Parlour of all artefacts, which I realise sounds odd in the context of a museum, but in order to experiment with all my ideas this week, I needed to start with a 'blank canvas'. James Webb, deputy curator, assigned curatorial volunteers Mike and Eileen Carter to work with me, both for their extensive working knowledge of the time period and as they were part of the team that assisted in the restoration of the room and setting of the display in the early '90's.

So this was the arrangement at the start of the day and I realised that I was asking a lot to have the room cleared but Mike, Eileen and James were more than happy to help and humour this artist's unorthodox plans. One of the unexpected pleasures of the day has been learning some curatorial skills of how to handle artefacts, how to safely move them for storage and having the privilege to view the fabulous new store rooms, complete with lift!

One of the biggest jobs of the day, was to carefully remove the two mannequins, store one upstairs in the attic (with some very strange looks from the visitors while we were carrying the 'body' up the narrow stairs) and to 'de-robe' the second and re-dress the replica costume on to a new display mannequin.

Eileen kindly spent a long time explaining the history of the garments, how she made them and their significance to Mrs King, whose life they help to narrate.
At the end of a long day of curation, I was left to arrange the few items I had requested be left behind and I spent the remainder of the day watching the visitors navigate the space. In the original setting, a barrier had been put in place to prevent handling the precious objects, but one of my principal ideas had been to remove it and let the audience enter the room and move around freely. It was therefore interesting to note that in the newly open space, every visitor made straight for the window at the back of the room. Whether this is a human compulsion to orient ourselves to the outside of a building and its surroundings or because there are beautiful gardens beyond to view, I couldn't ascertain but all of the visitors were direct in their mission, to go up to the glass and peer out into the world beyond.

So here is how I left the room at the end of the day, ready for tomorrow's experiments where the wonderful Deirdre Ashton will be singing the collection in the room. I hope you return to this blog tomorrow to hear all about it.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

An Artist's Shopping List

No, not milk, bread and sugar, the list of diverse items that I have been having to search for this week in preparation for my residency at The Priest's House Museum. As this is probably the most ambitious project I have ever undertaken, it has thrown up an equally ambitious list of requirements for all the themes I intend to explore when I am there.
Not wishing to give too many of my ideas away before the event, I will try to provide a glimpse of what I have in mind for my week's residency and some of the bizarre things I have had to go in search for.
My main intention while I am there, is to get the visitors to become more engaged with the room again, and I hope to do this by considering the room's original purpose and providing a variety of presentations to spark their imaginations. As The Georgian Parlour was inhabited by a Mrs King during the late 1700's, I have been looking into her life, her and her husband's occupation as Mercers and their occupancy of the room. There are some fantastic social history books available now and each has provided me with a variety of ideas to explore including considering what fabrics were sold by the family to the wider community, what furniture the Kings' would have had in the room, what pastimes would have been enjoyed by the family and what they would have had for tea! So my shopping list this week has been as follows:
1 x pack of replica 18th century playing cards (next to impossible to find, except in Holland?)
An assortment of battery powered candles (so as not to burn the museum down at an evening viewing)
The rules to a variety of card games
A recipe for Plum Cake
Tea Set designs in the 18th century
Teak wood fabric printing blocks
Georgian interior colour charts
2 x lecterns made to my specifications
5 x plinths (see above, very patient fiance)
A printing company that won't charge the earth for a short run of postcards
Loomstate cotton
The history of potpourri
and acid free tissue paper
I suppose in the grand scheme, it's not the most peculiar list when you consider one of my classmates has been searching for rubber goldfish in the US, but I'm betting that not many professions can boast such a diverse range of required equipment!
More information soon, 13 days to go...

Saturday, 30 March 2013

A week of many 'hats'

Any of my fellow artist friends will understand what I mean by a week of 'hats'.
The official term for it is having a 'portfolio career' which isn't as financial as it sounds, but it can basically be interpreted as meaning most artists have to have variety of strings to their bow in order to survive artistically and yet still manage to pay the electricity bill. I count myself as very lucky, in that all of the aspects of my career are art related, as I know some of my colleagues have to turn their hand to all manner of occupations just to keep their heads above water.
The beginning of my week was spent glued to my laptop, wading through the great long list of research avenues I need to explore before my residency at The Priest's House Museum. Research is never a chore for me, I always feel a little like Sherlock Holmes, pursuing the salient piece of information that will provide me with the answer to a particular line of enquiry. So far I have looked into Georgian fabrics, battery powered candles and how to create a database that anyone can access on the internet (see previous post).
Wednesday saw me assisting my first year tutor, the very inspirational Julia Flatman, with a presentation she was giving at Arts University Bournemouth, concerning engaging students with museums. Julia was demonstrating to the Higher Education Academy, her part in encouraging the degree students in their first year, to participate in the project 'Wunderkammer' - a consideration of the museum as a 'Wonder Room' or 'Cabinet of Curiosities'. Her presentation was excellent as always and it was a privilege to be asked to speak both with her and in front an esteemed audience including representatives from the V&A and the Pitt Rivers Museum.
Thursday was a short day of respite from the degree, organising a variety of publicity material to promote my work as a commercial artist followed by a wonderful trip to the live streaming of the Royal Ballet's production of Alice in Wonderland, satisfying my previous incarnation as a ballet teacher. Then the conclusion of my week has seen me in my post as Gallery Shop Manager at Walford Mill Crafts, both opening for the public over the Easter Weekend and taking charge of our annual stock take. Tonight numbers are swimming before my eyes and I'm not sure that I will get to sleep too quickly, after adding up columns of figures all day.
This just goes to prove that the traditional view of an artist languishing in their studio is inaccurate, most of us have a broad range of skills and fill our days from dawn to dusk rushing about and cramming as much in as they can. I wouldn't change it for the world.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Digital Experiments


After a week of research at the museum and assembling the 'to do' list (which amounted to 66 items) of what needs to be achieved before my residency, I started to look back over my degree tutorials in an attempt to tie up some loose ends. Every tutorial in the last four years has been a unique experience, some great advice, some terrible advice, positive responses to my work and thankfully not very often - negative responses to what I create. The tutorial I had last week, I'm glad to say, was one of the best I have ever had simply because I felt like I new what I needed to discuss and it was met with enthusiasm and a whole bunch of fantastic ideas to add to my train of thought.
When my piece 'The Archive' was installed at university for the day, participants were eager to engage with the instructions left inside and did leave me with the start of some very interesting information of why they visited. It was suggested to me by my tutor that I digitise this information in some way to be able to analyse it and I have spent a couple of days looking at database programmes in order to do this. I started with Excel but quickly realised that I don't know enough of the workings of the programme in order to use it effectively in the short space of time I have to complete this project. I then looked at apps and began to use the one pictured above - iDatabase - which was so user friendly but after inputting all of the information, it occurred to me that this information would only be available to me or those who also have the programme so I started again. Using Google to explore my dilemma, I decided to use Google Spreadsheets which could be accessed by me anywhere and also be made available to the museum when the installation and my residency have finished. Then of course there was the issue of how I could then get my audience to access it too, so here goes, let's hope that this works and gives you a small insight into the information I am gathering and how it looks when put together. Let me know what you think....
The Archive Database

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

 Yesterday I was very fortunate to be invited to attend the South West Federation of Museums and Art Galleries skills day, where there were several speakers discussing the subject of 'Working with Artists'. Emma Ayling, Head Curator at The Priest's House, was discussing the variety of ways in which they collaborate with artists, including showing the first preview of the work I will be doing with them. This made it all very real in a very short space of time, especially having to verbalise it myself and discuss it with both curators and artists alike. I spent a good deal of time after the morning session, meeting with people to gain feedback on the initial ideas and the general consensus was positive but I was asked some very pointed questions regarding what I thought the audience's response would be to changing a very traditional display. It was good to hear the opinion of others (as it always is) and it has given me plenty to think about in the coming week. The remainder of this week will be spent starting to research the specifics of the objects held within the room and formulating a plan for my residency.

Monday, 11 March 2013

So, the long march towards the end of my degree begins. I am fortunate enough to be working towards my final major project with the assistance of The Priest's House Museum in Wimborne Minster but more on that in subsequent posts. The piece I have just completed has had it's first showing in the studios at university and was received very well. Entitled 'The Archive', the aim of the installation is to assist it's audience in considering their presence in a space, whether that be a gallery environment or a museum setting. I made the decision to show it in a white cube space first, both to test the logistics of its assembly and to gauge the reaction from my peers and tutors from a conceptual point of view. Without wishing to divulge too much about the piece as it will be installed in the Priest's House at the end of April, visitors to it were more than happy to participate and interact with it and I have had some very interesting results which I will contemplate later in the week.
Talking of this week, I have to now get very organised and I plan to blog here frequently to verbalise my thought processes leading up to the end of the project and of course, my degree. Tomorrow I have been asked by Emma Ayling, Head Curator at the museum to be available to talk to a symposium of curators who wish to include artists in their individual museums, which is a great honour to be included in and will hopefully lead to feedback and the possibility of future projects. I am looking forward to discussing my plans with the re-interpretation of one of the Priest's House collections and the inclusion of 'The Archive' in the museum space.