Tom on – Peer networking day at Toynbee Hall, London.

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Another really brilliant day meeting up with all the other participants. Now i know it would be emerging maker, Crafts Council suicide to say otherwise, but truly, i had such a good time..

A really hectic and yet enjoyable day. I went with the clear intention of properly meeting and introducing myself personally to all the other participants on the program. This turned out to be a little bit like speed dating, or “Speed Hothouse Maker Meeting” as I think I will call it.(Perhaps they should introduce this into next years program). However I still didn’t get round everyone, must finish it off next time.

The only slightly negative part of the day for me was that usually when I am in a beautiful historic building similar to that of Toynbee Hall for any particular event or reason, I can always seem to find the time to drift off and study the architecture and interior woodwork to consider its history, the techniques involved in its construction, inappropriate restorations and alterations etc.(What an exciting life I lead). But today there simply wasn’t time and rightly so. I’ll just have to go back one day.

In the morning session, Sarah Hewett, community programs manager from Etsy, gave us a great talk on topics including, selling our work online, images, pr and press. This was all really useful even for those among us who had never considered selling our work through an on-line platform.
I will have to read through the notes on this as unfortunately I had to leave for my slot of PHOTO-TAS-TIC TIME, with photographer Tas Kyprianou, “What a Dude”. He was such a hilarious and genuinely nice man, put me totally at ease.
Having never had a professional photo-shoot of myself with my work before I was expecting feelings of awkwardness and embarrassment and for the whole thing to ooze cheesiness with forced smiles and cringe-worthy Marks & Spencers poses. It was in fact the total opposite, so much so that by the end of the session I had even started directing him as to the weird shots I wanted taking. (They won’t use those ones). I even managed to convince him to photo-shop out the dodgy logo on the shirt I had borrowed that morning. (Didn’t really do shirts before Hothouse. Getting into them now, but not with dodgy logos)
So thanks Tas, It was incredible to be in such proficient hands.

In the afternoon session Anna Collette Hunt, participant on Hothouse 3, talked about her experience on the Mentoring and Buddying schemes. I personally found this extremely useful in terms of my own work and how I want the schemes to assist me with the intended direction I am currently concentrating on for my future practice.

Then it was !!!!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRGH !!!!!   ” Talking About The Work ”

We all had to stand up and talk about the work brought along by a fellow participant. I have found these exercises excruciatingly uncomfortable, but now through the pain and nervous embarrassment I have come to the realization that its all cool and fine, and that non of it really matters. I know that I am not a good public speaker, but why would I be, I have never done it before, and thus I am not practiced. The first time I ever made a piece of furniture I am sure it was pretty crap really, and this is no different.  So I have decided to be as open and honest in my professional practice as I am in my actual making. And just do it. Don’t over-think it and don’t worry about it. Then surely I will slowly improve through practice.

However it was truly great to see all the work everyone had brought in and to hear all the presentations. So well done everyone. And also, on top of everything we learned from the exercise, we also had the added benefit of COLLECTIVELY CAUSING LAUGHTER INDUCED FACILITATOR FACE ACHE!
(This, for those not there, is a good thing)

Then it was quickly outside for more “Photo-Tas-tic time”, for the Hothouse 5 official group photo. I cant wait to see the results when they come through…
So thanks to everyone involved in providing such a valuable experience, I had such a laugh, but also learned loads too.

Oh.. and I also forgot to mention lunch. (A seemingly popular part for discussion on the Hothouse experience so far).  Well to be honest I cant remember.  I was too busy shoving salad leaves into my mouth (attractive) as I walked around trying to do “Speed Hothouse Maker Meeting”. But I’m sure it was probably lovely….

A fragile piece of history

We’re working on the smaller objects that will be shown with the boats in the new Windermere Jetty museum. It’s about thinking and seeking advice first – then working carefully, stopping, assessing, and thinking some more before continuing.
Volunteer Mel has been cleaning a fragile seat from Sir Henry Segrave’s boMIss England II card signed by Segraveat, Miss England II which capsized and sank during his water speed record attempt of 1930. Segrave and his crew achieved an average of 98.76 mph before the disaster in which he and engineer Victor Halliwell were killed. The boat was salvaged by Windermere boatbuilders and pursued further records but no longer exists.

The seat was preserved and used by surviving engineer Michael Willcocks. It is an emotive remnant from an iconic and tragic vessel. Pictures and film show the unbelievably lightweight seat perched in Segrave’s so-called  ‘bomb in an eggshell’. Behind it, the twin Rolls Royce R type V-12 engines, barely contained in 5 tonnes of boat, are ready to roar into action.
The chair was dull and grey all over with a thick coating of dust. Over time, this would attract moisture andMel cleaning Miss England II seat cause further damage, as well as detracting from the appearance. Mel methodically removed the loose dirt with a brush and low suction vacuum cleaner then worked slowly over the surface with a smoke sponge.
The hardest thing was to know when to stop. Cleaning can become addictive but we only want to remove dirt, rather than bits of the object or historic evidence attached to it.
Here’s the finished result, ready for our Segrave display in the new museum. Working on something like this, you really are aware of the heavy weight of history and human experience behind it.
It is a moving and sobering experience and we approach it with caution and respect.


Last week, we met with learning teams across the North to see what they were up to. First stop was Tullie House, where ‘ARTIST ROOMS Anselm Kiefer’ is on display until June 7, 2015. The exhibition, which explores identity in post-war Germany, has been popular with school groups. We chatted with their Learning Officer and met an artist who runs student-workshops inspired by Keifer’s work.

Next up was Newcastle, where we met with Sue Coles and Equal Arts at the Baltic. Sue is a whirlwind of ideas and inspiration for arts education in the North East, and now across the country. So we picked her brains before discussing ‘My Creative Challenge’ with Douglas and Alice of EA. Exciting times and partnerships ahead for Abbot Hall Art Gallery and Blackwell.

Newcastle is also the home of Seven Stories National Centre for Children’s Books. We spent an entire afternoon touring their exhibitions and learning about their programmes and research projects. The exhibits, which feature original book illustrations from their archive, are designed for young families and enjoyed by all. We missed story time, but did a bit of light reading in their bookshop.

At Beamish The Living Museum of the North, we were transported back in time and got a behind-the-scenes tour of their mammoth collections storage area. Their immersive school programmes teach children about history by putting them to work in the gardens and the mines. Programmes for older students tackle tough issues like teenage pregnancy and substance abuse. Their most popular workshop is a Victorian lesson in an old classroom – which they offer in both French and English.

We came away with lots of ideas for future programs and exhibitions!

A big thank you to all our hosts!

Follow them all on Twitter:
@lakelandarts @TullieHouse @theartcriminal @equal_arts @7Stories @Beamish_Museum