Art on Tour at Heysham Library

The painting spent a day at Heysham Library. We met Heysham Art Group as well as members of the community, there to celebrate work by a local painter. One of the visitors bought two watercolours and recounted episodes from his life with great enthusiasm.

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The library hosts a weekly meeting of Heysham Knit and Natter group, who came along with their own ongoing knitting projects, but willingly spent their time contributing knitted fragments, representing areas of the painting.

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If paintings could speak, it would describe an afternoon of broad ranging conversation, about anything and everything, to the soundtrack of knitting needles clicking busily!

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Art on Tour at Heversham Primary School

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At Heversham Primary School, the whole school spent a day responding to the painting in different ways using drawing, painting, printmaking, felt making and construction techniques. They created a beautiful installation celebrating Morecambe Bay which was proudly shared with parents and members of the local community at the end of their day.

Younger children created a huge map of the bay with ink, suggesting a coastline using footprints and handprints dipped into clay. They used wellington boots as the basis for sculptures celebrating the natural landscape which were then placed at the edge of the bay.

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An umbrella became the structure for the sky above the bay over which flies a whole range of bird life, drawn in wonderful detail by older children who also each created a felt peice with a needle felted bird motif applied on top. Tracings of their drawings applied to the tissued structure of the umbrella created a beautiful transparent sense of the sky. And below the sky hung all the felt pieces with needle felted birds – a lovely response to the painting.

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The day ended with an assembly to which parents, members of the local community and school governers attended, where we all reflected on how the installation had been inspired by Keith Grant’s painting.

Art On Tour on Walney Island, Barrow

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The engagement on Walney Island began with high school students at Walney Island High. They constructed larger than life birds, inspired by the birds on Walney, the colours used by the artist and ideas about survival. Keith Grant was very inspired by the poem, ‘A Shropshire Lad’ by AE Houseman, particularly the phrase ‘forest fleece’, and he used this phrase as a title for one of his paintings. This fragment of the poem inspired our use of textiles to explore and respond to the painting in different ways.

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Walney Island St Columba’s Primary School Year 1 children created small felt pieces that were pieced together to create a landscape for their colony of needle felted birds to fly in. They created wonderful poems about what it is like inside the painting – a selection of them are on display in the gallery. They also invented a story about the artist, bringing this to life with fleecy finger puppets in a puppet show which described the day Keith Grant painted ‘Svolvaer Motif’.

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This image shows the backdrop of the children’s felt work with the artist making his painting, his scarf blowing in the gale, standing on our imagined idea of the ‘fiskener’! It has holes in the floor where the artist did his fishing! On the day the painting came to Combe House Nursing Home the young children performed their puppet show to the residents, read out poems and sang.

The residents at Coomb House largely didn’t like the painting at all when it first arrived, but it generated a huge amount of discussion and surprising connections. Holding the lengths of fleece, one of the residents described how the lanolin helped moisturize shepherds hands during shearing. Her husband had been a hill farmer. Their comments gathered together create a thoughtful response to the painting written below.

Svolvaer Motif

It’s gloomy. It’s depressing.

A horrible painting. Dull and dreary.

Cruel to say – it’s a mess. Not to our choice.

But it wouldn’t do if we were all alike.

One man’s meat is another man’s poison.

And we’ve talked of brighter landscapes

Blues and felts,

A beautiful book of Norway,

The Lake District on a grander scale.

And a husband’s hands

As soft as the fleece he’s shorn.

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The students from Walney Island High School brought their birds to Combe House, and then worked with residents using a range of materials to weave into nests for the children’s birds. Birds and nests are now on display in the nursing home garden. Thanks to everyone for a fabulous few days on Walney!

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Art on Tour 2015

Lakeland Arts has been taking the painting, ‘Svolvaer Motif’ by Keith Grant to locations around Morecambe Bay this summer, celebrating the painting as well as the vast natural environment that defines South Lakes. From Barrow, to Grange over Sands, to Heversham and Heysham, communities in schools, libraries and nursing homes have engaged with the painting in a range of different ways. svolvaer

Keith Grant’s paintings communicate his enthusiasm for the wildness of northern landscapes. He sees an austere beauty, experiencing the landscape as a powerful mix of elements, fragile, delicate and transient, yet forceful and eruptive. He is fascinated by the sense that life on our planet endures in spite of the cataclysmic events that overwhelm. Keith Grant created this painting whilst living in a ‘fiskener’, a wooden platform above the sea with holes in the floor from which he caught fish to eat. Muted tones of browns, blues, greens and greys create a stormy atmospheric quality, a cliff side with a brooding overcast sky. The single image of a bird’s silhouette flies across the image from the left. This ‘lone forager’ is perhaps a symbol of his own personal experience of surviving in a lonely and apparently inhospitable environment.

Well that’s it now then – a final word from Tom

WP_20150707_14_05_25_Pro WP_20150707_15_42_16_Pro WP_20150203_12_46_58_Pro WP_20150203_15_27_58_Pro WP_20150707_15_53_39_Pro WP_20150203_14_12_13_ProWell that’s it now then.

Just finished the last North cohort day on the Hothouse program.

And it all feels a little bit odd to be honest. I think I am really going to miss it.

The brief for this session had been playing on my mind for quite some time. We were given the task of presenting our “business plan” to the rest of the group and a few invited craft professionals and I was struggling with the whole idea as I really didn’t consider what I did in my making to be an actual business, primarily because I wasn’t actually making any money through selling the things I had made. So I had decided to forget about the scary business word and just call it “my plan for future making”, which just made more sense to me.

I arrived at Manchester Craft and Design Centre with a chronic stomach ache, (probably psycho sematic) feeling nervous (normal) but also kind of strangely excited about the prospect of talking about my future plans (not normal).

It was great to see all the group again and after a quick catch up it was time to get down to business. When it came close to my time to present, that weird thing happened where I start to nervously shake or kind of vibrate internally. I’m not sure if anyone else can actually see this when it happens, but I feel like I’m having some kind of seizure which everyone in the room is just ignoring out of politeness. Anyway, I told it to go away and this time, for some reason, it did.

I began my presentation by apologising to the attending Hothouse partners for the fact that due to my difficulties with the written word I would have to totally concentrate on reading word to word from my notes, and that my eye contact with them would be very minimal. (Good to start on a positive note)

I then introduced myself and said..

“ Hello My name is Tom Philipson, I am a furniture maker and designer, making nontraditional furniture and sculptural objects. I use traditional woodworking tools and techniques which have been adapted experimentally to produce works that are unique and unusual in their form and construction”.

“But basically, it has become apparent to me that, I just make weird stuff from wood that few people seem to want or need”. (My very own Unique Un-Selling Point or UUSP)

“But that’s Ok.”

“As I believe there is a way that one day I can somehow start to make this pay”

“I have come to the realisation over the past year, through the Hothouse program and through reflecting on my practice, that people on the whole may not want or need many of the things I produce, but generally people seem to actually really like and admire my work. And even those that do not like it at the very least find it interesting and it gets a reaction from them. It’s a bit like, Made you look, Made you think.. and this is a good thing.”

“At a recent craft fair I exhibited at the comments ranged from:”

“That’s amazing, you are a genius”

“which was a bit over the top and I had to pull them up on it”

“to:”

(Cockney accent) “Oh no… Chop It up and f***n burn it… I don’t like spiders..”

“ which was hilarious and I will treasure the memory of those words for the rest of my life”

“So, the question is, how do I turn making furniture and sculpture that doesn’t seem, at present to be hugely commercially viable, and doesn’t appeal to everyone’s taste or pocket, into a successful craft practice.”

“The answer I have come up with is to simply widen my audience. To do this I will have a core to my practice which I can rely on for income to pay for the necessities in life like mortgages, school shoes and toilet rolls. And this will give me the freedom to continue producing weird stuff that makes people go.. “Wow” or “What?”

I then went on to talk about:

The Core Waged part of my practice, Show pieces, Batch production, Experiments, Commissions, Hypothetical shelving of ideas and products, Dumbing down work and then getting bored of making it, Dyslexic mushed up brains, (You had to be there) What I intend to be doing at the end of this year, Next year, and in five years’ time.

I handed round examples of the different types of direction for my work.

And I finished it all off with a bit of reflection:

“This has been an interesting exercise for me. It has helped me to realize how far I have come, where I am now and how far I can possibly go in the future.”

“Some of the statements I have made about where I perceive myself to be in five years’ time felt a little far-fetched and over optimistic when I was writing them down, but if I look back and see where I was when I started this designing and making journey I realise that this is not the case.”

“It was only three years ago that I was working for builders on a construction site with small town, racist, homophobic, bad newspaper reading, bad radio station listening habits. Pulling down ceilings in order to pay for school shoes and toilet rolls.”

“So in just three years my practice has developed immensely and I know now that if I carry on in the direction that my passion for making takes me that there is possibly no limit to where I may end up.”

I then looked up and gave them all some eye contact:

The feedback everyone gave me was very kind. No-one seemed to mind that I just read it out, they seemed to think that what I was saying was actually more important than how I was saying it. I was very relieved and it filled me with confidence. Katia even said that it made her feel emotional and she started to well up. (But I’m not sure I believe her)

I then went back to my seat and listened to the rest of my fellow makers presentations. They were all fantastic. Everyone did brilliantly and it was great to see how far everyone has come over the past few months.

In the final part of the afternoon we all took part in a meeting potential applicants for next year’s program thing, or Networking (Hate that word).

This was fun. Bit weird at first. They all looked awkward and nervous like first year students waiting to come in but it soon became really relaxed (thanks to the Scottish co-hort for their left over prosecco) and it was very interesting and enjoyable to meet them all and give out some advice about applications and the content of the program. Good look to you all.

I left the session feeling really relieved about getting my presentation out of the way. But at the same time I also felt a little flat about the coming to the end of the program. We still have one session left in September where we all get together in London, So I’m not saying it is actually over to myself yet.

So on a positive note, it’s great to know that I don’t have to worry about having to do any more scary presentations in the near future.

But the weird thing is that I think I am, ever so starting to begin to, kind of, In a very small way, actually enjoy them.

(“Did I just say that!”)

Thank you Hothouse I’m doing things I never thought I could do.

The Making of The Yellow Wallpaper

We started The Yellow Wallpaper project with Emilie Taylor and Space2Create in March and are almost ready to unveil their finished work! This ceramic installation, inspired by Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s classic text of the same name, was made at Blackwell and will be displayed in the yellow bedroom until 6 September 2015. Please join us on 14 July 2015 to celebrate the project, view the work and meet the women who made it.

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When we left off last time, the group had just finished rolling out tiles. These were left to dry while we discussed Gilman’s work and developed motifs inspired by her story. We used collage to merge our motifs with a wallpaper pattern that runs through each tile and then traced our designs directly onto the tiles. Next, we filled our designs in with yellow liquid clay – or slip.

The final step was adding a bit of detail. We used pencils, pens, and needles to scratch through the slip and reveal dark brown clay beneath – a process called sgraffito. And here they are, ready to be fired!

The colours will change after they come out of the kiln and we can’t wait to see how they turn out!

Please RSVP to Jasmine O’Flaherty at 015394 46139 or rsvp@blackwell.org.uk if you would like to attend the opening at Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House on 14 July 2015 from 2:30 – 4:30.

 

Sails: are they as robust as they look?

Sails…aren’t they tough as old boots, used to rain, wind and sun, designed to withstand unbelievably strong forces? Yes, they are – but it is because of the rugged life that they’ve led in Windermere weather that we have to take special care of them now if we want to extend their lifespan well beyond their original makers’ expectations.

Fine craftsmanship on Dawn's 1934 2nd foresail

Fine craftsmanship on Dawn’s 1934 2nd foresail – and evidence of wear

Our oldest sail in the collection belongs to 1934 17ft Windermere yacht Dawn. It dates from the year of her launch and still has its original sailbag. Other absolute beauties also survive from the 1930s – all made by prestigious sailmakers Ratsey and Lapthorn of Cowes.

Ratsey and Lapthorn stamp on Dawn's 2nd foresail 1934

The Ratsey and Lapthorn stamp on Dawn’s 1934 2nd foresail

Now we are taking a museum approach to their preservation, bearing in mind their greatly increased fragility due to years of exposure to light, moisture and dirt.  We called on accredited textile conservator Michelle Harper to advise us, knowing that she’s worked on HMS Victory’s sails, so is used to challenges on a grand scale. Michelle ran a sail surface cleaning workshop in our space at Brockhole Visitor Centre and kept a very close eye on us while we laboured under her tuition. We were really pleased with the results which will help us move on with a ‘deeper’ clean of more of the sails in the collection but struck just the right balance between removing more recent soiling while keeping evidence of historic use.

Training from Michelle in how to use a smoke sponge to remove surface dirt

Carefully supervised training from Michelle in how to use a smoke sponge to remove surface dirt

A successful tissue paper sausage can be a dangerous weapon...

We also practised the best packing methods for sails and sail bags. A successful tissue paper sausage can be a dangerous weapon…

We used ‘smoke sponges’ and old fashioned elbow grease rather than water, but will also be sending Dawn’s classy 1949 sails away to Michelle for tests in preparation for a specialist conservation wet clean. The 1949 set will then be on display in our new exhibition space in rotation with the 1930s set to avoid excessive light exposure.

Michelle and Dorothy working on Dawn's 2nd foresail from 1934

Conservator Michelle and Volunteer Dorothy working on Dawn’s 2nd foresail from 1934 in the display space at Brockhole

Right now, our newly trained staff and volunteer team can’t wait to try out new skills and clean the rest of the sail collection. It may be rewarding, but cleaning with the smoke sponge is also really hard physical work, so we’re not even going to try to calculate the total sail area that still needs our attention!

Astrid working on one of Dawn's 1930s sailbags

Volunteer Astrid working methodically on Dawn’s 1949 sailbag