New Expressions: Developing Sky

Harriet kicked off today with a beautiful poem inspired by John’s reading last week from Dorothy Wordsworth’s journal, describing a memorable journey in the rain. We also sang Happy Birthday to Martin, welcomed Peter and Rosa, ate flapjack and explored the map! Geoff and Joan particularly enjoyed looking closely at moments within the map from recent weeks.

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Geoff found a moment from last week at Grasmere, his first glimpse of Uta’s blue sky in the rain.


Harriet read an extract from AE Houseman’s A Shropshire Lad – ‘From far, from eve and morning / And yon twelve-winded sky, the stuff of life to knit me / Blew hither: here am I’. And this led into working on the inner panels for the parasol……


The studio was full of beautiful shades of blue, and we very quickly got busy mixing colour inspired by the range of cloudscapes collages. Painted and printed pieces will be layered together and stitched into the inside of the parasol.

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And throughout the afternoon, the parasol itself began to be transformed into the sky….


We ended the afternoon with a display of cloud paintings and prints and a discussion about the day. John had worked expressively in paint and with words – ‘in clouds of joy’. Mandy described feeling like a real artist, forgetting herself and just working really intuitively. Jack had struggled through a question about how to do it and resolved it! Geoff had brought photographs of him climbing in the French Alps and painted a mountain side reaching into the clouds. We talked about high walks and low walks and being out ‘whatever the weather’. Martin said he has always loving walking and described in detail a walk to Keswick many years ago. Annette communicated immense pleasure, and not just the pleasure of the moment of creative activity, but throughout the rest of the week she finds herself noticing more – looking up at the sky, looking at colours in nature. Pat was happy to be there, enjoying the buzz of conversation and activity. Nita worked on the parasol with great energy, at one point holding a paintbrush between her teeth as she used another to work paint into the cloth, maintaining a commentary throughout! Pat watched her with evident enjoyment.

At the end of the afternoon, Harriet crawled under the parasol and opened it up and we could see more of the sky that was growing – and have a look at the inside….lovely to see stains of painting flowing through. The parasol will find its way to Penrith on Tuesday for further transformation!

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Harriet listened as we talked and created a poem from fragments of the conversation. Lovely to have creative activity and engagement reflected back to the group so beautifully. A wonderful afternoon.

New Expressions Weather Report: Preparing for Friday


We’ve been busy getting ready for the first practical session on Friday. The map now has a cover made with many of the sky photographs the group have taken over recent weeks….but take a look inside…..


Sections of the map have been opened up and the places we have visited can be untied and unfolded to create a visual narrative that describes moments from the project so far.

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Images concertina out to overlap and connect. We took some photographs in the gallery on our first day and so several images of the eggs can be unfolded from Hawsewater, and these intertwine with images from Kendal, Orton Scar and Grasmere. Similar threads of imagery will unfold from Penrith and Carlise when activity begins there and a lovely feeling of creative connection across Cumbria will feel tangible! The map will provide an important moment at the beginning of every session. Maps are full of resonance and symbolic meaning, inviting exploration and recognition. Our map will help return us to previous experiences and locate us all in a moment of new activity.


Cloud collages have also been created which will form an important stimulus for creative activity.

And the square of fabric that covers the crown of the parasol has been used as a sample to look at how it takes paint and printing ink. Really looking forward to In the Moment on Friday!


Building New landscapes

The artist and designer Rachel Kelly led the session, beginning downstairs in Abbot Hall’s period rooms where the decorative cornicing on the plush red and sage green walls frame traditional oil paintings. She drew out a discussion about how the rooms have been designed to display these paintings, creating very particular spaces.


We moved through these “roomscapes” towards the watercolour gallery where we thought about perspective in dramatic landscapes by Turner and Ruskin and in townscapes full of people on market day. We thought about how these paintings were great descriptions of the world.

We went upstairs to Taking Flight and to very different paintings! The group began to think about how paintings can represent ideas, feelings and a sense of place and we chose our favourite works to describe. Some great words! The paintings were “fast”, “exciting”, “hypnotising” and “elemental”.  And from these descriptions we began to work in card, making 3D artist’s tools for drawing with. We tore and cut fluid shapes and made patterns inspired by the paintings to a jazz soundtrack, filling the gallery with rhythm and a fluid improvisational atmosphere.


These artist’s tools helped us to make impressions in soft pastels adding colour to the shapes we had created in the gallery.


Initial studies provided inspiration for everyone’s individual 3D landscapes. Lorna made a landscape space that she could inhabit! Alice created sculptural sea waves. Jem created a large boat in which to sail the St Ives seas. Iona made a music themed collage and a beach house with a firey roof. Nico made a landscape in which the four elements ran into one another – water quenching fire making smoke rise through the air into the leaves of a tree growing from the earth.


Individual landscapes made each painting come to life in 3D form. Imaginations took flight! Exciting objects and shapes that could exist within the abstract paintings. A very busy creative day!

New Expressions: Weather Report Day TWO


Grey skies and shiny wet pathways and puddles in Grasmere today!


We began with tea and Harriet’s banana cake, looking at the map and the lovely photographs we had taken of the amazing cloud scapes of last Friday on Orton Scar. Harriet read the poem created by everyone’s responses – utterly beautiful. The group were spell bound. Then out through the rain and across to meet Jeff with a quick glimpse at Uta’s blue sky – strange and incongruous on a day like today!


Jeff had lots to share with the group. Dorothy’s journals and letters regularly make reference to the weather. Mary was surprised that Jeff wasn’t wearing special gloves and he explained that special gloves can damage fragile and aged paper much more easily than clean hands and carfeul handling! Dorothy’s journals are stored in tiny made to measure boxes.


John read out a passage about a particularly wet day with real drama and expression, much to everyone’s delight. Jeff read out the journal entry which describes the moment on one of the Wordsworth’s walks which inspired the Daffodils poem. We all tried to remember it, and did really well, some of us remembering they were golden daffodils, others remembering that they were dancing daffodils – we were all correct as Wordsworth altered it several times!

Geoff unveiled the most recent aquisition to Wordsworth Trust’s collection, a painting by Matthias Read of Ouse Bridge, painted in 1720 and said to be the first image ever painted of the Lake District.

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Joan remembered a beautiful fragment of poetry by Wordsworth – she spoke the words aloud… ” and the sky never before so beautiful, sank down into my heart and held me like a dream.” Jeff managed to find the poem online. The lines are from Prelude and Jeff was able to show us the handwritten manuscript of the poem, although we couldn’t find the lines that Joan remembered.


We finished our session with Jeff with the opening lines to Resolution and Independence – ‘There was a roaring in the wind all night; the rain came heavily and fell in floods…’ words that seemed to describe the weather today perfectly! It felt very special to be in a room so filled with words and stories that celebrate the life of Wordsworth and protect an incredible legacy of writing. Beautiful language seemed to fill the air, a feeling of being very close to the landscape, aware of weather and its dramatic and poetic impact.


Back outside in the rain, we had a quick look at Uta’s blue sky before heading back to the car park sheltering under big umbrella’s!

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New Expressions Engagement Project: Weather Report Day ONE


We began our exploration of the sky in the gallery surrounded by Uta’s huge photographs of eagle eggs. We discussed eagles, how they behave, feed and nest. Geoff and Joan had brought along a photograph they had taken of the eagle at Haweswater and Sue found images of eagles flying very low, leading to much discussion about their strength, their beauty and their talons!


A map of Cumbria focused the group on the landscape that we are exploring, but this is a map with a difference! The map has been scumbled with paint to create a feeling of looking down through wisps of cloud to the landscape below. It has also been collaged with fragments of weather and shipping forecasts and the wonderful language contained within the Beaufort Scale. It will be a focus as we continue the project. We passed around egg shaped forms made out of wood, felt and wire as Harriet read beautiful poetry…’up with me, up with me into the clouds…’ and an extract from Alice in Wonderland…’when clouds go rolling by, they roll away and leave the sky…’…..then away from the gallery, into the coach and up to Orton Scar for panoramic sky views.


Everyone had an iPad and after a few reminders about how they work and an invitation to film the sky as well as take still photographs, the viewfinders were fixed on the environment around us….and what an environment!


The sky was incredible and the group took some amazing photographs.



From the brightest of blues and light and airiness to a huge looming cloud full of foreboding weather! Everyone enjoyed looking at the photographs we’d taken.


We even took some lovely photographs of clouds in puddles!

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Then it was down to the Orton Scar Cafe for tea and cake. Harriet was carrying a cloud bag, a bag full of words from the poetry she had read aloud, and as words were passed round, we were all asked to create a sentence that included the words we held.


‘Floods of joy, so glad I came! A day to remember for ever.’ Harriet is a word weaver – she will ‘word weave’ another blog to share more of this beautiful language!

Over tea, we all looked again at our photography and films and listened as John read aloud the groups sentences – a wonderful way of describing the feelings and impressions that the weather evoked. Then back to Kendal through beautiful valleys and views across the tops of hedgerows to the immense sky above.

Mobile Magic

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Mobile Magic began with a quick look at some of the work in Taking Flight. We were exploring ideas to do with flight and being up in the air and the sensation of different sounds and perspectives. The artist Hannah Fox led the workshop, immediately drawing the group into her playful approach to making art. Using the pages of an old book, the group created a range of objects including boats, carrots, butterflies, a cow’s head, a kite, hot water bottles……that Hannah then hung in the tree! A ‘flotsam and jetsam’ tree! Being playful with shapes and objects got everyone in the mood to be creative and over in the LAB, imaginations began to soar.

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Constructions began fixed to table tops, with Hannah encouraging everyone to look at how to construct upwards and then allow elements to flow down, move gently, dangle, turn and twist in the air. Everyone enjoyed selecting objects, joining feathers and threading beads to create intriguing shapes in the air.

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It was soon time to carry completed mobiles back to the gallery to create some magic on the gallery walls.

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And in the gallery, Hannah switched on her special light bucket to create a magical shadow display.

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A lovely day – from gliding in the air and curious trees to spiralling shapes and dancing shadows – lovely creative fun!

Art Camp Day Five


The sun shone on us all day today. Vivid blue skies on Day Five! The Art Campers were hugely focused on the final push to complete personal projects, create bird collages, assemble prints and then transform the studio for their exhibition at the end of the day.

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Intense concentration, commitment and involvement was clear to see. And some beautiful collaged birds began to take flight across the inky landscape….


Then it was time to clear the space for the exhibition – clean hands, clear equipment and paint and glue…. and sweep the floor!


Placing artworks in the space, carefully assembling and arranging their work. Thinking about titles!

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The artists created their own sign for the door and refreshments were laid out ready for guests to arrive.

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Everyone will take wonderful memories away from Art Camp. It was inspirational, creative and challenging – and it was fun and social too. Everyone got on really well, worked hard, made new friends. It was great working with Julian and sharing his love of art, and all of us being so inspired by the Taking Flight exhibition in the gallery. I think parents were very impressed with the achievements of the next generation of artists!!