Heart of Glass

This month I was invited to develop and lead a session for Heart of Glass which has been programmed by artist and creative producer Claire Weetman and funded by ACE's Creative People and Places. Heart of Glass is a programme of creative activities in St Helens, Merseyside, which takes place in public spaces and community venues across the town. Claire has invited artists to respond to the locality, based on their own practice and interests.

I initially met Claire in St Mary's Market, in the local shopping centre in St Helens, where Heart of Glass have set up a creative base below Platform Studios, who occupy the former market offices. We spent some time talking about the programme, walking through the markets and also popped into St Helen's World of Glass museum.

I was immediately struck by the huge market windows overlooking the glass museum and, following my interest in colour, light and transparency, I decided to develop a session that would encourage participants and passers-by to respond to the window space.

As part of the session for young people and also a fortnightly family art club, participants were invited to work with a range of materials to create artworks that could be added to the windows or taken away. The installation grew as I worked alongside artist/producer Jacqui, assistant and promoter Ant, and some very enthusiastic children and young people who took a roll of electrical tape for a walk along the windows. It was lovely to see the layers of colours and lines appearing on the glass over the the outside views. We had a range of colourful, semi-transparent images, abstract designs, 3D forms (including post boxes!), paths, lines and kaleidoscopic images produced. Such a lovely venue and great people to work with.

Check out their flickr feed here!  

Colour Compositions: Easter Matisse at Tate Liverpool

I've had the most colourful time at Tate Liverpool over the past few weeks as we turned the Clore Studio into an immersive world of colourful compostions, where art and activity began to creep and grow across the blank walls, floors and columns of the studio space.

Our starting point was The Snail by Henri Matisse (1953), Tate Liverpool's current work 'to know by heart'. On loan from the Centre Pompidou, The Snail is on display until May 2nd and is a key example of Matisse's cut-outs. It's worth going to see just to enjoy the scale and colour of the work and it is a significant piece to see up close as it's unlikely it will tour to another venue in our lifetime, due to its fragile nature.

Made at a time when Matisse was too ill to paint, the cut-outs were a new and exciting development as he used his scissors to cut out shapes directly from coloured sheets painted by his assistants. Some works were more abstract than others and The Snail at first looks that way but then it becomes clear that Matisse has composed his 'dancing' coloured shapes to form a distilled impression of the spiral shell. I asked many young visitors to look for the snail shape and there was much discussion about which way the shell turned and where the head could be found.

Participants then chose their own paper colour palettes and were challenged to cut shapes straight out of the paper to make their own colour cut compositions. These began to grow along the studio walls as we created a collective colour display and also a floor-based composition piece. There was also the chance to create transient colour projections and weave a colourful trail of coloured lines across the space through yarn bombing - which went down well with lots of children! The music, lights, shadows and colour also had a positive impact on participants who talked about how 'relaxing' and 'immersive' the space was.

There were so many avenues for development - we could have worked on it for another couple of weeks at least. If anything it was a great way of creating interweaving snail trails from a great piece of art.

 

 

For the Love of Books!

 

In the age of iPads, iPhones and a multitude of other digital screen-oriented devices, the humble story book may be taking more of a backseat in some homes. Once introduced, young children become highly proficient tablet users in no time, familiar with all the taps, apps and swipes. On one hand, we can marvel at the swift manner in which children learn to skilfully operate such devices. Indeed, when using the right kinds of applications the tablet can become both a powerful and useful learning tool. On the other hand, and more worryingly, children remain more and more receptive and passive to the screen, which in turn has an impact on productive communication and language development.

 

The good news is we still have books! Books are also powerful and enjoyable learning tools that can immerse us in a world of excitement, adventures, beauty and ugly monsters too. We are more likely to read books together and share and discuss our thoughts and impressions through speech and actions. So, in an attempt to re-ignite the passion for books, I have been working alongside project co-ordinator and artist Katy McCall from High Peak Community Arts. For the Love of Books is a lottery-funded project that encourages young children and adults to spend more time together reading and engaging with books. The project is currently focusing on working with families in hard-to-reach rural community settings around High Peak, Derbyshire, in nursery schools and children's centres. Taking inspiration from a chosen book, children, their parents, carers and teachers are encouraged to read and explore the story together through a range of creative activities that help to bring the story world to life.

 

Our chosen book Around the World with Mouk by Marc Boutavant is an excellent book for visual literacy, encouraging parents and children to explore the theme of journeys, countries, cultures, food and languages together. Mouk the Bear leaves his Parisian home and friends in search of a highly colourful adventure which leaves children immersed as their eyes explore all the beautiful illustrations across the richly detailled pages.  In response, to the book, we set up a number of activities in each nursery setting such as mono-printing, drawing and mark-making, puppets and projections. exploring objects and music from different cultures and introducing words in different languages.

 

The project is continuing as more artists are invited to respond to different books and themes. A simple idea can lead to a unique insight into the interaction between young children, parents, staff and artists and their practice, as well as having the opportunity to engage with a range of enjoyable and beloved books. For more information on the project and the organisation click here. 

Creative Picture Playground: Pop-Up Posers

It's photoshoot time and we're drawing inspiration from the Parr-look, which is on-trend this season!
 

This week, I will be leading Creative Playground at the Hepworth Wakefield, sending budding young photographers, picture-makers and posers to see the Rhubarb Triangle and Other Stories: Photographs by Martin Parr  - a detailled exhibition of the work of Martin Parr through the decades from his black & white nostalgic scenes of rural, methodist communities in West Yorkshire to his glossy, colourful critiques of subjects such as leisure, tourism, money and work.

In the studio the set-up will be playful with the chance to make some humorous collaged, pop-up scenes. There will also be a range of colourful sensory props, objects and materials to transform ourselves into different pop-up playful characters.

Looking forward to striking a pose and keeping the #hepworthwakefield Instagram feed active this week! Also, check out my @filledelumiere Instagram page!

#creativeplayground #hepworthwakefield #hepworthlearning #popupposers #popuppictures #popupportraits #popupphotos #popupphotobooth

One day I will...

It has been another action-packed week working and travelling across the North West of England and beyond, before finally ending up back in Manchester to work with some rather excited and enthusiastic young people at the Royal Exchange. As part of the 'Theatreworks' project, I joined students from Our Lady's RC High School in Oldham at the end of what had also been a long and fruitful week for them too!

 

The young people had previously started on a journey with the learning team from the Royal Exchange Theatre at their school. They had begun to think about different ways they could work with the theatre to consider the 'future' after finishing school. They were given a tour of the different departments of the theatre and also creatively developed characters of their future 'selves' through drawing with Jim Medway, making story-boards, models and stop-frame animation with film-maker Matt Norman. It was my job to work with a team of young 'designers' to make sense of their journey and organise their artworks, ideas and reflections in an installation in the Lounge as part of the celebration.

 

My team of designers spent time creating visual backdrops for their fictional characters, devising a plan for the space and writing a wishlist of props and objects to creatively convey the roles of their characters. I also asked them to work on a timeline of their journey through the project, providing space to think about their feelings and reflections of the process, which were visually portrayed on the wall of the installation. Over the two days, the young people began to show more confidence and creativity and rose to the challenge of independently organising and arranging their artworks, which fit nicely into glass display cabinets that could rival any shop window display. I challenged myself to take a step back, which can be hard as a visual artist who wants everything to look spot-on and just so!

 

The project culminated in a performance by some of the young people and an opening of the Lounge exhibition, which the young people really took pride and ownership of as they showed friends and family their work in the installation. It was a lovely, heart-warming project to be part of.

Pop-Up at the Pavilion

My work takes me to all sorts of interesting venues and spaces and today was no exception. I was invited to do a pop-up workshop in the Mount Pavilion in Fleetwood near Blackpool, as part of a programme of pop-up holiday events programmed byLeftcoast.

I was really lucky as, despite the cool winter temperatures, the skies were blue and the sun was shining - perfect for a train and coastal tram ride to Fleetwood - a town right at the end of a stretch of coastline above Blackpool. Built in the 1800s on an extensive network of rabbit warrens (apparently!), The Mount Pavilion is perfectly positioned as a vantage point for views along the North West coastline which stretch as far as the Lake District and the Isle of Man on a good day. Perched on the hill like a glorious bandstand, the Pavilion houses a memorial clock which is supposed to chime every quarter of an hour, although I didn't hear it as I was pretty busy the whole time I was there! The Pavilion is currently being restored to its former glory and acts as a perfect base for cultural, community events.

I was greeted by two groups of workshop participants keen to get started with experimental paper pop-ups. The session Pop-Up Paper Play introduced ways to fold and cut paper to make pop-up dioramas and scenes, something I have been developing and working with myself recently. The 3D creations seemed really fitting for a pop-up programme in this unique venue.

It was a refreshing change to work at the seaside and meet members of the community of Fleetwood. The Pavilion was a perfect base overlooking the seafront and landscaped play areas and I'm sure there are lots of interesting activities programmed in what proved to be a quirky and curious space to get creative in.

You can also see some photos of Mount Pavilion scenes past here.

My Space!

 

Here's a lovely video of Myspace, a workshop I developed with Manchester Art Gallery's formal learning team last year, which brought together young people from Mottram Academy and The Fallibroome Academy to explore the House Proud exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery. You can read more about the Myspace project here.

 

 

Between the Trees

I've been venturing INTO THE WOODS, on behalf of the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. Associate Artistic Director Matthew Xia's brilliantly adapts the magical, dark and funny Broadway musical and story that merges three classic fairy tales (Rapunzel, Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood) together, bringing it to Manchester in a truly spectacular fashion!

Working with young people from Brownedge St Mary's Catholic High School, Walkden High School and Parrs Wood Sixth Form (my old school and sixth form college!), I ran art workshops to provide ideas and techniques to make 3D, pop-up dioramas or mini story worlds. Using old books, a collection of papers, card, art materials, leaves and a good dose of imagination, the young people were given some inspiration to make their pop-out worlds (some of which are pictured above).

A selection of the best works from a multitude of schools across the North West were then added to the Between the Trees art exhibition which was installed (literally between some trees) in the Royal Exchange's Education Lounge by artist Johnny Woodhams. I was really fortunate to be able to catch the opening of the exhibition and also the Into the Woods musical, which was a perfect way to get into a slightly dark and festive mood after a long year of work.

 

Into the woods, It's time to go, I hate to leave, I have to though...!

 

 

We Are Resident: 10 Minute Artist Residency Take-Over at Manchester Art Gallery

This Saturday 28th November, I will be working with artist Nicola Smith to run We Art Resident's '10 Minute Artist Residency' at Manchester Art Gallery. The event has been set up to research and develop a future artist residency programme that can include those who feel unable to participate in existing programmes.  Artists / creatives / parents with children, or those who may feel excluded from existing residency opportunities are particularly welcome. 

The 10 Minute Artist Residency will take place in the Clore Art Studio on the first floor at Manchester Art Gallery from 12pm - 3pm. Participants will be asked to 'check in' and will be guided through a 10 minute residency space to participate in playful, creative activities and contribute ideas to create the ideal artist residency. Information gathered at the event will be used to inform a future residency programme with the opportunity to take part in an artist's residency in Tampere, Finland in 2016.

Changing Rooms

Changing Rooms Installation, Mini Art Club, Manchester Art Gallery

This month's Mini Art Club interactive installation at Manchester Art Gallery questioned the use of space and the choices we make when we fill 'interiors' with collected, domestic objects. Responding to Matthew Darbyshire: An Exhibition for Modern Living, I wanted to develop an interior that would be somehow familiar yet fun, magical and slightly askew at the same time.  A blank canvas white interior provided the backdrop for moving through, with and around objects in space; sensory exploration and colourful, decorative mark-making. I framed the session title around the nineties - noughties BBC programme Changing Rooms which marked the beginning of an era of DIY, aspirational, 'luxury' interior design. Objects in the installation were also chosen to reference some of the spherical, circular forms and household/collectors' items found in Darbyshire's installations.

Participants moved through a number of spaces as part of the session, visiting the top-floor exhibition in the gallery, then down a level to the interactive Clore Art Studio and then finally down to the ground floor to explore and alter the specially created installation space downstairs.

Next month's session will be similar with a few extra fun surprises! Many thanks to Ted, Jess, Sarah and Stephanie for all their help and support.