Imagine: Paper Cuts in Black and White - Manchester Art Gallery

[gallery] It's catch-up time!

This weekend I worked with families taking inspiration from artist Andy Singleton's beautiful paper-cut icicle, currently suspended in the atrium at Manchester Art Gallery, as part of the 'First Cut' exhibition. Families worked together in the atrium, focusing on shapes, patterns and forms inspired by the space and artwork around them.

The display grew over the weekend to take over the windows of the atrium, creating an interesting way to frame viewpoints overlooking Princess Street.


Lime Art: the Art Works, Wigan


The Art Works was the second phase of a community arts project working on behalf of Lime Art. I worked with textile / surface designer and educator Hazel Hewitt to engage a group of adults who attend a weekly job club at a college in Wigan. The aim was to create a programme of 6 sessions spread out one evening a week from October-November, in order to provide the opportunity for job club attendees to learn new skills, increase their confidence and have an outlet for self-expression.

Our workshops quickly evolved into a creative, drop-in social space for a small number of core participants. As opposed to taught sessions, it became clear that participants wanted to try out new techniques such as printing, mark-making, sewing, paper-construction, etc. The project evolved as a safe space to express feelings and personal issues through creative activity, rather than work in a prescriptive manner to create an end product. The approach was participant-led as it emerged that each participant had a particular idea or interest and wanted to develop this individually.

As an example, one participant who was initially reluctant to join as he was only there "for job club", revealed a former interest in photographing local landscapes, building dry stone walls and making charcoal! His enthusiasm and confidence increased as he brought shoe boxes full of photos to sort through, edit and select. We facilitated this process of editing, selecting and curating an exhibition of photos. We also suggested ways to mount, frame and potentially sell the photos, encouraging him to recognise the value and quality of his photographic 'hobby'.

Although aimed at adults only, a couple of dads decided to bring their children along to the sessions. This altered the dynamic of the group as the children were energetic, easily excited and enthusiastic to try out lots of different things. They confidently worked their way through the range of materials in a more exploratory manner. It was perhaps a good thing that there were two artist-facilitators present as it meant that one of us could engage the children, whilst the other could give more attention to the adults, who regularly asked for one-to-one assistance.

We felt that we only touched on the surface of what we could offer in terms of developing individualised projects. Unfortunately, 6 x 3 hour sessions didn't seem enough for the group to really become absorbed. Project momentum only seemed to pick up halfway through and participants couldn't always arrive on time or attend every session. At the end, participants expressed their desire for the sessions to continue as a regular, social, drop-in creative space - a place where they could work, talk and have lots of tea and biscuits! It also became clear that they felt like things were suddenly ending, just as they were building confidence to try new things.

This programme of activities followed on from another project led by artist Johnny Woodhams during the summer, in which another group worked together to create plans and artworks for an outdoor shelter to be installed within the local community area. This group will be building and installing an outdoor gazebo, which will function as a shelter, alternative gallery/performance and multi-purpose space within a community garden. The structure is due to be installed in spring 2013 and it is hoped that, from this, the groups will come together in order to decide on a programme of creative, community activity.... watch this space!








FYI: Ateliê Fidalga

Here's a link to an excellent Brazilian artists' organisation and atelier I had the fortune to visit with artist Margarida Holler, when I travelled to São Paulo, Brazil a few years ago.  The atelier is run by artists Sandra Cinto and Albano Afonso.

Press on the thumbnails to discover more about each artist!


Warrington Contemporary and Photography Open 2012

I've just had two photos accepted to be exhibited as part of the Warrington Contemporary and Photography Open 2012! The photos will be exhibited at the Pyramid Hall in Warrington town centre until the 27th October. For a sneaky preview see the pics below...




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Turner Monet Twombly: Inside Outside


For the 'Inside Outside' slideshow and sounds, click here:

'Inside Outside' is a series of workshops I developed with artist Sarah Marsh. Inspired by the artworks from the Turner Monet Twombly exhibition at Tate Liverpool, England, Sarah and I developed a creative and experimental programme over four weeks in August.

Each week the workshop focused on a different season, connecting to key themes in the exhibition, such as the floating world, fire and water, the vital force, atmosphere and loss. The workshops also encouraged the exploration of colour palettes, textures and materials through different processes.

Each week the workshops offered opportunities for open-ended activity, the chance to add to an evolving artwork and also something to make and take home.

The views over the Mersey from the studio window formed a poetic connection with the watery worlds of Turner, Monet and Twombly as the light and atmosphere change dramatically throughout the day. The sound of the sea through speakers added another layer to this exploration of fluid landscapes, marks, colour and emotions.


We Face Forward - 'Rags to Riches' @Manchester Art Gallery, Part 2


Round Two!

These pictures were taken in the ‘Rags to Riches’ summer family workshops at Manchester Art Gallery as part of the We Face Forward festival across Manchester.

Further inspired by Nnenna Okore’s artwork ‘When the Heavens Meet the Earth’, we decided to take all of the newspaper transformations made by families in the exhibition and connected them together to form this beautiful paper installation in Studio 2. The light, shadow and music by Jali really added to the atmosphere to make a calm, peaceful and captivating space - popular with young and old alike!




We Face Forward - 'Rags to Riches' @Manchester Art Gallery, Part 1


Phew... I'm on a roll! Here's a selection of images taken in the 'Rags to Riches' summer family workshops at Manchester Art Gallery as part of the We Face Forward festival across Manchester.

Inspired by Nnenna Okore's artwork 'When the Heavens Meet the Earth', we have been challenging ourselves to transform waste materials into wondrous works of art. Okore uses a range of natural materials which she deconstructs, decays, dyes, reforms, etc. She works with natural materials such as paper, clay, burlap and natural dyes.

Over the past couple of weeks in the gallery, we have been focusing on line and form, producing drawings and experimenting with newspaper in the gallery in front of the artwork. Downstairs we've been working with a range of waste materials to create colliograph prints. We also had a lot of fun exploring different ways to shape clay using key words as prompts... what fun!


Just So Festival 2012: Away with the Fairies, The Tent of Surprise

[gallery columns="2"] After a long and lovely weekend working at the Just So festival at Rode Hall Parkland Cheshire, I've finally found some time to load up a few pictures.

Hidden in enchanted woodland, 'Away with the Fairies', my Tent of Surprise revealed a paper forest (literally!) growing inside the tent. With baskets filled with surprises to rummage through, families were able to explore objects through all the senses. Torches revealed paper-cut shadows and bugs (both imaginary and real!), pots of perfumes or potions conjured up responses, emotions and memories, children listened out for noises and the feely basket was full of surprises - including a real frog that had accidentally landed in there and gone to sleep! Perhaps it was the fairy queen who had been out casting spells...



Mini Art Club: in the heart of the city

[gallery] This month's 'We Face Forward' Mini Art Club session responded to the artist Piniang's semi-abstract collaged paintings 'Flood in the Suburb 1 and 2' and 'Power Cut in the Suburb'. Piniang (real name Ibrahima Niang) is a multi-media artist who works with a fusion of materials. The paintings in this exhibition depict the architecture of Dakar and somehow capture the chaos of an overcrowded city after a flood or power cut. Here, Piniang is concerned with population growth and urban development out of control.

Families visited the exhibition virtually in the dark, accompanied by the frenetic beat of the drum played by Danny Henry. We then headed down to the studio to mark-make and explore various recycled materials, focusing on the colour palette in Piniang's work. We later constructed (and knocked down) a fragile cardboard city, and danced to the beat of a chaotic city, led by the amazingly versatile Danny.

What a fast, colourful, frenzied and fun morning!


Mini Art Club is 50!

[gallery] We've just had our 50th Mini Art Club... and what a morning!

As part of the 'We Face Forward' summer programme, we responded to artist Nnenna Okore's work 'Where Heaven Meets the Earth', concentrating on the theme of decay and transformation. Materials to be explored and transformed were a variety of recycled papers, different consistencies and types of clay, as well as natural materials such as hessian, twine, vegetables and spices!

Okore is particularly concerned with re-using and transforming materials, working into them using a variety of techniques to test the limits of each material as it deconstructs, falls apart, decays, fades, changes colour, etc. We attempted to explore this laying out a wet clay and natural dye room with paper and also a dark, shadowy paper room. To complement and extend this further, dancer, percussionist and musician Danny Henry interpreted key words (such as rip, stamp, fold) through a series of beats, rhythms and movement - much to the delight of everyone involved! It was really insightful to work with such a diverse and experimental performer who instinctively understood the ethos of Mini Art Club.

Such a great way to celebrate our 50th session!

N.B. Lo-fi mini vid clips hopefully coming up soon!




Paper Sculptures - The Hepworth Wakefield

[gallery columns="2"] Here are some photos taken this weekend at my new paper construction workshop 'Arti-gami' at The Hepworth Wakefield. Sculptor Liz Pontin and I worked together to develop a new workshop which encourages people to play with paper and try out new paper sculpting techniques, drawing inspiration from Barbara Hepworth's sculptures.

Families are invited to build their own interpretations of Hepworth's sculptures and maquettes. They are also invited to play more open-endedly with paper to find different ways to form and manipulate it. Taking the idea of Barbara Hepworth's sculpture garden, families can add their paper sculptures to make the garden grow. They can also explore the shadows of their paper constructions.

Arti-Garmi runs from 11am - 4pm on the following dates this summer: 4th, 5th, 13th - 17th August and 8th, 9th September:

London in a day - Yoko Ono, Bauhaus, and the Art Fund Prize 2012! recovering from a random, last-minute art gallery-packed day down in London! The Serpentine Gallery 

First, a long walk from Knightsbridge and through Hyde Park to the Serpentine Gallery to see Yoko Ono's latest show 'To the Light' which opened yesterday. The exhibition features a variety of installations, films, photos and archive material - threaded together by an accompanying sound piece of bird cries and ambiguous heartbeats.

The central piece Amaze 1971 invites viewers to take their shoes off and lose themselves within a disorientating maze of clear perspex, which simultaneously serves the purpose of revealing the participants to the rest of the gallery. The installation seeks to reveal the viewer as the 'viewed', as the participant struggles through the space, unsure of whether they are about to hit a wall as subtle reflections confuse their sense of space. Finally, the lost viewer finds or 're-discovers' themselves once more as their reflection is revealed in a small, cubic water well at the centre of the piece.

Elsewhere, the world distorts as the viewer encounters suggestive objects, such as a ladder leading up to a suspended magnifying glass. The seemingly overlooked soldiers' helmets filled with jigsaw pieces of a blue sky also provide a sad testament - rather heartbreaking on reflection. Perhaps the lost blue skies can be found on the 'Sky TV' in another room where a plasma screen transports us to a flat, one-dimensional, filmed sky. Ono leaves a trail of suggestive notes here, telling us that the ceiling is, in fact, 'the floor' and the floor 'is the ceiling', or is it?

I also practically walked into Yoko Ono as she was being accompanied out of the Serpentine's learning studio towards the new Pavilion - in preparation for her talk, in conversation with Waldemar Januszczak in the warm, dark, cork-filled, sensory pavilion designed by architects Herzog and de Meuron and artist-activist Ai Weiwei!




Then it was on to the Barbican's current Bauhaus: Art as Life exhibition, an in-depth portrayal of the Bauhaus movement and manifesto - the UK's biggest Bauhaus exhibition in over 40 years. At first slightly hesitant to enter a world of rigid architecture, geometry and colour theory I did, however, become quickly immersed. The Bauhaus vision of utopia is hopeful and appealing as creativity, imagination, play, celebration, community and shared identity are emphasised as key ideals in a movement that blossomed and then dissolved in the dawn of the Second World War. The path through the exhibition provided a comprehensive timeline of the Bauhaus movement, but the curated space, did not seem to capture enough of the playful, free spirit of the movement. This was to be found, instead, in the close examination of small archive photographs and photograms, prints, drawings and paintings.


After being properly immersed in the world of Bauhaus, it was a mad dash to the British Museum to the Art Fund Prize 2012 award ceremony! The two prize categories were The Art Fund Prize for Museums and Galleries - Museum of the Year 2012 and, also, The Clore Award for Museum Learning 2012.

And the winners were....

Museum of the Year 2012 - Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery (although I was rooting for and had my fingers crossed for the Hepworth, the team have achieved a tremendous amount over such a short space of time and were favourites to win).

Clore Award for Museum Learning 2012 - joint winners Leicestershire County Council Heritage & Arts Service - Held in the Hand and Touch Tables and also... the Whitworth Art Gallery/ Manchester Museum / Manchester Art Gallery with the Manchester Early Years Partnerships!! The early years initiative began over 5-6 years ago through the Creative Collaboration projects in Sure Start Children's Centres and rippled out to the galleries which provide innovative sessions as part of a core offer for the early years, where 'children lead the way'! It has all come a long way and our Mini Art Club session at Manchester Art Gallery will turn 50 next month - yes, that's the 50th session!

To read more about the shortlists:

To hear/read about the winner of the Art Fund Prize 2012:


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Just So Festival - Rode Hall Parkland, Cheshire - 17th-19th August 2012 (save the date!)


Time flies... and I'm starting to gather my ideas and materials to fill a tent full of magical surprises at the Just So Festival this August!

The Just So Festival is a quirky, creative, boutique festival aimed at children, young people and their families. Originally based in Shropshire, it has moved this year to Rode Hall Parkland in Cheshire for a weekend of camping and creativity in the woods. It will be a treat to spend some time doing my creative thing outdoors surrounded by trees, natural light and sunbeams (fingers crossed!)

Just So aims to be more than just a family festival - featuring some of the best UK arts activity. There'll be lots of story-telling, dancing, visual arts, lights, magic and mayhem in the woods!

I will be hiding in a tent 'Away with the Fairies' (I'm already there), creating a world of papery delights - the rest is a secret, so I will keep 'schtum' for now....

For more information about the festival visit the site at:

For a plan of the festival site, please view the map and click on the different areas:

I'm very, very excited!



We Face Forward: Magic Materials - 'Mini Junk Palace'

[gallery columns="2"] It's been a long and colourful week working on our Junk Palace project at Manchester Art Gallery!

Drawing inspiration from We Face Forward artist Pascale Marthine Tayou's 'Poupées Pascales' - 16 unique dolls hidden all around the art gallery for this summer's 'We Face Forward'- we created two exciting studio spaces for participants to explore the world of found objects and materials in novel and interesting ways. I worked alongside visual artist Sarah Marsh and fashion designer Mary Ononokpono of Mononoko fashion to develop the concept for the workshop. We came up with some excellent ways of fashioning plastic bags, newspaper, old electronic parts and west african fabrics into chunky accessories, jewellery and other such wonderful forms!

I also tailored the session to create today's Mini Art Club - Mini Junk Palace for little ones aged 0-5 years, to explore a beautiful, colourful, tactile environment. A big thanks to artist & filmmaker Jess Wild for supporting today's session along with volunteers Liz and Sabeena. Also thank you to Jali Nyonkoling Kuyateh for playing the Kora and lending us one of his CDs to fill the Junk Palace with beautiful music!




We Face Forward - Print workshop at the Gallery of Costume, Platt Fields, Manchester

I had a lovely time yesterday working at the Gallery of Costume, creating prints inspired by 'We Face Forward's' photos from the Mali Photography Archive. Workshop participants spent some time looking at and drawing photos to get ideas for patterns and prints before doing some simple but effective mono-printing and block printing. It was also great to work to live music being performed in the gallery. Thanks to the volunteers for their hard work! [gallery columns="2"]

Tomorrow, there's more fun to be had at Manchester Art Gallery's 'Junk Palace' - an open-ended exploration of materials creating journey necklaces, accessories and an installation space (responding to the work of Pascale Marthine Tayou).



'What is Home?' Installation at the Avents Factory


Here are some lovely pictures taken of an installation built with young people from Crewe YMCA at the Avents Factory, Axis Centre, MMU Crewe last Saturday. Our installation responded to the question 'What is Home?' and took a couple of days' hard work to fill a large drama studio space at the Axis Centre.

The project aimed to invite people to participate in a workshop led by Crewe YMCA, asking participants to think about different aspects of 'home' and what it means to them.

Groups of up to 20 participants entered the workshop space and after the last workshop, we had just under two hours to turn the space into an installation complete with a film of the day by Mark Haig. The installation featured a 'shadow wall' entrance into our space, a comfy living room area complete with sound recordings, smells and people's memories, a 'dream couch' area filled with origami, a candle-lit washing line with life tips and advice, a large painting of people's ideas about where they see their future home, and a life-size shelter in which people had answered the question 'what is home?'

Despite the long days and sleepless nights thinking about what I needed to do and waking up early to write lists, I really enjoyed working on the project. I think we really managed to pull the installation together through good ideas and team work, even though we had very little time to get things done!

Here's a big, homely thank you to the young people, Chad Healey and Rachel Miller at Crewe YMCA for all their great ideas and hard work. Thanks also to Mark Haig for creating the film and making and manning a Punch & Judy set last minute! Also thanks to the technicians for helping us sort out the space and finally many thanks to Paul Hine for inviting me to be part of his Avents Factory.


Mini Art Club April - 'Shadow Land' (Inspired by Roger Ballen)

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After 2 weeks of 'Colour Pop' workshops (see previous post), colourful prints were stripped off the studio walls and replaced with clean layers of black & white paper for Mini Art Club - how different it looked!

Families followed a trail up to Roger Ballen's beautifully rich black & white square-formatted photographs in the current 'Shadow Land' exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery. Despite the slightly dark, adult-themed nature of Roger Ballen's work, families with young children responded well to his photographs - making simple connections with textures, lines and imagery in photos in certain areas of the exhibition. Children particularly loved feeling feathers, twigs, drawing with wire and finding animals hidden in the photographs as well as in toy form on the gallery floor.

Downstairs, two studios were set up to recreate the rich aesthetic of Roger Ballen's photos as children were invited to explore textures of key materials and, also, shadow and light on a large scale.



Colour Pop!

[gallery] Here are some lovely pictures from half-term family workshops at Manchester Art Gallery this week and last!

The workshops introduced the concept of complementary or 'best friend' colours in paintings in the Modern & Contemporary Gallery, taking inspiration from John Hoyland's '14.6.64' (1964). Families looked for sets of best friend colours in paintings and were asked to think about how the colours made them feel. Later, downstairs in the studios, families could print using interesting objects and /or make abstract screen prints choosing combinations of complementary colours. Two studio activities were available for families with children aged 0-5 years and 6+ years.

As the two weeks progressed the studio walls became filled with a collection of pop colours!

'Catalyst' Teacher Training Event - Video Clip / Flickr Upload

Following my last post re. the 'Catalyst' Teacher Training Event at the Chinese Arts Centre (please see below), I have uploaded some pictures and a couple of short video clips on to my Flickr site. The pictures and vids show some of the activities the teachers participated in, both in the Chen Man exhibition and in the Jasmine Suite Studio downstairs at the Chinese Arts Centre.

The event was organised by the Prince's Foundation for Children and the Arts, as part of their Start Programme.

Please click on the link here to see more: