Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Poppies and Birthdays

This morning's walk was a bit of a classic -though we live in the 'almost countryside', the fields and the river change constantly so that each new week has a new character. This morning was a dry, warm one after a changeable (that usually means wet) weekend and it had brought out swarms of damselflies. Also, the poppies in the fields are looking spectacular. There is something about their wonderful scarlet colour, the fragility of paperthin petals contrasting with the strength and structure of the flowers' centre which has me clicking away with my camera, making drawings and has in the past had me painting and stitching. They are for so many artists a perennial (haha - pun absolutely intentional) inspiration.

Doesn't do it justice

Poppy field along the Derwent
The dogs managed to scare a few pheasants which seem to be common right now and I caught a glimpse of the kingfisher -always such a treat, and never when you have a camera ready!
Because the river was looking good, the boys had a swim:

So much for the joys of dog walking, it was also my husbands birthday this weekend, and he elected for a trip to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
Alec Finlay - Olive

Alec Finlay -Wheat

We found an installation by Alec Finlay, an artist who had been at the Beetroot Tree during our 'Lines in the Land' exhibition. This piece was tucked away in an unassuming greenhouse and was a series of  mesostic poems which consist of a 'name stem' and 'word branches'. The branches giving a lovely sense of the character or history or perception of the 'name' (all plants in this case), see here a couple of examples.

The major exhibition on there at the moment had my 13 year old saying she was 'gobsmacked'! The artist is Jaume Plensa. This is what they say about him and the exhibition:
YSP presents an extraordinary body of new and recent work by renowned Spanish artist Jaume Plensa. Encouraging tactile and sensory exploration, this vibrant exhibition includes a 50-metre curtain of poetry made of suspended steel letters, large illuminated sculptures in the landscape, and engraved gongs that visitors can strike to fill the gallery with sound.

Plensa’s sculpture gives physical form to the intangible, using the body as a way of exploring what it means to be human and engaging with universal themes: love, memory, language and despair. Other works need the presence of a human body to make them complete, such as Song of Songs. These glass cabins, immersed in coloured light, are only large enough for one visitor to enter and are spaces for solitary contemplation.

Plensa has an international reputation and has completed significant public art projects around the world, including the momentous Crown Fountain (2004) in Chicago. In 2009 he created Dream, a 20-metre high sculpture for St Helens as part of Channel 4’s Big Art Project.

2011 will also see Plensa’s first public art project in New York City. Echo will be presented from 5 May – 14 August 2011 by the Madison Square Park Conservancy. In the UK, Chichester Cathedral recently announced Plensa’s winning proposal for the Hussey Memorial Commission, Together, expected to be unveiled in the Cathedral in 2012.

The work will be at the park until 25th September, I fully intend to drag my sister to see it when she visits from the States later this month (You have been warned little sister!)
My personal 'wow factor' pieces were the 'heads':

It was a feeling of ancient-ness (!), calm, meditation, spirituality ...
The quality of the pieces was stupendous, the use of the raw alabaster surfaces contrasting the translucent faces. 
I wanted there to have been a projection over it also.
His pieces were involving, playful, thoughtful and sensuous - I will stop there as I am no wordsmith, but do get to see it if you can - images don't create the atmosphere of being with the work.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Memory (and the loss of)

At the age of very nearly 91, my Nana had lived a good life, enjoyed herself, brought up her children, seen her grand-children and a good brood of great-grandchildren grow up and was still very much in love with her childhood sweetheart and husband of too many years to count!
She had been progressively deteriorating from the effects of Alzheimer's for the last eight or nine years as well as living with the increasing frailties of old age. In early February this year she died.
As those of you who have been in contact with relatives or friends who are affected by dementia of any kind will understand, it is heartbreaking to watch someone change. It is equally upsetting for the people around the affected person.
We were in the fortunate position of having actively involved family members who were able to look after Nana and Grandad and to ensure that all of the help they could be given was available, many are not so fortunate and that must be awful.

So it was a serendipitous situation that at the Beetroot Tree we are having an exhibition during the summer (30th July -11th September) called 'Memory'. This includes large scale figurative sculpture with shards of glass intersecting wooden forms, stitched street scenes, photography and memories preserved in glass, ceramic and books. It is a diverse selection of artworks linked by memory or the loss of. The artists we have selected are Dale Shields, Alice Walton, Sam Johnson, Victoria Simpson, Jo Brudenell, Adele Billinghay, Fiona Thompson.

Adele Bilinghay

Fiona Thompson

Sam Johnson

Victoria Simpson

Dale Sheilds

Work from a house shaped template ...
 Because of the link to the death of my Nana, we are organising events throughout the exhibition to raise funds for Alzheimer’s Society.
I know that I am not alone in having a close encounter with Alzheimer's and I am sure it won't be the last one either, so I would be really pleased if you can spread the word about the activities and take part yourselves

... or a chest style template.

We have made an easy way for as many people as possible to help us to raise funds for this special cause, and to have a bit of crafty-fun at the same time by creating a  a template and instructions pack for you to create your own Memory Box which you purchase, make and then and have it (or them) exhibited alongside our main exhibition!

There will be other fund-raising efforts during the exhibition including a raffle of artworks donated by the exhibiting artists and an evening of memory fun and games on 4th August so please checkout Memory exhibition at The Beetroot Tree as information goes live nearer the time.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

John Gillow on African Textile Adventures

As a part of the 2 continents exhibition at the Beetroot Tree, we invited John Gillow to explain to us some of the background to the textiles and his stories. Never one not to chat, he entertained and informed over the course of an evening which passed by only too quickly.
A very poor quality video here, but a reminder of the event:

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Spring, prom and intellectual property

The Living Threads ‘Extravaganza’ exhibition took place over the Easter fortnight, so my version of the ‘Thread Booklet’ was shown. It was only just about finished in time, and I intend to remake the cover later as it was not a great success. I’m also debating whether or not to be brave and get the heat gun on the Lutradur to distress it (perhaps a few glasses of something stronger than fruit juice first might embolden me!)

Overall view of Thread Booklet

Detail of the top pocket
The Living Threads Group has been in existence for 30 years now and was started as a group of textile artists who were also teachers and who wanted to exhibit work and to run workshops. Amazingly for this type of group it has continued and grown, now consisting of around 70 members. Not all current members are teachers, but they represent a wide diversity, with skills in many textile areas from traditional to contemporary.  Most members are creators of work for the enjoyment or as a hobby rather than as a career.

It was during the set up of this year’s exhibition that an issue arose which I suspect is a widespread one especially when makers who are not involved in thinking about themselves and their work as ‘professional’ are showing work. It is a common practice for members of groups to show work which they have copied from a book or have created on a workshop under another makers’ supervision. If the works are being shown for enjoyment, and especially if they are referred to as ‘after …’ or ‘inspired by …’ or  ‘created on a workshop with …’ then this is great, however it leads to a very thorny area as soon as the pieces are offered for sale.
For instance, one of the members had put a piece of work in the sales area which she had made on a workshop with another textile artist. It was virtually identical to the tutors work (I initially asked if the tutor had joined the group), was being offered at half of the price for which the tutor sells at and had no acknowledgement that it was at the least ‘in the style of ..’
This rang alarm bells in my head and it should in yours too! There is a form of copyright known as ‘Intellectual Property’ (IP) which means that no one should offer for sale something which is substantially the design, technique or style of another person. There are of course grey areas including what constitutes ‘substantial’ and pieces which rely on traditional patterns and techniques, amongst other considerations.
It can be easy not to realise that you are falling into the IP trap when making new work with new techniques, or are getting paid to teach something that you have learned from another artist or book.
As a teacher and author I am happy to pass on skills and hope that they are of use. I accept that once you have opened up how to approach or create an item, that it will be copied. However if someone then copied exactly a piece and offered it for sale without any acknowledgement of my input, how would I feel?
I did read an article a few years ago which seemed very familiar –then I realised that it was describing a workshop which I had taught and the images were the participants which she had taken during the day. When I looked more carefully, she did say that it was from a workshop with me which she had attended. I’m still not sure whether that was sufficient and okay or not. I hope that it encouraged people to seek me out or to be aware of me.
I know that it is a subject which is hotly debated and wondered about your stories and where you have had to draw a line, or what you have done if you have found your work copied and for sale?

For more information, ACID (Anti Copying in Design) is a useful organisation. It is committed to raising awareness and encouraging respect for intellectual property within corporate social responsibility.

Lambs at the Church door
On a lighter note, we have been enjoying a long dry and pretty warm spell, great for walking the dogs as we don’t return with two mud covered fur balls every day. 
It has now broken and there are short, sharp heavy showers at intervals which the garden is grateful for and the pots and baskets beginning to look like ‘something’. 

Setting out into Derbyshire
Grown up (?) boy
 We even managed as a family to have a day walking in Derbyshire. Idris (the chocolate one) gets car sick so taking him anywhere involves waterproofing his surroundings so that his fountain of dribble is well contained!
Our eldest was back from University for a few days and it was the perfect time to see the bluebells.
As you can see - lots of bluebell pictures!

Hills swathed in bluebells
More bluebells
Stjarna in the bluebells

The spring is well underway with cow parsley, damsel flies and briar roses all over, my little sister has been made a professor at her University, my old Volvo has been remodelled as a Prom car and I made my daughters Prom dress last week (I was very pleased to be asked, but as I only has 4 days to make it, it was a little busy last week!)

Mine is the one in green!

Now I am having a short gap before making a new set of work because considering which ideas to go for first is often the most painful part of starting. So I will put it off for a day or two and catch up with paperwork!