Playing with the light
Playing with the light
I’m experimenting with glow in the dark sticks and plastic bottles
How much water needs to be added to the bottle to submerge it, whilst still allowing it to float?
Is there anything I can add to the bottles or the water to increase the effect?
If I tether the bottles, will they bob together or at random?
Environment Agency Workday
Environment Agency Workday
It was Back to the environment agency headquarters at Lea Marston today, to construct the sculptures which are going to be on show outside their offices. I had the help of two members of their team to help with constructing the design. We began with the pallet shelving unit, which went together without a hitch and formed a sturdy and large shelving system, which is to become the shop front from my sketch book designs.
The large boxes took a little bit more juggling with, as the designs had to be modified to fit in with the materials that were to hand in the workshop and stores. The original design was to fit on a concrete pad, with the uprights inserted into the concrete, These plans changed so that the boxes have now been constructed with a pallet base, this has the advantage of using materials that were available and that they are moveable with a stack a truck and can be positioned at a later date. The downside is that the structures were more difficult to build, the uprights seemed very flimsy when they were secured to the pallets but were much stronger once the chicken wire was added. I was initially worried about the size issue of scaling down, but after seeing the first completed, it is still large enough to be seen from a distance and has the advantage that their position can be changed.
Whilst we were busy with the build six volunteers went to a spot on the lake side, to begin litter picking, after around two hours they delivered a flatbed lorry full of plastic bags containing many bottles and three bags of the more novel plastic items that had been collected. This created a problem in that I needed more of the non-plastic bottles to fill the underneath section of the boxes, so that they could be sealed, and the top section filled with the plastic bottles. The second issue was that the larger more novel plastic items, such as footballs, life rings, large plastic toys should have been arranged around the bottom layer to clearly display some of the items that had been removed from the water, but as they were going to be moved the items would be shaken together and so arranging them would be a pointless exercise.
The smaller items were carefully sorted through and contained numerous shoes, footballs, dog balls and the now much talked about rubber ducks. These items were arranged on the shelfing unit to gauge how much would fit and to begin selecting the pieces for the final display. After a quick lunch break the second load of plastic arrived, which had a much larger amount of the more novel plastics as well as several more bags of bottles As the plastic bottles sat in the plastic bin bags in the warmth of the sun, the contents of the bottles began to warm and to smell, I hadn’t expected the waste plastic to be pleasant, but the distinctly toilet smell was awful.
As I was sorting through the bags of the more unusual plastics, I came across a newt, which as a protected species had to be returned to the water, this newt was only a few mm in length and left me with several questions
How many newts could I have missed?
How many may be among the plastic bottles which had been tipped into the boxes?
If there were newts amongst the plastic, what other animal life might be amongst it?
But also, that despite all of the plastics in the environment of the lake, that this little newt had managed to survive and that gives me hope, that although humans have caused such damage, nature has a way of adapting and struggling through.
I would have liked to have logged the plastic collected looking at the different types and possibly brands of plastics that had been found, but the quantities that were collected were vast and it wouldn’t have been practical to count each individual item, but there were definite tends. Most of the plastic retrieved from the lake side was single use clear plastic bottles, next in line would be coloured single use plastic bottles, some brands who use certain colours really stand out, a blue bottle for cider, bright yellow and small orange, purple and red were obviously brands aimed at children
There were allot of footballs, we lost count at thirty and lots of the light plastic ball pit balls along with a few dog balls and one cricket ball, I can see how these can end up in the water courses, but what is more difficult to explain is the amount of small plastic toys, a dolls bottle, Bart Simpson, Lego bricks, a baby’s rattle, a selection of happy meal toys and more than twenty rubber ducks, how do these items get into our water ways, maybe it is not until we understand how they get there that we can prevent it happening. There was such a quantity of plastic novelties that the shelves are not large enough to hold them all and they will have to be washed and resorted before the shelves can be finished.
Because of delays and less people than expected the second box wasn’t completed on the day, but there is enough plastics to fill the second box and this will be finished on a further visit. The staff from the environment agency are going to move the box and shelves into position over the next few days, when I shall go back to reposition and sort the shop front and to add some labels and finish off the loose ends.
I have a new commission
Can I create a piece of art for just one hundred pennies?
this is the challenge
Why am I so excited about a commission that pays one pound?
The idea is that one hundred artists will all create a piece with a budget of just one hundred pennies each, at some point in the future these projects will be documented and be displayed together as a group exhibition that will show the effect that one hundred pounds spent on art can achieve.
I find this idea really engaging, how can I spend my one hundred pennies and what can I achieve with them?
September 17th, 2019
The deceptive beauty of the water
The water in Walsall canal basin looked dark and ominous this morning as I joined a group of litter pickers on the water, we paddled from the deep waters of the basin to the shallower and distinctly greener waters of the Walsall canal. There were lush green water lilies in flower, the sun was shining, and it could have been such an idyllic scene.
The reality was that although there is beauty in these waters, they also contain a lot of plastic and floating debris, during the morning we filled six of the builders tonne bags and tagged these items on to the plastic patrol app which logs plastic, especially branded remains, in an attempt to create some accountability with these large companies.
The Golden Egg
The golden egg
A golden egg reduced to clear
why do we need a golden egg? Or maybe we didn’t. which is why it is reduced to 10pence.
Apparently, we need this golden egg, so that we may hide a special Easter surprise within its plastic goldness. I’m not sure that anything could be successfully hidden within this, I think the metallic reflectiveness might just be a giveaway.
knife angel – is it effective
I went to stare into the face of knife angel today, it was positioned in the centre of Birmingham not far from the entrance to the Birmingham art gallery and museum. Its scale at 27 feet and consisting of 100,000 blades is impressive, as a piece of artwork, it is difficult to dispute its beauty, its large size stands against its setting and draws the viewer to it and in this sense it is successful.
The fact that it is composed of blades that have been collected during a knife amnesty do make it an effective piece for those looking on and considering the effect that knife crime has on their community. Many of the blades have been engraved with messages to loved ones, that have been killed by knives, but these tributes are not obvious to the casual observer. it is however a poignant reminder of the crisis that knife crime has become across our country and as such it may be a comfort to the friends and families of the victims of these crimes
But how does knife angel reach out to those most likely to be involved with knife crime ?As good intentioned as this sculpture is, the demographic most affected by this issue is unlikely to stand and contemplate the many issues, that influence their opinions and their decisions to carry a knife, so what would be more effective?
Would visiting an accident and emergency dept or the mortuary on a Saturday night, to see the raw effects of knife crime have enough of an effect, but that also misses the point completely, as most of these youngsters fear an attack and so that is the very reason that they are carrying a blade in the first place, in parts of the community where an individual feels insecure to leave home without ‘protection’, we need to address the issues that lead to the situation and it is unlikely that any form of sculpture is going to achieve this, so what would?
It is difficult and complex and now so ingrained into some of our communities, that it is going to take a multifaceted approach to even begin to tackle the problem. residents need to feel safe in their communities, youngsters need safe spaces to play, with positive role models from their own areas, we need programs to strengthen community bonds, youth workers and artists to engage communities in healing themselves, giving them a sense of pride in themselves and the areas in which they live.
The making of lemon tree
The making of lemon tree
This is a project, for the light house art gallery in Wolverhampton, it began with 18 plastic lemons (see Lemon tree)
But I wanted more than a display of the remnants of pancake day
Lemons don’t grow well in this country, it can be done, but requires very careful tending, a warm sunny environment, the right soil and the right amount of water at just the right time. The plants are expensive to purchase and produce very few lemons, so why do some people grow them? perhaps they like the challenge.
So, for this project, I purchased a plum tree, it can be planted in garden soil, they respond well to the British climate, get their requirements for heat sun and water from the sky, produce lots of fruit and are relatively inexpensive.
For the gallery ,this tree needed a pot, I didn’t want to add to the plastic problem with a plant pot, so I used a collection of plastic bags which I layered and wove using a basket making technique, the layers remind me of the layers which develop in landfill, with colours of plastic tightly compressed against each other.
The plastic netting which many of our supermarket lemons are transported in, cause great problems for our wildlife, they trap animals which then struggle and become ever more entangled, the larger nets which are often used to contain these bags of fruit are adding to the problems in our oceans. To reference this, I stitched some of the fruit bags that I was given for an earlier piece, to the plastic of the pot, ensnaring plastic sea creatures into the netting. These sea creatures were a lucky find, left abandoned at the beach last summer.
The leaves were cut from green plastic pop bottles and wired to the lemons before hanging on the then still bare tree, during the time inside at the gallery, the tree came into leaf, so that it had both plastic lemon and real plum tree leaves.
In the days after pancake day this year, I asked friends to keep their plastic lemons for an art project I had in mind, I was given 18 plastic lemons! Many of the lemons still had juice left inside, when I asked questions about this, the answers all led to the fact that these lemons had only been purchased to put this lemon juice on to a pancake, they didn’t need to keep the plastic lemons, as they had fresh lemons in the fridge.
This is a piece that explores the power of advertising and how a company can change our shopping habits and the long-term effects of our actions. The slogan of ‘don’t forget your pancakes on jiff lemon day’, is advertising genius. To persuade shoppers to purchase a plastic lemon to squeeze on their pancakes when they already have a lemon in the fridge
The advertising campaign has buried itself into our heads, pancakes and jiff lemon just go together, people who don’t buy single use plastic bottles thought it was perfectly acceptable to buy a single use plastic lemon
But at the same time many fresh lemons are sold in plastic net bags, these bags are problematic as they not only do not degrade, but their mesh form traps and maims animals that come into contact with them
I wanted people to stop and think about the effect that a simple lemon could have on the environment, and the way our behavior has been manipulated
Environment Agency Commission
Environment Agency Commission
I have been commissioned by the Environment agency to create a piece or pieces of sculptural work to show at their headquarters in Sutton Coldfield. They would like a piece to be made with the plastics that are collected from the three large lakes, which were historically used to filter the heavy metals and chemicals which built up in the waters in the 1980’s. The waters are now much less polluted by chemicals and dredging is no longer required.
The lakes are now a wildlife haven, especially for waterfowl during the winter months, but fish could not move freely through the system due to a screen, which acts as a huge filter to remove large pieces of rubbish. The removal of this screen is ongoing and once completed should increase the habitats available for many other animals along the watercourse.
The river Tame passes through the lakes and collects water from Birmingham, Walsall, Sutton and the surrounding areas, this river was once considered the most polluted river in the country, with wildlife being unable to cope with the conditions. The river Tame was not always in this condition with reports of it being fished in the past and providing the Trout for the coronation feast of Queen Victoria.
The pollution that is affecting both the lakes and the river today is the huge amount of plastics that wash along the water course and empty onto the lake and riverside at high water. in preparation for this commission, I am researching the history and area around the lakes and the river Tame which I will then use to inform my practice.
Asylum gallery opening
Into the light
Asylum gallery have been busy turning a disused building into a warren of small artist spaces, some are in individual rooms and some are more open plan, which are shared spaces. Tonight, was the first time the studios have been open to the public adding to the sense of anticipation.
Each artist had their own studio space open with a wide range of art to see, including photography, sculpture and print, but what stood out was that visitors gravitated to the light like moths around a lamp. The studios which were lit with the usual studio lighting or standard household lighting tended to be passed through, with visitors having a look and then continuing on, where as the studios that were lit with either candle light or special effect lighting not only drew more people in, but kept their attention for longer. Visitors would wonder back through the other rooms, but then return to the spaces that had been lit more creatively
The two defined areas of interest were Caitlin Doherty’s candle lit space, where she had overly sized nudes painted directly onto the wall with clay, the candlelight added a different atmosphere to these paintings, casting strange shadows and highlights. The images seemed more raw and powerful in the low light conditions, they held peoples interests and they lingered in the space
The other space was a studio room of the artist Ewan Johnston, who paints in neon paints, he had also lit his room, there was candle light in one corner and the rest of the room was dimly lit with uv black light, this firstly made his paintings glow and secondly caused anything white that the visitors might be wearing to also glow, this dual effect also captured peoples imagination and they stayed in this studio looking at the many different paintings for much longer than they had in other rooms that had displayed paintings.
Was it the subject matter that had drawn people into both of these spaces or was it the light, the candle light of the one studio was very different to the uv of the other, but they both drew people in and both rooms had the same people returning during the evening, in a way in which the other rooms did not appear to, the light seemed to create an atmosphere that people were drawn too, standing looking at and chatting about the art work that was displayed in these rooms. Whilst this was not an intentional experiment in people’s reaction to light, it seemed to very clear that the light was having an effect on the viewer and how they viewed the work.
Gattis lantern parade
Gattis community lantern parade
an example of Why participation is so important in our communities
Gattis is a community centre in a deprived area on the outskirts of Wolverhampton. The area has many issues as many of these outskirt areas often do, but this area is fighting back. They have a community engagement program that is run from within the community. This place is run on goodwill and participation
In an area such as that Gattis is situated in, it would be easy to bolt the doors of the local community centre and walk away at the first sign of trouble, but Gattis takes a different approach, they are an example of what community centres should be. They have community groups, an affordable café, a surplus food market, hold sessions to upcycle or swap clothing, craft and games sessions and a garden, for both play and growing food.
The area surrounding the community centre, is plagued with petty crime, with substance abuse being a particular problem, this propagates a fear of being out and about in the area, I particularly at night and so the idea of reclaiming their streets through a lantern parade was conceived. Several Workshops were held to make the lanterns from willow canes covered in wax paper, some were large and elaborate, whilst others were small and simple. they were lit with led lights and the larger lanterns were attached to harnesses and carrying poles. A storyteller was recruited, who wove a tail in rhyme and song around the theme of the area, canals and eels.
On the evening of the parade the lanterns were lit before being hoisted into the night sky, to be paraded in a group procession along the route, led by the story teller and his guitar, there was much excitement from all ages as the procession began to wind around the local streets, stopping at various points to sing the theme tune which would signal the next instalment of the story.
There were spectators gathered along the route, some joining in and some looking on from doorways and upstairs windows, I hope that what they could see, wasn’t just a lantern parade, but their community and that the participants were having fun, but also that they had bonded as a tribe, they were sharing in a story and making their own at the same time.
AS the procession snaked its way back to Gattis, a bonfire had been lit and the last part of the tale was told sitting on handmade benches around the fire. The lanterns were placed in the garden for everyone to admire. The evening ended with food and chatter, gathered around the embers and a real feeling of not just warmth from the fire, but of belonging.
It Is This sense of belonging and ownership that Gattis nurtures through the act of participation which strengthens a community, it would not have had the same effect to have watched the procession as to have taken part. The spectators may have been touched for a while at the passing of the lanterns, it may stay in their memories, hopefully it will encourage them to join in with the next project, but the effect it had on the spectators cannot compare with the effects of those who made and carried lanterns, sang the songs, walked the walk and ate the food around the fire.
Card board box city
Cardboard box city
St. Basils sleepout
St. Basils is a charity helping the homeless, with the young on the streets being one of their priorities. This event took place in the churchyard of St. Martens cathedral in Birmingham, this is the same Church that I wrote about previously (the church is beautiful tonight) and have created a piece in response to the church at Christmas But this event was held at the church, but not by the church, the project involved groups or individuals collecting sponsorship to use cardboard boxes to create shelters, where they would then spend the night
The initial atmosphere was competitive, with the participants jostling for the best cardboard, secretly building extra features into their constructions and adding elements that they had previously made. This individualistic spirit lasted for a while, but it didn’t take long for the cold to have its effect, with fingers becoming too cold to build elaborate structures and insulation became more pressing. As the cold grew, so did the community spirit amongst the participants, hot food was given out by the local mosque, which greatly improved peoples spirits and as people ate, they also talked and shared their thoughts and ideas on the issues surrounding homelessness.
But did this strategy work
The event certainly raised money as the participants were sponsored and there were collecting tins used on the night.
What is less calculable is whether the awareness of the plight of the homeless youth was raised in people’s minds, the participants experienced at least some insight into the issue of sleeping rough, but their experience lasted for just one night. There was an effort to raise public awareness by people on the perimeter of the fence giving out information leaflets and talking to passers-by, but how many people put their eyes to the pavement and passed on by, in the same way that they would when passing the homeless on the streets.
Because the cardboard structures were tucked into the shelter of the church walls and far behind the barriers from the pavement onlookers could not get a clear view of the event and so it leaves me wondering if the impact was lost. It is difficult to balance the security of the participants with the need to be accessible to the viewer if the subject is to be engaged with more effectively
I’m not sure that sleepout was the correct term, I think that most of the participants made it until morning, but there was much more talking and sharing of both stories and hot food and drinks, than sleeping, but this also raises the point of how important the sharing of food is, in bringing people together to keep up their spirits and in talking about ideas and issues.
Family time at the Ikon
Water from fiji
I came across this Fijian water in Boots in Birmingham, I’m still finding it very difficult to understand its popularity. Is the message of single use plastic falling on completely deaf ears, how can it be that a bottle of water can be filled in Fiji and then transported 9,827 miles to then be loaded onto a lorry and sent to shops all over the U.K, for the cost of 99 pence.
53% of the Fijian population have no access to clean water and yet the population of Birmingham which has access to clean, safe drinking water can and will purchase water contained in a plastic bottle. Does Fiji water taste any different? It is advertised as tasting clean and soft, hmm, like water then.
A little research shows that there ares issues and the conflicts to consider, Fiji water company is owned by a Californian couple with a business Pom wonderful, who sell a range of speciality drinks. The Pom drinks company were paying 1/3 of a cent per litre for the water, but after protests they now pay 15 cents per litre. This payment constitutes a large proportion of Fijis G,D,P, the company are also one of the largest employees in Fiji and without it many Fijians would lose their jobs.
Does this justify a foreign company making a profit from a smaller one, selling water from a country where half of its residents do not have access to clean water. Could a simpler solution be for the people of Fiji to sell the water for themselves, using the profits to provide fresh clean water to all of its population?
I’m left wondering if there is a strong advertising campaign that accompanies this water, or is it the celebrities, personalities that are seen to be drinking it, or that it appears on the menu of high-class restaurants. Are these the things that affect people’s behaviour?
And the desire to touch
This exhibition is full of colour, it is bright and joyful.
The colours of the ceramic target pieces, pop from the wall, drawing you closer to look at the many colours and variety of patterns within the ceramics. Whilst upstairs, there was an assortment of shoes left along a bench on one side of the gallery, their owners padding around in stockinged feet so that they could curl their toes into the plush multi coloured rugs, which ran along the upstairs gallery floors.
Strings of handmade ceramic beads hung like curtains, some high in the ceiling space and others, tantalizing low, seemingly tempting the unforgivable sin of touching or pinging.
The show is textural, with a mix of hard cold ceramics and soft plush rugs, the invitation to walk on these rugs breaks the usual convention of ‘not touching’ where as the temptation of touching these beads, strung in a line across the room, serves to remind the visitor that they are in a gallery space and touching is not allowed.
Toadstools in the woods
Toadstools in the woods
How nature attracts us
On a recent walk in Formby woods, looking for red squirrels we spotted these fly agaric, they are such a Bright deep red, contrasting with the deep browns and moss greens of the forest floor, they are almost shouting, I’m over here, come and look at me.
Red is a powerful colour, which can act as a signal or attractor, it is emotive of both love and rage Nature uses colours, shapes and smells and even lights to draw in or warn off, using different methods for different species, in the case of the fly agaric it is the brightest red and has a smell which attracts insects to it, the toadstool gets its name from the old tradition of placing a piece of its flesh in a glass of milk, the smell would attract flies, who would then come to a dizzying end after consuming its poisons before headbutting into the nearest object.
The animal kingdom uses many other tricks to draw in its prey or to attract a mate, from Luminous algae to Fireflies. So that it is little surprise to find that the human species can also be affected by these things, when we give an ahh of wonder at insects lighting up in the forest, or are enchanted by the discovery of the phosphorescence of a cave, we are just responding in the way that nature intended.
The trick is to find which of these elements can be used to highlight an issue, to bring our attention to a subject, to hold people’s attention for long enough that a connection might be made and hopefully in the same way that finding a brightly coloured toadstool in the woods will be remembered.
A monument to what matters
My large sculptural piece is inspired by the idea of change- both physically in the form of the piece and in the hearts and minds of the viewer and participant. I am sure many of us have asked what is important? What really matters to us? I don’t think any of us would answer a flat screen tv, or the latest pair of trainers, so why is it, that these ae the things that we seek.
My piece aims to give people the opportunity to stop and take a few moments to think, maybe re-evaluate what is important. the act of doing is important, when we touch, explore and participate, we interact with a piece at a deeper level than seeing alone. So, by encouraging participation, I hope to reach many people, not just those that are willing to take part, but also the curious observers on the side-lines
I propose to build on my earlier works, by building a monument from large cardboard boxes, preferably the ones with branding and logos on, to create a tired structure with flat surfaces and nooks. It would then stand as a monument to commercialism and consumerism. A maker station will then be constructed from boxes alongside the monument, where bystanders/ passers-by, could join in becoming participants. They would be given the opportunity to draw or colour on to a pre-printed frame of something that matters to them, or to write a pledge to change something, e.g. ‘I will spend less time shopping and more time in nature’
These pictures and pledges could then be added to the monument, obscuring the logos and branding on the boxes and in doing so, changing it, to become a monument ‘to things that matter’ participants can then add a candle in a jar (battery if a live flame is not allowed) to the various shelves and nooks within the monument. The act of drawing a picture or making a pledge will help to confirm these thoughts and standing for a moment, lighting a candle, watching the monument transform will hopefully have a lasting effect
This large-scale piece would be around 7ft tall, 8ft wide and 6ft deep, it could be installed on the day, but would be better being trialled in advance, then deconstructed and flat packed ready for installation. It would ideally be sited in a public place, surrounded by consumers and particularly casual shoppers, who are out looking for a bargain, rather than something that they need.
The smaller version or gorilla project reflects the lager monument, by creating small monuments of ‘the things that matter’. It is a project which could open conversations that are capable of changing people’s behaviours.
These small monuments could be made in individuals’ homes, as adults, with children, in schools, youth clubs, organisations and community groups, they can be displayed individually or in groups as a celebration of ‘what matters’
The materials used are readily accessible, cereal boxes, containers and packaging, trinkets and natural finds such as shells, pebbles and pine cones. The additional craft materials could be shared, especially if working in groups.
Now and then
What is the difference, what I am describing is the difference from what we find discarded from before the early part of the last century, before the invention of Bakelite in the 1930’s there were no plastics and so rubbish from before this time was mostly inert such as ceramics, stoneware and glass, food came from the garden, or from the local shop in baskets and paper bags, left overs went to the compost heap or the pig and chickens, bones to the rag and bone man.
But in today’s society, what do we do with the things that we no longer want? Or is that the issue in itself, or at least the part about want? When did we lose the ability to discriminate the things that we need from the things that we want?
As we have moved into an ever more consumer led society, we have amassed so many possessions that our homes are crammed full of these things. We watch videos and read articles about the art of decluttering, or look at minimalist living in tiny houses, but what do we do with these things that we realise that we no longer need?
Do we just throw them away? Where is away? Landfill? developing or poor countries? incineration? So, what has changed, from what is relatively recent history, when we had less and looked after what we had?
Is it the materials used in the production and their relative cost? With the introduction of plastic, it became possible to mass produce low cost, low quality products, which we could purchase, consume and dispose of. These new ‘things’ could be changed as the latest model or new style became available. But now we have a new generation who have inherited the problem, of how to dispose of all the things that the generation that went before wanted.
The Church is beautiful tonight but...
The Church is Beautiful … But
I generally think that everything that comes after the but… shouldn’t be said
I’m not sexist, But….
I don’t mean to be offensive, But …
The church was beautiful tonight, I could hear the organ playing, the lights shining out into the darkness, a picture-perfect scene of the church at Christmas and for a moment It held me in its pre-Christmas bubble of carol singing, peace and goodwill, all wrapped up in frosty air and candle light. And then…
The bubble broke
The reality was that the church was in a bubble, whilst in the church yard, the shoppers, with their bags overflowing were hurrying past. the commuters, with their briefcases and coffee were hurrying past, the school children, with their rucksacks of books and hands full of fast food were hurrying past, the moms towing small children with pushchairs overflowing with presents. Were all hurrying past. The vicar on his way into the church was hurrying past…
The only people to be looking on, to be still, to be in that moment, were the people without homes, the people who were wrapped in their sleeping bags, sitting on the benches, there whole worlds packed into their carrier bags and in that moment, for me the bubble burst
The Church was still beautiful, but…
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.