Category Archives: community project

New Beginning and a Sculpture Garden

What to do on a cold, grey Bank Holiday? I know – Start preparing for a new community project!

I’ve been commissioned to produce a banner with the children of a primary school. The banner will be in the style of a Miners Banner as the village is celebrating 50 years since the closure of the village pit – the main mine having been open for 50 years from 1906 to 1966. The banner must be of a size that the children can manage to carry and the idea is to celebrate life in a pit village, rather than the work of the pit itself.

Measuring dyes

Measuring chemicals

 

Dye bottles

Measuring chemicals

So the dyes are ready, the fixing solutions are mixed and the fabric squares are prepared. The youngest children in the school are going to colour the fabrics that we’ll be using, then I’m aiming to use different print processes with the older children.

Each group will have a different decade as the theme for their work – 1906, 1916,1926,1936,1946,1956 and 1966. They’ll look at the culture of each decade and let that influence their ideas. So, I’m busy sourcing music, fashion and art from each era to get them thinking!

Its not all work though! Yesterday we took some time out to visit Cheeseburn Sculpture Garden. It is a beautiful place. Originally a farm linked to Hexham Priory it now has gorgeous gardens with sculpures placed throughout. Wandering through flower gardens, walled gardens and woodland gardens you come across stunning sculptures and sound installations.

These two can be found on the edge of the woodland garden. Some of our party found novel ways of viewing the sculptures…

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I was overcome with Wisteria envy…

Maybe one day my wisteria will achieve such profusion!

Alongside the sculptures and beautiful gardens there are lots of curious and intriguing objects to discover in ancient outhouses and dusty corners…

Rusted metal and moss strewn surfaces all setting creative ideas going…just look at these rusty old bellows…

I love the colour and those strong circles contrasting with that crumbling wood. Think I may have to return with a sketchbook – do check the website though because the Sculpture Garden is only open for a few weekends each year – and yes they do a lovely cup of tea and slice of cake!

All at Sea

Surging towards a market next Saturday 28th May  – Newcastle ArtsFest organised by the Lovely Lesley! My ‘transport co-ordinator’ loves it because he gets to drive up to Gray’s Monument in Newcastle city centre! So, I’m busy finishing some new pieces and planning the set up. It’s always lovely to be in the centre of Toon, lots of people to chat too and lots of lovely artwork to admire – get yourselves there if you’re in the area!

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These two are awaiting their frames, the weather has turned a little stormy! I’ve been developing ideas with my hand dyed fabrics, trying to emphasise mood and texture.

Meanwhile, it’s all a bit shipshape at the Arts in Health project I work on too – this time its all about boats. Those owls we made are lovely but maybe a bit Autumnal? So I thought we could all sail away on a seaside theme over Summer, redoing our window display with a new installation.

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A sample driftwood boat

One relative on the Chemo’ ward kindly donated some old map books, so the pages are going to be repurposed as sails. I have sterilised lots of bits of driftwood and disassembled a roll of willow edging (Poundland !)  So this week we’ll be making driftwood boats to sail over the seven seas. Then we’ll add needle-felted lettering across the top of the scene and a silk painted ocean at the bottom. That should keep us all busy for a few weeks!

I’ll post more images as the project develops. (And if you want to know how to sterilise driftwood – you need to boil it in a very big pan for several hours, changing the water a few times too! Steamy!!)

 

 

 

Chilli Rd Proggy Rug Complete!

It seems to be a Spring time of finishing projects! The Chilli Road Proggy Rug project was commissioned a couple of years ago now, as part of the celebrations of the school’s 120th birthday!

The project is another triptych – even bigger than My Journey! My role was to work with the children to develop the design, to introduce children and parents to the craft of rug making and to oversee the development of the three panels – each of which is about 2m x 1m. The panels go around a column that juts out into the main school entrance corridor – the back of the old stove chimney! It is now a huggable wall feature!

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This is the top part of the panel, there’s the metro line heading out to the sea from Chilli’ Rd metro station. Then below that, there’s Chillingham Road, with a lovely red fire engine  racing towards the ‘Thunder Thursday’ canoeist.Below that are some more Heaton landmarks and then you get into our lovely parks, you can just see one of our regular ‘Proggers’ Helen the ace cake baker next to a tree on the left!

The brilliant Proggy team decided to get into the rug, as it were, so they pop up in scenes on this panel! Well done to Della, Heather, Helen, Ingrid, Jude, Kate and Meera for their hard work on this final panel. Can you guess who’s who in the following images – and yes – they did me too!

 

Now all that’s left to do is get it fixed to the wall next to the others! Luckily that’s not my job!

Now I’m off to prepare driftwood boats whilst its sunny – an artist’s life is never dull!

Oh My Giddy Aunt!

Well, there I was collaging a new bit of sky…bluer than it is outside at the moment, when I paused to check my emails only to find this…

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I know it doesn’t take much to distract me but…!

So, a great big thank you to everyone who voted for me and to the judges for appreciating the importance of personal and community making in my work.

You can read the Judge’s comments about my work HERE

And now I’m in need of a celebratory cup of tea!

(Then I’ll go and finish that sky – got to be ready with new work for the LoveArtNorthEast Spring Art Fest at the end of May!)

Silk Painting Spring Theme

A different sort of project! Working on the theme of insects, the group I work with on Wednesday have been using silk paints to create beautifully coloured insects in circular motifs. Why circles? Well, I’m doing a bit of up-cycling…a certain Swedish store  sells a scarf tidy, I found one in a charity shop and disassembled it. This gave me a lot of string and a whole load of plastic rings. Haven’t thought of a use for the string… yet, but the rings are going to be used to frame these insects – are you with me so far?

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Wise birds Wise Words 2016

Remember these guts? The Wise Birds I posted about a little while ago? Well, there’s another window next to them that’s looking a little bare. So the insect display is going to go up there.  The idea is that the insects will all be flying around a central panel (see below) showing a Spring time garden. The panel is all ready for the colour to be applied. It’s a relaxing way to pass the time whilst receiving treatment – and as several people can work around the table at once its a good way to encourage peer support.

I’ll post more images when it’s all finished.

It’s been a nice change from stitching for me too! Although, you know what…I am almost ready to get back on the machine – maybe I’ll  just keep drawing ’til the sunny spell we’re having here is over though!

My Journey – Unveiled

Today saw the first unveiling of the triptych. It was such a lovely event. As the work was unveiled a very strong ‘Ooh’ echoed around the room. Everyone seemed to be delighted with how the work had developed and it was great to be able to talk with people about their responses to the work – and to share in person the ideas and processes behind its development.

So now I have to think about what to do next! I have plans (of course!) and I’m itching to start some new work. After the glories of the morning, the afternoon has been spent doing admin’. I’ve applied to the Great North Art Show that takes place in Ripon Cathedral in September. Four and a half months away – but seeing how fast the first few months of 2016 have slipped by…I’d better get motoring on that machine again!

I’m going to be doing a short talk about the importance of colour in my work later this week too – Jesmond Library is the venue, this Thursday from 6pm. I’ll be joined by two lovely talented artists Ailsa Miller and Cath Hodson. The evening will be hosted by the fabulous Lesley McNish the mastermind behind the Loveartnortheast Art Markets. So pop along if you would like to find out more about colour in art!

Time to dig out those sketchbooks now!

My Journey – Journey’s End

That’s it. I have stitched my last stitch, ends tied in, loose threads trimmed. Photos taken.

All of a sudden it’s done…and I feel quite bereft.

(Then I remember the aching arms and the workroom that really needs tidying.)

My last job is to take it to the framer’s tomorrow. Anxious thoughts..will it stretch well over the frames. Will the three pieces ‘marry up’ as I intend them to? Will there be any last minute ‘touch up’ jobs to do?

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There’s been some choppy waters – broken needles, manipulating large pieces of fabric through the small space of a sewing machine, time speeding by…aching limbs after stitching for hours on end, sometimes I felt it would overcome me but I kept on going

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Until finally, this week has seen me speeding towards the conclusion of more than three months of workshops, planning, drawing and stitching.

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And then all of a sudden, the harbour is in sight, Journey’s End indeed.

I’ve learnt so much through this project, stretching myself as an artist , working around issues of size and scale, incorporating other people’s stories into one theme, planning and delivering everything to a deadline. It has been a joyous task to work on, thank you everyone for the opportunity.

But now its time to move on, the April showers are holding back and I’m off to enjoy the sunshine. The triptych will be unveiled later this month and then I’ll write about the meaning behind the imagery, with photos of it in situ at Heaton Baptist Church.

Now, I think I left my family somewhere under a pile of fabric! Better go and find them!

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My Journey – some final details

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Oops more casualties!! Good job I got all those extra needles delivered – I haven’t quite got through them all today but the soil in the garden  section was definitely in need of some fine raking!

I said I was going to only let you see small sections now until its all complete – but I thought I’d give you a sneak peek…

…of the backs!

It’s an opportunity to see all the different stitch marks anyway! That’s the right hand panel on the left (!) and the centre panel on the right!

There is a tiny amount of machine stitching left to do – I want to add some shading to the houses in the central panel and I’ve got to add in the bunting , tonight I’ll be tying off all the threads I’ve not done so far and adding a little bit of hand stitch to the garden on the right hand panel.

Better get the daylight lamp ready for action!

 

 

My Journey – almost there!

It’s been a day of stitching – eight hours at the machine today – anyone know a good masseuse??

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New needles and metallics have arrived! Needle breakages won’t be a problem now!

All of the sea is now stitched, I’ve really enjoyed working on it, building ripples and waves into the surface to give a sense of movement to the work. I’ve got two of the three panels hanging up together in the studio whilst I work on the third – sometimes, out of the corner of my eye, I think I see the waves rolling in – but maybe that’s the effects of a long day stitching!

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This section is on the final panel, the last bit of the sea – as it calms down and wends its way around the headland. I’ll add some of the metallic threads tomorrow, to show sunlight glistening on the waves.

There’s a bit more to do on the garden – makes a change to be doing greens not blues! You’ll see that I’ve been changing the direction of stitch to differentiate between surfaces – water, sand, bushes.

I was certainly very glad to get to the end of the sea wall this morning – and no more broken needles!

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Here, you can see the garden fence going in, with zigzag stitch used on the grass in front of it. Zigzag still works when doing free machine embroidery and its possible to stretch and curve the zigzag to create texture effects.

Time to do some shoulder and neck stretches now – ready for the home straight tomorrow!

 

 

My Journey – building a town

Another busy day stitching – you can tell because the fabric piles aren’t quite so neat and tidy today!

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I paid a visit to the local library this week and was delighted to discover a copy of ‘Threads – The Delicate Life of John Craske’ by Julia Blackburn.  The book tells the story of the author’s investigations into the life and work of Craske, crippled by a mysterious illness, he could no longer work as a fisherman/ fishmonger and turned to painting and, later, embroidery. His work was shown in London in the early part of the twentieth century but unlike Alfred Wallis, the painter fisherman of St Ives, he slipped out of view until this book was published last year. Intrigued by his story and by Blackburn’s prose I brought the book home and began to read – one passage caught me up short, it seems to capture some of the meaning I am trying to show in our project – My Journey

‘All these fragile vessels: tossed by waves and sometimes almost engulfed by them, out there in the vastness of the ocean. Some were pinpointed by the angled glare of a lighthouse like the eye of God staring straight at them, others had smoke billowing from their funnels as they tried to  plough a way through a storm. I had the sense at once that it was all true: the tilt of a boat in relation to the swell of the waves and the strength of the wind; the rigging, the billowing of the sails.’

Julia Blackburn Threads Ch 3 pg 11 (published 2015 Jonathan Cape)

I don’t credit myself with a fisherman’s knowledge of boats and I hope our lighthouse will seem more welcoming rather than glaring – but I did feel a connection as I read these words. (You’ll have to wait until I’ve finished the book and returned it to the library if you want to read on!)

I’ve been working on the town and the light house this week. The reason the fabrics are so muddled is because I’ve been searching for pieces to become rooftops – with slate or terracotta tiles, walls – either painted or brick, and stone for the lighthouse. So there’s been a lot of rummaging, ripping and snipping going on!

I haven’t finished working on the lighthouse yet – I’ll go back and add further detail later on – but it has got some neighbours now…

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Larger pieces of fabric used to construct the buildings

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Checking how these two panels link together

I’d better update the list of fabrics I’ve included so far!

Faye, Gill & Harry, Prathiba, Hannah & Reggie, Murray, Alie, Louise, Rachel & Anna, Emer & Harry , Louise, Sarah W, Louise B, Barathi, Donna J, Bethan, Donna, Caz, Anne & Martha, Louise D, Mel C, Beth, Kemmy & Dilan, Viveka… Plus pieces from the LAB and Heaton Manor sessions – sorry I didn’t stitch your names onto the pieces at the time!

Don’t worry if you’ve not been mentioned – I’ve got a lot of blues and greens saved up for the seas!

I’ll be back soon!

Donna