Zara Worth – Online/Offline: Art, Academia & Instagram

Ok I admit it – I’ve recently lost my blogging mojo and it’s been a while since I’ve posted – my head has been full of projects and events…..well after some time out away – I’m back and I’ve lined up some cracking posts and some brilliant interviews with artists.

So first up is an interview with the wonderful Zara Worth. Zara has been an artist on my radar for a while – someone who has kept popping up in either my news feed or connected to various projects. So I was delighted when she emailed me about a year ago – introducing herself and her projects. It’s so lovely to have artists actually reach out and tell me about their work (So why not do the same!?)….

I became really interested in the fact she is a post graduate student – as someone who has always been in love with academia, research and what I’d like to call intellectual adventuring – I’m extremely hungry for knowledge and challenging it. I’ve always been interested in an artist/creative, something we assume is inherently practical actually engaging in PhD research. And there are lots of artists and performers out there doing just that – I really enjoy the process of reading their research/papers whilst simultaneously enjoying their pieces of work or performances. For me it adds often an additional socio-dynamic or element of political/self-expression.

Zara explores many themes in her work – but the ones I’m currently captivated by; living your life both off line and online and the effect that has on your mental health and self-identity. As an introvert who has made a living building a brand and identity online – I find it an interesting topic especially when I consider the impact of living my life as The Culture Vulture visibly and how that sits at odds with the fact I’m actually a very private person and one, that whilst I knows a lot of people – I only have a certain amount of really meaningful friendships. Secondly, how people perceive me after getting to know me online – their construction of who I am, my personality, how I will interact in “real” life – the fact via social media we build up snap shots of people via what their shareable content and Instagram feed. Which leads onto questions about mental health – especially in the North East where there have been several recent suicides of people many would consider “influencers” on social media and who presented a very happy, exciting and often successful life…..img-0796_orig

Screenshot of ‘Economics of the Kitchen (an A to Z)’ appearing in Instagram feed (Zara Worth 2018) [performance to video for Instagram]

Zara has recently ran a workshop with discussion at Vane in which she invited participants to explore social media and self-identity…. Whilst I couldn’t attend (booo to working every weekend over the Summer and missing some ace events!) – I heard some fantastic things and I’m delighted that she’s running another version as part of the Gateshead Live programme in October for young people and adults alike. Attendees will use collage as the medium to patch together social media identities – a bit like an Instagram feed. So whilst it’s an opportunity to explore the creation of social media themes, styles, visuals and making them as impactful and engaging as possible – it’s also an opportunity to reflect on how social media imagery prompts us to feel, trigger us to behave and influences our mind set.

You can find out more about the upcoming workshop by following the link

So I’ve told you why I’m super interested in Zara and her work …. But now it’s time to hear from Zara herself. So Culture Vultures…. Who is Zara Worth when she’s both online and offline?

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Zara Worth

Hi Zara – thank you for agreeing to be my blog subject! I first discovered your work when I was researching Northern artists about a year ago – so it’s so brilliant to finally connect – we have so many mutual creative interests. Can you tell my readers about your work?

Lovely to be discovered! My work at this moment feels to be a type of contemporary religious art; I’ve been reflecting a lot on what connects my current practice with the work I’ve made in the past and I’ve realised I am drawn towards belief systems and ideological communities.

In terms of how I make work, currently I’m exploring developing a practice which mirrors our current condition of living life simultaneously on- and off-line: so nearly all of the works I’ve been making since 2016 have an online element – usually on Instagram on the @zara_worth account – and also have an offline aspect – so drawing, or perhaps an object. I’ve also started using the same title for works with connected on- and off-line elements, to further conflate this relationship between them.

Instagram has been a key source of interest since 2014; and its prevalence as a theme within my work has led my practice to be described as ‘swipe-specific’: a term which I also really align with.

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‘The Artist’s Presence’ (Zara Worth – 2018) [Chairs and AR app] made with kind support from Ian Truelove and Field Design

Swipe-specific is something I really align with too – everything is so in the moment, instantly discovereable but equally immediately forgettable….

Everyone has a really interesting story of how they got involved in the arts….so tell me about your journey?

I suppose my journey is fairly typical; being an artist always felt inevitable, and I feel very fortunate to have been able to pursue it. One thing I always find interesting, particularly at this stage in my life, is how hard people find understanding that you identify as something – an artist – which isn’t necessarily your primary or only source of income. I used to think that I would be satisfied with just helping other people with their creative projects – working in film or for other artists – I very quickly realised that I was miserable if I wasn’t making my own work.

The origins of my interest in belief systems is perhaps more interesting than my story as an artist so far. Whilst puzzling over why I have these aesthetic preferences starting my PhD it dawned upon me the impact that my Granny’s faith had on me. At this point it is important to note that my Granny seemingly inexplicably became a devout follower of the Russian Orthodox Church. It’s also worth noting that my family is in no way Russian and to this day I have no idea why this was the particular strand of Christianity that she was drawn to.

Living in Congleton, Cheshire, funnily enough there wasn’t anywhere specifically Russian Orthodox to worship, so being pragmatic she bought a large shed from B&Q and started a Russian Orthodox church in her back garden, complete with papier-mâché onion dome (later replaced with a fiberglass one when the first one melted in the rain). So growing up, when I went to Granny’s house I was surrounded by religious icons, and I used to love trotting down to the back of the garden and lighting candles and incense in the church. She died when I was 17 and I never properly spoke to her about her faith, and I suppose a lot of my work is trying to make sense of its significance.

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‘QR Codes’ (Zara Worth/Vane – 2018) [QR codes on rice paper]

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‘Void Fill’ (Zara Worth/Vane 2018) [void fill strip curtain]

I have aspirations of one day returning into academia and education at some point – I’d certainly like to do a postgraduate in 2019 – something around people and behaviour and also a coaching qualification  – I know you’re doing your PhD…… how does that compliment or effect your arts practice?

Someone recently asked me if starting a PhD had caused me to hate my art practice and that completely horrified me. I’m just starting my third year of a part-time PhD (six years in total) and my experience so far has been brilliant; studying at Leeds Beckett University has already opened up so many doors and I’ve worked in collaboration with some really fantastic academics, so it has been a very productive time already. My practice is driven by ideas, so I’m not forcing an academic framework on my practice.

I would also say to anyone thinking about doing a PhD to try to make sure you work well with your Director of Studies and your Supervisor(s); I already knew my Director of Studies, Professor Simon Morris and really landed on my feet with my Supervisor, Dr Jill Gibbon, but I’m aware of other people at other institutions who do not have great relationships with theirs and it’s been hell for them.

I’ve really been enjoying studying part-time; I was a full-time Masters student when I was at Goldsmiths and the whole thing felt like a mad sprint and I don’t feel I really had time to get the most out of the experience. I feel very fortunate to have received a part-time studentship as it’s allowed me to pursue other experiences alongside study, which would have been inconceivable if I was a full-time student, plus it supports the development of a sustainable practice in the long run – as the reality is I am unlikely to have the luxury of practising art full-time in the immediate future.

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 ‘Quotations I, III, II’ (Zara Worth/Vane – 2018) [23.5 carat gold leaf on paper]

I agree with that – becoming sustainable in the creative and cultural sector is a strategic process – very similar to building a business. Back to your work – what mediums do you use?

The medium is the message. I like my work to be loaded, so the materials should be working ideologically as well as be visually interesting. As I’ve mentioned, my recent works have on- and off-line lives, the online aspects have been predominantly performance to video for Instagram, and Instagram collages; though recently I created a piece involving Augmented Reality.

As for the off-line aspects of the work, mediums include celery; void fill (packing peanuts); and 23.5 carat gold, all chosen for the significance that they carry.

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‘A drawing made by cutting up my body weight in celery’ (Zara Worth/Vane – 2016-17) [celery and kitchen knife on paper]

We are going into the latter part of the year – it’s insane how quickly this year has gone by. Consequently, this question seems crazily appropriate – what’s been your highlight of 2018 so far?

Opening my first solo-exhibition, ‘FEED’, at Vane, this August. The Directors at Vane, Chirs Yeats and Paul Stone, have been incredibly supportive and I’ve had such an amazing response from visitors and everyone who has participated in the events running alongside; it’s been quite overwhelming. In the same month I also installed Matty Bovan’s exhibition for the London Design Biennale – I was Project Manager and it has been brilliant to be a part of; quite a crazy summer.

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‘A drawing made by cutting up my body weight in celery’ (Zara Worth/Vane – 2016-17) [performance to video for Instagram]

Going forward into 2019 – what do you have planned?

I’m joining The Newbridge Project’s Collective Studio programme, which is a nine-month studio residency and development programme for emerging artists, so by 2019 I’ll be immersed in the programme.

I’m in the early stages of planning an exhibition with Carol Sommer looking particularly at the use of language on Instagram, and in early 2019, if not sooner, the issue of The Journal of Writing in Creative Practice, which I’ve been guest-editing, should be published! I’m also wanting to focus on moving my writing forward with my PhD, up until now, everything has been very practice-led; as a practice-led PhD should be, but I’m really looking forward to spending some time digging down into the work I’ve been making.

You seem to have connections with mental health with projects and are passionate about the project area (as am I!) – can you tell me a bit more?

I work part-time at Gateshead College and was fortunate enough to receive a Level 1 qualification in Mental Health Awareness through an ESF course provided by the College. It really drew my attention to the importance of caring for our mental health and I started drafting ideas for a mindfulness workshop with input from a friend who is a professional art therapist.

During the collage workshop, ‘DisCONTENTed Dining’, which I ran at Vane to coincide with my exhibition, we were making collages in reference to social media, and something which came up was how much pressure people feel under after looking at social media, but how calming it was just taking time to participate in a creative activity. I’ll be running a similar workshop very soon in Gateshead and in early 2019 will deliver ‘Still Life, Still Mind’: a mindfulness drawing workshop designed to encourage positive mental health using creative drawing exercises which participants can replicate at home. My research does make me concerned about the negative impact social media has on our mental health, so I hope that these activities and exhibitions offer some small ways to resist against that and also help us reflect on our own behaviours when we are online.

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Screenshot of ‘Economics of the Kitchen (an A to Z)’ appearing in Instagram feed (Zara Worth – 2018) [performance to video for Instagram]

Well thank you Zara and good luck with your Newbridge residency – excited to see how that pans out! Extremely excited to see more of Zara’s work and how the mental health and social media element further entertwine and develop.

I am beginning to work on the very beginnings of a mental health event for 2019 for freelancers, self-employed and creatives and I sense some real synergy here! If you’d like to meet Zara – as she mentioned, she’s running another social media workshop called “Who am I, when I’m online?” in Gateshead….. you’ll have the opportunity to explore Instagram as a channel, use collage techniques to consider how we present ourselves online and think/reflect on the difference between online and offline identities…. So come along and do something creative on 6th October and join what is sure to be some really interesting discussion!

Sheryl Jenkins: Digital Makings’ Artist of the Month for March 17

It’s March, practically Spring and the month of International Women’s Day. Due to how many events and parties on going through-out March, it feels the whole month is now full of possibilities, empowerment and championing lush ladies and all who fist pump equality and female success.

Seems apt I am able to use this blog to pretty much channel and showcase all the wonderful people that I admire – and as it’s March and all about #lasses – this month I’m championing Digital artist Sheryl Jenkins as Digital Makings Artist of the Month for March.

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I’ve had the pleasure of working with Sheryl during her delivery of participatory arts workshop for kids with animation. She’s dreamy to work with; fast paced, full of energy, great at facilitating creative experimentation, brilliant with young people and fun to work alongside. You can watch the result of her recent ‘Crafty Animations’ session at Gateshead Central Library HERE.

Sheryl describes herself as a freelance animator, an anarchic creative and filmmaker who often works on collaborative projects with artists, schools, community groups, and education and arts organisations. She is also involved in independent film productions and residencies, producing film content for online education resources and random bits of animation.

What comes across from Sheryl’s showreel (give it a watch – it’s brilliant) – is that she really loves her work and has great fun producing it. That vibe is infectious to be around…… I’m all about positivity and people loving their work.

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I caught up with Sheryl recently and wanted to find out more about her practice, her love of things Digital, her involvement in Thinking Digital and her favourite films……

Hi Sheryl, tell me about your journey into digital arts?

At the moment I’m interested in using tablets as animation and filmmaking tools. The apps available make it possible to include a variety of styles including drawn, model, photographic sequences, rotoscoping, green screen and cut out.  It’s kind of the perfect point for me to reach because I’ve always been interested in being able to create animated work where ever I like.  The iPad is like an animation sketchbook and means I can create animated work in response to anything on location.  So that’s where I’m at now.

Going back in time, I was always interested in drawing and making things, I used to pretend I was presenting Blue Peter, when I was younger we had a BBC computer and I used to write games for it. Most members of my family had a camera of one sort or another whether it was 35mm, Super8 film or a video camera.  I enjoyed taking photographs – I’d’ve been obsessed with Instagram if it’d been around when I was growing up.  My brother and I used to make animated films with my Dad’s video camera.  We used our toys and made models – I still have some of those films.

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I studied Graphic Design before studying Animation at the Surrey Institute of Art and Design. It was great to meet and work alongside so many other people interested in animation who had such a broad range of styles.  At that time we were using a combination of rostrum camera and reel to reel mixed with newer audio technology and editing software.  I always like the idea of mixing old and new.  I like to feel a creative connection (for want of a less naff description) to what I’m making.  I don’t want tech to come between me and the process of making.  I like that creative closeness.  It probably sounds like I’m contradicting my practice that I talked about at the start but it’s all about a balance and taking advantage of what a piece of technology can offer.

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I’ve been freelance for about 17 years. During that time, through working with different groups and other artists my practice changed and I went back to university to explore my more abstract style that had emerged.  I think that change in style had come about through working with schools, community groups and so on.  It was the influence from those groups and the need to create animated work quickly that had changed how I worked with animation.  During projects I had to take a process that you would normally think of as slow and steady and speed it up and make it accessible.  Those groups have had an impact; I like it when someone questions the process or suggests a different approach.

At the moment I drift between traditional narrative, abstract ideas and anarchic creativity – Anything could be a possible beginning of something and if something catches my eye I start thinking about the possibilities.

Why animation and film making?

The process of animation is fascinating. After all this time I’m still amazed when I finish at bit of work, whether it’s an independent piece or part of a collaboration, and it appears to move itself – just magic. I often use optical toys in workshops and things like the zoetrope are amazing – everyone loves those.  I don’t know if it’s because you’re watching live animation, there’s no camera and you’re not watching a TV; it’s happening in front of your eyes.  It’s just mad.  When I was a kid I had an annual about an egg-shaped, gem stone called Ludwig and on the bottom corner of several pages was a series of drawings that you could flick and they’d move – it was one of the most amazing things I’d ever seen.

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I had ideas about being an archaeologist or an astronomer – maybe I was working my way through the alphabet but didn’t get very far – but it dawned on me that if I did animation then I can become all of the other jobs I’d like to do, in a Mr. Benn fashion. So through animation I get to explore, learn about, work with other professionals from other areas and make films in response to my experience.

Favourite animator/animation?

In his animator guise I love Terry Gilliam.  I used to watch a lot of Monty Pythons Flying Circus and I loved the cut out animation sequences.  I liked the style – it didn’t use drawings like Scooby Doo and it wasn’t smooth like a Disney film.  I liked the use of images from photographs and paintings.  It was charming, quirky and just bizarre.

Another favourite animator is Norman McLaren – I like how he experimented with technology and the animation process.  I often show his films in my workshops.

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Norman McLaren

Another favourite is Barry Purves.  He has made some amazing model animations.  I’ve heard him speak at festivals a few times and I love to hear how passionate he is about animation.

I like to know about other people’s filmmaking process – that’s what interesting to me – I think that the process ultimately adds an energy and presence to the work. I heard Caroline Leaf, who has used sand in her animations, talking about her work and someone asked her what happened if she made a mistake and she said that there were no mistakes because they all become part of the film.  I like that – it’s like growing a piece of animation.

Favourite film maker/film?

I like filmmakers who get immersed in the process or are determined to make their idea and take creative risks. I’ve got to say Terry Gilliam again.  One of my favourite films is Time Bandits.

There are a lot of artists from other backgrounds that I like – It’s often people working with shapes, the idea or suggestion of movement, and shadows.

Do you have a favourite project you’ve worked on so far?

Sometimes projects are memorable because of the people you work with – everyone enjoys themselves and works well together.

One of my favourite film outcomes from a project was an animation – Invasion of the Chocolate Monster – made with Year 3 children in Carlisle over three days.  I really like the narration, voices and sound effects in that one.

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As part of my degree I worked alongside English Heritage who were recording prehistoric markings in Northumberland and County Durham. That was interesting.  I was working outdoors with my cameras and pastels, inks and paint – tricky in the wind and rain.  I could’ve done with the iPad then.  The film I made was a mix of all sorts – drawn sequences, Super8, 35mm photographs, mixed media, digital clips.

I worked on a project a while ago with Darlington Arts and people on Firthmoor Estate. During the project we made life-sized, MDF cut-out versions of people and animated them around the estate.  I don’t think I’d worked on that scale before.

I like to collaborate with other artists and professionals. I like to observe how they work and consider how their process could be adapted or applied to my animation practice.  I’m always looking for new ways of working that keep things fresh and challenging.

Tell me about a current/recent project?

I recently completed a residency with Newbiggin Hall Estate and Newcastle Arts Team. I worked with community groups on the estate over about a year and a half.  I felt very welcome and people were interested in being involved.  We made animated film, live action, there was a bit of photography, some painting and crafts, and a bit of textiles.  It depended on what the groups’ interests were.  We had a great celebratory event at the end where everyone came together for a creative fun day and we premiered one of the films.

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When a project comes to an end I hope that people continue to use what they’ve learnt because I always think that there’s so much more potential and scope for animated work and I would like to see where they go next with their ideas.

At the moment I’m working with The Cultural Spring and St. Clare’s Hospice in Jarrow.  I’m working with Day Care visitors.  The sessions are relaxing and fun.  We have a laugh and come up with some absolutely bizarre ideas – they often become a random stream of ideas – “then this happens, then there’s a dog appears, then a shark eats a duck …” and so on.  It’s all very Monty Python.

Do you have a favourite age group to work with?

I don’t have a favourite age group that I like working with. I like working with anyone if they’re interested and want to be involved.  I like to see what ideas and skills people can bring to a project.  Some people, often older groups, worry about the technology, but the technology is only a small part of things.  I’m interested in the creative side of the process.  And there’s always a role to suit everyone whether they’re interested in making things, designing, filming or animating, or telling everyone else what to do.

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Do you do commissions/independent stuff? Tell me a bit more!

I make my own films. It’s tricky, partly because if I have start a project then that takes priority, and also because if I’m working by myself there’s no-one to chat to about how it’s going or keep me motivated or focused, so that’s all down to myself.  I have several independent projects that sit on a shelf and every so often I revisit whichever one I’m in the mood for.  Taking a break from them probably helps me to come back with a fresh view.

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I collect a lot of archive material. I have a stash of old photograph albums and loads of slides.  I’ve used them in projects but there’s potential for other projects with those.  For a while, I’ve been working on a series of images that are made from animation sequences.  I take each frame and build them up on top of one another into a single, still image.  I look at it as a record of each stage in one picture.  It came out of some work mixing animated, morphing sequences which had been inspired by Spirograph patterns.  I sometimes set myself creative tasks, some might take a day to complete and some last a whole year.  They challenge me to think and solve technical and creative problems.

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I’ve been commissioned to create artwork and animation for theatre, television, galleries and festivals. I like seeing my work projected, shown or displayed.  I see it on a screen while I’m making it and it’s good to see how it looks somewhere else.

I see you’re involved in Thinking Digital this year – how did that come about and what are you doing? And most importantly, can you get me a ticket for mates rates?

I was asked if I had any workshop ideas that would be good for Thinking Digital.  I thought it would be a great opportunity to deliver a mobile workshop along the Quayside with participants using their own tablets and apps.  There are plenty of interesting landmarks and some lovely architecture to take inspiration from.

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My plan is for the group to use tablets to collect and create visuals, add sound and edit. There’ll also be scope to create artwork using art materials and then add that work to graphics, sketching and animation apps as part of the post-production process.  The workshop is an opportunity for participants to develop creative use of their tablets at their own pace, share knowledge, and gain inspiration and ideas for future animation work of their own.

I haven’t had any word about mates rates!

Can you tell me any sneaky peakies about any future projects?

I am working with The Hepworth in Wakefield, the Rheged Centre, and young people from Whizz-Kidz over the next few months.  I have my fingers crossed for a successful funding application result in the near future!  And I’m always interested in collaborations.  Plus I have my shelf of on-going personal projects and I quite fancy doing something about chaos theory and motor racing circuits (but not at the same time).

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Well how insightful and exciting – like Sheryl, I love hearing about how other creatives work and I adore the concept of mobile animation – so accessible. Watching her show reel is a testament to that – both old and young, engaged and enjoying animation.

I have the pleasure of working with Sheryl over the coming months as part of Arts Council funded Digital Makings project…….and if you know any budding young animators looking for something lush and exciting to do over the Easter holidays, well we’ve got it covered. Sheryl is running an all-day Culture Camp on Thursday 20th April at Gateshead Central Library – so get booked up!

That’s all for now Culture Vultures.

 

 

 

February Half term – a Gateshead round up and roll up, roll up!

Well after the success of the last half term post I pulled together, I thought I’d give you a little run down of some of the brilliant things going on this February half term for kids and teens across my stomping ground of Gateshead…….

February is a bit of a funny half term – we’ve just got over Christmas and back to work and oh “HIIII HALF TERM – where on earth did you come from” ….. most people haven’t thought about it yet either…….

Also the weather is likely to be a little bit rubbish and grey, so we need indoor activities…….

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Whilst having a small breakdown is completely acceptable – as a parent, you have a right to have them on a daily basis, but I want to try and help you guys out a bit.

Right so my top Gateshead based activity selection……..go go……

Saturday 18th Feb….

Why not have a little lie in, (it is half term after all) and then join Gateshead’s Children’s Knitting group at 11am at Gateshead Central Library? This group is newly established and doing really well. You may think “knitting!?!”…..knitting is all the rage at the moment and kids love hands on practical stuff and better yet, the skills they learn in this group, they can continue at home on a rainy afternoon!

To book for free, visit HERE!

Sunday 19th Feb…..

Sunday is obviously the day of rest and for overdosing on roast potatoes butttt if you do fancy feeling adventurous, why not pop along to The Centre for Life and visit the new Lego exhibitions. It looks mint – I’m yet to go but it’s on my “to visit” list. This blog post from Here Come The Hoopers gives you a good idea of what it’s like!

And p.s. the ice skating rink is still there until 26th Feb….so hurry up and get yerr skates on.

Monday 20th Feb…..

Hiyerrrr Monday….. without the usual blues I hope, as it’s half term!

So first up, we’ve got Stop Motion Monday at Blaydon Library. This session is for ages 7yrs+ and you’ll have the opportunity to use our tablets to make your very own stop motion movie. This process is highly addictive (speaking from an addict here!) and super enjoyable.

To book for free, visit HERE!

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In the afternoon, Creatures up Close returns to Gateshead Central Library. Laura is back with her amazing animal and insect friends….. this is your chance to get hands on and learn all about some crazy creatures.

These sessions are for 3yrs + and priced £3 for non-library members and £2.50 for members.

To book on the 2pm session visit HERE!

To book on the 2.45pm session visit HERE!

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For slightly older kids, aged 7yrs + there is Digital Makings: Crafty Animations with artist Sheryl Jenkins. In this workshop, Sheryl will introduce attendees to a crafty approach to the animation process and provide the opportunity to experiment with a wide variety of arts materials. Participants will use textiles, collage, rubbings, digital media, charcoal, pastels and inks to make an animated film.

To book for £5, visit HERE!

Tuesday 21st Feb…….

There are only two places left for the super popular Culture Camp: Make a Movie in a Day at Gateshead Central Library starting at 9.30am. This all day session is for 8-14yr old budding film makers who will work with digital artist John Quinn to create a movie using iPads and apps.

Culture camps are the perfect opportunity to engage with a variety of arts and creative activities, whilst working with a peer group. Children are left at Gateshead Library for the day, whilst you are free to get on with your terrific Tuesday in the knowledge they are having a mint time and learning!

To book for £20, visit HERE!

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Do your mini mes love Pokemon Go? Yes!? Well bring them along to your local Pokestop at Pelaw Library at 10am. There will be lots of Pokemon activities for you to have a go at and of course, you’re welcome to play Pokemon Go with fellow Pokemon hunters.

This session is for children of all ages and is £1 to attend – just turn up!

If you can’t make the session on the 21st Feb, come along to Whickham Library at 2pm on 22nd for another session!

Wednesday 22nd Feb….

The amazing Pop-Up Studio Low Fell is running a workshop at Gateshead Central Library at 10am. They will be facilitating a space themed accessories family workshop – attendees will make a space themed key chain, bracelet or necklace by following an out of this world design or by getting super creative and designing their own.

This session is for 8yrs+.

To book for £10 per adult and £7 per child, visit HERE!

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Or why not visit Crawcrook Library at 10am for their Maker Morning. Let your imagination go in their maker modelling morning; will you make a monster, an alien, something from Minecraft!? We’ll provide the materials and you bring the ideas!

This session is for children of all ages and is free to attend – just turn up!

Thursday 23rd Feb……

Drop by Chopwell Library at 9.30am for their Dinosaur Romp for under 5s and families. Your little tinkers will stomp their way around the library in this dino themed rhymetime. Fancy dress is encouraged!

This session is for Under 5s and families and is free to attend but visit HERE to reserve your place!

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Or visit Felling Library for some Minecraft Mayhem at 10.30am. Attendees will create some scenes from a favourite book or join special worlds with friends using tablets. Just remember absolutely no TNT!

This session is for children of all ages and is free to attend – but visit HERE to reserve your place!

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In the afternoon, get your Digital fix at Microbit Coding activity at Gateshead Central Library at 2pm.

Spend a lovely afternoon challenging yourself with a fun coding activity to make the game of Frustration.

This session is for 8yrs+ and pre-booking is essential!

To book for £3, visit HERE!

Friday 24th Feb……

Start your half term Fri-yey right with the lush Chalk and get making and building at The Mythical Beast Building Construction Club at Shipley Art Gallery starting at 10.30am. What creatures do you imagine live in Saltwell Park? Does the creature have three heads, one hundred eyes and a tongue longer than a lorry? Let your imagination run wild as you create your very own mythical beast; delve into the Chalk invention box, choose your materials, and get creating!

This workshop is designed with both little ones and big ones in mind; you can make and build on your own, or work together as a whole family. To spur on the crafting, the workshop will be set to a soundtrack of beastly music! Grrrrrrr!

This session is for children of all ages and is £2.50 to attend per child, to book visit HERE!

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And then on to GemArts Mini Mela for an exciting multicultural afternoon at Gateshead Central Library, from 11am-3pm. This event is packed full of family fun, with free workshops, performances, henna artists, face painting and lots of other exciting arts and crafts to take part in. Join in Indian, Chinese and other visual arts from around the world, Indian dance and African drumming activities, learn something new and take home your very own creations.

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How amazing does that sound? The entire day is on a drop in basis – so come along and get involved!

This session is for children of all ages and is free to attend, but visit HERE to keep up to date at the programme of the day is announced.

Saturday 25th Feb…….

Spend a culture vulture full day pottering around The Baltic, walk up to Sage Gateshead and then…. go and visit the beautiful St Mary’s Heritage Centre for their ‘History Mysteries Children’s Trail’!

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Ooooooh sounds exciting, adventurous and a little bit spooky.

You and your mini me’s will be challenged to unravel the truth from the fiction about this building’s fascinating past. They will also have their ever popular Victorian toys on display for the whole family to play with.

This is for children of all ages and is free to attend – just turn up 10am -4pm Tuesday – Saturday across the half term week. For more details visit HERE!

Sunday 26th Feb…..

Sounds like a lazy Sunday on the sofa watching films together as a fam and getting ready for the week ahead back at school……

Let me know what you get up to and get planning your half term and booking your places.

The Culture Vulture xx

February 17 Artist of the Month; Chris Folwell

New month, new projects and new artists to showcase…….so February’s artist of the Month is an artist, I’ve only quite recently had the pleasure of getting to know but in a variety of forms. I met him as an aspiring artist at The Late Shows so many moons ago….the exact year is hazy, as are so many of the Late Shows weekends when you meet so many wonderful people and do many lovely things. I saw his work as part of The Book Art project in 2012 and then our paths crossed again at last year’s Anime Attacks where he ran a flip book animation drop in workshop and again as one of the brilliant artists selected to join the 2016 Gateshead cohort of Make Art Happen.

Who is this artist you ask – well it’s Chris Folwell of course! Chris has been one of those artists that I’ve only ever met at events, or through their participatory work and collaborative larger scale projects. I’ve have quite been able to place him – he has just sprang up to me doing something fantastically creative.

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Chris Folwell

Through his involvement on MAH, I got to know more about him, his practice, his background and his ambitions. I remember reading his application for MAH and I just loved it – full of creative project ideas, lots of passion and most importantly, real legs and capacity to get it off the ground.

So when I found out he was one of the Digital Makings Fore-edge artists and running some activity as part of the Gateshead Live programme – I was thrilled. So here he is in all his glory as The Culture Vulture’s February Artist of the Month…….

How did you get into “the Arts”?

I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of people just fall into the arts and it was the same for me: I studied graphic design and hated how cold and removed it was, then animation and loved the hands on side but didn’t want to work at a computer doing CG.

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My tutor there introduced me to printmaking and I got hooked – I did a top up year in fine art pretty much purely to play in the print room, then I bought a second hand press and barely went in to university afterwards! I had grand visions of graduating and becoming a full time illustrator and printer making work that sells out in an hour like some of the big names in the US. That never happened, but for a time I did make decent money selling my work at craft markets and I think that visibility served me well, though it eventually left me a little jaded with the arts and craft market scene.

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A lot of the early ‘proper’ art work I did was through people who’d approached me at a market, then been surprised to discover that I had fingers in lots of pies outside of printmaking; I make a lot of objects out of cardboard just for fun: automata, zoetropes, small sculptures, and that’s lead to some interesting commissions (a 1:25th scale rocket and a life size polar bear). My animation degree has helped too, that led to artist Anton Hecht hiring me for one of his projects and he’s been a real patron of mine ever since, he taught me a lot about working in the arts professionally and spurred me on to pursue participatory art independently, something which has become the core of my practice.

Mostly I think it’s just interest in how things are made and what makes them work though that led me to being a full time artist; the first thing I do when I walk into a gallery is try and figure out how the artist made it and if it doesn’t impress me technically as well as visually then I feel cheated somehow. So that’s something I always tried to put into my work, seeing that look of wonder on people’s faces at the audacity of building a 30 foot tall rocket purely from cardboard is worth every second, especially when it’s a kid or a teenager: it takes more than you’d think to impress children!

How would you describe your practice?

Most of my practice now revolves around participatory art, though I still do make and sell prints, working with the public has become my focus. It starts with an idea for something I would really like to make or an issue I’m interested in, then I spend time figuring out how to involve people that would make the work more worthwhile.

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For instance I’m currently collaborating with ceramics artist Judith Davies on the Out of the Box project, we’re exploring housing and community: how people would like to live given the freedom to choose. It’s my first real collaboration, and it’s the biggest project I’ve ever worked on but at it’s roots it just sprang out of our mutual interest in homes. At this stage it’s a pilot working with a handful of Gateshead youth groups to design homes and communities and build ceramic maquettes we’ll be exhibiting in Gateshead town centre, but we’re hoping to grow the project and commission other artists, I suppose the dream would be to use our findings to influence local housing development for the better.

Outside of big projects l do plenty of workshops, I started off doing simple arts and crafts workshops but that’s gradually evolved until now they’re usually as much about engineering as art.

What inspires you?

Science and science fiction has been a big influencer, in both my printmaking and participatory practice, I guess that’s the inquisitive part of me wanting to know how the world goes together. I read a lot, and listen to podcasts on a myriad of subjects but sociology is a particular favourite: it fits in beautifully with participatory art.

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Otherwise I’m drawn to all sorts of things, I collect hobbies then discard them after a few months, I obsess over constructing imaginary homes, I’ve been building a boat on and off for 3 years. I suppose I find objects more interesting than people most of the time, and I love planning new projects, especially when I can go on a good walk and think them through.

Tell me a bit about your experience on Make Art Happen?

I think it was honestly the single most transformative period of my arts career. If you’re not familiar with Make Art Happen it’s a project designed by Helix Arts supported by Gateshead Culture Team to teach people how to deliver participatory arts programmes; it’s changed my whole outlook. My first involvement was through a commission; Bensham & Teams art, the group who hired me, came about through the MAH scheme then following that I was invited to apply for the next reiteration of the programme that would this time be aimed specifically at artists in Gateshead who wanted to expand their practice to include participatory art. It was hugely informative, they walked us through every aspect you could imagine and the support they gave us has been amazing. I met Judith Davies on the course and the Out of the Box project was a direct result of MAH, but more importantly it pushed me to examine the work I’d done so far and decide what a really wanted to do.

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Until that point the route my career had taken was determined almost entirely by hunting paid work, which is fine but then you realise one day that you’ve had very little creative control over what you’ve been doing. That little push from Helix and the support allowed me to start a project entirely from scratch, and since then I’ve been planning projects until the cows come home – I’m sure some of them will never see the light of day, but if only a fraction of the things I want to do come to pass then I will feel like I’ve really achieved something!

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If I could recommend one thing to anyone who thinks participatory art is something they want to add to their practice, even in a small way, it would be to email Helix Arts and tell them you would be interested in a Make Art Happen programme in your area.

Tell me about the Fore-edge exhibition? What is it?

Fore-edge paintings are a painting or drawing on the page edge of a book that’s hidden beneath gold leaf, if you twist the spine and fan the pages then it reveals this secret image underneath. It’s a medieval technique really, but the disappearing illustrations we’ve been working on started popping up around the 1600s and there have been a few small revivals but as far as I know there’s only one other person in the world still producing them. This was a chance to get a collection of artists together and produce a fresh take on an ancient technique, and the restrictions of the medium make for some really interesting results. Alongside the more traditional fore edge illustrations there’ll be a more modern twist on the hidden image, this time using augmented reality to display a secret visual in the books.

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How did the project idea come about?

The fore-edge exhibition is one of Anton Hecht’s projects, he produces a lot of interactive art and pursues that in the projects he manages too, we’d previously done a project together illustrating books to turn them into flip books so when he stumbled across this technique it seemed like a natural development.

Tell me about your Fore-edge book Necronomicon? Did you select it?

I did yes, Lovecraft is just one of those writers that jumps out at you, he produced such a huge volume of work and was such a founding father of the horror genre it’s impossible to ignore him. It seemed a perfect fit for a work revolving around hidden imagery and mystery, I’m sure Lovecraft would have been interested in the technique. There is a little joke in there at his expense though, the man had a terrible habit of never actually describing the monsters in his stories.. since so many of his creatures are “indescribable” there’s only a hint of lurking beasties in my own illustration.

Tell me about the process you went through making your piece?

It’s quite a complicated process to prepare the books for a fore edge illustration, and an even more long winded process to gold leaf them, but that was the aspect that most appealed to me when Anton approached me. I think I went through 12 books testing different approaches and fine tuning techniques to get it just right!

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If you reduce it to simple terms then you need to prepare the edge you’re going to decorate by sanding it smooth, then we twist the spine so the pages are fanned at least 45degrees and clamp it in a specially made press, similar to book binding press. Once it’s in there you can get painting or drawing but you need to be sure you don’t leave a residue on the surface, so acrylics are out but watercolour and markers work well. After that we pop the book back to normal and clamp it again then stain the edge with a red pigment called Armenian bole, which we can buff to a shiny finish with stiff brush. Lastly we apply a thinned down PVA glue and the gold leaf then you’re done! As part of the exhibition I’ll be running a workshop running through the full technique so please do come along and try it.

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Have you seen any of the other works? Any favourites?

Yes, I ended up applying the gold finish to the majority of them so I’ve had a sneak peak. I think Mandeep Chohan’s book was my personal favourite, she was someone I was really keen to get involved in the project from the get-go; she makes fabulous collages so it was quite a challenge translating that technique to a fore edge illustration. We ended up using acetone to transfer images from photocopies, but that has formed the basis of the approach I’ll be teaching in the workshops.

What would you like people to take away from the exhibition?

Mostly just a little bit of wonder, this is something people have been doing for hundreds of years on some of the most beautiful books in history, so this is your chance to see some modern examples made by some of the North East’s finest artists!

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What’s next for you in 2017 onwards?

More of the same if I’m lucky; 2016 was a great year for my practice so I’m looking forward to all of the planning I started back then finally paying off. I’m working on a community arts festival for Bensham, Teams and Racecourse estates, I’ve got a fibreglass knight on horseback to paint celebrating the Battle of Lincoln, a wedding to plan, and you never know I might even finish that boat!

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So fellow Culture Vultures have until 1st April to come and see the Fore-edge Book Trail at Gateshead Central Library…..make sure you do! Looking at the books and the detail, it makes me wonder when exactly was the moment we stopped, as a society, decorating our books to the extreme. There is just something SO magical about a leather bound book; with gorgeous illustrations and touches…..absolute works of art in their own right.

Peace and love. x

Karen Underhill; Artist of the Month January 2017

For those who work in Arts and Culture, like myself, this is prime programming time – in fact I’ve programmed some of the Gateshead Live up until July 2017 – which is crazy. But also fantastically exciting, to see the projects and events that lie ahead. So what lies ahead in 2017!? – well of course alongside a vibrant cultural programme across the North East with far too many things to list here and the official launch of the Culture Vulture– we have Digital Makings!

One of the artists in residence Karen Underhill is also my January artist of the Month. I was involved in the short listing process for Digital Makings and had the absolute pleasure of being the first to receive the applications and read them. I read Karen’s and loved it – she is a local artist, who I’ve had some engagement with in the past, but only in passing and I haven’t had the opportunity to really get to know her and her practice. And what a perfect time to do it!?

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Karen Underhill

I loved her Digital Makings application; infusing traditional arts practice with digital elements in a very clever way that is not only accessible, but exciting. She also proposed Painting with Light session, which if anyone has been to Glasto or Bestival, you will know this well and it’s mint! Dancing around with lights and lasers, UV and capturing pictures of it in motion, which can create beautiful patterns.

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Karen Underhill – Painting with Light

However, what really speaks to me about Karen and her work is her passion to use creative mediums to ignite positive change in communities which is then driven by the community themselves, uniting and finding an collective identity. Karen takes time to get to know people, the communities in which her project engages, she listens, embraces the diversity and empowers people to find their creative voice. This is not creating Art for arts sake; this is art and a creative practice that has a positive impact on the individual, macro and micro communities and the North East region…….. now how many of us can say, what we do on a day to day basis has that wide of a positive reach!? It’s inspiring…….

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Karen Underhill – Street Party 2015

So who is Karen Underhill…….Karen is a visual and performing artist, originally from the Scottish Borders, working across disciplines that include Fine Art, street theatre, digital art and performance. Karen is also trained in media studies and multi-media and has lectured.

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Karen has worked in the creative industries since 1997 delivering multi-disciplinary workshops within communities. That is what is so brilliant about Karen and her work – it never really feels about “her” – it’s about the people she works with, the communities, the engagement, the opportunities and empowering others to have a sense of ownership of an art work, the project, the place they live etc.

I first heard about Karen when she worked on and facilitated the project that concluded with a giant new artwork for Gateshead Interchange; the peacock! Lisa Johnson’s peacock design was chosen following an appeal by Nexus for a piece of art to liven up the entrance to the interchange, out of 30 Gateshead College student submissions. The peacock image is cleverly made up of the word “hello” in different languages. This project was made possible by Gateshead College’s Digital Academy, which Karen was a part of and evidences her interests in creating a sense of place through her fascination with narrative to tell community stories. But at the heart of the project was empowering the next generation of student artists……. an agenda that I’m really passionate about myself.

Lisa Johnson – Peacock at Gateshead Interchange

I have since gotten to know Karen working on events such as eDay, Anime Attacks as part Juice Festival, Gateshead College careers days and as a regular library user. She is absolutely lush, full of energy and ideas – she is an absolute pleasure to talk to. She also runs her own business, which as a fellow businessy gal, I love. It’s called Blue Meanies, a mobile Arts and Events service. She offers arts and craft workshops, entertainment, performance, stilt walking, face-painting, VJing and creative workshops for private parties, birthday celebrations, corporate events, weddings, large and small scale events. She can also provide bespoke educational packages for schools and community centres and aim to make art and creativity accessible to all with an ethos on creative exploration.

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Karen Underhill during performance

So of course, I was thrilled when she was short listed and then selected as one of three artists in residence for the Digital Makings project. I sat in on a recent planning meeting for DMs and had the opportunity to hear about Karen’s work and historical projects alongside her plans for 2017 in regards to our programme. The benefit of having artists in residence within Arts projects is that, it brings in new ideas, new energy, different diverse perspectives and expertise – a collaborative project really comes into its own. Part of that process is engaging with the artist in residence, seeking out the synergy, learning from their experience and their creative CV.

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Karen Underhill – #wingsofthecommunity

This meeting was for that; her passion for her work was clearly evident and I loved listening to her showcase her work. She told us about a recent 2015 project she worked on an ‘Environmental Artist in Residence’ with photographer Jonathan Bradley called Creative Endeavours. The artists worked with residents and communities across the East and West end of Newcastle empowering people to demonstrate their environmental pride.

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Karen Underhill – Reclaim the lanes

The community-owned projects saw participants of all ages, demographics and culture come up with fun and imaginative ways of illustrating and exploring what they can do to address local priorities like keeping back lanes tidy and litter-free whilst coming together to talk about the places in which they live and work reclaiming them as potential community spaces for vibrant cultural and community activities.

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Karen Underhill – #wingsofthecommunity

This project focused on giving individuals and community a creative voice, a means of expression whilst uniting them to tackle collaborative challenges and communicate environmental messages that affect them in the present and in the future.

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What really stood out to me is the rich diversity of the communities involved, led to a real diverse mix of arts engagement – cultural diversity is a beautiful thing and can lead to really beautiful results. Everything from community murals, to street parties, to music in the streets and even a music video called ‘Respect the Streets’ which also features Karen herself, created by the young people at The CHAT Trust Newcastle’s West End.

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Karen very recently finished a collaborative project called ‘Memory Petals’ with artist Kate Eccles; on December 6th a new permanent artwork went on display at Newburn Library, which was the culmination of three-months work by a collection of local groups from Throckley and Newburn.

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Karen and Kate worked with twenty-four people from the Grange Welfare Centre, Throckley Community Hall and ‘Flowers of Newburn’ community group exploring the themes of memory and discovery, mining the rich historical links of Newburn and Throckley to the River Tyne.

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The words and imagery inspired by these local stories were developed into crafting a circular motif, growing from imagery of a rose engraved military button, the watermill and other beautiful flowers. A variety of different techniques were used in the workshops to help create the heritage imagery, ideas and stories.  The techniques included mark making, painting, digital photography, apps, text, collage and sound recordings and explored the senses of sight, touch, smell and sound; and covered singing, textiles, printing and digital media.

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The project infused quite traditional arts mediums with digital whilst working with older people from local community groups, to try and record their personal memories, reflections and to celebrate the heritage of the area. The groups with encourage to explore their memories and self-expression, using creative means. The final piece was a final large flower artwork is 5ft x 5ft in size and contains 36 kaleidoscope discs, each showing the different mediums used. Each petal representing a person, a medium which is united into a visually impressive collaborative whole. A booklet has also been produced to document the three-month creative journey.

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Karen Underhill and Kate Eccles – Memory Petals

Karen has also recently completed workshop sessions with community groups from Kenton Bar, Northbourne Street Youth Initiative and Chain Reaction. They had a go at playing with scrap materials to form a Fire & Ice themed collars and a bustle, tinkered with UV paint and light, snowflake shapes and twinkly bits and mask making. Some of the results of these sessions appear at New Year’s Eve Carnival in Newcastle City Centre.

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So what about Karen and Digital Makings – well she “hopes to ignite a passion for learning and creativity by using thrifty ways of working, combining low and hi- fi technology and resources”. Karen will be running very diverse activities widely across Gateshead targeting digital inclusion, digital engagement and digital empowerment through creative activities– Voice and singing workshop at St Mary’s Heritage Centre, An alphabet photography workshop at Whickham library, Painting with light workshop, a VJ-ing workshop and Film Director Culture Camp at Gateshead Central Library.

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She will also be working with a wide variety of Gateshead based community groups – on community led creative projects with a digital thread. This will culminate in an exhibition, showcasing the work within The Gallery, at Gateshead Central Library. Knowing how well Karen works with community groups and the innovativeness of her facilitation, I’m extremely excited to see not only the end “thing” but the progression and evolution from initial idea to implementation.

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I’m really excited to work with Karen on Digital Makings and seeing some of these community projects take shape. Obviously, being the little raver I am – I can’t wait for some Painting with Light; I’ve got some great moves to bust out…..

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Digital Makings Artist of the Month November; Lesley-anne Rose

Digital Makings has led to direct exposure to the wonderful world of digital arts and many fantastic digital artists that work in this area. Digital art is a wonderful world that encompasses everything from music, to photography, to film, to animation, to CAD, to creative coding and hacking, to more traditional arts and mediums infused with digital elements.

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Animation workshop October 2016

The thing that I find so absolutely fascinating about digital art is that firstly, my preconception going into Digital Makings was all wrong. I believes that digital arts and traditional arts were quite separate; however what I’m finding through the project of Digital Makings, is that traditional arts still has an integral part to play with many artists using sculpture, drawing, painting, etc within their digital arts practice. In fact, digital art and traditional art are so complementary and where they meet and overlap, there is real synergy that can lead to real creative results.

Secondly, Digital Art is a continuously evolving process of experimentation and learning. If we think how rapidly technology is developing, how often new apps and programmes are constantly being launched and updated; it happens daily. In the midst of designing workshops related to apps, we’ve had their capabilities wildly transform or often, disappear altogether replaced by something newer. Clearly this constant evolution and change will affect Digital Arts and the artists that engage in those mediums. To me, their practice could arguably be described in an exciting state of flux.

Over the recent weeks, I’ve worked with a brilliant North East based Digital artist; Lesley-anne Rose as part of Digital Makings.

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Lesley-anne Rose

Lesley ran an animation workshop on 15th October and a family music workshop on 12th November as part of the Digital Makings activity programme. Both were at Gateshead Central Library and both workshops were amazing!

Click here to watch the animation produced at her Digital Makings animation workshop

Talking to Lesley, I could see we had a lot in common, we were passionate about similar community agendas, both a bit unconventional and in love with the weird and the wonderful. I then looked at her animation showreel, which is absolutely amazing and knew that I had to make her my November artist of the Month.

Click here to watch Lesley-anne’s professional showreel!

Lesley-anne Rose is an Artist and Arts educator who works across photography animation and sculptural platforms. She has a special interest in stop motion animation and model making. She works with community organisations such as We engage and Baltic Stars facilitating creative digital engagement. She has had animations commission by the likes of Channel 4BALTIC and has even animated a music video!

I caught up with Lesley, to get some insight into the world of the digital artists, to find out what inspires her animations and how she overcomes rapidly changing technology alongside participatory barriers to engagement……

Hi Lesley, Tell me about your arts practice?

I work across a few mediums, from photography to sculpture and model making; though my speciality is stop motion animation.

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 Lesley-anne Rose

I am interested in the comic and the banal things in life; I take a lot of photographs of rubbish in bushes for some reason. I have also been collecting film footage of people doing something I am fascinated with, the drag queen from the Black Garter Pub in Newcastle for example. I am not sure what I will do with the filming yet.

Favourite project of 2016 so far?

I think the Art and SOLE (Self Organised Learning Environments) project with Helen Burns at Newcastle University; I liked this project because independent thinking, ownership and agency are central to the experience. Children get to make decisions about their own learning and once that happens you can feel the energy in the room change in a good way!

Can you tell me a bit about your involvement with We engAGE?

I work with Claire and another two Artists facilitating digital engagement to older people and people living with Dementia.

I have met and worked with some amazing people as part of this project! Recently we have been looking at sustainability, working with schools and care homes together; we are hoping to foster long term partnerships between older people and students.

Why are participatory workshops a good means to engage in digital and new types of technology?

In a workshop, you can try applications with someone who can help you navigate complex software in order to make something, like an animation, piece of music, digital drawing or a computer game. Access to digital learning is something I am really passionate about.

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Lesley- anne Rose: Animation workshop October 2016

What do you find are the common barriers to engagement in Digital Arts and Digital in general and how do you seek to overcome them?

Cost, knowledge and confidence are major barriers as well as age and access. There are still a lot of people who don’t have access to any digital facilities for various reasons. My job as a facilitator is to make the equipment less scary and more of a tool for creative use.

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Why did you decide to take the Digital Arts route?

For me it was a means to an end; I wanted to make better animations and saved up to buy the laptop, software and camera that would enable me to take a step up in quality.

I really enjoy the learning process and became interested in a few software packages that are fantastic for any budding creative; Photoshop, Dragonframe, Final Cut Pro-editing software and most recently, Game Maker software.

Even though all artists’ practice and participatory workshops grow, evolve and change – as technology updates, changes and new innovations are launched all the time, surely this must speed up this process for a Digital Artist?

Any smaller, cheaper, hand held technology has the potential to be used as a creative tool. I don’t want workshop participants to just be consumers of technology, I am interested in how creative technology can give a voice to people who can showcase their work across digital platforms like YouTube.

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Lesley-anne Rose – Animation workshop October 2016

How does emerging new technology affect your practice as a digital artist?

Keeps me on my toes! I had to learn how to describe a quantum computer in order make a short animation, I watched a lot of explanations online and was thankful for the ever educational online community.

You do work for a variety cultural organisations and community initiatives; from BALTIC, to Woodhorn, to Equal Arts , to We engAGE, to Gateshead Culture Team – what’s it like working for different cultural organisations as an artist?

The work is really varied! I also work with GemArts  and have done some great projects with them working with marginalised groups and learning about other cultures. I am a huge fan of Contemporary Art which of course there is plenty of at BALTIC. I think Contemporary Art is an underrated educational tool; Artists responding to the world around them and asking many questions is something we should all feel able to do.

Can you tell me a bit about your involvement with Baltic Stars – sounds like such an interesting project!?

I really enjoy working on this project; with every group, the process and outcomes are vastly different. This project is funded by Children in Need and the aim is to work with young people with special educational needs outside of school and with their families. Every group I have worked with has had fun exploring ideas such as identity, music, sculpture and photography as part of their creative pathway.

Click here to watch her community show reel of work

You do quite a lot of animation commission work; how do these commissions occur?

Usually, someone has seen my work and recommended me. I do apply for commissions as well and perhaps I am not to everyone’s taste as an animator.

What was it like being commissioned to make an animation for Random Acts on Channel 4 ?

I didn’t think I would get through! Then when I did it was long hours of working with a great team of talented artists. Long long days in a blacked out room; it was worth it though and I am still proud of that animation .

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Lesley-anne Rose – Spatula Head – Random Acts, Channel 4

I’ve watched your various show reels and they are amazing! They seem to be quite dark, a bit Tim Burtonesque….what inspires the concepts and stories behind your animation?

I am inspired by Jan Svankmajer, a Czech animator as well as The Brother Quay. I get a lot of inspiration places as well as people, I think that’s why I like photographing the rubbish in parks, it’s a kind of story of the person who left it there.

Jan Svankmajer

Your work also seems to infuse a lot of traditional arts (what you call as analogue skills – really like that term!) – from sculpture, to drawing, to puppet making, to photography – do you have a particular traditional arts “specialism”?

I don’t think I have a particular specialism; I use drawing a lot in my process even though my drawing skills are not that great. I am fond of the drawing process and anyone can do it. You just need something that can make a mark and somewhere to put your mark, even if it’s a signature, it’s a way to tell the world I am here!

Can you tell me a bit about the animation process?

Stop motion animation is essentially a mix of photographic skills and model making. I make a set and puppets and plan out what needs to happen in that sequence of photographs.

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Lesley-anne Rose

Some scenes are made up of hundreds of photographs, some shorter scenes may be 50 or 60 shots. I work with a really talented post production artist who removes out any rigging (mechanism that holds the puppet in place) and tweaks the photos so that the animation looks good.

What are you plans for 2017? Any exciting projects that you can share with us on the horizon?

Other than trying to master the basics of game design, I don’t have any big projects lined up for 2017. Animation wise, I have an animation in production that requires me to figure out how to lip synch, making loads of tiny replaceable puppet mouths that I am hoping to complete by this time next year.

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Lesley-anne Rose

Thank you Lesley – I’ve loved working with her so far on Digital Makings and I hope our paths cross again soon. Good luck with the Lip syncing!

 

Well hello there Digital Makings…nice to meet you!

Have you heard of Digital Makings yet? No….well you’re certainly going to. Digital is EVERYWHERE now; it is simply infusing and permeating into every possible area of Arts and Culture. There is no escape.

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For those, like myself, who feel a little bit uncomfortable as soon as someone says “digital”, Digital Makings is going to be a learning curve and hugely exciting and for those who embrace digital and we first adopters well, you’re going to love it!

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Digital Makings is a collaborative Arts Council funded project between Gateshead Council Culture Team and Gateshead Libraries. It’s an on-going year-long programme of participatory digital arts activities, full of opportunities for workshop attendees, school groups, library users/borrowers, community groups, artists and even the digital industry to experiment, explore and learn.

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Gateshead Central Library (above, with Storm Troopers…)

There is lots coming up for all ages and abilities – including talks, residencies and lots of events to enthuse about all things digital. There are two key strands running through the project; the first strand sets to expose and explore creative digital mediums so expect everything from animation, to film making, to stop motion, to Quinn Draw, to photography, to music, to image manipulation.

Examples of Quinn Draw by some Young People

The second strand focuses on engaging with participants, library users, communities, artists etc through quite traditional arts, library and cultural activity and focus on digital opportunities and how digital means can be brought in to enhance not only the activity but also trigger learning.

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That’s what I mean when I say Digital Makings makes me feel a bit uncomfortable; the activity involved is going to be different and exciting, not necessarily using artist mediums or equipment that I regularly use and I’m going to feel outside of my comfort zone – which of course, I love!

The Digital Makings project has just announced its two main residencies; we are delighted to have local artists Ben Freeth and Karen Underhill on board. We also have a mini residency by Sheryl Jenkins. With all three artists, a Digital Makings programme of activity is continuously evolving (I promise you, it’s mint!). Such activity will be taking place across Gateshead and Gateshead Libraries, so keep an eye out for that.

Similar to Sculpture 30, I will be writing a feature on each artist – but I’m going to let them get a little settled into their new Digital Makings roles before interrogating them. However, I can reveal that their work and engagement will culminate in a final exhibition towards the end of the project. And after reading their proposals and plans, I’m really looking forward to it. We’re in for a treat!

For this current season, we’ve been working with digital artists and We EngAGE to run workshops, we had a Digital Arts Zone at eDay5 and we’ve got Shipley Lates: Digital Makings coming up on 26th November.

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If you fancy a night out with a difference, then Shipley Lates is for you – there will be a bar, digital arts, crafting in the beautiful surroundings of The Shipley, lovely company (Gateshead Culture Team will be there and we are a cracking bunch) and, did I mention there is a bar? So why not come join us with a troop, have a G&T and get all digital. That’s my plan for the evening anyway!

So, as I mentioned Digital Makings is a collaboration between Gateshead Culture Team and Gateshead Libraries. We’ve been working closely with Jacqui Thompson, who is the Community Learning Officer for the Libraries and creates and develops a wide range of ICT courses, code club and has an enviable digital network. If you want to get in touch with someone in the Digital sector, Jacqui is the one in the know!

I caught up with Jacqui to find out about her involvement in Digital Makings and beyond!

Hi Jacqui, can you tell me a bit about your role at Gateshead Libraries and within the Digital community across the North East?

I am most proud of being the originator of eDay; this year was our 5th event! eDay is a celebration of exciting new media and digital technology. Local makers and companies come together for the event to encourage members of the public to fully engage with changes in tech and art.

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Developing eDay from the idea stage to reality has allowed me to form a wide range of successful working relationships with local and regional businesses as well as third sector organisations. Further extending this aspect of my work I champion Coder DojoNE here in Gateshead Libraries and this has given me the opportunity to work and connect with the fantastic expert volunteers who give up their time to support young coders and makers.

Can you tell me a bit about your involvement with Digital Makings?

I was involved in part of the bid writing suggesting possible partnerships and events. Once I found out the Arts Council bid had been successful, I was then able to add new activity and workshops to the likes of eDay and Coder Dojo as well as launching a new weekly code club.

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In addition, I’ve also had input to the programming of activity, whilst supporting upcoming events such as Shipley Lates: Digital Makings and Culture Camps.

Who is the Digital Makings project and activity for?

Looking at the fantastic programme that has been pulled together so far, there really is something for all ages and abilities to get involved with. It is for people who have not really engaged with Digital before, to people who are already really engaged and proficient. Moreover, there is a family aspect, so more and more, we see children with higher tech capabilities than their parents – so creative activities within Digital Makings, will enable families to collaborate, create and learn together.

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We are really lucky to have the project and programme of activity in the region and at the same times as SnowDogs!

Why has “Digital” become increasingly important?

Well there’s no getting away from the growth of digital in our everyday life and so digital has been added to the creative and cultural mix as a way to further engage people and to help them get hands on with new tech and understand its wide range of uses as well as to make better use out of the devices they already may own.

One of the highlights of Digital Makings so far has been eDay5…can you tell me a little bit about the day?

WOW eDay5 was a great day! 350 people plus attended and got hands on with tech and digital – everything from VR, to Makerspace, to Minecraft, to 3D printing.  From participants comments on social media and our evaluation forms, a great time was had by everyone and fingers crossed for eDay6.

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We also had a Digital Arts stand this year; we had digital artist John Quinn running animation sessions and green screen movie sessions alongside Hannah from the Shipley Art Gallery introducing Quinn Art using iPads. Both of these activities proved to be highlights of the day as did the Amateur radio group.

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Well thank you Jacqui! With Digital Makings now firmly underway and set to continue until September 2017, I hope I’ve wet your appetite for it. Over the coming months, you’ll get to know the Digital Makings artists in residence and I will be shortly sharing some of activity programmed.

Current book-able Digital Makings activity can be found HERE!