Moth Studios: a studio putting taxidermy and entomology at the heart of the creative community in the North East!

It’s been a while since I blogged….I’ve missed it. I’ve missed seeking out new things, people and places to tell you about. It’s not that I didn’t seek them out – of course I did, it’s what I do and my notebook is as always, full of scribbles, names, ideas and things I’m looking forward to exploring in the coming months. It was more, I just didn’t have the time or the energy to do anything……

Those who really know me, know I’ve worked my socks off for the past 6months – I’m a prolific workaholic and an addicted culture vulture……but this year has just been something else – life in the fast lane, times a million. I don’t even know how it’s September or how I got through that workload, but it is and I did and I’ve worked on some fantastic projects so far and many more to come…..

I’m desperately trying to stand still and look back and reflect – but my head is just buzzing with all the ideas I’ve put on the backburner, collaborative opportunities I’m just itching to explore and new beautiful projects, that are at this point all mine to run free with…..

So even though I’ve had my head down to the ground, I’ve been watching, taking things in and for some, as creepy as it sounds (and I’m pretty good at being creepy), I’ve been admiring from a far. And if during this period of living amongst tornados of colliding priorities and projects, you have made me sit up and take notice of what you’re doing…….well you’re obviously doing something right.

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Have you ever had love at first sight moment? You get butterflies, you’re consumed, confused, overwhelmed and the world really does stop and skip a beat….. I had a moment like that when I stumbled upon Moth Studios in Ampersand Inventions earlier this year. Their studio wasn’t even open but I was peaking through the glass (told you I was good at creeping!) and it looked like the most interesting, weird, bizarre and absolutely captivating studio to work in. From the work space, it screamed that something really exciting and different was going on – a very different creative offering………

It was a bright space, full of animal and insect touches – think Tim Burton-esque meets very talented taxidermy. Of course, I’ve always been fascinated by taxidermy and entomology– the practice, the art of it and how it has gradually moved from quite a niche thing to infusing other types of art forms – especially stop-motion animation but I’ve not really had that much exposure to it. However, their studio managed, whilst being full of dead things, to feel absolutely full of life and energy…..

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My Ampersand tour guide at the time was all round megababe Melanie Kyles, who told me, that Moth Studios offer workshops and taxidermy sessions…… This peaked my interest absolutely and the more I thought about, the more it made absolute sense that this studio enabling people to experience taxidermy and entomology should sit right at the heart of this creative community.

As you know, the Culture Vulture is allllll about new things, different things and even bizarre things and Moth Studios is providing an offering that is so different and an experience like no other – so this is right up my street. And it’s not just me who thinks so – through-out this busy period my social media has been full of people from the North East championing their work and attending their workshops – from tiny skull sessions, to butterfly pining, to taxidermy…. I’m certainly not the only one fascinated and intrigued by this artist studio and exactly what goes on inside its doors……..

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But for this Culture Vulture – it’s the processes behind the finished items that really interests me and the symbolic nature of the pieces, their silhouettes and the slightly gothic nature of the materials being worked with…….and so my love at first sight with Moth Studios started – at first of course, from a distance and now, well I’m head over heels and I just had to find out more so I caught up with Founder, Sherene Scott who started this adventure in 2014…..

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So hello Sherene! Tell me about Moth Studios? Who are you? What is it all about?

I’m Sherene Scott, director and owner of Moth Studios. We are a contemporary ethical taxidermy studio located inside Newcastle city centre.

What was the inspiration behind starting it all?

I am an artist and taxidermist; I’ve had formal training, from Newcastle University and around the UK. The inspiration for Moth began in 2010 whilst I was still a student; I began training in taxidermy and I had an amazing interest for death and preservation; as strange as that may seem. My passion came to light when I realised it was a dying art form, the skill involved and particularly that it is a male dominated field of work.

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How did you end up residing in Ampersand Inventions? I’ve peaked through the doors of your studio when I visited and holy moly, it’s a beautiful space!

I joined the Ampersand ‘team’ before the space was even erected, as I had friends that were resident artists and directors of the spaces. So you could say I was there from birth and build!

“Birth and build” – I really like that! Here in Ampersand you’re surrounded by other creatives and artists and the building as a whole, all with different backgrounds and practices etc; how does that influence you?

It’s a warm yet very professional feeling working so closely with other artists, designers and small businesses. We all have each other’s backs and we’re never short of giving and receiving ideas, advice and networking whilst we are “living together”.

Do you think taxidermy is making a real come back – it seems quite fashionable at the moment and gathering interest?

I think in the last few years, there has been a complete revival and resurgence in taxidermy. It’s an amazing feeling to see people interacting, enjoying and educating themselves with the idea of AND physically getting involved with life, death and anatomy.

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There also feels like there has been a big shift from people seeing it as a technical process but something not often openly talked about or featured in a “cabinet of curiosities” to now being much more mainstream, with greater interest in both the process but also in it as an art form? Do you feel that too?

There has indeed been a shift in the way people see taxidermy… I.e. no longer only in museum displays, curiosity cabinets and dusty old traditional taxidermy with complicated dioramas.

Now because we have so many taxidermy laws and there are no longer illegal ‘trophy rooms’ for silly status value; I would like to think we no longer see taxidermy as a bad practice, but seen as beautiful, artistic and ethical pieces of natural beauty, with the dioramas now being your own home, space or a unique 21st century touch.

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Tell me about some of your upcoming workshops – they are really unique and interesting? And how can people book onto them?

Moth Studios hosts many workshops and classes alongside their own work and online shop. We have beginner’s taxidermy and entomology (insect pinning) classes throughout the whole year!

Autumn/winter season is very popular for Moth… We have classes ranging from bugs to mice to squirrel, skull decorating, birds and even our specialised workshops themed around Halloween and Christmas, where we will be having bauble and wreath gift making evenings!

All of our up and coming classes are posted on our Facebook events page and I can be contacted directly via email contact@mothstudios.co.uk to get booked onto a session.

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Where do you source your materials from?

All of Moth Studios specimens and skulls come from responsibly sourced donations and finds from various different people, rangers, aviaries, farms and so on.

Do you take commissions?

Moth Studios does take commissions and projects; mainly specimens that have been found or that Moth already has. However, I do not commission pets…….

Do you have any new projects on the horizon and what’s next for Moth?

We have many exciting projects on the horizon and 2018 will see a whole new class list, new works and entire new collection in our shop. We will also be touring Moth Studios classes to exciting external locations in the North East and down south!

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Well that sounds massively exciting, thank you Sherene and if like me, you want to check out one of their classes – well why not come along with me and be my date…..I really fancy something Halloweeny or a Christmas wreath….get in touch and let’s do it.

Keep in touch with Moth via; Instagram: moth_studios , Facebook: Moth-Studios , Email: contact@mothstudios.co.uk , Website: mothstudios.co.uk or No: 07958658009.

Until next time Culture Vultures…..

 

 

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Are you in the Crafthood?

We all know I love small businesses….that’s a given right? Well what I love even more than that, is a small business that are absolutely owning and disrupting an established sector……And of course, what else could top trumps this? – well of course; an all-female run creative business….

Well hello there; The Crafthood….

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The Crafthood are a business that I heard about through other people (always a good sign) so I can’t claim they are my discovery, but I certainly am one of their biggest champions…. First of all what’s in a name? Well The Crafthood have a really good one, just by going to something I feel a part of their ‘hood! I love their name and branding…..Secondly, they are making crafting amazing, exciting, essential for the modern day lass and socially responsible….

Right up my street!

If you don’t know who the Crafthood are…. Well you’re going to over the next 12 months! They are one of the most exciting creative businesses; growing and thriving in the North East currently. Their offering is three fold; they run their own workshops within North East’s up and coming independents – as fantastically talented craftswomen, you’ll get a lush crafting experience like no other. Secondly, they sell a fantastic bespoke range of products; from cards, to notebooks to clothing, to bespoke lettering and signage – all with their lush Crafthood edge! Thirdly, they organise their own events or add value to a pre-established event (keep an eye out for their pop-ups).

The Crafthood invited me along to one of their Brush Lettering workshops as a punter in May 2017 and I absolutely loved it……so where to begin…..

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First and foremost, I’d like to say that The Crafthood workshops are for both artsy and crafty folk and others (like me!) – so for those that love crafting and trying new things in a new environment and taking time out just for you, to create; well their workshops are for you. However, if you’re like me and are massively creative but not at all “crafty”, well I can promise these workshops are for you too and you’ll love them.

 

I rocked up to their Brush Lettering workshop, I sat down with the other fellow participants and The Crafthood talked through our beautiful Brush Lettering pack, equipment, exercises and information. The first thing that hit me was the care to detail; everything I had was take away, beautifully presented and made me feel super excited to get started.

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We had 20mins of expert tuition and information (and lush cake and refreshments from Flat Cap Joes) and then we were ready to get started. What was stand out through-out the session was how inclusive the session felt, whilst being able to experiment, chill and get creative. In all honesty, I felt like I was taking time out for me, creating and absolutely loving it! I also was able to chat to other participants through-out the session – was lovely to hear more about them and their creative interests.

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Sharon and Kay (The master creatives behind Crafthood) chatted about their workshop portfolio, which currently consists of Brush Lettering, Soy Wax Candle-making and Modern Calligraphy. They also run their Crafty socials and attend events with add on mini taster workshops. For every workshop or organisation workshop booked, they book another workshop for a community group or charity– buy one gift one. It was lush to hear the “Wearside Women in Need” were benefitting from our brush lettering workshop…..

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When we got hands on with the brush lettering, we worked through lots of different exercises and Kay and Sharon (The Crafthood) were always on hand to guide and offer feedback.

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A lot of exercises were repetitive practicing of shapes and letters; the process of experimenting with technique and shape was really cathartic. As someone who struggles with detail and perfection, I actually found the process really freeing – being able to let go, make marks and just have a go without worrying about what things looked like…..However, I could not and still can’t master a “d”…… I will one day *shakes fist at the sky*…….

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We were working towards a sentence or word – of course, because I’m the Culture Vulture, I wanted to write my name and also CV in brush lettering; luckily no “d”s involved. I was massively surprised how easy it was to become engrossed with the letter shape and completely forget how to spell things…..so there were a few moments when I would look proudly at my work and see letters missing….. boo!

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As I got to the end of the workshop, I thought several things – firstly, I’d really enjoyed myself; I felt like I’d taken time out of the busy to do something lush just for me; this is something I so rarely do. Secondly, I’d learnt something new; I’m all about personal development and challenging myself – I felt walking away from this session that I’d actually developed a brand new skill and that was mint.

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Thirdly, that I’d defs continue this; the lushness of brush lettering is that you can do it anywhere and The Crafthood workshop sets you up nicely with everything you need so you can practice and do it often. I am now a brush lettering aholic (minus the letter “d”)!

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The Crafthood have a whole host of lush workshops, events and activities coming up – they are adding a new workshop to their workshop portfolio every season, so watch out for a developing programming……as always I will be championing them and attending – so check them out Culture Vultures and make sure you become a part of the C ‘Hood.

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Charlton Walk – Gateshead; Public Art hidden gem!

The urban jungle is full of hidden gems….I’ve told you before, I’m a big fan of street art and I was lucky enough, to be shown to a gem a couple of weeks ago.

Park Life is a lush art work funded by Big Local Gateshead, created by local children from Gateshead Schools – Corpus Christi, Kelvin Grove and St Aidan’s who worked with artist and Culture Vulture favourite Tommy Anderson and writer Paul Summers.

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The large scale art work sited at Charlton Walk Park in Teams, Gateshead. The pieces explore the people, places, stories, history of the area (Teams and Bensham) alongside exploring the regional identity and aspirations of the school children themselves. The pieces pull together a rich tapestry into the rich heritage of Gateshead and insights into the new generation.

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The project is infused with Tommy Anderson’s style and practice which really brings it to life. Tommy is an experienced arts facilitator and graphic designer who manages small and large scale community arts projects (like this one) and progressive participatory and educational arts programmes inspired by his practice.

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He is passionate about creative opportunities for all and that really came forward, when he recently spoke at my Culture Vulture networking evening in February. Art and engagement with it, is a means of creating dialogue, a forum for self-expression, community sense making, identity ownership, exploratory learning, understanding enhancement and so much more.

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Projects like Charlton Walk, give communities a voice and sense of ownership of their space. Tommy, as a professional artist, plays a critical role in enabling these opportunities and voices to be heard and them empowering such groups to actively make something.

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Community collectivism alongside individualist artistic effort can be a really beautiful thing and it’s absolutely wonderful that artists like Tommy can put their time, resources, skill set and talent into facilitation of the production of these pieces. It takes the old, we are stronger together than alone, to another level.

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“Having lived and worked in Bensham for several years, the Park Life project has been a wonderful opportunity to create a major artwork for the area that has brought people together to celebrate their community.

The duration of the project allowed me to explore a range of art forms with the children, resulting in a rich and detailed interpretation of the area and its people.

Hopefully the project will spark a continued interest in the arts for the children, and a sense of pride in their community.”Tommy Anderson

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In terms of the impact of the project and having the opportunity, to engage with Tommy Anderson and Paul Summers, you only have to read a few quotes from some of the children to realise how important not only projects like this area, but creative learning opportunities for children.

“I am so proud of my art – I didn’t think I could be creative.”

“This is the best thing I’ve done in my entire life – I just love it!”

“It’s so exciting – I want to be an artist”

“Art club is amazing – I look forward to is every week”

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So – now the weather is getting brighter and Spring is coming, you must pencil in somewhere to go and view the Charlton Walk and see the pieces. I absolutely loved it – I love the word choices, the colours, the imagery….. it’s a great piece of community Public Art in Gateshead and deserves wayyyyy more recognition. But I guess if everyone knew about it, it wouldn’t be a hidden gem……

So here are a couple of my favourite pieces from the walk…..

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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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Enchanted Parks 2016; “Love me or hate me, both are in my favour!”

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I can finally get down to writing a post about my visit to Enchanted Parks. For those of you, that don’t know what Enchanted Parks is, it can be summarised as NewcastleGateshead Initiative and Gateshead Council’s popular after-dark arts adventure in Saltwell Park, Gateshead. This year it made a welcome return from Tuesday 6 – Sunday 11 December.

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The theme and concept behind this year’s installations were inspired by the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, taking visitors and participants on an intriguing journey through Saltwell Park, where a hidden manuscript found inside the Towers unleashed a strange kind of magic, as ‘A Midwinter Night’s Tale’ slowly came to life.

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I visited several times across the week, with very young children, primary school groups, older adult community groups alongside a whole host of groups of friends, so I really experienced Enchanted Parks through the eyes of lots of different demographics of people. This is the first year, I’ve had the opportunity to do this and it really added to my own personal experience, seeing which pieces captivated particular people and the infectious excitement of viewing again and again, with individuals that hadn’t seen it before.

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St Joseph’s Primary viewing The Eternal Debate of the Unconscious Mind – Alise Stopina

Like many social media’aholics, I take an interest in what other people are saying about their cultural experiences, as part of the process of reflecting on my own. I was really shocked but also very interested to read the extent of negativity towards this year’s Enchanted Parks.

The whole reason Enchanted Parks has steadily grown from strength to strength, year after year, is that it’s something different, it invests into student artists alongside National and International artist commissions, it innovates, it takes risks and it creates an experience. It is not a commercial entity or a cash cow lights event; it is an art walk….the art is shockingly, I know…at the heart of that. Each piece has its own story to tell, has been specially commissioned and brought together within a curated experience.

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Enchanted Parks brings people who love art and culture like myself, alongside other people who may not engage as regularly with art, side by side to both enjoy and appreciate a magical experience. Whilst we each may take very different things away from it, for example I look at the glass piece thinking in complete awe knowing the processes behind it, whereas my mum, who is not particularly into art at all, simply thinks she’s had a lush night and thought the glass piece was ‘beautiful’.

One of the brilliant things about art and culture is the fact it provokes a reaction, an opinion. With an event that evolves, changes, transforms year after year, it is expected that certain years are considered “better” or more to a particular taste than others. It is also, perfectly acceptable for people to walk away and think – “that wasn’t really what I thought it was going to be” or “I didn’t really get it”. These opinions are completely valid and interesting in their own right – that’s what the artists want!

I remember having a chat with well-known Sculptor Colin Rose, and he was flicking through gallery book feedback during his exhibition at Gateshead Central Library. As always lots of positive comments, some colourful and several that just said “how is this art?”, “this is rubbish” etc. I obviously, apologised for those types of comment and was a bit embarrassed. However, Colin said it was these comments, he most enjoyed because if he was creating something that everyone thought was “good”, “nice” then what was the point!? It’s like a beige buffet – it’s ok, I’m not excited about it, I wouldn’t complain but I wouldn’t rave about it……..who on earth wants something they’ve created to be a “beige buffet”.

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You want to evoke something in someone and if the reaction you evoke, is that someone wants to express “it’s bad” or “disappointing” then that is great because firstly, it’s a reaction and secondly at the other end of the spectrum, many people will think it’s brilliant…..this year’s Enchanted Parks certainly did that and I think it’s a sign of a job well done. Different people from all walks of life, had entirely individualistic experiences.

This year’s Shakespeare theme was abstract and conceptual which allowed for visitors’ ideas and imaginations to run wild. I really enjoyed the storytelling through Shakespeare’s themes from the stories we all know (some better than others). I thought the thematic approach actually made it far more accessible to all ages and demographics, as you didn’t have to engage or follow a specific story or have a certain level of knowledge about Shakespeare. It wasn’t even linear story telling – again this suited me as I was really able to enjoy and appreciate the pieces for what they were, how they made me feel, making sense of them instead of trying to fit them into a pre-conceived narrative.

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Engagement is a two way process; this means you must be willing to be open minded, fluid in your expectations and interact with the exhibits and pieces. Enchanted Parks is not simply walking through the door with the perception of “right…..entertain me!”….. you have to be willing to create some of the magic yourself, spend some time appreciating the exhibits, buy into it, share your experience around with your party. It’s an immersive experience in which you let go and encourage others to do the same.

The first piece as you walked in, the projection on Saltwell Towers was called A Forgotten Treasure and was by Roma Yagnik and Chris Lavelle. It’s hard to capture a piece like this on a photo…..but I’ve tried….

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A Forgotten Treasure –  Roma Yagnik and Chris Lavelle.

A Forgotten Treasure set the scene for your enchanted Midwinter journey through Saltwell Park, starting with the discovery of Shakespeare’s diary, uncovering the existence of a long-lost work. This piece was a very traditional Enchanted Parks piece that we’ve all come to know and love. Lots of colour, 3D projection work and amazingly visuals.

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A Forgotten Treasure –  Roma Yagnik and Chris Lavelle.

This is unsurprising given that Roma is a Newcastle based composer of music for film, animation, television and theatre. She has a diverse client list including BBC, Sky, EMI, Universal, Unicef, Open Clasp and Tate Britain and has had music performed, recorded and broadcast internationally. Roma is part of 2016’s BAFTA crew. Roma worked with children from St Joseph’s primary school recording their voices and reactions which were layered onto the projection.

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A Forgotten Treasure –  Roma Yagnik and Chris Lavelle.

The second piece was called Ignis Fatuus – Faery Magic and was by ArtAV. This piece represented fairies (think Midsummer Night’s Dream) giggling and whispering in the trees, whilst running amok and mischievously darting from tree to tree, their brightly coloured fairy dust clear for all to see.

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Ignis Fatuus – Faery Magic – ArtAV

ArtAV are digital artists, producing complex multidisciplinary works involving interactive video, lighting and sound. They specialise in the fields of 3D projection mapping and pixel mapped video. This piece was a real crowd favourite, as whilst it was subtle in its appearance, it had the effect of enabling visitors to walk into a fairy world almost accidentally and suddenly being surrounded by the sights and sounds. It was extremely effective.

The third piece was Forever and a Day by Impossible Arts. Impossible Arts are known for creating intriguing digital arts works that capture the imagination with interactive and participatory elements. Their interactive piece at Enchanted enabled individuals to have their faces projected on to big screens whilst mouthing the words of famous Shakespearean lines.

Forever and a Day – Impossible Arts (St Joseph’s Primary School faces)

For most families and groups, this was a highlight – seeing their faces projected led to loads of giggles! The St Joseph’s group that I went with, although nervous at first to have a go, were soon at the front and absolutely howling with laughter at each other contorting their faces for specific vowel sounds and later seeing the finished projection. I thought this piece worked so well, full of interaction and it was lush to hear all the giggling.

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Follow your heart to Saltwell Towers and we did……..with the forth piece The Eternal Debate of the  Unconscious Mind by Alise Stopina. These pieces were subtle and complimented with beating heart sounds. To me, this explored the theme of love in Shakespeare both from a romanticised feeling sense, but also in the brutal, heart break and the realism of the hearts depicted something to me, which spoke of violence and humanism. Love sometimes feels like having your heart ripped out of your chest and exposed for all to see.

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The Eternal Debate of the Unconscious Mind –  Alise Stopina

Alise Stopina is a 2nd year student at the University of Sunderland, the Glass and Ceramics department and I think the quality of this piece, and other student pieces really evidenced loud and proud about creative and art’s students this year standing shoulder to shoulder in concept and visual quality with the National and International Artists. Her pieces were fantastic and the piece was one of my favourites!

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The Eternal Debate of the Unconscious Mind – Alise Stopina

The next piece viewed on the trail was the Enchanted Talking Posts by Shared Space and Light. On all occasions of visiting, I was able to stop off just before this point in the trail and purchase an obscenely big hot chocolate, covered in cream and mallows which made standing and taking in the pieces a little bit more brilliant.

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Amazing hot chocolate

The lamp posts with their discourse, banter and insults were very typical of Shakespearean comedy – frenemies one minute and sworn enemies the next. They evoked lots of giggles from the crowd and I loved their expressive faces – as someone with a very expressive face, I really embrace the inability to hide any sort of emotional feeling because my face contorts and speaks volumes.

The next piece was often I noticed slightly overlooked by passers-by……it wasn’t really hidden, but for whatever reason, people walked passed it. Not sure why – as it really stuck out to me! The piece was called The Song of Time and was by Natsumi Jones, another Sunderland University student.

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The Song of Time – Natsumi Jones

The colourful nightingales danced, twinkled and appeared in like a curtain format. It spoke to me about the fragility of people and love; slightly obscured by the trees made me think of something intangible that is so beautiful, that we can’t really quite understand or touch.

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The Song of Time – Natsumi Jones

Following on to Enchanted Echoes by Stuff and Things; this was an immersive sound scape at the top of the Dene draws audiences in, creating a sense of mystery and intrigue, magic and uncertainty. For some of the adults that I visited with, this was their favourite piece but it was also one of the ones that was quite negatively talked about on social media.

Enchanted Echoes – Stuff and Things

I found it beautiful, entirely innovative and something completely different from previous years. It was the true definition of an immersive, multi-sensory experience. As someone working on a Digital Arts project currently, I’m extremely interested in sound influencing experiences, perceptions and visuals. You can see the exact same images and visuals, but different sounds added can make things feel and seem very different. The soundscape was new to Enchanted Parks and I hope it is something that is weaved into future performances.

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Enchanted Echoes – Stuff and Things

This year Enchanted Parks welcomed back Steve Newby with a new piece Rough Magic under a new professional name Studio Vertigo . These flashes of lightning worked fantastically well alongside the Soundscape, drawing the audience further into the Dene and into a storm. The pieces together made me predominantly think of King Lear and the madness during the storm but also thematically about the conflict and emotional wars in McBeth and Richard III.

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The third piece in this mix was Storm by Output Arts; a collaboration between artists Andy D’Cruz, Jonathan Hogg and Hilary Sleiman who create artworks that are powerful, emotional and memorable working primarily, but not exclusively, with sound and light. This installation was like walking into the eye of the storm, under the storm clouds and then out the other side, with the storm and conflict left behind and dispersing. Again, I was drawn to think of the moment in King Lear where Lear is wandering the heath and the character Edgar who plays a mad man, is his company  – the storm whilst not the beginning or the end of the story, feels like some kind of conclusion so the story can move on and the characters can grown.

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Storm by Output Arts

The next installations were a collection of pieces and sculptures under the collective name These Words Take Wing by Richard Dawson. Lots of papercutting and sculpture was used to bring these magical manuscripts to life.

These Words Take Wing – Richard Dawson

Richard is an artist based in the North of England and works in various mediums especially three dimensional and sculptural pieces often with kinetic elements and created from recycled materials. His pieces were so diverse and different, that I assumed they were actually made by entirely different artists. Each piece was so delicate, beautiful and thematically different. To me, the pieces each spoke of story-telling by very different means; the books, the words, the stories, the characters all were brought to life, very cleverly.

These Words Take Wing – Richard Dawson

Feedback from one of the little boys from St Joseph’s primary was that “the art is good – I like it. But he’s very naughty for cutting up books – what if someone wanted to read that book, they can’t now!”. Hehe – still makes me laugh and is in fact a very good point.

Larger than life, the beautiful red and white roses lined the Cherry Tree Walk; a memory of the bloody battles of the War of the Roses. This installation was called A Rose By Any Other Name by Cristina Ottonello; a designer, educator and public artist, specialising in the construction of large scale and temporary installations for public spaces and events. These oversized flowers were a perfect photo opportunity and looked visually amazing. I read more into the piece, thinking about warring families and how from those troubled factions and difficult times, something beautiful can bloom.

A Rose By Any Other Name by Cristina Ottonello

Love, Rivalry and Magic! by Daniel Rollitt, a University of Sunderland student, was what Mary Berry might call the “showstopper” piece. It depicted a scene from one of Shakespeare’s most popular works, where love, rivalry and magic meet in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The layering of the glass, the colour and the fact that visually as you moved around the piece, it slightly changed and offered a real depth. I loved it.

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A Rose By Any Other Name by Cristina Ottonello

Again, my appreciation for this one, comes more from working with glass artists and knowing how bliddy hard it is to work with glass. I’ve got several coaster attempts on my desk at work which highlights this. I worked really hard on them, but they look like a five year old did them. The time, the skill, the patience behind this piece, is just mesmerising.

A piece I had the privilege of seeing stage by stage before the final installation was The Book of Shadows by Bethan Maddocks . Bethan worked with community arts groups, paper cutters and Oakfield school on elements of this piece.

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The Book of Shadows – Bethan Maddocks

Within the bandstand, sat a giant magical book, waiting to be discovered, waiting to be read. Its large pages were delicate paper-cuts of scenes frozen in time. Participants were encouraged to pick up a torch and shine onto the piece, which projected stories through shadows. There was a lot going on within this piece – hanging witch trials, animals in nature, floral scenes. Fantastic, entirely unique, beautiful and interactive.

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The Book of Shadows – Bethan Maddocks

The final piece, was also the last student piece; ‘Exit, pursued by a bear’ by Jonny Michie, University of Sunderland. Take your leave exit stage right as directed by Shakespeare himself, pursued by a bear – a giant, glass bear. I wasn’t 100% sure of this pieces’ connection to the Shakespeare theme – but it was still one of my favourites and a warm way to end the show.

Exit, pursued by a bear – Jonny Michie

A roving piece was Nyx by Gijs van Bon. If you don’t know which piece this was – it was the robot writing glow in the dark quotes. Letter after letter the glowing text poured slowly out of the machine and made its way slowly around the park.

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Nyx – Gijs van Bon

Audiences were both transfixed on the quotes themselves, but also the robot and how it was operating. I could have happily watched it all day. Again, another really innovative, exciting and unexpected piece!

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Nyx – Gijs van Bon

So Enchanted Parks 2016 – you were a beauty and a really different experience. Please continue innovating, doing something different and creating a magical, unique and often unexpected experience for all. We are so lucky to have an event like this in the North and I’m buzzing for next year already!

If you loved it, like me –see you next year. If you didn’t like it this year….well keep an open mind because next year, it will be completely different again, a different experience, story and installations. Remember Art is supposed to make you think, question, reflect and feel – so if you came away doing any of those things, well Enchanted Parks smashed it out the park (literally).

Nobody wants a beige buffet.

All my love – The Culture Vulture.