Cal – a dapper looking dog at the best of times – seems to be holding her head a little higher now her collar is trending some be-seen-in-the-dark ‘bling’.Following on from school sessions, there’s now some proto-type ‘diy medallion packs’ being tested out. They still need some tweaking, there’s a chance the clip could come loose (if a rabbit were spotted). But it really feels like progress is being made towards our January launch (which will include a group dog walk).
Way back at the beginning of the residency one of the first groups I met with were the Blaydon Reading Activists: a group of 14 to 16year olds who meet weekly in the Library. I asked if they’d like to have a go at making something with lights and indeed they did. At that time super-heroes were a theme for them so we mused on making a recycled bottle super-hero ‘book’ sculpture for their section of the library. We settled on a type of bottle (apple juice) and style of cut and I’d drop by – drop off more bottles – from time to time, joining them occasionally for sessions. Yesterday we finally brought all the elements together and installed. The lights at the moment are battery operated but I’m hoping to swap to mains early in the new year. We all agreed it looks rather festive (I saw the odd ‘super-hero snow-man’ has worked his way into their designs). Their lovely ‘leader’ said: “I think it looks lovely, warm and welcoming and cheers up the library. Enjoy, and many thanks to Karen for keeping her cool in the face of a bunch of over excited teenagers consuming too much sugar!”*
As the nights draw in we’ve been thinking about being bright and – giving away my age here – looking snazzy. The class we were working with yesterday understood (phew!) We were making bright/reflective ‘clothing art’ to wear alongside snap-bands and other reflective apparel to: be seen, be safe.So yesterday was our ‘road test’ of the idea; whether our ‘bling things’ were too tricky to make and how the making might be tweaked, and I feel we’re off to a cracking start.As well as school workshops the idea is to make up packs so that anyone (living on Cowgate) can have a go at making their own. Perhaps introducing a competition for the most unique…
I’m warming to this… we’ll be awarding points and you know what points mean?
There’s an art club that meets at the iconic Bisley Pub. But for the past month they have also been coming to the Library where we’ve been working on a group creation. Our theme is the Blaydon Races; the material, recycled plastic bottles again (my autobiography – if ever I were fool enough to write one – could be titled ‘on the bottle’).We’ve explored a variety of cutting techniques, plus ways of colouring and printing onto bottles. Imagery includes racing horse’s heads and lush swirling manes. The members have brought a vast range of skills to the project, my role has been pulling the strands together into one work of art. Once complete this will be on show at the Bisley, the Central Library in March 2015 and hopefully also Blaydon Library at some point too.
Highmoor Court is re-wired and redecorated, but the bat detectors were disengaged last Friday leading to a massive infestation. We had bat masks being created, a ‘wall of bats’ and a ‘pin-the-bat-on-the-road-accident’ map which was strangely popular – though priced at 10p a shot – perhaps that’s unsurprising. Aldi’s ‘car park of doom’ was quickly taken, as was the junction at Highmoor – House of Horror.It was a small quirky piece of fun in an evening of capers, but I can see there’s potential in using a ‘map game’ with other community groups as a gentle way in to discussing which areas people feel are the accident hot spots on the estate.
We were back in the Tempest Street area this week, imagining the scene from 100 years ago, looking for clues as to who might be in and out of the back gates; how would arrangements be made so washing wasn’t hanging across the alley when coal was being delivered? It was magical witnessing the past leap into life for this group of 9 & 10 year olds. Back in the classroom, those scenes were re-imagined and – during a second session – turned into ‘windows onto the past’ (this, me being quite literal again). The teacher – seeing the children so fired – is now extending the topic through November (‘The Egyptians’ can wait).
This last two weeks I’ve had the pleasure of working with a group of young people from the YMCA on Cowgate. They have made the most exquisite ‘flowers’ that will also adorn our street intervention artwork. The end result should be very eye-catching; our impromptu photo-shoot on Ponteland Road certainly caught driver’s attention.
I am enjoying how each journey reveals fresh historical nuggets, I always have an eye out for utility covers but, has anyone else spotted Smith Patterson bollards (replete with ‘Blaydon’ stamp)? This lovely example is on Tempest Street.
Whilst not everyone is looking for inspiration in the same places as me, there is a shared fascination with the history of the district which shines through in workshops and talks. Everyone is taken up with the library’s OS maps from the last 150 years, poring over them, magnifiers in hand, following the bursts of growth: streets following industries spidering across the landscape.
What difference does a day make? Quite a lot it seems. Numbers coming to the drop-in dropped dramatically on changing from a Friday to a Tuesday; the easy answer would be to change back (we will do eventually). But, after a spate of re-wiring, our meeting room now has the decorators due ‘any day soon’. So for the foreseeable I’m taking to the streets and if you know a community group that would like a session or two – we’re onto making life-size figures now – drop me a line.
What do you see when you walk down a street? Last Friday we noted: coal holes, dry middens, a boot-scrape, washing hooks, dressed and rough cut stone and a quarry on our ‘archaeological’ walk to Blaydon Library.
With reference material to hand, my fellow explorers (students from St Thomas More School) and I figured out varying ways of making books from recycled bottles.At present they are individual pieces, but I’d really like them linked up to create a lit ‘book-stack-spiral’. Luckily there are a few real ‘problem solvers’ in the group, I reckon together we’re about half way to inventing an elegant solution.