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By: Carolyn Shepherd
The Diary of a Creative Free Spirit.
# 55 [28 March 2013]
Opening new artist led studio space in a few days.
Details at www.ArtWorkStudios.co.uk
There is a separate a-n blog for this.
# 54 [30 November 2012]
A lovely review received today from one of the gallery visitors, Jan Dean:
London Road Studios and Gallery - A Diamond
The newly opened London Road Studios and Gallery in Northwich is a gem. A diamond, in fact. Built in Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and given to the town by Sir Joseph Verdin, it was a Technical School- and now in this year of Elizabeth II’s celebrations it has been given a new lease of life by a group of Northwich artists. And this building shines. Its terracotta work, stained glass and grand design make it an interesting venue and a natural choice for studios.
Mid Cheshire College used it for their Art Department, but when they left to join the main campus the future of the London Road site was doubtful. But the artists’ collective who have taken over the running of the place have done far more than simply kept the building in use – they have reinvented the space and injected new life into it.
The main gallery space is white and airy. The decorative window is high enough from the exhibited work to be a complement rather than a distraction. The opening show of Tony Evans’ work was a revelation – this provincial gallery is showing world class work. Tony Evans’ bronze creatures are lithe and arresting- caught mid leap or just as they have turned a head. They seem frozen into stillness by my unexpected appearance in their territory, and their markings are captured in the textured working of the metal; masterpieces of economy and grace. Breathtaking.
Mark Wilcox’s remarkable photographs are moving and thought-provoking. The Kings’ Cross Fire sequence is intensely coloured and the sense of movement and heat wonderfully recreated.
This gallery has big plans. It aims to be a creative centre for the area by providing resources for new and established artists and by building an audience for the arts. As part of its outreach it holds life drawing classes, talks and professional photo shoots for young artists who need to build up a portfolio of work. Its exciting plans for the future include art fairs, residencies, opportunities to learn restoration techniques and traditional skills.
In complete accord with Joseph Verdin’s original vision, the collective are making links between the creative community, school and colleges, and local business. Who knows what great stuff will grow from those conversations? And if it’s conversation you want – about the exhibitions, or the study days on offer, well there’s a place for that too. The Gallery has a comfortable space to sit and talk in its informal Art Cafe.
London Road Studios seems to me to be a very significant space. A gift to local people by a Victorian philanthropist is being reborn. There is restoration going on here – vision - concern for the development of aesthetic values and technical skill. In this Studio and Gallery Northwich is saying we’re not a backwater – we can put on shows worthy of any big city gallery, the artists we showcase are as good as you’ll find anywhere. And I wouldn’t argue with that – as I said, it’s a diamond.
(Jan Dean is a poet and writer-in-schools. www.jandean.co.uk )
# 53 [4 November 2012]
The London Rd Collective has finally opened up the former Art School as The London Rd Studios, Northwich, Cheshire and is now open for business.
Exhibition galleries, artists studios, opportunities for educational classes, skills sharing.
Lovely atmosphere, large light filled spaces, double height ceilings, good access & parking.
Enquiries to Carolyn Shepherd 07848008145
UPDATE: Building currently closed for repair.
# 52 [9 April 2012]
This is my last blog entry for the time being.
Please refer to website.
# 51 [7 April 2012]
Had word from the Welsh retreat centre I visited last autumn. A sculpture trail is on the cards.
Not having heard from them for a few months I'd naturally thought the crazy insects I'd made from the toilet seats and broken chairs I'd found in their skip may have been too puzzling for them, but it appears not and they are trusting me with an entire sculpture trail.
I'd left them with a huge list of suggestions as well as the crazy insects so I'll have to dig out my sketchbook that contains all the notes I made during the week long residency there and refresh my memory.
Ticking off the last things on the list for the Buckfast Abbey piece. I've arranged it into final positioning to check it thoroughly in the round and I'm adding diddly bits and fiddly bits and touching up here and there.
Loving the ropes and the knots and this may become a new material to investigate when I 'get a minute'.
Nasty moment, well nasty 24 hours really, yesterday when I decided I hated it. With only a matter of days before installation on site, it really looked like rubbish all of a sudden. Wasn't sure if I had become suddenly realistically aware of it and it really was rubbish, or whether it was a passing moment of paranoia. Luckily today that feeling has dissolved and I'm liking it again. It'll be nice to get it installed though as I'm ready for a break from it.
Liking the fact that I'm finishing this piece that is inspired by death and rebirth on Good Friday on a Full Moon at the Festival of Oestra on the Spring Equinox just prior to taking it to a Cistercian Abbey. Nice mix of things there that have a thread of commonality between them. Perhaps visual language can be the link between them all?
# 50 [2 April 2012]
Blowtorched the faded sections to bring them back up to a gorgeous velvety blackness.
Finished (well my hard working assistant finished) the hessian and bitumen tie covers. I'm hoping I have enough of them prepared.
Attached the last of the decorative infills - a heavenly feeling of relief.
Topped up the screw box ready for taking down to Devon for installation.
Measured up to check it will fit through the van door.
Dusted off the remaining leaves and spiders (before the blow torching!).
Got sunburnt in three weeks of scorching sunshine.
Did a trial final position and it's looking good.
Just need to do that trip to the chandlers to get the mooring pins and ropes made up and I can call it a day.
Feet up and a cold beer.
Need to bath the dog as she has been lounging around in the charcoal dust for 3 weeks and is looking very grubby.
I'm hoping the petrol shortage will not stop me from doing the long voyage to Devon to install the piece.
It's not over till the fat lady sings ...
# 49 [26 March 2012]
Finished rebuilding the framework into seven rigid modular sections that can be handled and moved easily. This means I can load and unload the van myself without having to rely on a helper, and I can shuffle them around to my hearts content until I'm happy with the positioning.
Smaller modular sections makes little difference to the appearance of the piece - which looks exactly the same as before. But it'll make a big difference to me and will make site installation a lot easier, quicker and with less stress.
Have finally resolved the sectional ties after coming up with umpteen crazy alternatives and trying out several samples. Begun work on the finished ties ready to take with me to the site for installation on the day. Plastic stays covered with hessian and bitumen are very messy to make, but they are strong, weatherproof and look natural and in keeping with the materials used in the main structure. They are very satisfying to make as I'm enjoying the texture of them and I have resolved to investigate working with this as a sculpting material in its own right when I have time.
Have resolved the anchoring materials to mooring pins and black ropes which are very rigid and secure, but are beautiful and in keeping with the material of the piece.
Moved the modules into trial arrangement of their final position and decided on position of sectional ties. Happy with the overall size and shape.
Remaining work needs to be sculpting the smaller pieces of burnt wood to achieve spires around the circle, and to select interestingly shaped pieces to set into the negative spaces.
Blowtorch needed on some of the sections that have weathered in the two years since this piece was first constructed, where the charcoal has washed away.
Just amazing weather is making this such a pleasure to work on. Basking in scorching sunshine, cloudless blue sky. I have another week to work on this and the forecast is to get hotter still! I'll be sporting a good sun tan soon.
Ladybirds are attracted to the burnt wood, and it's lovely to find them nestled in the splits of the burnt wood. The velvety black surface probably soaks up the heat.
Early morning reveals the spiders webs that are slung between the spires of the piece.
Probably over the Easter weekend I can finish making the sectional ties so that the bitumen is sufficiently set before installation that following week.
Also I'd like to check the final height and dimensions to ensure that it will fit into the smaller van that I have hired this time. This is to save money on hire costs and petrol consumption. Hopefully it will fit easily without too much jiggling around.
So plenty to do ....
# 48 [21 March 2012]
Arranged with only 4 days notice, our first Empty Shop initiative was a huge success.
The newly formed London Rd Collective gang turned out in force and we had great fun working with the artist who is responsible for the Town public art design.
I'd briefly asked everyone to bring some basic drawing kit with them so someone brought two cannon balls! That's the spirit of this new Collective. They are all creative mark makers!
With a queue forming at the door, our little shop was full to bursting. Passers by were calling in to see what was happening because they'd read about us in the paper. Even the street sweeper stopped to chat to us about an artist he knew of that photographed pavements and manhole covers and this sparked off a lively debate in the middle of the high street!
It was great to feel that we were reaching people and making our creativity accessible and visible to people and making them smile.
This is so much fun!
# 47 [17 March 2012]
The Collective has been invited to get involved in a local public art design proposal, very short notice but it will be a great opportunity to hold a first 'Pop Up Studio' event.
The meeting with the international Lead Artist yesterday went well, and I wasn't expecting to be given the task helping out with the project, so it was a nice surprise.
So I'm mobilising people as quick as I can. As some of the group haven't yet met each other it'll be 'in at the deep end', but will add to a feeling of creative spontanaeity. We've been offered a choice of two empty shops so that we can have a base for the event. I'm pulling together some basic materials and a 'Pop Up' sign so people can find us. It's all very makeshift and spontaneous and this adds to the fun. Sometimes its better to not really know where you're going.
Newspaper coverage about the funding we've received has generated lots of surprise and interest and I've been contacted by another news organisation to provide an interview. It feels right that they are contacting me because they can see that it is newsworthy, rather than me badgering them with 'news' that is really just self promotion.
The questions generated: What is the 'London Rd Collective'? And how have they managed to just 'Pop Up' and get some funding in only 6 weeks after first hatching the idea to launch?
Some folks are mystified and intrigued how we've done it and are now sitting up and taking notice and trying to find out who we are.
I feel slightly guilty that lots of other needy causes in the community who have probably been competing for funding for months will be shocked to find we've given something without asking for it, and when they've never even heard of us.
A comedy sketch is forming in my mind about our first event being mobbed by angry Brownies and Flower Club members who come along to take their revenge!
Perhaps there will be a way of including some of the other community groups in our creative initiatives so that they can benefit too.
# 46 [15 March 2012]
Newspaper interview again today.
They wanted to know how I felt about being given some money, and what I was going to do with it.
Overjoyed of course, especially as I hadn't actually asked for any money so it was a lovely surprise!
And it will go towards the cost of creating a mobile 'Pop Up Studio' that will take our artists out and about so people can see us and join in.
It's comforting to know that I have the support of local councillors and that people want the London Rd Collective to succeed as a community initiative.
Only began this idea on 1st Feb, so at only the 15th March I've come a long way.
Also had a call from an artist from abroad who is interested in knowing more about the Collective, and I'm meeting with her tomorrow to show her the London Rd Studios and Gallery and talk about my plans.Just mailed out the list of meeting dates so that everyone that has expressed an interest will have the opportunity to come along and find out more. I've chosen a range of locations, dates and times (eight in all) so that folks can find something that fits in around the jobs/kids/shopping/work etc.
Been working outside again on my burnt wood sculpture - this time with a helper who has been holding sections whilst I drill and insert screws. Much easier with a helper.
The organisers have been in touch to confirm that the position will be on grass, so I am arranging the fixings to suit, and also that the PV has been brought forward by 2 days, and that the installation dates have changed. This means I'll need to alter my transportation which I booked several weeks ago - I hope I can get the right van on the right day at this short notice. Otherwise everything is going swimmingly so long as I don't get too sidetracked by all the other interesting things that are going on with the Collective and keep working as much as I can on the sculpture.