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By: Carol Ramsay
Continuing on from my previous artist in residence blog with renewed vigour and some actual cash, the next phase of the Butterfly Park art project will endeavour to take over an empty shop for 6 months.
# 25 [10 July 2012]
Can't believe I haven't been blogging, just told our artist this month Iain Broadley on facebook that he should be blogging and realised I haven't either haha. Pot/Kettle/Black
This month has been mad. Work is crazy busy and I have to fit in the things I do for the Comma Project when I can, haven't been near my studio in weeks and the kids aren't getting the best out of me.
Juggling is so hard.
However, the Comma Project just gets better and better, I wish I had more time to spend working on it. Fortunately, Iain has looked after himself and my trusty team of volunteers are fabulous and can manage without me, the shop had to be closed 2 days last week but a lot of shops in New Ferry are only open 5 days a week so I have to not feel guilty.
Iains project is fantastic fun, it's all about bugs and habitats! Bug liberation. He's made masses of different bug models from all kinds of recycled materials. We have a real wormery and an ant city too. Giant underpants claiming 'ants in yer pants' in the window got people in through the door or just laughing outside.
We had a workshop last week where Iain showed people how to make seed bombs and it was great, loads turned up, got very messy and had lots of fun.
This coming Sunday we have a moss graffiti workshop. Starting out in the shop preparing the recipe, then we'll paint on the tiny wall under the windows of the shop. We've put a call out to see if anyone in New Ferry wants some moss painting on their walls, I hope so but we're also going up to the local farm and painting on their walls then going strawberry picking after - praying for good weather!!
its great to see so many people enjoying the space now, cant believe how quickly the project has gone. Only 2 more projects after this :( will be sad to see it end. Who knows what might pop up in the meantime though hey?
# 24 [23 June 2012]
Andrea's PV went off really well.
The sun shone and so we laid the stones in the Butterfly Park and stayed there for the whole PV.
Lots of people came, people who had been in during the month watching Andrea paint and people who had attended the workshop.
Lovely atmosphere, tea and strawberry scones and good company.
The stones fit in really well within the park. I'm sure visiting children are going to love looking at them and identifying the different creatures and plants.
Andrea is making identification sheets that will be handed out allowing the children to see how many things they can match on the stones and then see how many things they can then identify in real life within the park.
She also has plans for a domino style game around the park that she is going to put a proposal in for that we can then possibly try to fundraise for.
# 23 [15 June 2012]
Spent the day in the shop with Andrea today.
She's painted 2 bee orchids and 2 more common blue butterflies and I imagine she'll be there late tonight as she is determined to get as much finished as she can.
We had a few visitors today, not many but the rain was tipping it down all day so I suppose most people would be sensible and stay indoors.
I'll be back in tomorrow, hope we get a few more visitors.
Roy, one of our volunteers popped in too, he'll be back with us next week after a bad eye infection has stopped him getting out, great news.
We also had a student in, she's studying on a combined sciences degree, has 4 months off and is volunteering with Cheshire Council on an eco-community programme but still has spare time and hates being bored, love people like that, so we're signing her up as a new volunteer too.
I need to contact a whole load more people to come and do talks and workshops as we received another small grant last week. Great news for the project. Means we get another interactive artwork, new flyers for the park and more summer workshops.
Also need to do way more in the way of publicity. Wondering whether its worth actually advertising?
Will be looking into that :)
# 22 [14 June 2012]
Where does the time go?
I've been ridiculously busy with work and the butterfly park project and haven't had time to blog.
Andrea's residency ends in a week...madness!!
She's been back home to Cambridge all week looking after a poorly Mum and is very stressed about finishing her work here. She's not coping with talking to the public and working at the same time under the pressure of finishing so is only going to have 3 of the stones done for Wednesdays stone laying and finish the 4th at home and bring it back up.
I'd offered to paint some butterflies in while she was away but was terrified at the prospect of actually doing it when she said yes. It's so nerve wracking painting onto someone elses work. Especially as I'm not a painter!!
As it happens I have been too busy, mad week at work my 3 day week has been 5 already this week. crazy.
This afternoon I got the chance to tidy up some edges, make some Burnet moths redder and painted a male and a female Common Blue Butterfly. The volunteers this morning said only one person had been in all day. I arrived at 2pm to take over, set up the paints and sods law, lots of visitors came in to chat haha.
Great though, met lots of lovely people, had a great chat about being 'scouse and proud' to a woman who lives in Knowsley but was visiting her 'woolyback' mate. Its so funny the way Liverpool/Wirral has the big divide.
Hoping her friend comes with her next time, we decided she'd really enjoy the workshops.
Anyway I didn't get as much painted as I hoped but thats the way it goes.
Andrea's back in the studio tommorrow so I hope she thinks they're ok.
The workshop she held was great, pity the drawing one was rained off but Painting on stones went really well and was enjoyed by everyone who came. Such a laid back, chilled out event. Supposed to finish at 4pm but everyone was having a great time so we opened a bottle of wine and painted til 5.30 :)
# 21 [1 June 2012]
Andrea Bassil is now in residence and has been all week, she's hoping to blog, in fact she started one but somehow her posts aren't being saved, we dont know why. She writes, clicks 'Save Post' and it vanishes!!
Keep an eye out in case we get it working.
Anyway, Andrea is an artist/illustrator and was Head of Natural History Illustration at Bournemouth and Poole College of Art for a while. She's very excited to be here and is making a series of 4 large 'stepping' stones to be laid in the park that children can use to identify creatures and plants before they go out into the field so's to speak.
This weekend are her workshops, we have Saturday 'Drawing from Nature' and Sunday 'Painting on Stones' should be great. Hope the weather holds for Saturday at least, thats the outdoors bit.
Lots of interest in the shop now, people popping in to talk to Andrea, think a lot of them find it nice that they can relate to her art. Contemporary installation or eco-poetry were fabulous but a lot of the people of New Ferry had no clue what we were trying to achieve. Andrea's illustrations are very realistic so seem to going down well.
I still love that all the projects are so very different.
# 20 [31 May 2012]
Juie's PV evening as a great success, don't know what she was worried about, I always knew it would be fab.
She's posted about it herself here:
But I want to blog about it too as she never does herself justice when talking about her successes.
The eveing started very early with kids turning up at 3.30 straight from school to collect their trees, we gave a few back but as the event didnt offically start until 5pm had to lock up for the grand finale in case there were no trees left.
5pm came and we had a good crowd which stayed steady all night long, more visitors than before, friends, volunteers and local people along with a few who'd heard about the project through the Liverpool Arts scene.
We're only 15 minutes away from Liverpool City centre but getting people to cross the river or enter the tunnel to see art is increasingly more difficult.
Even with a free drink on offer, most PVs you have to pay for your wine nowadays. ~Whats the point of being a starving artist if you cant get a free drink at a PV?
Anyway, off topic. The whole evening was so relaxed, Julie and my husband Ian took down the indigenous community forest row by row, each time replacing with the dark inked spruce trees.
At times people seemed shocked as they'd be deep in conversation and not notice them changing then look up to see a whole new patch of deforestation had happened.
I think I liked this most about the installation as it kind of echoes reality, we don't seem to notice these things happening in real life either. Julies worries about the trees looking the same proved unfounded as the rows looked markedly different each time.
We had lots of good conversation, free tea and coffee and juice by the front door. Wine was served too but kept away from the front so that we didn't attact the local drunks in again, pleased to say that worked well.
I made a huge pan of Creamy Aspragus Soup as we'd had a crate of asparagus donated from Claremont Farm, our local farm in the area. It's great that the local businesses are getting involved and I feel its important to show local people new food, food that they could grow themselves in fact, to tie in with our policy of trying to encourage planting in the area. A young boy thought it was Mushy Pea soup haha though in fact my son agreed. It seemed to go down well regardless.
Julie is still in the space, she had another commission she was working on and the new artist Andrea very kindly let her stay in the space to finish it, great all round really as Andrea has company and Julie can finish off in peace without upheaval.
It's nice having more artists in the space at one time too.
We also had a really fabulous review you can read here:
# 19 [25 May 2012]
It's stepping up a pace, tonight is the PV Open Night and Julie's last day in the shop :'(
Her residency has been a really lovely one, it's been tough going getting people interested and in the door but the last week or so it's really picked up. Her workshop last Saturday was constant if not full, lots of people in and out all day. A school workshop Tuesday, a local arts group 'With These Hands' had their monthly meeting in the shop and also made trees. I went out to a Scout group and help a workshop there too.
During the PV, Julie will be systematically taking down the community forest committing de-forestation and re-populating the space with the paper spruce trees she's been making. I know she's worried it wont work on the night but it will. It'll be fabulous I'm sure.
Local farm have donated asparagus and so I'm making a massive pan of asparagus soup to share. We'll have tea/coffee and juice available at the front. No wine out so the local drunks wont feel the need to come in this time I hope. Such a shame that but I really don't want them falling asleep and ruing Julies big night.
We'll have a bottle out the back to help Julie celebrate.
Tomorrow our 3rd artist Andrea Bassil starts her residency. I'll be up early, in taking down Julie's exhibition and getting ready for Andrea to start.
Andrea is an illustrator, with many childrens books under her belt. She will be producing 'stepping' stones all based around the inhabitants of the park that will then be placed into the park at the end of June.
She's travelling a long way to get here, with elderly Mum and dog in tow and staying at a relatives house so I really hope it all goes well for her this month and she gets lots of interest.
We found out this week we've received another small grant for the Butterlfy Park, its great as it means we can now organise lots more workshops for the park and shop. Not art based but nature based, planting, foraging, talks about local history, walks and talks about butterlflies, moths newts etc.
So another way of engaging the local people. Quite exciting.
# 18 [13 May 2012]
It's slow going this project at times. Not many turned up to Julies workshop at all, we're publicising and posting on facebook/twitter etc but still no takers.
Bringing people in from New Ferry is as problematic as bringing people in from outside the area.
New Ferry does have a bit of a bad name lately, its such a shame as I've shopped there for nigh on 15 years now and it has some really great shops but the last year has had a noticeable downturn.
The last few months in particular have been much worse. There is a definite drink problem in the area, some tacky bars have opened and are attracting the wrong type of people in.
Last week there were Police around daily moving the drunks on. I saw kids being shouted at in the street by some drunks and we even had one staggering into the shop during a workshop.
It puts people off there's no two ways about it. The local police are trying to promote an alcohol free pedestrian zone in New Ferry which I think would help massively, people lock up the shops by 4.30 now as no-one wants to be around after that. I feel so utterly sad about it all.
Community engagement can be such a great thing...if it works. The only way for it to work is for the people to actually want to get involved but if they dont want to come into New Ferry there's not much more we can do.
I refuse to go down without a fight though, we have 4.5months left of this project and so we'll just have to try harder, work harder (if at all possible) to get the people involved.
There are so many great people in New Ferry, I've met loads of them, I just need them to come in, work with us and make this project work for them.
One of my volunteers is looking into setting up an online petition in support of the alcohol free zone. I'm going to have a petition in the shop too as some of the other shops have.
Lots of support for this so maybe we just all have to work together for this aim and put the longer term aims on hold.
This week I'll be sending invitations to all the local church/youth groups etc, scouts,guides and schools again to see if we can entice them to visit us and learn about the project and the butterfly park.
New Ferry still has the potential...The fight goes on.....
# 17 [9 May 2012]
It's been a very busy time at the Butterfly Park, we had our annual Open Day on Sunday which takes a lot of behind the scenes organising. I have been so busy with my job and the Comma Project I wasn't able to do as much as I normally do, felt quite bad about that but at the end of the day one person can only do so much.
The Open Day was a success, we had less visitors than previous years, don't quite know why. Maybe the fact that we didn't put out a press release could be it or that the weather wasn't too great. Who knows.
We did however make more money than previous years so that's good. We do need to fundraise more for sure.
Julie managed to make it back from the wedding to come along to the open day, she set up a table with examples of her work and though she didn't sell much she did manage to pass on the word about the Comma Project.
I was sat facepainting in my caravan visitor centre, warmer than last year. Pam Sullivan (July/Aug artist in residence) helped facepaint and between us we also spread the word - parents are a captive audience while a child is sat there...cunning plan :)
We had a visit from BYU (Brigham Young University) Utah, USA. Julie held a workshop for the visiting students, her blog about it is here http://www.a-n.co.uk/artists_talking/projects/single/2071880
Went really well, met some lovely people, made some book/trees and everyone enjoyed the evening I think.
We have a free workshop flyer now which is being put as many places as we can, online and within New ferry and the local area.
Next workshop is this Saturday, drop in event, really hope we get loads of visitors but New Ferry seems to be quieter by the day. Worryingly so.
# 16 [1 May 2012]
Same day, new post as I wanted to keep the residents all separate.
Julie Dodd has now started in the space and has already made it her own.
We've had a few interested passers by coming in on her first day and saying they'd seen us in the newspaper and asking where the art was haha. So now there are paper book trees hanging from the ceiling and large paper trees on the walls. Julie got busy quickly.
Planning workshops even though we're asking everyone who comes in to make trees, she needs a lot making for the installation to work in the way she'd like.
We have visitors from a University in Utah, USA next Tuesday night and a local arts and craft group 'With these Hands' are holding their meeting in the space another night.
We'll be asking everyone to make trees then too.
Julie also had an experience with a drunk on her first day, he fell asleep with his head on the table whilst cutting trees (with safety scissors) hopefully this does not put her off!
At least she got an extra tree ;)
Oh and we've sold two fluttering butterflies once we realised what a fundraising goldmine they could be and got some to stock - hey if it brings people into the shop I'm not knocking them!