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By: Rob Turner
I speak estury english and I live in N.E Kent now, but for this project I am working up north, well... the midlands. Very near where my father grew up in fact. I am creating a mosaic focal point for a communal green space.
# 19 [25 January 2009]
This is probably the last post regarding this job, and the installation went very well indeed considering the weather conditions.
Everyone concerned was very pleased with the outcome and pats on the back all round...blah blah you know.
There is one final thing I would like to say though:
If your working in a school, get the head teacher on board, especially if your contact at the school is under preasure and unable to deliver what is rerquired.
The point of this project fell at the last fence. The cavalry did not arrive at the eleventh hour. Do you remember I told you earlier that the school had back dated clearners wages to pay and no covering staff were employed to cover sickness and absence. Well that is still reverberating around the school with teachers streatched beyond capacity. As a result no teachers were able to bring the children to the site to stick the mosaic fish they had made a month or so earlier into the pathways on site.
Badly needed regeneration is arriving in Burslem now, ownership, social inclusion and socialy engaged practice is being carried out by artists designers etc. But I feel sad that my project did not show the process to completion, the exercises in the classroom remain in the classroom for the pupils. I wanted them to see how the stuff they generated was applied to the upgrading of their community.
I remember maths at school, it was so pointless to me, if I had been shown its application in the real world I may not have struggled so much. This point is crucial to many kids, especially like the ones living in this neighbourhood.
I feel my project was highjacked in a point proving show. Both by the regenerators and the people trying to implement the regeneration without enough resources.
Maybe I am making a big deal of a small thing and turning into a synical grumpy old man. It was a very successfull project and I shoul'nt spend twenty minutes whinging on!
# 18 [9 January 2009]
Blimey, that would have been embaressing!
I had to write all the names of various stake holders on this mosaic. I emailed the paymasters an image pre installtion, just to say I had finished and would install next week.
I forgot to include the main funders name. Just one of them blind spots I wrote so many feckin names on it, all retro constructed when the thing was all cut up, I got confused.
Thank god for email attachements (2nd time on one job). Well spotted Sonja.
So I had to unstack it and do a bit of surgery.
# 17 [23 December 2008]
God I'm so grumpy, and its nearly xmas. Spent most of the afternoon and all this evening cutting this mosaic into sections. Cos it is so cold and damp the paper and glue does not really dry, and scalpel cuts are really just tearing the paper.
I can not be bothered to even explain the implication of this. I should do em on sticky back plastic or something in the winter see if that works better?
Installation in Jan, how cold how damp ? Just a nightmare .
from Mr GRUMPY
# 16 [12 December 2008]
In my other blog I concluded the work was civic and I think this work is as well.
It is about encouraging these school pupils (young citizens) to interact and mingle with self confidence in their community. Just like these fish will swim about in the environment being built for them by Groundwork, Midland Heart and Renew. A parralel symbolic world. I hope they grow and thrive adapt to their habitat and become the best fish in the severn seas or the Severn Towns or is it six.
Burslem, Longton, Hanley, Tunstall, Fenton and Stoke......I dont think Newcastle counts, thats just rubbished my annalogy then.
# 15 [3 December 2008]
So today I managed to rework 6-7 of these fish. I quite like working on them as I'm not too precious about them. Just go with the flow.
I sent images of them to the paymasters.....I hope they meet with an affirmative nod, as I dont really have a plan B for them!
I want these kids to feel they are their fish, I think it is important, I want them to believe that they really did it like that. I want them to bring their mum and say 'Look this is what I was trying to tell you about, We made them in school'.
# 14 [28 November 2008]
Two days workshops in the school. One of those schools where the moral of staff is very low.
As it turns out the cleaners there have been paid wages below that of their male counterparts and have been awarded eqall pay at last. This has also been backdated about 7 years or so I'm told. The school has to make up this shortfall not the education authority or the council.
So 140k or something dont quote me I can not remember is coming out of school funds. The result may be no money to pay covering teachers when absences occurr. Curenttly at 7 apparently. So my contact at the school was only briefly there to say hi and I didnt see her on the 2nd day at all!
But I worked as well as I could and we did mosaic work all 55 of us. I had teacher support as well dont get me wrong.
I wonder what it is like to face these tasks as a kid. Levels of expectation really high. Fish with eye lashes and intricate patterns.
Achievements are on a different scale gone are mouths, the fins and tails. Sometimes the fish has gone as well? A good result is to cover the whole paper with tiles...'finished it' wow.
Do you remember what your expectations and aspirations were when you were a kid? Did you meet them? Some kids here tried so hard and worked intensly, others pestered me the whole time to do it for them. I hope the kids who tried hard try hard at all their subjects.
It is about aspirations and having ones that make you move through life. Too low and you get lost.
Do you know the Pink Floyd song about 2 gold fish swimming in a fish bowl, covering the same old ground, facing the same old fears, year after year.
I came away with this song ringing in my ears, it seemed apt.
My job is to step it up a level and bring them with me.
# 13 [19 November 2008]
I've had some feed back from the commissioners and the indirectly from the funders of this project, which was all good, so good, that apparently they were showing print outs of it around the office.
That's a nice feeling my tail is wagging.
I have booked up 2 nights in a hotel my usual B+B was full...which is a drag as I have to spend £55 instead of £30 per night. This is to work with the school and the funders of this project will also turn up and see how it all going.
All the paymasters and bodies behind this project (of which there are a few) want their names in mosaic on it now. Tiny little lettering and I'm going to have to put my logo on it now cos I dont want to be out done.
Product placement eh...fish food or water purification systems anyone else want their name on it?
only joking, in a way it shows its a good project but I will have to be carefull about this lettering. If it is too much I will have to ask for a seperate plaque.
# 12 [11 November 2008]
So I am enjoying making this mosaic now and want to carry on, but I have to change focus to working on another project. Is this because I always want to do something other than what I should be doing? Procrastination or displacement activity, who knows.
I have to arrange to work in the school for this project soon. But I have overcome my insecurities about this mosaic now and should relax and not worry about it while I do other stuff.
# 11 [8 November 2008]
So here is an interesting thing then;
Have you ever had a client allude that they are slightly disapointed, or feel that you are not quite doing your best work?
I have, this is the second time its happened. I am not surprised, I am spreding myself too thin. She was very subtle about it. She knows me very well, I have worked on a couple of commissions with this same organisation.
So the colours are not as bright in the mosaic as they are in the design. True, spot on. But mosaic is not painting and you can not mix the colour you want! Your stuck with what you get!
But if I'm suposed to be good at this then surely I can raise the quality some what. And she is right, as was the bloke in scotland about 6 years ago.
So I've tried a slightly different technique. And you know what? There are no short cuts, no toshing out, no coasting, no path of least resistance and no 'oh that will do'. This medium is a major fecker, but thats my problem not the commissioners. On both these occasions, I have raised my game, as they were right and I am glad they did, as the final work would have been below par.
Thank god for email attachments as I would have been embaressed, dissapointed......well, gutted actually... at a luke warm ribbon cutting ceramony.
# 10 [27 October 2008]
I have really got stuck into this mosaic in the last few days. An inner swelling of nervousness about it has consumed me. I felt it was below my real abilities and felt the colour relationships were not quite going to work.
I have had to keep working on it untill I rescue it, pull it back from a path leading to a dull, unresolved, naff, poor piece of work. Just the same feelings as when you start a painting really. Actually I think I get them at the start of every mosaic I make. So relax you'll manage it.
I can not work on it tomorrow which is very frustrating. But I have turned the corner with it, and should be able to resolve the colour weight problems.
Tomorrow: another long drive to a meeting.
Hopefully I will feel more positive soon, and after all as an artist with work what have I got to moan about. I should be jumping for joy and enjoying my work?
I am a visual artist working in the public realm. Which sometimes means I empower people to make positive changes in their community.
Other times it means working with people with behavioural and emotional issues.
It also means making stuff outside with durable materials.