As a collaboration Julia Snowdin and I (Julia & Sarah) have been awarded the a-n professional develop bursary. We are really excited to be researching and developing our immersive space with the help of the bursary from March until December.


We have been making and touring outdoor textile installations since 2012. In order to continue to develop and challenge our practice as artists we want to work larger scale and create a touring, immersive space.


Our aim is to create work that promotes engagement through audience interaction with the installation created. This has been very successful so far, with our work touring festivals, galleries and even a bar. The response has been very positive and there is a demand for us to create more work. Therefore we now want to develop upon this and create larger, more ambitious work in the form of an immersive space.


The bursary will give us the time we need to discover what immersive spaces are already on offer, what festival organisers are looking for and how to develop a large-scale project. It will also allow us to research how we can create an immersive feeling, discover what audiences are looking for, and how they engage with art.


During the following months you can look forward to exhibition and festival reviews, insights to festival organisers and information from established artists. We will both be writing blogs and will share each others posts on both blogs.


In March Julia and I were awarded the a-n professional development project. The aim of the project was to inspire and teach us how to create larger, more ambitious work in the form of an immersive space.


We began the bursary by meeting with Ruby Soho who makes large-scale work for festivals that uses a mixture of art installation and performance. Ruby gave us loads of useful advice about funding, scaling up and health and safety. The piece of advice that will always stick with us was the ‘naked fox man’ story, the moral of the story was know who the festival audience is and consider how they will treat your work and if your work can withstand this treatment! Since meeting Ruby she has written a lot of blogs full of handy advice, take a look at them here You can find the Ruby Soho blog on Sarah’s feed


From Ruby we went to Waterman’s Art Centre. UnReal: XYZ / s and were quite surprised by the way they got the audience to interact with the work. From this we learnt that audience participation shouldn’t be integral to the work as not everyone is comfortable with it. We both felt that our work needed to be visually impressive and have interactive possibilities that the audience can participate in if they want to. At the Waterman’s we also saw What’s In A Line, which had some brilliant interactive activities that were so simply and really affective. The blog for this is on Julia’s page


In June Julia went to Random String Symposium, a day of lectures about digital art. This inspired us to think digital: before she went, digital art seemed pretty scary by the end of the day she’d found some really approachable ways to create digital art, for example Bare Conductive electric paint. If you’ve not seen this, have a look at Polyphonic Playground by Studio PSK Melissa Mean from Knowle West Media Centre presented a seminar and it was full of useful starting points:


  • Where are the people all ready? Go to where they are.
  • Value what all ready exists.
  • Reveal the richest that is all ready there.
  • Start with people and not the tech.
  • Bring the tech in slowly. What happens at the end? What does it do?
  • First step very simply
  • Put the means of production in the hands of the people.
  • Create disruptive spaces for new rules and relationships.


These are definitely points to consider when starting new work. You can see the full blog on Julia’s page


After Random String Nicola Richardson came to meet us. She runs Vortex-Creates along with Marianne Taviner. Vortex-Creates describes itself as a collection of professionalism, creativity and kickass design, they create costumes and sets for events, theatre and walkabouts. Nicola was full of fantastic advice, the key pieces were; use your voice, tell people what you do and ask for their help, make the right conversations, be in the right places, talk to the right people, go and seek out, travel all over, say no! (as well as yes) and be cheeky. You can read the full blog on Julia’s page


During June we were busy creating Big Knitting. We think the a-n development bursary gave us a confidence boost, which really helped with our application for Big Knitting and we think it helped build Coventry 2021’s confident in us. Big Knitting was an amazing experience as it was our first really large-scale installation and the audience interacted with it more than we could have wished for. We learnt so much from the whole experience. Now we are in the process of getting dates booked for next year festivals. The full blog for Big Knitting is on Julia’s page


Straight after Big Knitting we met with Loz Samuels, Arts & Pay Development Officer for Wyre Forest District Council. Loz runs Kidderminster Arts Festival (KAF), which runs for the first two weeks of August. We met with Loz as our experience of festivals has been paid entry festivals rather than community festivals. We were surprised to learn that Loz used to be an acrobat and aerial rigger and she therefore had a lot of useful tips for us, such as the idea that making Big Knitting climbable may be too tricky and not worth approaching. You can see the full blog on Sarah’s page


From meeting with Loz we are now looking to create a new installation for KAF. We’re looking to create a community project that takes inspiration from their carpet history and local designer Lucienne Day. We are hoping to create large woven panels with different community groups to hang on the Town Hall along with weaving flagging tape along Kidderminster’s main street and a seating area out side the Town Hall. KAF really like the ideas and are just waiting to secure their funding before they can confirm the project.


The following week we headed to London to the Victoria Miro to see Yayoi Kusama solo exhibition and to the V&A to see Elytra. Victoria Miro was our first stop where we were immersed in Yayoi Kusama small room of mirrors and repeating objects. The use of mirrors really created that immersive feeling that we are looking to inject into our work and as such we feel that mirrors are something we should really think about using. In the Victoria Miro we were lucky enough to bump into Rana Begum, The Space Between. She had used metal in repeating forms to create art works that changed in perception as you viewed them from different angles. Her work really affirmed our use of repetition and how effective it is. After the Victoria Miro, gallery we headed to the V&A to see Elytra a filament pavilion that uses robots to create the fibre glass installation. We loved the way it was engineered and the visual qualities that were created through the making technique. The technique of the creation being embedded to the design is something we also do, using the textile technique to create our art works form, never embellishing it or manipulating it after production. I think this is a really strong technique and something we will continue to do. You can see the full blog on Julia’s page


Every year the Serpentine has a summer pavilion that we always go to. This year it was by Bjarke Ingels and consisted of stacked cubes, the pavilion felt like it had erupted from the ground in an elongated form that had been hit by a massive sound wave. The pavilion was a very calming space, which was being used to relax within. Currently we have created immersive chaos and this was the complete opposite, we feel immersive calm is something to consider for the future. From the pavilion Julia headed to the Festival of Love at Southbank where immersive chaos was taking place in their water fountains. The Festival of Love had a mixture of calm, chaos and emotive work. Our favourite piece was Modified Social Benches, they were very social and could be used in many ways, they were also completely ‘naked fox man’ proof, something we really need to consider in our work. You can see the full blog on Julia’s page


In August we headed to Just So Festival as it is very family friendly and know for having a lot of art. Just So did not disappoint in the forest there was a lot of art for children and families to get involved in. It was mostly performance based with story telling, comedy, theatre, circus and walkabouts. It was really interesting to see what work was out there and how families interacted with different pieces. After the festival we really felt it was the audience for us and something we’d very much like to be involved with. The full blog is on Sarah’s page


At the end of the summer Julia headed to Finland and visited Kiasma where Choi Jeong Hwa and Ernesto Neto were both exhibiting. Choi Jeong Hwa had created full room installations from repeating mass produced objects. Happy Happy stimulated immense happiness, this was due to the bright colours and the plastic jungle he’d created. Bright colour is something that we should look at using. Ernesto Neto had created installations which again filled the room, his work felt very calming, very still. Removing your shoes really added to the immersive feeling, it really connected you to the work. The lighting also really adds to that calming feel, lighting is something that we should consider in our work concentrating on the effect it can have on the viewer. The full blog is on Julia’s page


In October Coventry celebrated it’s art, culture and engineering with the Festival of Imagineers. During the festival we saw a lot of outdoor performance, Urban Astronaut, Wheel House, Osadia, Teatro Tascabile di Bergamo Valse and Orchestra of Samples. It rained a lot and we saw how professional companies dealt with this, which made us consider how we could deal with it. Most of the performances had meanings behind them; they were looking at themes that are affecting our society. Orchestra of Samples was a piece that really stood out, taking musicians from all over the world and then mixing them together to create a complete new sound was an amazing experience to see and hear. We are really interested in bringing individual’s art together through them interacting with our work, perhaps we could look at this on a bigger scale with people from across the world creating one installation.


In October Sarah visited the Hive at Kew Garden’s. This was really interesting for us as it’s very different space from galleries and festivals and it was on a larger scale to the work we’d seen previously and used a completely different structure. Like the work we’d seen at Imagineer it had a strong underlying concept, looking at bees and their communication skills and highlighting their decline. Inside the installation felt very calming and you felt very connected to the bees with the use of light, sound and vibration coming from their hive. This again made us think of concept and highlighting issues that we feel passionate about, creating calming work and working on a much larger scale. You can read read about it on Sarah’s blog


A few days later Sarah headed down to Devon and saw Sculpting the Museum by Michael Shaw at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum. Sculpting the Museum filled the gallery, passing through walls and doorways, filling up entire galleries and played with negative space and it’s own huge scale, it also created a warming glow with its orange and yellow tones. The simplicity and scale of the work was very inspiring, taking one simple technique, finding a versatile material and scaling it up to create one very immersive sculpture. This is what we aim to do and will continue to do as it is very affective and creates an instant impact. The full blog is on Sarah’s page


The winter saw us visiting two light festivals, IN LIGHT: Illuminating Compton Verney and Bruce Munro’s Field of Light at Waddesdon Manor. IN LIGHT children’s workshop ran throughout the festival with children decorating lanterns with different papers and these were hung in Compton’s ground. It was such an effective technique, it was really easy for the children and was visually amazing. It was a very inspiring piece of work as it was large scale, allowed for audience participation and looked brilliant. Bruce Munro’s Field of Light was something we’ve been waiting to see for a very long time, it was a very special afternoon and something we’ll always remember. The scale was immense, it felt as if the Field of Light went on and on, the lighting changed in colour and was beautiful tones, each individual element was so simple yet so powerful when all together. Again this demonstrates the power of repetition, how emotive light can be and the value of keeping things simple. The full blog is on Sarah’s page


In November we were due to meet with Cathryn Peach from Wild Rumpus who run a lot northern festivals, including Just So. Sadly Cathryn was poorly so we are now due to meet her in January. For our a-n professional development project she has given us some key tips for touring outdoor work, this included pricing, her advice was look at the Arts Council daily rate information and contacts, really use the contacts you have and find out who they know. We will certainly start thinking about who we know and who we should be getting in contact with. You can see the full blog on Julia’s page


It has been a busy year and we’ve learnt a lot on the way. The things that really stick out are ‘the naked fox man’, keep things simple, scale them and repeat, lighting and the possibility of more meaningful concepts and finally using the contacts we have. We feel that the a-n development bursary has been a big confidence boost for us and has increased organisations trust in us. We feel that as a result of a-n we created Big Knitting which has now opened a lot of doors for us, we are now creating a large scale project for Kidderminster Art Festival (dependent on funding), making a new interactive installation for Art in the Park in Leamington Spa (dependent on funding), possibly creating an installation for the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum summer exhibition and maybe even creating something for Just So, along with touring Big Knitting in the summer. It’s been a brilliant experience, we’d advise anyone that has begun to create work and is looking to develop it to a greater scale to apply for the bursary in the future.



Julia and I visited two different light festivals as the final visits for our a-n professional development bursary, which rounded off a fantastic year of visiting inspiring exhibitions and events in variety of settings and spaces, motivating conversations with artists and festival organisers and developing our own work.


IN LIGHT: Illuminating Capability Brown’s Landscape at Compton Verney


The first light festival that we visited was IN LIGHT: Illuminating Capability Brown’s Landscape by Createmosphere, which we saw at Compton Verney in November. It was a visually impressive festival that also allowed for high levels of audience engagement and participation, which was of particular interest to Julia and me.

Both the Mansion and the Bridge were beautifully lit, which highlighted the striking landscape and architecture. Booths situated around the site allowed the audience to alter the colours and direction of the lighting, which was a great way to engage the audience with the work.

On the lawns in front of the house were hundreds of solar lanterns, glowing with different colours. Close up, we could see that each jar contained a different design and had been created by children who visited the exhibition. Workshops in the mansion meant that every child had the opportunity to create a lantern by filling it with colourful translucent papers and plastics. It was a really effective technique, which allowed children to create something that looked very professional and contributed to the installation as a whole.

Overall, Julia and I were very inspired by the way in which the festival had provided opportunities for the audience to participate in the creation of the work. The piece would still have created a strong visual impact without this audience interaction, however this provided an extra level of interest. We feel that this is an important balance to find within our own work, where we hope to encourage and allow for participation without anyone feeling that they have to contribute if they don’t want to. IN LIGHT: Illuminating Capability Brown’s Landscape achieved this balance very successfully.



Bruce MunroField of Light


One of our last visits of the year for the a-n professional development bursary was one that we were particularly excited to see – Bruce Munro’s Field of Light at Waddesdon Manor (it’s on until 2nd January so there’s still time to see it!). Both Julia and I have wanted to see this installation for many years, after first hearing about it when we were studying for our undergraduate degrees.


It was still light when we arrived at Waddesdon Manor so we decided to explore the grounds whilst we waited for it to get dark. We discovered that there was a Christmas market on so bought some tasty treats too!

Field of Light was set away from the Manor itself, tucked away behind trees, meaning that any light coming from the Manor didn’t affect or reach the installation. The walk up to the work also had very low lighting levels, this was important as it allowed time for our eyes to adjust and helped to heighten the experience of the installation itself when it finally came into view by providing a contrast between the dark walk through the trees and then the thousands of lights that make up the work. As artists Julia and I are very interested in the experience of space created by an installation. It was clear in Bruce Munro’s work that the walk up to Field of Light and the space surrounding it was key to the experience of the installation itself. This focus on the context and experience as a whole is something that Julia and I will take on board for future projects.

Field of Light at Waddesdon Manor is made up of 9000 individual lights on ‘stems’, which have been ‘planted’ across the landscape. The effect is stunning, as the lights stretch off into to the distance. The colours of the lights across the installation gradually change, subtly animating the work. To me, this almost gave the impression that the work was breathing as it had a calming rhythm to it. A path meanders round the installation which allows you to feel really immersed in the work and to see it from a range of perspectives.


The shape, size and scale of Field of Light varies depending on it’s location, making it site-specific. It is currently also on display at Uluru in Northern Territory, Australia, where the installation consists of 50,000 light stems. This is also the location that originally inspired Bruce Munro to develop Field of Light. I’m off on a trip to Australia next year and was excited to hear that the installation has been so popular that the dates have been extended to March 2018, which means I can visit it in Uluru too! It will be fascinating to see the work on such different scales and in such different landscapes to see how it engages with each site.


Back in August Julia and I took a trip to Rode Hall, Cheshire to visit Just So Festival. We decided to go for one day – the Saturday – to find out a bit more about the arts at the festival. Throughout our year of the a-n professional development bursary we have been visiting art in expected and unexpected settings. We have been to see work that is indoors, outdoors, in galleries, in the gardens of galleries, in parks and at festivals. This reflects the direction of our practice, which is to create work that is accessible for all in a variety of locations.

We decided to visit Just So Festival as it has a strong art and family focus and we wanted to discover more about it as this is somewhere we envisage creating work for in the future. Despite being a very rainy day, we had a wonderful time. We saw several theatre shows which included: Horse + Bamboo’s ‘Theatre for One’ – a miniature puppet theatre world to watch individually; Sharklegs family show ‘Long, Broad & SharpSight’; Les Enfants Terribles ‘The Fantastic Flying Exploratory Laboratory; and Bash Street Theatre’s ‘Cliffhanger’ – a live silent movie style physical theatre show.

The festival was divided up into different zones, each with a different focus. We particularly liked the woodland area as it had a very immersive feel and consisted of three zones – ‘Tales of Animalia’, ‘The Spellbound Forest’ and ‘The Woodland Theatre’. As well as a stages with timed shows (we saw ‘Reynard the Fox’ by The Fabularium), there were walkabout woodland creatures (also by The Fabularium) and an art trail, which together really helped to create the immersive atmosphere.

Visiting Just So was very valuable as it allowed us to see a festival that has strong focus on family and arts. Previous festivals we have worked at have been very much for adults with the main focus being music, for these festivals we have created site decor as more interactive work wouldn’t have been appropriate. Just So showed us an audience that are very interested in the art and are looking to be immersed by it. After visiting the festival we really feel Just So would be a great festival for our work, as it would allow us to create very immersive work with an appropriate audience.




At the weekend I took a trip to Devon to see family. Whilst I was there I managed to squeeze in a visit to an exhibition. I headed to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter (RAMM) to have a look around and see what was going on. There I discovered the wonderful Sculpting The Musuem by Michael Shaw, which is on until 13 November 2016.


Michael Shaw had created a huge inflatable sculpture within the museum, which passed through a doorway from one room into the next giving the impression that the work was bursting through the gallery walls and filling the space.

Made from orange and yellow material, the work created a warming atmospheric glow within the gallery. The size of the work in the gallery was an interesting play on scale with the sculpture seeming almost larger than the gallery itself, thereby bringing into focus the negative space around the work and changing the feel of the rooms in the gallery. I would however have really liked to be able to walk closer to the installation to better experience the spaces that were created.

The play on scale was what fascinated me most about the work and it is something that Julia and I have experimented with for our own work, for example in our Big Knitting piece, where we scaled up the concept of knitting to create an immersive installation. It is also a theme that we hope to develop further. Integral to this is the choice of materials to transform typically small-scale techniques into large scale unexpected outcomes. We often dedicate time to researching unexpected or large scale materials and testing the boundaries with these materials. This was apparent in Michael Shaw’s work and made for an immersive exhibition experience.



Last week I went to Kew Gardens to visit The Hive. The Hive is an installation by BDP that was commissioned for the UK Pavilion at the Milan Expo in 2015 and which is now at Kew until November. I wanted to make sure I visited before the exhibition closed. It was a beautifully sunny autumn day, perfect for a visit to the gardens. I headed to The Hive first as I wanted to make sure I got to experience it before exploring the rest of the gardens.


The Hive is a fascinating large scale work which highlights the life of bees, particularly their communication and vibration patterns. Tiny devices are used in the beehives to pick up these patterns, which are then translated in the installation to sounds and lights. The greater the activity of the bees in the hive, the greater the sound and light patterns within the installation.

The Hive is raised up so that you can walk underneath it, with a semi-transparent floor, which allows you to look up into the installation. Here there were ‘bone conductors’ to enable you to experience how bees communicate in this way. It consisted of a thin wooden stick which you place onto a metal plate. By biting the stick between your teeth and then covering your ears you could hear the bees communicating. It was a very strange experience as it does not work at all if you don’t cover your ears, which was quite unexpected.

Ramps on either sides of the installation allow you to walk up past wildflower meadows and into The Hive itself. These meadows attracts bees and provide them with pollen, with boards explaining more about pollination and the importance of the bees. There were also guides giving talks about the many different species of bees and explaining more about the bees lives as well as the installation itself. This meant that the work was very informative and engaging as well as visually beautiful. I was particularly interested to see the hive as I have heard a lot about the problems of bees population decline over the past few years. The work really helped to highlight this. Julia and I are interested in making work that relates to current issues, themes and ideas so this was an intriguing example of one way that this has been achieved.


Once inside the installation, the effect was very calming as the sounds ebbed and flowed with changes in the bees activity. These changes were subtle, which encouraged the audience to linger within the work. The lighting also gradually changed however I would have liked to see this at night to experience the full effect of the lighting within the installation.

Over the course of the year Julia and I are trying to see work in a variety of different spaces as we are keen to produce work in and for a range of settings and spaces from galleries to public spaces to reach a wider audience. Therefore it was great to see a piece that wasn’t in a gallery setting, which may have reached a different audience to pieces that we have seen at museums and galleries. I really enjoyed the different experiences that were part of The Hive, which engaged with a variety of senses with the scent of the gardens, the sounds of the bees and the visual aspect of the installation itself. By providing different activities and appealing to a range of senses, I felt that the installation would appeal to a wide range of age groups. Again this is something that Julia and I could consider within our own work, by incorporating different levels of activity and engagement.