On Friday 20th May we met with Emma Harrabin from Coventry 2021, Coventry 2021 is the campaign for Coventry to be the City of Culture in 2021. Emma was organising the public launch which was taking place at Godiva Festival on the first weekend of July – only 6 weeks away. Emma had her self one very large tent and she needed it filling!

Sarah and I have been really wanting to make something large and very interactive. As a development from Intermission we wanted to use the same technique on a bigger scale that people could actually get into to. Our plan was to make large knitted sections which would span between the polls in the tent at different levels and then have knitted tubes within it that children could get into and play within. Emma loved the idea and sent us off to work out the possibilities.

We loved the rope we’d used for Intermission but couldn’t afford it on such a big scale and we got thinking about what comes on rolls and isn’t too expensive. We came up with plastic dust sheets on a roll. We treated our self to one roll that Sarah knitted very quickly and we liked the texture it produced. We costed the project, Coventry 2021 agreed. We now had 5 weeks to make giant knitting wheels and then knit 6,000 meters of plastic, not a small task.

I am married to a very handy man, Chris and he made the big knitting wheels for us. During the Euro’s Leon (Sarah’s boyfriend) slept, Chris created more knitting structures and Sarah and I knitted round, and round and round. It was good fun driving underneath it all to get to the kitchen, toilet or to a cup of tea and seeing how long our pieces where when finished. My lounge stayed this way for a few weeks!

We did our first test and for some reason we’d not thought our tubes through, they sagged in when hung. Of course they did, we all ready knew this from Intermission and this is why it has balls in it! We decided to put hoops in and this worked, but not an easy task. We used plumping line but didn’t want to use push and fit ends to join them together as this would be lumpy. We thought to use dowel inside it to join the ends, like when you have glow sticks but they weren’t available pre made in the right size so instead we hand cut the dowel from long lengths and sanded it to fit!

The first site visit was in bright sunshine to a trent that wasn’t up yet and it didn’t seem so big. The second was a bit more daunting, the rain had fallen, the grown was wet and the tent was up. It was big, had Sarah and I really knitted enough to cover our promised 7m x 10m triangle? We weren’t going to know till early Sunday morning.

Saturday night the van was packed, we went for a dance on the festival site feeling a little nerves about Sunday. Alarms on for 5am and on site for 6:30am we were about to find out. We laid our sections out, placed our tubes within them and stitched it all together. As a team Chris, Sarah and I hung them at two different levels in the tent. It looked amazing! We’d finished installing just in time for brunch and the opening at 12am.

We’d imagined people would like our installation at previous festivals we’d seen people admiring our work. We hadn’t expected it to be as popular as it was, through the day there was lots of performances taking place and we thought Sarah can go to one while I watched the work and visa versa. We were very wrong, Sarah made it to Motion House and that was it for the day. Kids and adults played their hearts out all day long running through, twisting and dancing in our tubes. It was an absolute joy, they were having such a brilliant time, we really couldn’t have imagined how much it was loved. The best thing was seeing how different people interacted with, some children needed to know why and were really interested in how it was made, what it was made from and how long it had taken. We had a knitting wheel with us and showed children and adults what to do, lots of them wanted to take the knitting home which we also hadn’t expected.

Through the process we learnt a lot, Sarah and I thought it would look great to have really long tubes, they did look brilliant first thing. The tubes stretched as they were played with, we had to pull them up half way through the day. We will now make them shorter for future exhibitions. We used ladders to install, it would of been quicker with a scaffold tower or cherry picker but we don’t have licenses to use them, we have decided that one of use should get one. A difficulty we had was we didn’t know exactly where the polls were in the tent or how frequent they are, we may buy some trussing to avoid this issue. We’d been so rushed making the work up until the festival date that we’d not had time for marketing, while we’re not at festivals we’re going to get lots of business cards made and a board which we can put up with our website, twitter and Instagram on. We will also make parental consent forms so we can take pictures of the children playing. We’d waited to count the amount of people in the installation on the day but it wasn’t possible, there was far too many! 10,000 came through the hole tent, I wouldn’t be surprised if they all came through the knitting. We need to have a think how we can count them, I’m not sure we can, we will have to make less popular work!

Since Godiva festival the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum have taken some of Big Knitting without the tubes in for their summer family exhibition, Wild Wanders. We have met with Loz Samuels from Wyre Forest District Council who would like to take it for Kidderminster Arts Festival 2017 and we are speaking to Art In The Park about taking it for their 2017 festival. We are going to get a touring pack together and hope to organise a full tour for next summer.

It has been an absolute brilliant experience. If anyone has an empty garage let us know because my lounge is still very full!


On the 13th June Nichola from Vortex Creates came to meet Sarah and I. We wanted to meet her as she does really interesting projects which have essences of our interests. The two that really interest me are the Lost Gift and the Travelling Treasury. The Lost Gift was a completely immersive Christmas exhibition, with performers at Warwick Art Centre, it took over the whole gallery. The Travelling Treasury is a beautiful caravan which has an immersive wood setting inside it along with a performer and it travels to a lot of festival.

Our main question for Nichola is simiple, what was your journey? How did you become a full time artist and what are your tips along the way.

Nichola began her life as a visual artist, she studied Fine Art as a degree. After graduating she was commissioned to make a sculpture in Bedford as part of the Year of the Artist. From here she worked part time at the Custard Factory as a receptionist, Nichola kept her portfolio with her and would show it to people as they went by. One day a web designer went by and Nichola said she could be a web designer, even though she’d not done it before. The lady employed her for her creativity, from doing it she learnt a lot of useful skills including photoshop. The lesson from this is to be open, talk to people about your self, don’t be apologetic about your work, be proud, be open to what else is out there, you might think your on one path but there’s no harm in trying another one. 

Straight after graduating Nichola got a studio at Art Space and she was on the board of directors. This again was about talking to right people, it allowed Nichola to use two studio spaces and the community room when she had bigger projects. She continued in this way until 2006 when she took a big jump and took on a barn in Offchurch. The rent was a large jump but she made it happen. This felt very inspirational for me as I work part time and I’m nerves to be a full time artist because I’m not sure I’ll earn enough. Here Nichola trusted her self, got a larger more expensive space and she made it happen. Now she rents a large industrial unit which in terms of studio rent is a bargain and this is because it’s not aimed at artist.

In 2003 she was asked to design a float and costume for Coventry Carnival. It was aesthetically pleasing, it told and story which made it visually appealing. Her work continues this theme now, it tells stories and is visually brilliant. At the Carnival she met Marianne Taviner and they began working together as Vortex Creates and in 2006 and 2007 they made the UK Awards and in 2008 with Zanda Rhodes on the judging panel they won. The phone kept ringing and they became a registered company.

People come to Vortex because they want a unique product, they build relationships with their clients and in turn they come again. Vortex is in constant development, as well as art they also do corporate event dressing, this brings in a good income. This is something for Sarah and I to consider is there anything we can make / do for the corporate world that will help support our artist work?

They often work with Highly Sprung a lot to keep their work developing, Highly Sprung are really trusting and they have a great relationship with them. For each projects they figure out who they need, what skills they need and how much time that is. They are interested in developing other people’s skills and are now looking to employ a graduate one day a week, they want to grow her skills.

Nichola and Maz both have their own companies too, Maz has M Style which does wedding dressing and Nichola does consultancy and education. This is great for their creativity and contacts. Sarah and I do our own things too, it’s good to know it makes a good mix. Sarah is an interior designer and I work on arts projects.

We are interested to know if Nichola has received funding, it was a general no. For the Travelling Treasury they received funding from the NRTF. This was in partnership with Highly Sprung and was a new approach for them. They might apply for Random String as the project they are developing feel like it fits. Nichola feels if the fund fits your project then apply but don’t push it if it doesn’t.

For our Big Knitting we need to make a tour pack and we ask Nichola for any tips of what to include, this was footfall, value, time per visit, cost and the product. Be clear, who are you selling to, what is it? Her advice was a mini tour first to get lots of photos and audience comments to include. I should think about what I want to know when I book an artist at Live & Local. When I’ve got it together I’ll share it.

We need to get a contact list together for festivals first. Later on we might look into a tour booker, they will compile a database for you. We should look at international street art festivals, they are buying commissioning and selling work. Think about where people are that we want to sell to, how can we meet them? Exhibition talks are a good place to go and mini festivals like Random String are great too.

One opportunity to think about is the gallery space in City Arcade, could we install something that fits there? Eaton House also has a dry space.

Nichola advised Sarah and I to put a 1 year, 2 year and 5 year plan together. When we do it think about what we need to know, do we all ready know the answers, ask others, people are generous.

The lesson we kept learning from Nichola, 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). Be cheeky, ask for discount if your buying a lot.

Take a look at Express Polythene in Digbath and Cheep Rope for materials



I am feeling very guilty as Sarah and I haven’t been blogging recently for our Professional Development Grant. Everything has been going so well, we are incredibly busy and this is why our blogs have been a bit delayed! Today I am on it, by the time I order my Friday takeaway you will be inundated with blogs (hopefully). For the next few hours, it’s me, my Mac, Radio 6, water (usually tea but it’s far too sunny for that) and biscuits!

You can look forward to:

  • A meeting with Ruby Jennings – an artist who makes interactive, travelling performance sets
  • Random String – A day of digital inspiration
  • Meeting with Nichola Richardson from Vortex Creates – an artist who makes costumes, sets and impressive performances
  • Big Knitting – Our largest installation ever
  • Loz Samuels – Arts Officer for Wyre Forest and her KAF festival
  • A day out in London – To see Victoria Miro and the V&A

Let the typing commence…