On Friday 15th July Sarah and I headed to London to visit the Victoria Miro gallery to see Yayoi Kusama and to the V&A to see Elytra. This was a real treat as we’d spent the last few weeks in my lounge making big knitting. After meeting our friend Owain we headed to the Victoria Miro to be met by a rather large queue which was a surprised as we’d never queued for exhibition for. We decided to stick with the queue as we had come specially to see the exhibition.

Yayoi Kunama is now 87 years old, after living in New York during the 1960’s she returned to Tokyo in the 1970’s where she still lives and works today. Her work is a reflection on her own hallucinations and is most famously recognised for her repeating polkadots and bright colours. For this exhibition she’s created infinity rooms using mirrors and her distinctive style on the sculptures inside.

The reason for the queue was that Kusama’s artworks were within small boxes, a bit walk in fridge size and only two could go in at a time. We first show All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, one of my favourite titles ever! The infinity room included bright yellow pumpkin sculptures which were covered in polkadots, with the mirrors the pumpkins then repeated them selves feeling as it they carried on for ever. It gave me a feeling of joy of happiness, looking at these brightly coloured pumpkins which repeated and repeated and repeated. I was totally immersed within the space. It really felt like a celebration of her love of pumpkins. As the exhibition was so busy you were sadly only allowed a minute within All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, I would have liked the opportunity to stay and enjoy the exhibit for longer.

The second space was Chandelier of Grief this was a larger space but still not very big, maybe more shed sided but in a circular formation. In the centre of the room there was a rotating chandelier and light hit it dramatic patterns where repeated on the mirror walls and ceiling. For me this space didn’t feel as intimate with it being that larger and I have also loved her use of bright colours and polkadots which this doesn’t have. The repeated patterns are very beautiful and delicate, perhaps too pretty for my liking.

Out in the garden the pond was full of reflective balls which was a nice touch to the exhibition, Narcissus Garden. It brought together the mirror theme, the polkadots and repetition in contrast to the other pieces it was in a very open, natural space meaning the reflections where ever changing as the balls moved across the water in the breeze. Narcissus Garden complimented Where the Lights in My Heart Go again the size of a walk in freeze but this time mirrored outside as well as in. Inside the eternal space small wholes let in light and these light spots then repeated into infinity. In the black room it felt much like being in space or on a hill with no lights completely immersed in stars. I imagine this space is ever changing as well based on the weather and amount of light outside.

These were very immersive spaces, that immersiveness is very much created by the use of mirrors. Sarah and I have been very interested in the idea of creating kaleidoscopes in our work. After today’s trip this is something I think we should very much pursue.

After walking along the deck we entered Parasol unit where we saw Rana Begum, The Space Between. I feel very lucky to have walked into Begum’s work as it is very relevant to our project, full of brilliant style and I didn’t know it was there! This is Begum’s first major solo show in the UK so that makes it even luckier. Until know I’d not come across her, I am so pleased I have as her spatial awareness is so good. We firstly saw a large installation that she’d created using stacks of metal fencing in tones of red, yellow and grey to build a large installation that you walked within, of course I loved this because it’s an installation but what I really liked was her wall pieces. From the front they looked flat but as you approached them from a different side they are three dimensional, thin metal columns painted with hidden geometric patterns. It’s quite hard to explain and sadly I didn’t take any photos so your just going to have to go and see them, The Space Between is on until 18th Sept 16. There was a second installation which used UV lighting turning Sarah’s team very white which I did take a photo of but I think she’d appreciate it been shared on the internet. Within the installation where bright geometric shapes that felt like they could be made from the same metal as glow stick bands. The UV light worked really well with them. The UV light is an interesting idea for immersive installations as the audience can play within the light, maybe with pens, white clothing or glow sticks. I was really pleased we saw Rana Begum’s work.

Victoria & Albert 

On to our second Victoria gallery, this time the V&A in the garden. After a good tea and a slice of cake watching children get very wet and beginning slightly concerned about being made wet by the children standing on the water shoots we went to enjoy Elytra a filament pavilion.

This summer the V&A are celebrating engineering and Elytra is at the very forefront of engineering with the way it’s made, by a robot using fibre glass threads. The robot is there in situ as the pavilion is responsive. There are sensors embedded within the pavilion that track the way the space is inhabited, the temperatures, and the structural forces (all anonymously). Expanding the canopy the robot creates new components in response to the collected data, the collected data informs the shape of the new component.

For me it is the shape created from the stringed fibre glass within each component and the pattern created from all the components together. The stringed fibre glasses form feels similar to mine and Sarah’s Diamond Art For Ever. The shape is inspired by elytra and is the filament structure of the shells of flying beetles. Using fibre glass makes it is very strong and very light.

The robots winding technique created by the designers doesn’t require a moulds unlike other construction methods. There is no limit to the amount of spun shapes it can create and it keeps waste to a minimum. This could be a construction method of the future.

This is a very different interactive spaces to any that Sarah and I have considered. I really like Elytra for it’s visual qualities and the way it is engineered, it doesn’t have an imitate feeling of interaction that I think we’re looking for. Our audience aim is families and communities and I think they need a quick reaction, although this is very clever it takes for the interactive element to take place. I feel this piece will be very popular with people who are interested in engineering, design and architecture.



I live in the very brilliant Coventry which is full of exciting creativeness. On 10th June 2016 a lovely man by the name of Dom arranged a symposium all about digital in art followed by a micro festival the following day. Although I’m not a digital artist and a little scared of the idea of digital I thought I should go along, learn and enjoy. What a brilliant day it was, I am still slightly scared of digital but totally up for using it in mine and Sarah’s work. Prepare your selves, this could be quite a long blog..

Juneau Project @juneauprojects

The Juneau Project was a great way to start the day as it was a little silly but of course still very serious. Ben and Phil began talking about their first project, breaking technology and recording it; drowning a walkman, throwing logs at technology, deer hunting cameras and shooting them, drilling CD’s while their playing. These project got great audience interaction, I can see why! Who wouldn’t want to through logs at TV’s.

Now for the more serious bit. They aren’t enjoying being attached to tech all of the time, in the phone bubble, not looking out at the world. To transpose this into a positive they are now working on bringing people together through their tech.

This can only bring a smile to your face. They made mini instruments which squirrels played and they filmed in their gardens (sounds easier than it was!). They also made life sized instruments that humans played in the exhibition space, them playing activated screens that showed the squirrels playing, human and squirrel now playing together. Totally bonkers! Linking people through technology to nature.

Juneau Project are also musicians and during a residency they made their own futuristic instruments to play. The idea being that all tech has broken down and you had to create your own tech, this is where their instruments came from. After learning to play them they’ve created a band, Swoomptheeng, here’s a video of them https://youtu.be/3TAxwYhL-VE I’m in it with my good friend Sally. I think you’ll agree its totally bonkers!

I loved Juneau projects as they’re good fun, they don’t take them selves too seriously and come up with fun tech that engages audiences.

Tattoo, teens and tech. Melissa Mean. Knowle West Media Centre @knowlewestmedia 

Melissa is the manager at Knowle West Media Centre, the centre bring communities to technology using art. Melissa talked through Knowle West Media Centre’s recent projects with tips for each area, although KWMC is tech based they are really get tips that I think apply to all areas of working with audiences.

Go to the participatory setting

Where are the people all ready? Go to where they are.

She’s been running pop up performances which have been really successful like, Tattoo. I Will Always Have You. This is a mobile tattoo parlour that went around collecting images of people’s tattoos and collecting the stories that went with them. From the images an artist created products like wall paper and handbags giving the project a legacy.

Value what all ready exists.

Reveal the richest the is all ready there.

The University of What is Already There collected local knowledge and made a website of full of the local knowledge. I really like this idea, as a society we really value university education but not so much local knowledge, collecting and keeping it safe for others to see feels really important to me. This echo’s my Discover: Chedham’s Stories project at work were we’ve had Kel Elliott & her Three Man Orchestra collecting local stories about Chedham’s blacksmithing yard. With the stories Kel’s writing and producing songs which will then be put into a mobile audio trail for visiting to enjoy.

Start with people and not the tech.

Bring the tech in slowly. What happens at the end? What does it do?

The question ‘What does it do?’ was asked a few times of our Big Knitting, with the answer being ‘it’ doesn’t do anything, you play and enjoy and experience art in a new way. I think our next piece needs to consider this, what does it do? I feel we need to create a reward for their playing, maybe this is tech, changing lights or sound, of course we need to start with the people.

First step very simply

Participate. Don’t expect everyone to participate in the same way. Think about it this way 100 take part, 90 are just looking, 9 and involved a little bit and just 1 is really involved. Different people do different things, they all need each other.

Put the means of production in the hands of the people.

In Bristol a green business park was built, for the park their was no furniture contract yet. They applied for the furniture contract using a disused youth centre and a small arts commission, they got the contract, employed local people and made 500 pieces of furniture in 4 months. Now they are a permanent business making furniture.

There isn’t affordable housing in Bristol, I know this first hand from my friend Ross who lives there, he knows people who live in vans. Houses are meant to be built, the usual box houses. They can build furniture, can they build housing?

Create disruptive spaces for new rules and relationships.

For the section Melissa showed us a truly inspiring video of Nightwalks. This project took teenagers and adults on a night walk together. This broke the adult’s negative precessions of teenagers, they said it had been one of the most fun nights of their lives. It stopped teenagers being on the streets and broke anti social behaviour patterns. I’d really advise watching the video, it is very inspiring https://youtu.be/cl4Gq6-m6-4

Melissa’s talk was full of great approaches to working practise. I will certainly look back at these artistically and for community work.

Physical Digital Landscape. Matt Johnson. Bare Conductive. @BareConductive

Bare Conductive is a electrically conductive paint, it’s texture is like poster paint and it’s water soluble, suddenly digital doesn’t seem so tricky, I can paint. It works like a switch, you paint it, join it up to a touch board with a speaker or light attached and then touch your paint and the sound or light will turn off and on.

The possibilities are amazing, an artist (I’ve not noted his name down, sorry) has used it within his paintings, when you touch them it makes music, there’s interactive walk paper by Alexandre Echasseriau and my absolute favourite is Polyphonic Playground by Studio PSK. They’ve created a playground that plays music as people play, here’s another much watch video http://www.bareconductive.com/news/qa-polyphonic-playground-by-studio-psk/

You could have a play with the paint, here’s my little try..

This has got me thinking. How can Sarah and I use this paint to make our work interactive?

How to get involved with digital

This section was presentations from artists who were working with digital. Julia O’Connel textile artist and performer created The Visible Maker. Using her 1919 Singer sewing machine she created a performance piece using people, stories and collecting. She had digitalised her machines peddle when she pushed the peddle to sew randomised voices and sounds would play.

Dan Hett is a creative technologist. He does live coding in night clubs along to DJ sets. This creates a build up of pattern and imagery shown on screens within the night club. Visually its really exciting and of course very interactive, the coding is beyond my understanding but after Dan’s talk I feel I could approach it.

The Random String symposium was a great day as it opened up the possibilities of digital for all. I certainly want to consider how Sarah and I can use digital in our work to make it more interactive. I will certainly be reading over my notes from Melissa Mean’s talk again and sharing these.

Micro Festival

On Sat 11th June Sally and I went along to the Micro Festival (this was a full day of festivals for us, we began with the food festival, then the Micro Festival and then a beer festival!). Firstly we enjoyed Swoomptheeng. We popped into Fab Lab where Permutations a weaving by Theo Wright, it felt amazing, it was based on permutations. For our final visit we went into City Arcade where there was Entropic where building hexagon shapes using wire and straws, this built a small installation that you could stand under. When your head touched the hexagon it activated lights creating a glow above you. 


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…