Our initial research trip in November 2014 was generously funded through an a-n new collaborations bursary.

We returned to Shetland in August 2015 for a residency at Scalloway Booth, and are currently preparing for an exhibition at Da Gadderie in Shetland Museum, April-June 2016.


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Post by Kay

We have been in Shetland for the last week installing the exhibition. It has not exactly been a breeze! But it all worked out well in the end, as these things always do.

We have been staying in the very cute and comfortable croft house we stayed in when we came here for a research trip funded by an a-n New Collaborations Bursary in November 2014. Given that the average temperature has been 3 degrees for the past few days, the underfloor heating and wood burning stove has been most welcome! Especially after the long days we have been putting in at the museum, without seeing daylight all day long.

We have been marvellously  hosted at Shetland Museum and Archives by the director John Hunter, who has spent several evenings late at the gallery helping us get it ready on time.

We drove up from Brighton on Friday 8th April, car loaded to the max with Joseph’s sound equipment, many boxes of ceramics and several newly-arrived packages of perspex and mounts, the final delivery arriving a few hours before departure. One stopover en route and we caught the night crossing from Aberdeen, arriving in Lerwick Sunday 10th.

Monday we arrived at the museum and got to work immediately. The previous show was already in boxes littering the space, and we started planning the layout with John, deciding where walls should be built, where and how the ceramics should be hung, the film, the speakers. Shetland Arts sponsored the project by loaning the sound system and their extremely capable technician Jonathon, who spent a good part of the week setting it all up.

We decided to divide the space into three sections; the first containing the interpretation and film, the main area for the 4 channel sound system and the mounted ceramics, and the third area, a ceramic installation on the wall. As the gallery is open at both ends, we had interpretation at both entrances, which provided a clear introduction to the exhibition from whichever direction you approach.

First thing for me to do was to mount the ceramics on to perspex, which took the whole of Tuesday. By Wednesday they were all dry and ready to hang, so I started the process of arranging them around the space. All looking good. As time went on, I reduced the number several times, streamlining and allowing more space for each piece. I had actually made a lot more than I needed for the space, but then I didn’t know exactly how big it was or how they would look within in until I got there.

Next job: hanging. Which is when the drama began. I got out the boxes of fixings designed to stand the perspex away from the wall, freshly arrived to Brighton a few days before departure, to discover that they did not fit! This time I ordered shorter ones than I have used before – big mistake! I hadn’t checked that they could accommodate the 8mm thickness of the perspex. In theory they should. The problem is that the bolts are shorter as well as the backs, which I didn’t know and wouldn’t have known without specifically asking, as the screw dimensions were not specified. Or were they?! Anyway. Problem. Feeling confident that the company had managed to get them delivered to me in less than a day, I ordered the right ones, next day delivery. Everyone told me I had to add a day on to any quoted delivery time to allow for getting it to Shetland, so you can imagine my surprise when they arrived within 16 hours! By then this was Thursday 11.30am. Opened the box, anticipating a day hanging, just in time to be finished for the next day’s workshop which started at 2pm Friday, our deadline. Opened the boxes – the company had sent me the short ones again!

Frantic phone calls to the company resulted in the third set of fixings being despatched – not cheap at £160 a pop. We decided we had to go ahead and use the short backs to get them all on the wall in position ready to receive the panels. All we would have to do when the longer bolts arrived would be to peel off the perspex backs and screw them in place.

By the end of Thursday everything else was done that could be done: layout finalised, everything in position around the room, fixings backs all screwed in place, labelling printed and distributed, film projecting, sound ready, just the hanging of the ceramics and the interpretation to go.

After a sleepless night worrying about the delivery, Friday morning came round. Nervously awaiting the postie. Yvonne, the education manager, who was overseeing the workshop, happens to be married to Shetland’s post office manager. So she was able to ring round and break the bad news before the expected delivery time of 11.30: no packages for me on the post van circulating the island fresh from that morning’s flight! More frantic phone calls to the company and Royal Mail. Discovered some idiot had put it into the international section at Birmingham. A fourth set of fixings despatched. Promises to write ‘UK’ on the package. Next day special delivery. We know it can get here on time; the second set did!

Radio Shetland arrived to interview us. Nice and easy and no problem that the work wasn’t up. By this time it was midday Friday. We prepared for the workshop and started it off in the unfinished space with more than half the work lying horizontally, but no problem. Joseph did the first sonic baton performance with the Shetland sounds. Very nice. The workshop was for older people, some with Alhzeimer’s, and was a really lovely experience. We introduced the project, I explained how I used a digital microscope to capture the images of the flora and everyone tried it out and we printed their images, and they worked with clay to produce their own botanical relief shapes.

After the workshop we had an enforced early end to the day with nothing left to do other than hope and pray that the fixings would arrive the next morning. Official opening advertised for 2pm and everyone invited. We listened to our feature on Shetland radio which sounded good.

Saturday morning. THE DAY OF THE OPENING. The end of 18 months’ work. Picked up refreshments for the launch. Tracking Parcelforce revealed THE PACKAGE HAD ARRIVED! Rushed into the gallery. 2.5 hours to get it all done. Started hanging. Final blip: we needed the short backs to screw behind the longer screws to match the ones on the wall and where were they? Tidied up out of the gallery and back at the croft. Joseph to the rescue. I worked ceaselessly until it was all done with 20 minutes to go.

PHEW.


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  (Post by Kay)

The drama of the week occurred on Monday morning upon arriving in a state of high expectation with 4 kilns to open after glaze firings. This is the moment most ceramists anticipate above all else. Also I have never had the luxury of having 4 kilns before (one is a new acquisition) so that was exciting in itself. Another common aspect of ceramics is to always expect that anything could have happened in the kiln. And this time there were a few surprises!

The previous week, I mixed up 25 new glazes to test and selected about half of them, and new glazes are bound to be unpredictable. Two of them turned out to be extremely runny and welded the ceramics on to the kiln shelves! So I lost about 6 shelves. Hmm. Frustrating, especially as that didn’t happen with the test firings. The other main problem was that one kiln didn’t fire properly and failed to reach top temperature, so the whole firing had to go back into a different kiln, which took me up to the absolute last minute of getting the work out before leaving. That emergency firing actually came out beautifully (phew!) so most of the work is useable.

In the aftermath of Monday’s events I had a major rethink about hanging the work. It’s been a constantly shifting line. My intention had been to make an installation using as many pieces as possible straight on to the wall. I have used this technique before with my Botanical Structures series. Additionally, I will mount individual pieces and some compositions on perspex. However, when it looked like the quantity of pieces was fewer, upon consulting with Joseph, I decided to mount everything on perspex and create an installation of many mounted pieces, but this new idea was too expensive to contemplate. So the compromise is to mount most of it in arrangements, individual pieces and a smaller unmounted installation. But I suppose this plan may change again once we have the work in the space….

We managed to get everything packed up on time and set off at lunchtime today. Shetland here we come!


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<post by Joseph>

A short supplementary post to say that we exceeded our funding target last week on indiegogo, so a BIG THANK YOU to all of you who have contributed. If you’re thinking, damn I missed the deadline, you are in luck! We signed up for “In Demand” which means that we can keep on getting backers and offering rewards beyond our initial campaign term.

The second bit of news which we’ve been holding back for the last few weeks, so as not to confuse potential backers of our crowdfunding bid, is that we were successful in our application to Arts Council England. The funding is for our wider project which follows on immediately after In A Shetland Landscape, entitled “Landscape  : Islands”.

More to follow on this after the exhibition opens in Shetland, but for now, if you’re in the Brighton area on April 30th and want to come along to our launch you are welcome. Just say you saw the post here…

You’ll be hearing more from me once we reach Shetland.

 


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<post by Joseph>

Into the final week…

I’ve been holed up in my studio for the last few weeks trying to figure out how to organise my large archive of recorded material to make the final piece(s) of work. It’s not been easy… First of all, I compiled the recordings for the album release on Green Field Recordings. This consists of 15 tracks of unprocessed recordings selected to represent the widest possible range of sounds recorded during the residency. Apart from a little EQ and some editing to remove unwanted noises, they are presented “as is” – the raw sound of Shetland. (P.S. you can’t really represent a digital archive as an image so instead I give you a box of analogue and digital storage media).

As part of the crowdfunding campaign we have also been offering a Digital Sound Collection as one of the rewards for our backers and for this I will chose the longest and most immersive recordings; as the intention is that these sounds will be used as playlists on a smartphone and so I am keen for them to transport the listener to another world without interruption. These will be produced and sent out in May once the exhibition at The Ceramic House is open.

Finally, I come onto the most difficult bit, which is making the 4 channel sound installation for the gallery. I had been experimenting with chance techniques using the I Ching, inspired by John Cage, hoping to create a kind of sonic abstract painting. Unfortunately, it didn’t work!!! I called Kay up to my studio in a panic about a week ago (we have studios in the same building at Phoenix Brighton) and asked for her opinion.

She suggested a simple categorisation scheme to split the sounds up into sets of themed movements. I then extended that idea and utilised a “symphonic” structure of four movements to represent and correspond to the sonata form. My performance and installation work often utilises musical references in its titling (à la Fluxus) and so this seemed a natural path to chose.

The movements are:

I. Birds & Water (Andante)
II. The Elements (Allegro)
III. Humans (Scherzo)
IV. The Sea (Finale)

N.B. Music buffs will note that I have switched the allegro and andante movements around to suit the material.

Today, I picked up the equipment I’d ordered for a new micro-gallery space at The Ceramic House, which is now called ‘In Camera’. This will open to the public on the preview evening April 30th with performances and talks and a show of international ceramic artists, responding to the theme Landscape : Islands. More sound performances will feature later in the Brighton Festival in May. These tiny monitors are ridiculously high quality for their size whilst being the most transparent and faithful to the original sound. Any gallery dedicated to sound art needs a system like this, so I think it was worth every penny…

On Friday we pack everything up into my car and head off to Shetland (let’s hope it passes the MOT tomorrow!) and then we have 5 days to set the show up, run workshops with the public, open the exhibition and head back home the next day with 10 days to open the Brighton Festival show at The Ceramic House.

Phew…

 


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Post by Kay

It’s been full on in the studio for weeks now. Therefore zero time for blogging! But I have been documenting the making process.

It’s got to that critical time: one week to go! Can hardly believe it. I know I do have a reputation for being over ambitious and taking on too much all of the time; it’s difficult to kick a lifetime habit like that! But this time it really has been a lot of work. I guess that is partly because, alongside the making, I have been  managing a lot of administrative stuff as well, mainly for the programme of exhibitions, residencies and events that stems from our sound and ceramics collaboration, Landscape : Islands. But now is not the time to tell you about that! The glaze room is calling!

So. I have had the kilns on constantly for the last week or so, bisque firing the porcelain pieces and testing out glazes. All the work is bisque fired now. I spent two very long days/nights mixing up over 30 glazes. Inevitably quite a few of them were rejected because they either didn’t come out well or the colours didn’t work in combination with the others.

My colour palette began with the magnified digital photographs I took of the flora I picked on the walks in Shetland. Looking at the maps on my studio wall with all the photographs positioned according to where the flora was found, I could see that a predominant colour spectrum emerged of purple, yellow, green and pink. So that is where I began.

After the glaze samples first came out of the kiln, I selected colours for designs corresponding to the true colour of the plants.

I began glazing the pieces yesterday. I started off with a plan, but I could feel from the onset I wasn’t entirely happy with it. So after discussion with Joseph, I decided to use the John Cage element of chance, one of the guiding principles behind this collaboration, (In A Shetland Landscape is named after Cage’s In A Landscape). So while I still have a basic idea of what colour each piece should be, I have been haphazardly using other glazes as and when I feel on various designs.

I left the studio very late again last night, with two glaze kilns firing away. I ran out of one crucial oxide, which was probably just as well or I might have attempted an all nighter. So it’s an emergency trip to Seaford to pick it up and then back to the glaze room.


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