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.