Northern Inspiration

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I have just returned from 2 weeks in Caithness at North Lands Creative Glass where I attended a master class with artist, Helen Maurer, who was assisted by photographers Ross Fraser McLean and Angus Mackay. There were 9 participants, artists from the UK, Australia and South Africa, and over the course of 6 days we collaborated to explore the landscape of Caithness using glass, mirror, balloons, projected light, smoke bombs and other media, using these things to create our own personal film and still images.

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Photo by Angus Mackay

This is one of my images featuring a cast glass peregrine skull and bird bones from Skokholm Island which I cast in bronze and took along with me.

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We also had half a day in the hot shop ably assisted by James Maskrey who obligingly poured molten glass into ice and onto vegetation to create steam, smoke and ghosted images we could use in our work.

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Here James is pouring dyed water into a red hot blown bowl.

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Projection through seaweed.

The value of this is in a freshness of approach and freedom of thought which we each take back to our practices in our different corners of the world. It was refreshing not to be necessarily making objects/artwork, but to be feeding our creativity. We gelled as a group and all left feeling incredibly enriched and nurtured by the experience and full of ideas for future collaborations. For many of us it was a unique opportunity to take space out of making work, making a living, or teaching and a chance to feed our own process.

Installation by Jeffrey Sarmiento
Installation by Jeffrey Sarmiento

Alongside our masterclass was a class lead by Petr Stanicky, an amazing Czech sculptor. Jeff Sarmiento and his other students made interventions in the landscape which were inventive and daring.

Following on from the master classes was the annual North Lands Conference, which this year was on the theme of ‘The Place, the Work’. There was an innovative programme looking at the importance of place in artwork. Joy Sleeman, Reader at Slade began with a fascinating talk about British Land Art in the 1960’s and 70s. Beginning with film footage of the moon landing, it was a great way of contextualizing contemporary Land Art practice. It was particularly resonant for me to see a slide of Robert Smithson at Pentre Ifan, a Neolithic Monument close to where I live!

Other speakers included the masterclass leaders, Helen Maurer, Petr Stanicky, Richard William Wheater and Kristina Usler, each of whom was selected for their engagement with Place in their practice, and each of whom spoke eloquently about their work. Sven Hauscher spoke about the Coburg Prize and glass exhibition in Germany, and artist, Lisa Autogena, talked about her mind-blowing art/science projects in the course of which she takes on Nasa, The Stock Exchange and Reuters to name but a few…I love her commitment and her enthusiasm in confronting, subverting and utilizing the energy of Power.

All the artists who spoke were inspirational in their fearless attitude to making their work. I am reeling from the intensity of the whole experience and will take several years to process. I have come back super-sensitized to my own environment and have already begun to work with new ideas here in Wales.

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Glass, Lobsters and a Peregrine

Sketch of Lybster harbour

Sketch of Lybster harbour

I went to see the Touching the Past exhibition of glass at Northlands this morning.the exhibition features the work of 6 glass artists, Michael Bullen, Joanna Garrett, Denis Mann, Patricia Niemann, Karlyn Sutherland and Louise Tate.

I especially liked the work of Louise Tait, her work crosses over my areas of interest in memory,stories from the past and knitting.

Then I cycled down to the harbour where I spent the rest of the day painting and talking to the lobster fishermen.

I chanced upon the remains of a peregrine falcon on the beach! I have salvaged the head and feet and hope to do something with them on my masterclass. How fantastic to find such beautiful things here on the beach and then have a place I can take them to and work out what the hell to do with them! So, they are sketched, wrapped and currently stashed away in my friendly landlady’s freezer awaiting attention next week!

'Community Spirit' by Louise Tait

‘Community Spirit’ by Louise Tait

The Dagger Chandelier by Patricia Niemann

The Dagger Chandelier by Patricia Niemann

Sketch of Peregrine remains.

Sketch of Peregrine remains.

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Lybster at last!

Finally I have arrived in Lybster!

I left home on Monday and flew to Edinburgh for a few days with my sister, Tina , who is a photographer. We managed to take in a wonderful show of glass at the Museum of Scotland which showcases the contemporary glass collection of Alan Poole and Dan Klein. There are lots of fantastic pieces (I will put pictures up when I can download them from my camera), it is an amazing collection of contemporary British glass which was collected by the founders of Northlands and it got me in the mood for my trip North!

We also saw John Burne’s show at Open Eye Gallery, which is phenomenal and some of David Mach’s show which includes amazing gigantic figure sculptures of Christ made out of coat hangers. Tina has photographed John Burne and David Mach so it was lovely to see the work with her.

We also fitted in a visit to the wonderful Valvona and Crolla, Clarissa Dixon Wright was dining at another table and had the waitress quaking in her boots!

The train journey to Inverness today was great, the heather is astounding, forming a patchwork of purples all the way. I haven’t done that journey since about 1984! Not a lot has changed except Aviemore
seems to have an enormous police station!

So, now at last I am in Lybster! I borrowed a bike and cycled down to the harbour this evening – what a wonderful place, full of loads of inspiration – lobster pots and creels and nets….a wealth of texture and colour. I am busy with my sketch books and getting acquainted with the place.

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