Friday, 14 November 2014

Kelmarsh II

Back to Kelmarsh yesterday – I wrote about my first visit earlier in the year – and with a much clearer purpose. For the first, main display of the collection, we have decided to focus on the ceramics/porcelain elements of the collection. As the main room we’re focusing on is the Dining Room/Hare Krishna Room, porcelain seems to fit so well.

The things that really stood out for me with the porcelain were the consistent use of flowers/plants and fruit. The others were animals and recurrent colours.

Other things of note in what I saw today were the general number of portraits in such a range of styles and sizes and ages, and the cockerels. It is, of course, a symbol of the Coventry family, and it looks like they must have collected lots of them, in different sizes and media.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014


It's been three months since my last blogging...

Having spent a few hours on a train from Bristol to Newcastle last Saturday, then an hour on a coach, I found myself at dusk, sitting in a forest of pine trees near Kielder Water. I’d made this journey for a sound installation/performance by Chris Watson and Iain Pate called Hrafn: Conversations with Odin, using the sound of 2,000 ravens coming in to roost to create a 40-minute piece that was both unsettling and somehow, oddly, reassuring.

The last thing we were told before walking into
the part of the forest where it was happening, was that according Norse myths, Odin has two ravens, Huginn and Muninn, who he sends off every morning to fly around the earth, and they return every evening to tell him what they have seen.

We were encouraged to do what we felt as the ravens started to ‘arrive’ – stay in one place, or get up and move around the performance space in the deepening gloom, among the tall, godlike dark trunks of the pines, listening in on different ‘conversations’. It had a symphonic effect (though never reaching the crescendo that I’d expected), with the layering of the different voices, and what seemed like an underlying rhythm.

The reason I went was partly to do with the fact that I found the idea intriguing, and partly because I’m looking for inspiration of how to use 
audio at Croome, especially in a way that doesn’t take an explicitly narrative-based approach. I’d heard about it when some of us went to JerwoodSpace, as the Jerwood Foundation collaborated with the Forestry Commission to fund this and another piece.

I stayed in Newcastle overnight and had another unique experience in the morning – having to queue for breakfast, at the Quay Ingredient. That people are willing to queue for a good 
meal at this time of day is very heartening. After breakfast, I headed to the Baltic – Tate Modern-like in its offer, and with its own Millennium Bridge to boot.

Lydia Gifford’s show Drawn was one of two exhibitions open, and this was further work that I found appealingly unsettling, with its constrained yet deeply expressive humanity.

I also went to the Laing Gallery, which was rather like a national gallery for the North East, before heading for Edinburgh and a meeting with the weavers at Dovecot to talk about artists we might like to collaborate with if we were to do something with them.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

All eight


Birds in the Park

Although not entirely original in its conception (think Gromit Unleashed) we've taken a slightly different approach to large fibreglass animal figures. Ours are based on the Golden Pheasants that were once in the aviary of Barbara St John at Croome, and are perched in trees.

The eight models were made by Will Datson and they're just over 2m long. There were four artists working with us: Sharon Farrelly, Lucy Hutchinson, Santhanha Nguyen, and James Birkin, all of whom had work shown at the New Art West Midlands show earlier this year. They spent a day with pupils from St Barnabus school at Croome (who all seemed to know much more about Croome than I do), and used their ideas for the designs for half the birds, then their own ideas for the other four. The results are are so diverse and they are all very appealing in their own way.

Will then returned to Croome and hoisted them up into a number of trees around the park, and fixed them firmly to branches.

New shoes

Soul to Sole has just gone through an expansion phase with a number of new shoes (and footprints) being added, and it is really getting very close to where we want it to be. The creativity and variety of approach by the different artists to our installation on the myriad people who have lived at Croome is boundless. Amongst others, there are now four sets of footprints in clay, of adults who lived in the Hare Krishna community when they were children, and a pair of porcelain shoes with leather quarters and heels representing Wendy Hogarth, one of the WWII WRENS from RAF Defford. The footprints were made by Anna Mitchell, and the porcelain ones by Lisa Sheppy. We've some more shoes coming over the next few weeks, and we're going to re-do the lighting too.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Fabric of the Nation

I was at Heelis this week for a meeting with a group of people in the National Trust who are embarking on a project to renovate and restore the huge collection of tapestries, textiles and clothing that the Trust has - over 100,000 items in fact. There's a lot of conservation work to be done, and the project would be a five-year one. It sounds like the sort of thing which could get a lot of attention, and of course it sits nicely with our tapestry project. Although, of course, we intend to have new tapestries made.

If there's so much work to be done conserving textiles, it does beg the question whether we should be making something new, but it's the best way to draw attention to the craft of tapestry-making. In terms of the story of textiles within the Trust's collection, it arguably gives a contemporary relevancy to all the pieces already in existence.

There are a number of large tapestry panels at Heelis and although I didn't remember to take a photo of them, I did pass a shop in the shopping place next door which was selling creme eggs in bags of ten for £2.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014


I've just written a blog post about my recent trip to the Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh, and whilst editing my photo, I came across ones I took in Birmingham a month ago when I went to see Grayson Perry's tapestries, The Vanity of Small Differences at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

I was very impressed with the museum itself, but nothing could prepare me for the tapestries. They are very engaging works, with multiple artistic and cultural references, and striking use of text and narrative. Having them at Croome is going to be quite something.