It's nearly half way through the project, and I am enjoying my work on the Follies immensely. One of the reasons I wanted to do "Follies for Follies" was because I am interested in stories and characters, and I feel that, over the past 20 months, since I first thought about the project, every single folly has had its own little quirks, and I thoroughly enjoyed the problem-solving that went hand in hand with this. So I thought, in no particular order, I would share some of these quirks.
Listed Buildings - pretty much a given for all follies I have worked on, the most fun one was Rapunzel....how *do* you get a 24ft sculpture secured to a building, without leaving a single mark? (thanks again for Ben and his fabulous knowledge of ropes!)
Distance - getting things from a to b without roads leading where you want to go......the main challenge is still coming up, at Clavell Tower in Dorset. Sculpture needs to be "dismantlable" (yes, I made that word up!), so it can be taken there, on foot, in parts......although the army stretcher solution for Rapunzel's hair comes a close second - or maybe carrying a glass window, in pitch black darkness, across a large parkland (Cannon Hall).
Weather - no, not the "I hope it doesn't rain, so people come", although that's important, too. I mean the "I'm hanging a large dangle of glass from a window, if it's windy, the whole thing won't work" (Rapunzel), or indeed the "access is difficult for a few months each year, as wet weather makes the doors swell, and we can't get in" (Rotunda).
These are just some of my "fun" moments...I'll think of a few more to share!
It was a blowy, blowy day in Fairyland, when a hunched little person was spotted staking the ground with signs, sporting arrows, and the words 'Make a Fairy' Workshop, 1-4pm - drop in!
I have to admit, I'd been following the weather forecast in a mild panic....flower fairies in the snow wouldn't have worked quite so well! In the end, although it wasn't warm, the rain held off, and there was a steady stream of fairy-making artists coming down to Fairyland.
The first job for everybody coming was to attack the vegetation, carefully selecting bits and pieces for a skirt, wings, a body, and a head. Small hands got child-safe scissors, although it became obvious quickly that particularly the bamboo required industrial strength stainless steel! Rhododendron leaves were most often chosen as wings, whereas a never-ceasing array of flowers made up the heads - primrose heads, narcissus heads, purple-ball-flowers-that-I've-forgotten-the-name-of heads...no two fairies were the same! With a bit of help from some raffia (and later, after I ran out, thin hemp string), skirts were gathered and secured, wings tied on, and the head attached. I have now learnt that tulip leaves make tricky wings, and pine cones can be secured better than I thought, and that magnolias truly are very, very fragile!
When a young man sporting a big camera appeared, it turned out that he hadn't come to make a flower fairy, but instead, to document the "Flower Fairy Follification" for the Barnsley Chronicle, so I'll be sharing that as soon as it comes out.
Once made, the fairies went (briefly) into hiding, looking for the perfect spot in Fairyland to have a photoshoot. Thanks to James Brunt, my council contact for Cannon Hall, for staying around today, dealing with all the 'boring' bits, such as photo release forms - and thanks to all the grand-parents, parents, aunts and uncles who allowed me to use the pictures!
Thanks also to the lovely Janey, who once more took charge of my well-being (you can detect a theme here, can't you?!), and supplied me with tea and a scone!!
All in all - unless I miscounted - 23 children, ranging from 3 to 9 years old, made 24 flower fairies in three hours - I had no idea what to expect, but, with what I shall now call 'The Luck of the Foolish', it couldn't have worked out any better! There was a steady trickle, any more and I think there would have been queues, any less, and I'd have had downtime. So, thank you to everybody who came and supported Follies for Follies!!
Yesterday was the second of four days I will be spending with "Vigil I" at the Cannon Hall Folly "Fairyland". Whereas the first day was fraught with minor panics (would the candles stay burning? Would the camera keep clicking? Would people 'get it'? Would the weather hold? Would I die of boredom - or the cold?), this time, despite the earlier start, settling down to wait - holding vigil over the sculpture, as it were - felt comfortable, like shrugging into a favourite jumper or an old coat. This feeling got stronger when one of the first people passing by was a regular morning walker, whom I'd already met back in January. "Oh, there you are - right from seeing the lights in the distance, I wondered whether it was you coming back." Between me growing more comfortable with the technology - and trusting it - and being accepted as a 'regular' feature, holding vigil had become familiar. Short of dogs barrelling into the tripod, I wasn't expecting too many surprises.
And indeed, the surprises were subtle ones. The point of "Vigil I" is waiting - patiently, half-expectantly, hopeful, but maybe not daring to hope too much. That was kind of the feeling I had. It was two months after the first visit, and I was photographing a stretch of wall with no vegetation apart from a few bits of ivy (which, I had ascertained first thing - and much to my disappointment, hadn't grown at all!) The only variation was the sun, or rather, its arc across the sky. And around 9am, this simple difference resulted in the picture on the right.
I love how evocative the shadow cast is, it reminds me of a gravestone. Back in January, the sun was simply too low, and I now wonder what will happen in June/July. There were more such subtle difference throughout the day - for the first time, the sun reached the front of the sculpture, mottled through the leaves, and I think, in full summer, it'll get a proper blast of sunshine.
I expected there to be more people than in January - by afternoon, I was down to a sleeveless t-shirt, moving my camping chair from shade to shade, trying to avoid the sunburn. What I didn't expect - and I think it was simply fluke - was the number of people wanting to pause in front of the sculpture to read the entire letter. This resulted in quite a few 'out take' photos for the timelapse video, because the camera was, of course, mercilessly clicking every two minutes. Other people I chatted to started to take ownership, trying to hustle the 'readers' along, so as not to disturb the 'art'. It made me smile to see these two different approaches colliding. I simply took an extra photo as soon as people moved aside, and I hope that this didn't disrupt the overall experience.
This time, I had come prepared with a flyer, which gave information about the project, and also advertised next week's fairy-making workshop, so I hope people had a second chance to engage with Follies for Follies, other than my ramblings.
Once more, I had a little reprieve in the day, when my two friends Rachel and Janey visited with a blanket and a full-blown picnic. I had a little wander to the shops, and managed to point out to staff that Cannon Hall was in this month's Yorkshire Life magazine (which they were selling). And since every publication so far has used the photo Janey took of me back in January, we thought we'd add to the pool of available 'artist with sculpture' photos (see right).
Throughout the day, I got asked whether I was doing 'college work' about four times...I'm not sure whether this reflects on my youthful appearance (*cough*) or on some unspoken assumption that no serious artist would spend a day sitting in a park with a sculpture. Once more, I am so happy with the interest Vigil's outing has sparked, and I hope next week's fairy-making workshop will give me the opportunity to involve more people directly.
The video from yesterday hasn't been created yet - it'll take a bit longer this time, due to the out takes, but also because I was to add it to the end of the other one, so that the overall intended shape of the final video will become clear. Thank you again for all your support!
Follies for Follies is more than a single artist labouring away in her studio. Each 'follification' will go hand in hand with opportunities to engage and create, and after a meeting with James Brunt from Cannon Hall yesterday, I am very happy to announce the first two Folly Workshop dates.
TUESDAY, 3RD APRIL 2012, 1-4pm
Come to Fairyland and, using natural and local materials, create your own 'Folly for a Folly' - a fairy for Fairyland. The activity is drop-in and should take approximately 15 minutes. It is free, but donations towards the Follies for Follies project will be gratefully appreciated. No need to book.
SATURDAY, 24TH JUNE 2012 (time tbc)
Help create a colourful window for the remaining openings in the Follies wall, including texts around the concept of Vigil and Waiting. Texts taken from participants via the blog
will be featured in this work. Booking details to follow.
There is *so* much more to any of these follies than meets the eye. Planing, thinking, organisation, management, calculation, and...buying. And a couple of days ago, I bought roughly 30kg of glass, or, if you prefer, about a mile of it. It arrived today, and I have included a tall four-year-old to provide some sort of scale. At the same time, I am talking through health and safety issues (most of them related to working 30ft above ground) and designing a rig that'll hold the whole caboodle once in place. And of course, it would be no good to forget all the other follies while I'm working on any particular one, so I'm designing plans for a new site - it's a good one, so keep your fingers crossed, and also going back to Cannon Hall on Monday to plan the future visits with Vigil 1. I can tell you one thing - it's never boring!!!
Right, here it is! At the start of the project, I promised that there would be chances to get involved in Follies for Follies - this is the first one. I am hoping, during one of my return visits to Cannon Hall, to create 'windows' for the remaining openings, with the help of a rather large number of children - and you! In line with the written letter that features on 'Vigil 1', I am hoping to feature writing on these other windows (although they won't be made of glass. For that, I need your help. If you don't mind sharing, please tell me your response to the concept of 'Vigil' - it might be a one-word association, it might be a feeling, a story, a poem. I would love to hear them all, and to feature as many as possible! To show that this part of the 'follification' will have been created by many, many people, I would love to be allowed to use some information. Your first name, for example, or your age (since I'm also hoping to involve school classes in this). So, if you wouldn't mind, since I won't know everybody who comments, please write in your comment EXACTLY what you would allow to be put on the window, e.g. 'Vigil means xyz. Joe Bloggs, Leeds, 56'. You get the picture? I am a bit nervous about this first call for participation, and I would really appreciate it if you could spread the word - thank you!!!!
PS: I will also share this on Facebook and invite comments there - you don't need to comment twice, I will gather them from both locations!
I found this poem by Walt Whitman, and it touched me, especially after my recent thoughts about "Vigil". So I thought I'd share it:
Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field One Night
VIGIL strange I kept on the field one night;
When you my son and my comrade dropt at my side that day,
One look I but gave which your dear eyes return'd with a look I shall never forget,
One touch of your hand to mine O boy, reach'd up as you lay on the ground,
Then onward I sped in the battle, the even-contested battle,
Till late in the night reliev'd to the place at last again I made my way,
Found you in death so cold dear comrade, found your body son of
responding kisses, (never again on earth responding,)
Bared your face in the starlight, curious the scene, cool blew the moderate night-wind,
Long there and then in vigil I stood, dimly around me the battlefield spreading,
Vigil wondrous and vigil sweet there in the fragrant silent night,
But not a tear fell, not even a long-drawn sigh, long, long I gazed,
Then on the earth partially reclining sat by your side leaning my chin in my hands,
Passing sweet hours, immortal and mystic hours with you dearest comrade - not a tear, not a word,
Vigil of silence, love and death, vigil for you my son and my soldier,
As onward silently stars aloft, eastward new ones upward stole,
Vigil final for you brave boy, (I could not save you, swift was your death,
I faithfully loved you and cared for you living, I think we shall surely meet again,)
Till at latest lingering of the night, indeed just as the dawn appear'd,
My comrade I wrapt in his blanket, envelop'd well his form,
Folded the blanket well, tucking it carefully over head and carefully under feet,
And there and then and bathed by the rising sun, my son in his grave, in his rude-dug grave I deposited,
Ending my vigil strange with that, vigil of night and battle-field dim,
Vigil for boy of responding kisses, (never again on earth responding,)
Vigil for comrade swiftly slain, vigil I never forget, how as day brighten'd,
I rose from the chill ground and folded my soldier well in his blanket,
And buried him where he fell.
Here is a little teaser from a quick photo session with the folly that will go on site tomorrow. Yes, the actual picture is larger - but where would be the fun in that??? If you want to be the first to see the whole thing, meet me at dawn at Cannon Hall, tomorrow. (And seriously, if you are planning to visit, please check the Follies Facebook page - no news means I'm there!
Not that I'm nervous or anything, but with three days to go, I'm looking at the weather. Right now, it's blowy and gusty outside - we have one of those metal chimney thingies with a twirly cap on, and since it is not 100% calibrated to run smoothly, I listen to it going 'clankclankclankCLANKclank'...and I wonder what Wednesday will hold. The Cannon Hall sculpture will be free-standing, and although I can try to weigh it down from the back, I hope that the weather won't be too horrible...if it all ended early in a pile of shards, I think I would be rather disillusioned. However, something nice may happen on Tuesday at Wentworth, so I'm sure what goes round will come round...again, an open invitation to come visit the huddling, cold and quite possibly wet artist at Cannon Hall on Wednesday, any time, at the top of the Fairy Gardens.
Yes!! We have lift off! Today, I met the lovely people at Cannon Hall. They are happy for me to 'follify' the Fairy Garden, and we got started talking about public engagement, workshops, etc. Those will take place later during the year, as part of my four one-day visits to Cannon Hall, which are part of this very special 'follification'. The first of these will be in 'secret' - so secret, that I'm posting it here, lol! It is secret as in there are no organised activities, it is, in fact, a trial run...but I'll be there, literally all day, dawn 'till dusk! If you do fancy a little trip out, and would like to be part of the absolute very first follification of the project, come and say 'hi', on Wednesday, 25th of January, on site in the Fairy Gardens at Cannon Hall (top end, not bottom end where the pond is). I will be there, in my little camping chair, and visitors may be asked to look after the folly for a few minutes so that I can go answer nature's call! If you don't know Cannon Hall, let the photos be a little incentive! It is a beautiful space, with a working farm and a cafe and deli right next door. See you there?