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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!

 
 
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It's now been three days since Rapunzel, and I thought I would write a little...not 'post mortem', that sounds far too serious, but a little reflection, and an account of the day from my perspective. I know that Rapunzel was only the second of the twelve, but it was the idea that started "Follies for Follies", and as such, it will always have a special place in my heart, no matter what comes next.

When I first contacted Wentworth Castle Gardens, I had created nothing of this scale. My main argument (both to them and myself) revolved around the idea that a) I knew it must be possible, and b) I know I'm not daft, so I must be able to work it out. I guess here, I need to thank my Mum, because she instilled in me the idea that, as long as you work hard and think things through, you can do anything. Danke, Mama!

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Was it hard? Yes and no. It is nerve-wracking to place all your hopes on a single day, and to trust that the weather will be alright, that the public will come (and appreciate it)...there was a fear that all the friends who have wished you luck, who are helping you out on the day, those who sponsored, and your family...that all these people will look at your work once it's up, smile a non-committal half-smile, and say 'er...nice.........well done.' I'm fairly self-critical, and I think 'er...nice........well done' would have been the worst.

In the end, it all worked out, thanks to a lot of planning, a lot of hard graft, triple-securing everything, being conscious of health and safety without going overboard, and above all, a fabulous and dedicated team of friends and volunteers. I can't fault a single thing on the day that would have been under human control. As for the weather...it wasn't raining. That meant a lot. It also wasn't windy, which meant even more. Right now, two frames are stored in my garden. The sun makes the hair glitter and glisten, throwing off a thousand sparkles. I'd have loved to have seen that, if just for a minute or two. But you take what you can get, and, in this case, I got a heck of a lot. I got to play with a listed building, up a tower away from public access, I got support from countless people - idealistic support, monetary support, thoughts on the day...and I got 6 metres of glass hair up 9.2 metres in the air. All these things considered, what's a bit of sunshine among friends?

It also seems strange to just keep going. Rapunzel was such a milestone, and yet, in only four months, two more follies will be follified, in fact, I desperately need to organise the next Cannon Hall date. No rest for the foolish, but time for a quick pause, and a big "Thank You" to everybody who has joined this foolish journey so far!

 
 
Right! Today it *is* ten days to go. In the last three days, I have made 160 glass hairs (result!), overshooting my target by 40. Which is good, because I also have an undisclosed number of Prince Charmings to make! This "enforced hair-curling exercise" is the closest to conveyor belt work I have ever got - but it's not automatic! There is a constant need to focus, to get the heat just right, to change your grip at the right moment (and remember where the hot bits are on the rod!) But there are a few things I have learnt, and I thought I'd share (gives me something to blog about, eh?):

1) Nickleback and Jace Everett make for good hairs. Chet Baker.......not so much.
2) It's more fun torching while standing up (but I couldn't make beads that way).
3) It is *way* more fun torching with the studio door wide open, belting out "I wanna do bad things with you".
4) My neighbours might disagree on point no. 3.
5) If you pile approximately 80 hairs directly on top of each other, one of them is likely to crack under the weight of the pile.
6) Because of point no. 5, I am lacking space in my studio - there are only so many areas where 130cm-long curled hairs can be piled up.
7) There is great joy in overcoming the "lazy bum" inside and overshooting a target.
8) The Weave app for my iphone is a miracle!!
9) I am conveniently ignoring that I als still need to make a loop into each individual hair.
10) I'm beginning to suspect that point no. 9 will come back to bite me in the bum!
 
 
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Well, okay, I guess the final countdown starts at 10. Still - 12 days to go....the twelve days of folly!! I started thinking of turning my to-do list into a clever song (singable to the tune of 'Twelve Days of Christmas'....but decided that, rather than waste time on trying to be clever, I'd better get on with it!! 

The main thing to do is still the hair! One thing conspired with another (flooded studio, then opening my studio to the public and not having the space to make glass hairs without poking the unsuspecting visitor in the eye with hot glass), and there are still 300 hairs to make. This is not insurmountable, it is just reaching the point where I have to be very disciplined and ruthless - I have a daily total, and I'm simply not allowed to go to bed until this total is reached. And just to spur me on (and probably bore you to death), I will share the daily total on Facebook, and will report when it has been reached........don't wait up!!

Several frames are still to be constructed and covered in velvet, but there's plenty of organising still to do, too - writing a 'need to have on the day' list so everybody can tick things off (hard hats, goggles, gloves, etc.), writing a sort-of timetable and tasks, sorting out press releases.....roll on the busiest twelve days I'm likely to have for a while!

 
 
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There is the old adage: 'the worse the dress rehearsal, the better the first night' - and I choose to apply this to the circumstances, rather than the dress rehearsal itself. Of course, it had to be one of the last days of the wettest April recorded in history. Of course, even though it was the end of April, it had to be 3 degrees outside. And hailing.

...and of course, I was once again blessed with a bunch of real troupers! After exchanging worried emails until lunchtime, we decided to go ahead, and out motley crew assembled at 4.30pm. At this point, my husband had spent nearly six hours in the studio, building the rigging and the ledge. The studio, by the way, was flooded, but that's another story!

To cut a long story short: all is well. We got very wet and very cold, but everything functions the way it is supposed to, provided we take things slowly on the day. Which we will do.

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It has been a while since I've blogged - embarrassing as it is, because I've been very, very busy. But today, I can't help but tell everybody about the lovely morning I got to spend with the three Reception classes at Stocksbridge Nursery & Infant School. The 80 or so children helped me out by telling me the story of Rapunzel, and I explained to them what I was doing. Then, we set about building a stage set for Rapunzel. Class 6 had the job of deciding on the background - since the tower is in a forest, that meant lots of trees, flowers and butterflies - and, for some reason I have yet to fathom, chameleons, which appeared across all three classes in an out-of-the-ordinary frequency (I never got to find out why). The flowers were made out of tissue paper and stuck on with sellotape, giving a lovely colourful background to the whole scene!

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Class 8 was in charge of the tower! I had wrapped several boxes of various sizes in lining paper, and then came the difficult decision of which to use for our final tower. We worked out what our tower would be made of (bricks), and decided to decorate six boxes - just in case, you see...you can never have too many Rapunzel-Tower-building components! Class 8 proved to be brilliant not only at drawing bricks, but also at colouring them in, and adding flowers, vines (and the odd chameleon!!) to the decoration. Once all boxes were painted, we did, of course (in a very sensible way, you understand, and therefore held in place by hand to avoid toppling) have to test just how tall the Rapunzel Tower would be if we used all six boxes (answer: nearly as tall as the ceiling!)...however, in the end, we did decide on four boxes to make up the final tower. Our top box had a window drawn on it, and it was my job, over break, to cut this out, so we had somewhere for all the hair to come out. Hair? What hair? We needed hair!

Rapunzel's hair was Class 9's job, and a fabulous job they did, too. Sitting in three groups, we passed balls of wool, one round saying a shape each as the wool came past, then a colour, an animal...you get the picture. Before long, each group had passed the wool five times all the way round, and we had a little test to see which group had made the longest hairs. All together, they made the perfect tangled mane to go into our top window.

Two of the classes also helped me out by drawing me pictures of Rapunzel, and kindly allowed me to take photos of their work. The pictures-only ones will go on Facebook, but some children posed with their work - here is a small selection: 
Finally, our work was done - we had set up Rapunzel in a fairly small space, and so all classes came in small groups to admire their handiwork and pose for a photo.

Thank you so much to all three Reception classes, and to the staff at Stocksbridge Nursery and Infant School, I had a fabulous morning, and am looking forward to coming back soon!!
 
 
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Not me, you understand. I mean, I may be stressed - a bit - but my own personal stress test is the tic-toc of the countdown (8 weeks and a day) in my head. But today, my better half and I procured the wood for the frame Rapunzel's hair will hang from, and constructed (read: I supervised!) the first of eight frames. These will hold the weight and will ultimately be bolted together, as well as individually secured (to minimise all risk). To test that the frame will be strong enough, we developed a highly technical stress test.....

...which got passed with flying colours.

 
 
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One of the reasons I love the Follies for Follies project is because it allows me to meet new people, and during the week gone by, I am chuffed to say that I met two very lovely people who are both doing fabulous things to help Rapunzel look her best on the day!

On Friday, I went to visit Peter White, who, after a stab-in-the-dark email from me very kindly volunteered the use of his sandblasting cabinet to help make sure that people will actually be able to *see* Rapunzel's hair. Over the next few weeks, I shall therefore spend several hours in his cellar, taking the hair in batches to be blasted. He is just setting up his business of infinity mirrors, and I will add his link to the links page as soon as he's up and running!

Then, today, I got to meet the lovely Ben, fiancé of the equally very, very lovely Ali. I have known Ali for years, and recently, on a Facebook quest to find a climber happy to come up the tower with me and advise on how to secure people up there on the day, and how the get several hundred strands of glass hauled up.....she volunteered Ben. For which I'm eternally grateful. So, today, not only did Ben spend nearly two hours up in the lofty heights of 'Rapunzel HQ' with me, testing ropes, anchors, pulleys, etc., but Pete Clegg from Wentworth Castle Gardens came into work on a Sunday to be our 'man on the ground', and Ali single-handedly tamed a very lively munchkin so that I could talk shop with Ben. I know that I have said it before, but I'll say it again - there are so many people who are helping out, on so many different levels, from those sponsoring a strand of hair to those who are helping me with the planning, donating their time and expertise - thank you!

 
 
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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!!!

 
 
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Yesterday, I went back to Wentworth Castle for a meeting with Pete Clegg, and another walk up 'my' tower. I feel truly privileged to gain access where others don't, starting right from being at the castle when the gardens were officially closed to the public. Also, I am one of very, very few people who trundle up the disused castle tower (in the Follies for Follies banner, it's - rather obviously - the one on the left). While the other one is open to everybody (during opening hours), I feel like a little explorer, climbing up 'mine'. And just to prove that the trip is worth it (and to make you all jealous), I thought I'd share a picture of the view Rapunzel has out of the window - isn't it stunning??

I did have an official reason to be there, although I would have happily sat there and just admired the view - instead, I was busily employing my tape measure, getting exact measurements of the window, ledges, wall thicknesses, the layout of mortar bits and pieces, etc., to plan the rig which will suspend Rapunzel's hair.

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Being of a slightly masochistic nature, I couldn't resist taking another a picture from a different angle...see right. Yes, that's the view Rapunzel would have if she chose to look down...and while Rapunzel might have had the opportunity to avoid that view (just close your eyes and think of...Germany, I guess!) with her prince climbing up her hair (ouch!), I won't have that luxury, at the latest when the whole structure will come up the outside of the castle, so I figured I'd get some practice at 'looking down'. It's definitely not close to the ground, lol....but then, where would be the fun in that?