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Back in October, when I first started looking for potential locations for Follies for Follies, I was intrigued by an estate near Stafford, which not only had a vibrant programme of events and educational workshops, but a considerable number of follies! There's the Cat Monument, the Temple of the Winds, and even the Shepherd's Monument, which has links to the Holy Grail, plus several others...but it was "The Ruin" a partially destroyed folly on the bank of the river Sow, that interested me most. I mean, a ruin that was always intended as a ruin, with a druid on top...what's not to like?

Time intervened, and after initial contact, it took a while to get ducks into rows, but yesterday, agent munchkin and I braved the just-under-three-hour drive across the Peak District to meet Corinne Caddy, Sales/Interpretation and Events Manager for Shugborough Estate, to discuss a potential Shugborough 'follification'. Corinne's office sports a genuine massive old cooking range (complete with squeaky rat in the oven, which kept the munchkin happy), and we very quickly settled on both potential timings and "The Ruin" as our folly of choice.

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As soon as we finished our talk, munchkin and I returned to the folly to snap countless photos (many of them puzzling to other passers-by, such as oblique angles, and seemingly uninteresting details) - what I was looking for were flat surfaces, to develop the plan...to replace the pigeons which used to be part of the folly (including a pigeon house) with glass versions. I think I might fit one into the druid's 'missing bit' (see right).

After 'work', we had a chance to visit the estate's museum, which includes a warren of servants' quarters, kitchens, shops, dressing rooms, an old school room, and others...every now and then, we'd meet a 'resident' in full costume, and munchkin had a chance to do laundry as they would have done 'in the olden days', grind sugar, and play with replica Victorian toys.

The folly is confirmed, and 'follification' will take place over the last week-end in September - I will post updates on the folly's page, and, of course, on Facebook.

 
 
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 
 
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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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When Yorkshire Life Magazine said they were interested in Follies for Follies, I didn't expect such a quick result - so imagine my surprise, when, about an hour ago, I spotted my mug shot inside. I did resist the temptation of parading through Tesco's with a copy held in front of my face......but I did buy two ;o) Thank you very much to editor Esther Leach and the rest of the Yorkshire Life team!

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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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Eleven weeks today, it'll be all go, go, GO!!! at Wentworth, Rapunzel HQ, aka Stainborough Castle. In the meantime, I went up to see Pete Clegg last week, and we trundled up to a potential future folly, the Rotunda. This folly, unlike all the others mentioned at Wentworth so far, is in the Parkland, not the gardens, and it's a pleasant ten minute walk or so from the main house to get there, past the deer, and through a little woodland. I couldn't get in just yet, but I have seen pictures. It'll be an interesting challenge to come up with a 'follification', as the space is fairly small, perfectly circular, and bare. So watch this space :). The Rotunda will be 'follified' in spring 2013. You can find out a little bit more about the Rotunda here.

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