What a year. Twelve months ago, Follies for Follies existed in the form of a paper bid, a lot of pipe dreams, and a two-thirds-finished 'Vigil' sculpture....at that point, the biggest piece I'd ever made (at approximately 50cm tall). That sculpture now stands on a dresser on the stairs, and fits there quite nicely, if I say so myself. When I started this journey, I could not have imagined the amount of support it would receive - in 2012, Follies for Follies appeared in print 19 times, in publications ranging from local newspapers to regional lifestyle magazines and national art publications. But even more importantly, hundreds of people have turned out to see a folly, took the time to comment on a blog post or Facebook status, supported the project by sponsoring a strand of Rapunzel's hair, buying a Lady Mary bead, painting a wine glass for the Rotunda chandelier, or sponsoring a ship for the upcoming Sea of Memories. Nearly two hundred children helped visualise the story of Rapunzel, made a flower fairy, or engaged with the concept of 'memories' for the upcoming exhibition. To all of you, who have supported my ickle little project so enthusiastically - THANK YOU! The words 'I couldn't have done it without you' sound like platitudes, but are meant from the bottom of my heart. From the very beginning, Follies for Follies was meant to engage, and I could not have wished for a better first year!
Strictly speaking, the Follies for Follies year is not over - on Wednesday, I will be at Kirk Balk Community College's Christmas fair, getting people to decorate wine glasses for the chandelier. However, I have been teasing you, and I think it's only fair that I let you know that one 'maybe' mentioned in previous posts has reached a happy conclusion.......
Lady Mary is going..........home! You might remember that the Sun Monument at Wentworth Castle Gardens is dedicated to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, but you might not know that Lady Mary was, essentially, a neighbour, living a few miles down the road at Wortley Hall. Fast forward a few hundred years, and Wortley Hall is now a four-star hotel, restaurant and conference centre, and I have just returned from a meeting with general manager Johnathan Da Rosa, during which we decided that a spot right above the comfortable leather sofa in reception would be the perfect spot for her. So, just as soon as I can organise the right fittings, and get her over there, Lady Mary will once more preside over Wortley Hall. I will, of course, show you pictures once she is in place - until then, thank you once again for all your support, and have a wonderful holiday!
I am not a patient person. If I could, I would sing news from the roof tops before they are confirmed, but of course, counting chickens before they are hatched is never a good idea. Over the past few weeks, however, I have been juggling no less than four bits of excitement....I don't know if they'll all come good, but I can't stand it any longer, and so I'm going to give you at least a little outline to hopefully get you just a teensy weensy bit as excited as me.
First of all, one 'folly' may find a new home. That's all I'm saying right now, but I'm hoping that this one might come true before Christmas. It would make my year, so keep your fingers crossed!
Second, there might be a 'lucky no. 13' folly - even though not all 12 project follies are identified yet, this one doesn't strictly qualify, as far as the Arts Council is concerned, because...well, it's not in England. It is truly special, though, owned by lovely people, and early in the new year, we'll be getting our heads together. I can't really see this one going wrong, but I do have a strict 'not confirmed = no share' policy. So.......you'll have to wait until late February/early March for news.
Third, Follies for Follies may expand...beyond follies. The timescale is about the same as above, and I am really, really hoping this one comes off!
Fourth.......no, I can't share that one......it's too vague at the moment, but it would be fabulous! :o)
So, keep your fingers crossed, and I'll be sharing news as and when I can!
Last week-end, I attended Wentworth Castle Gardens' Christmas Fair, to tell the public all about the Follies for Follies project, and to begin collecting hand-decorated wine glasses for the Rotunda chandelier. The chandelier will be freeform, to allow as much flexibility in the number of glasses I can include, and via a number of events, I am hoping to get the glasses decorated by as many different members of the public as I can. For this, the public obviously has to know about the project, and so I hung my shingle out. Because I had not been able to demonstrate glass bead making for the Lady Mary folly (no electricity), I had also decided to do that...and I had some wares out. So...demonstrating, selling, and getting wine glasses decorated, all on a single stall. That seemed a tall order, and so I was aptly assisted by the rest of the family (seen left). They took it upon themselves to decorate the first piece of the day, a candle holder, which were on the stall to give people the chance to take some artwork away, too.
When we arrived, we were informed that our gazebo had already made one escape attempt in the high winds, and so we waited a few hours before deciding to put up the Follies for Follies banner - at which point, we lashed it against a Christmas tree to anchor it. Throughout all of this, I was making beads - seaside beads, to be precise, because...hey, what else would you demonstrate at a Christmas fair in the Peak District area, right?
Thankfully, the hardy general public weren't put off by the prospect of sitting down and engaging in a spot of glass painting -outside, in near-freezing temperatures - and before long, we had the table full of artists young and old.
By the end of the day, the chandelier had 25 glasses, an excellent start. The decorations so far include several Christmas trees, but also flowers, a frog, and an Easter bunny!
Throughout the day, I heard just how many people were happy to be able not only to support the chandelier, but also to create handmade Christmas presents, and so, I had the idea that I could travel to local groups and 'accumulations of people' - brownies, sports clubs, societies, retirement homes, schools...bringing with me glasses for the chandelier - which would be free to decorate - and more glasses and tea light holders, which could be decorated for a small fee (£2), which will be used to - you guessed it - purchase glasses for the chandelier!
I'll still be able to fit in a number of groups before Christmas, so if you're interested, please contact me asap (via the contact page on this website). The activity is suitable for all ages, even toddler groups, if Mums and Dads help a bit, and I'm happy to travel - within reason, and within about 6 miles of Wentworth Castle Gardens - and I am hoping to involve as broad a spectrum of the community, so please do share this blog post with anybody who you feel might be interested!
One of the things I love about Follies for Follies is that it gives me a chance to talk to other people about what I do, and to get them involved, too. And today, I was very lucky to be invited to Christ Church School, Lancaster, to work with Mrs Stewart's Year 6 for the morning. From the school playground, you can see the Ashton Memorial, and so they were the perfect class to tell me everything about that special folly, and to also help me explore what memories really are.
What we discovered is that memories are important. They might always be happy memories, but all our memories make us who we are. The class talked to each other about their own memories, and what our memories mean to us. I'm showing a couple here, and am putting more on the Ashton Memorial Folly page (see drop-down menu above).
Aren't they some amazing thoughts? We also worked on something else (see picture), but I'm not ready to share what it is...the children I worked with today know - the rest of you will have to wait a little longer ;). Thank you so much to Y6 and Mrs Stewart for having me today, and I think I might see some of you - maybe with your parents - at the Ashton Memorial tomorrow - looking forward to it!!
Over the past few weeks, I have been engraving ships (not constantly, obviously!) By now, the Sea of Memories stands at about 60 ships. Today, I also sent the press release to the Ashton Memorial, because I will be there on the 10th of November, hoping that people will come with pictures, memories, letters, etc.
I wanted to post a blog to say that I am very much aware that this folly is different from the others. While I have proclaimed loud and clear that happy memories qualify just as much for the Sea of Memories as painful ones, I am conscious of the fact that the names on many of these ships illustrate somebody's loss, a gaping, painful hole that nothing, and certainly no little ship, can ever fill. The Sea of Memories was born from the idea to illustrate that such holes exist in most people's life, that, while we may feel alone in our grief, and nobody will ever stand in our shoes, others stand beside us. We may not know them, and even if we do, we may not know their history, their story, their loss. For most of the ships I have engraved so far, I was the stranger standing apart, somebody else's memories only a string of letters to me. Today, I stood a little closer. Today, the water to lubricate the engraver did not come from the tap, it came from my tears. And it made me aware that I would like to thank all of you, everybody who has trusted me with the name of a loved one, that even though I may not know the person the ship is for, even though I might not know you, I sincerely try to honour your memories, and I hope from the bottom of my heart that the Sea of Memories will do your memories justice.
It has been a while since I have blogged, mainly because everything gets put up on the Facebook page! However, I vow repentance, and improvement - a lot is happening at Follies HQ, so I'll do some individual posts on the goings-on!
First of all, two weeks ago, Lady Mary, or rather, the Sun Monument, at Wentworth Castle Gardens, got follified. My lovely friend Rachel once more volunteered her van for transport, and Lady Mary spent a couple of nights at Wentworth in waiting.
On Sunday, Pete from Wentworth Castle Gardens, my husband Nigel, the child mainly known as the munchkin, and I hauled everything up the grassy slopes to the monument. Altogether, it was a much less elaborate affair - not six army stretchers plus paraphernalia, but a mini buggy-trucky thing which fit Lady Mary as though she had been made for it. Once we got up to the monument, we originally thought that Lady Mary looked quite nice just leaning against the monument, at the bottom......did we really want the hassle of getting it 4m up in the air?
Well, we had time, and it felt like a bit of a cop-out, making over 6,000 beads, pinning them to the board, making the frame, painting it, hauling it up to the monument.....and then falling short at the last hurdle?
Pete fetched the ladder while Nigel and I sorted out the rigging (eyelets and steel cables re-used from Rapunzel). Once Pete returned, we discovered two things.
A) It was fairly straightforward pushing the frame up the ladder, to the point where the top touches the stonework;
B) It was considerably more difficult to hug the picture, lift it an inch, and push with knees simultaneously to gradually get it raised.
Even now, more than two weeks later, do I have the remains of hand-sized bruises from resting the hard edges on my thighs, and from wedging my thighs under the rungs of the ladder to stay up there. Pete held on to the steel cables for dear life, to ensure I wouldn't get smashed off the ladder if I slipped and let the picture go.
Well, I think the hassle was worth it. The top of the frame fit perfectly against the obelisk, and the portrait looked nicely in proportion (even if I say so myself ;o)).
Pete had put up an event shelter for us to - well, shelter - under, and here, I put out my table and Lady Mary-inspired beads, and visitors had a chance to make a knotted bracelet.
It was a fairly chilly day, so I am grateful to everybody who braved the wind and came up the hill from the comforts of the cafe and craft fair that was going on in the main building!
Plans are now going ahead for the Rotunda, which is the next Wentworth Castle folly to be follified. In-between, though, I had better work on the Ashton Memorial in Lancaster!!
Yes, you must all be getting fed up with images of spacers. Frankly, so am I! But the truth is that it's less that four weeks until the next folly, and I'm still about 1,500 spacers short. That kind of means I'm three-quarters of the way there, but I still have to clean them all, and stick them all down. So, I thought I'd take a wee ickle break to give an update. This was it on Lady Mary - apart from the fact that, in a perfect world, there will also be time to make some jewellery to accompany the folly!
As far as the pigeons are concerned, the first batch is out of the kiln, so I am pleased to report that there are, in fact, pigeons! Not that I ever doubted that, you understand, but it's good to 'meet' them. It was a rather exciting story, which took place just before I left for Germany, so I only get to share it now:
I was due to leave around 6am on Wednesday morning. After realising that the nuggets I had ordered didn't fit the mould, I made a snap decision to change to Bullseye frit, and ordered it on Monday. It arrived on Tuesday, 9am (Thank you for the amazing delivery service, Warm Glass!). So! Then, I discovered that the frit didn't fit the mould either, and that I'd have to 'top up' about 6 times during the cast (before you ask, yes, I probably could have waited longer and topped up more, but topping up three moulds each time, chucking a coffee cup full of frit at it was about my heat-resisting limit!) So, up went the kiln...90 minutes later, I opened the door to a stinky, smoky studio, with the carbon monoxide alarm going haywire. I then spent three hours standing in the open doorway, eyeing the kiln suspiciously, before I trusted it enough to leave it alone again for brief periods. The topping up took place between 7pm and 11pm. At 4am, I was up again, flash-cooling the kiln...and then I left for the airport. For the next ten days or so, I got daily updates on the kiln temperature, and once, during a brief power outage in Germany, I was caught shouting 'THE PIGEONS!' in reflexive panic. Waiting several days (as one should) after the kiln got room temperature, my husband finally took pity on me, de-moulded them, and took a photo. I have to admit, as a first-time caster with three pigeons as a first-timer project, I'm rather proud of myself! Massive thanks to Fiaz Elson, who advised me on the kiln schedule with such authority that I felt confident to adapt it myself after I switched to Bullseye. I have learnt an enormous amount from this folly!
The date has been confirmed with Shugborough Estate...now, all I need to do is to go through it again, because I'd really rather take six pigeons, than three.........
When I organised the timetable for the final two follies for 2012, doing two within a fortnight of each other seemed not too problematic - after all, I had plenty of time, right? Famous last words, and 'enter the pigeons'. I still don't know whether I've mastered the pigeons. And I won't know for nearly three weeks, since I'll be off to Germany tomorrow. It is *not* a position I wanted to be in!
Lady Mary, on the other hand, is remarkably well-behaved. Apart from the minor problem that my new car is smaller than the old one, and won't be able to handle Lady Mary in her frame, everything is going as planned. It is work-intensive, but predictable, if that makes sense. 'All' I have to do is make 6,000 beads, clean them, stick them to a board, and frame them. Time is my biggest enemy, but if push comes to shove, night shifts can be employed, and Lady Mary can be completed. It'll still be a close call - I'll be in Germany until the 19th of August, the following week-end, at the International Festival of Glass, then on a well-deserved holiday for three days, then it's a case of steering munchkin through his first days at school - but it can be done!
This is me, signing off until late August!
It's been three-and-a-half weeks since I announced the intended Folly for Lady Mary. In that time, I worked for a school for several days, produced a literature review on 'Raising Aspirations', spent Fridays with the munchkin, taught glass bead making.....and I made spacers. I made mainly white spacers, since I need more than 2,000 of them, so I figured, if in doubt, make white spacers!
One piece of fab news came through talks with Tuffnell Glass, who agreed to sponsor Lady Mary via a special 'folly price' on my various 'shades of grey'. It's made a real difference to the prospect of slogging over the torch for weeks, knowing that this folly has an 'official backer' - thanks guys!
So, three-and-a-half weeks down the line, what have I achieved? The answer is.....*drumroll* - I'm more than half way there. Provided that I've not miscounted, have 3,006 beads left to make, meaning that I've made 3,154. I have a bit more uni work to do next week, but apart from that, I hope to mainly focus on making as many as I possibly can before I disappear for most of August - wish me luck!