Thursday, 7 June 2012

Installation - complete !

I am so relieved that my large piece made it unscathed ! It's lovely to see it up as I haven't had the opportunity...just didn't have the room to hang it up in my studio. Am mightily relieved that none of the words are upside down or back to front as well.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Getting Ready....

Busy packing up today; not just all the exhibition work but also lots of equipment/materials for the Artist's Book workshop I'm running on Friday. Fully booked I'm afraid - but I'll be in the theatre on Saturday (9th June) so do pop in and say hello; I've printed some leaflets to accompany the exhibition as well as some postcards which will be on sale - although I'll give a free postcard to anybody visiting the exhibition while I'm there !

Sigh of relief too when I tried to fit my large piece in the car - just big enough !

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Exhibition - and Demonstration

Having finished all the large pieces now, I've produced a limited edition piece based on my commissioned work. Its called 'Of Moths and Memory' and will be available for sale in the Theatre at £75, as well as directly from me so do get in touch if you'd like to order one. It's got a hand-stencilled background and is approximately 25cm square.  It's limited to ten only I'm afraid ! 
Nearly time for my trip to Richmond and installing the work. I'm running a workshop at the theatre on Friday 8th June; I'm afraid its already booked up but I will be in the theatre doing some hand cutting on Saturday 9th June so please do drop in and say hello !

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Finished !

Well the large window piece is now finished -  hooray !  It took about three weeks of cutting but its done; now I've just got the worry of installing it without it tearing....

Unfortunately I don't really have the space to hang this up and photograph it properly - and I don't want to risk it getting damaged before it even arrives at the theatre. I was extra glad that I'd finished it and rolled it all up as shortly afterwards I had a visitor ...
...who did make a bit of a mess before finding a handy skylight to escape through.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Ouch !

Eyestrain, backache, hot elbows (?!) Some of the side effects of attempting to hand cut a very large piece of paper !  I'm doing the last piece of my commission now, which is (hopefully) going to hang in a window in the bar area of the Theatre.

Its about a metre and a half wide, and intended to be 2.6metres long. That's if I get there..... I have to say I hadn't bargained for how difficult it was going to be to reach into the middle. Not to mention the fact that I've had to take up all my Mum's studio space to fit this in ... then there's the difficulty of transporting it.  Still, I wanted a challenge ! It's a piece that brings all the work together, incorporating words from the first plays, the poems at the re-opening, the names of some of the actors, the leaves from my pieces based on the woodland scenery; the different typefaces that came from the theatre posters and the moths that came to symbolise memories for me.

Monday, 14 May 2012

NYOS 12 - Artist's Commissions

So many things going on for NYOS 2012 ! Why not visit some of the other artist's commissions when you plan your route ...

The programme for NYOS 12 involves several artist commissions,  highlighting contemporary artists’ responses to some of North Yorkshire’s most intriguing historic collections, buildings and outdoor spaces. Further information:

ETCHED IN TIME: Rebecca Gouldson
Dales Countryside Museum, Hawes From 9 June 

Artist Metalsmith Rebecca Gouldson responds to the tinsmithing workshop and the collection of hand-knitting tools at the Dales countryside museum to create two separate installations. The tinsmithing workshop will feature acid-etched sculptural forms in metal, created using the shapes of actual tinsmithing templates found in the museum collection. The hand- knitting collection will comprise a washing line of metal sock stretchers embellished with images and text relating to the stories of hand -knitters of the Dales, acid- etched into the surface.

Rebecca will be at the museum on Sat 16 June showing some of her techniques and will also be running a mono-printing workshop.

SUPERNOVA: Linda Schwab
Royal Pump Room Museum, Harrogate 9 -17 June
Artist Linda Schwab uses hundreds of vintage chandelier drops to create a dramatic installation with a spa theme for the circular 1842 Room.
Helmsley Walled Garden, Cleveland Way, Helmsley From 9 June onwards 

Animation Artist and Illustrator Sara Tunstall is creating a motion graphics sequence and a series of framed illustrations, combining reportage illustration with the textures and colours of Helmsley Walled Garden.  The garden is a magical place, an idea echoed by the people who work there and by elements of the garden itself. Sarah's work reflects this theme, exploring the heritage of the garden and the wide variety of plants and ‘beasts’ that inhabit it.


Hackfall Wood, Grewelthorpe From 9 Jun onwards 

A series of geo art caches that take the seeker on a journey through Hackfall Wood with each cache illustrating a story of one of the many creatures that live there and leaving the visitor with a book of impressions from their day. Printmaker Hester Cox has created a series of hidden caches that form a trail around Hackfall Wood. Each hidden container holds a rubber stamp featuring original designs of local wildlife. Combining an outdoor treasure hunt with digital media and book art, by the end of the seeker’s walk they will have created their own printed book and have an insight into the rich natural history of Hackfall.

For more information, visit

Morwenna Catt & Helen Turner
Two events at secret locations: Scarborough: Sat 9 June, 4pm Malhamdale, near Skipton: Sat 16 June 4pm.
Artists Helen Turner and Morwenna Catt have each been commissioned to create installations for themed tea party events in unusual venues. The perfect way to finish a day touring the Open Studios.

Ooh I'm looking forward to seeing some of these !  I will be at the Georgian Theatre with my own work on Saturday 9th June, so please do drop in for a chat !

Monday, 7 May 2012

Oak leaves and the Prologue

This is the top layer that I cut, before painting. The words come from Ivor Brown's 'Prologue' which was spoken at the reopening night, by Dame Edith Evans. Then I've put a layer underneath it which is cut and painted, and also includes printed words which come from 'The Midnight Hour'.

 It was tremendously fiddly doing this - I used these nice black entomological pins to fix the top layer; however they were too long for the box frame so I had to use wire cutters to nip off a centimetre or so; then I wanted to make sure they wouldn't slip so used hot glue to fix them into foamboard which was very tricky... v. difficult to get the glue to go where you want it !  Just hope it survives being transported to Richmond. Now I have the Epilogue and Gratitude to work on and then its on to the final piece which I'm hang in a window. It'll be nearly a three metre drop of hand cut paper. I've never tried anything so large so don't know how long it will take, or how difficult its going to be...nor how on earth I'm going to get it safely to the theatre. I guess I'll find out ! 

Friday, 4 May 2012

Words that disappear

I wanted to bring a bit of colour in - so I'm using a mix of painting some of the leaves with gouache and then spraying with acrylic ink. Trying to get a sense of the text turning into something organic...thinking about the way the theatre brings words to life; that wonderful experience when the written word becomes happens internally when you are reading; when you find that place where the real world outside disappears and the page, the paper, the physical presence of a book also disappears and there's nothing between you and the words. A performance in the theatre makes that happen - you are caught up and for a few hours immersed in words...

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Layers and Scenery

I was so struck by this painted woodland scenery when I saw it in the Museum, particularly by the fact that all the trees depicted are identifiable. I thought that was amazing, considering that, as scenery flats, they wouldn't be seen that closely.  Scenery seems to have been a huge attraction in itself, at least from the descriptions in the playbills that often highlight it as a particular draw. 
Having focussed on text from the first ever performances on the opening night, I wanted to jump forward a couple of hundred years - to the re-opening night in 1963 when the restored revived theatre flung its doors open to the world again. Its incredible to think that for 175 years the theatre was silent, and, for much of this time, it wasn't recognisable as a theatre.  On that reopening, three poems were specially written by Ivor Brown - a Prologue, an Epilogue and a Gratitude. So there's my text for three pieces, which will incorporate some of those words.  Visually I've been looking to the posters as a reference point, but also wanting to incorporate links to the scenery, so I'm bringing in some woodland. Each piece will become a different tree. So I'm doing lots of sampling - and next, some painting...

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Three finished - more to come !

I've now finished handcutting three pieces. These incorporate words from the very first plays performed on stage at the Theatre - back in 1788.  Little snippets from 'Inkle & Yarico', a rather strange operetta about slavery and from 'The Midnight Hour', a comedy translated from the French by Mrs Inchbald. They mix in all sorts of different typography, taking their cue from the theatre posters I loved in the museum and archives, as well as from my own sense of the layers of history in the Theatre, a fraying around the edges of memory, the moths that create holes in the past; drawing inspiration from the fabric of the building, from the places where the past is still visible...the patches of original paintwork, traces and leavings.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

North Yorkshire Open Studios Events

The Events programme is out and has details of lots of events and workshops. I will be running a workshop in the theatre on Friday 8th June so do come along and enjoy an introduction to Artist's Books. In addition, the wonderful Lucy May Schofield is running two book arts workshops at Helmsley Arts Centre based around the theme of Helmsley Walled Garden, on Sundays 10th & 17th June. Highly recommended !
NYOS 12 Events Programme

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Work in progress....

Lots of hand cutting at the moment - this video charts two and a half days in the studio; I'm drawing these pieces out back-to-front so I don't have pencil marks showing in case you were wondering why the text is all backwards !

Saturday, 31 March 2012

More on Moths & Memory

"Out of the sprawling green bush rose a flickering, sudden cloud of delicate white moths. They were an astonishing sight, feathery, exquisite. Endlessly flowing upward, hundred upon hundred, they fluttered like a gentle snow-flurry round Stephen's head and shoulders....They were like infinitely small birds fashioned of snowflakes; silent, ghostly each tiny wing a filigree of five delicate feathers, all white.
Plume moths...There's an old saying, that they carry memories away."
Susan Cooper, Silver on the Tree

Monday, 26 March 2012

Of memory and moths

 I've been thinking a lot about memory lately; it's one of my abiding interests. It's a key part of what makes up our personal identity for a start but also I find fascinating that sense of connection with the past, and not only our own past. We are all repositories of other people's memories as well. I hold in my head some of the memories communicated to me by my grandma - and through some of her stories, memories of her grandmother... And sometimes its almost as though buildings have memories, imprints of the things that have happened in them. When I think about the emotions that have sloshed around in this theatre, thinking about the audiences, that collective participation in an emotional journey - its almost a tangible sense of the past. In places where the layers are thinner could you peel them away and access the past ? The building breathes words; palpable inhalation and exhalation. That first hush when someone steps onto the stage and the whole building holds its breath...the actor speaks.  What I've started doing is cutting those words, the first words spoken; when I draw up a piece and the composition of it feels right, its almost as if it couldn't be any other way and I'm just cutting away to reveal what is already there. And the motif of moths is becoming very important. The idea of the vulnerability of structures to decay - of physical things like fabric and paper being susceptible to being eaten away, crumbling has a parallel with memory and its qualities. The patchiness of our memories of the past, the way they fall away at the edges. Memory is partial, elusive, like the brush of feathery wings against skin, memories can be fleeting and ephemeral.

Friday, 23 March 2012

The Sea The Sea....

The Georgian Theatre posted on its facebook page the other day :
We've been having a lovely morning in the archives today!! Did you know that in 1839 a play called the 'Wreckers Daughter' was performed on our stage? What made it so groundbreaking was that it featured 'moving sea' when most people at that time had never even seen the sea!
I had to agree how much fun it is looking through archives. I also noticed when I was there how many posters made a feature of the sea and all things nautical. They make a huge feature of the scenery - it functions as a special attraction.
'Black-eyed Susan' had a particular attraction involving a view of the forecastle with 'scaffold rigged out between the cat-head and fore-rigging'.
The play and the scenery are extensively described; they contain so much more information than modern theatre posters. There are no graphics at all - but really dense text; compare a current poster from the GTR with one from 1825.

Quite apart from the colour, the main message is conveyed by the image; the amount of information is really limited. As modern posters go this one actually has quite a lot of text as it includes the director, writer, contact information for the theatre and highlights one of the actors; compare this one from the National Theatre which is minimal - the author name is tiny and no actors are mentioned as it relies on the audience's familiarity with Lenny Henry. The theatre has an immediately recognisable logo too so its name isn't even spelled out. No prices, no description of scenery but there are the logos of the production's sponsors. A modern indication of what is important in contemporary theatre !

Friday, 16 March 2012

More sampling

Trying out larger sheets of rice paper and incorporating a little bit of imagery - I wanted to include something visually referencing the theatre a bit and am now thinking of taking the scenery as my starting point. It was reading the detail that each of the trees painted in the scenery is identifiable - I'm going to take that notion and start incorporating it into the work.

Monday, 27 February 2012


I've decided to start with taking my visual inspiration from the posters I like so much; my starting point for the content comes from thinking about the layers of history and the words echoing across the centuries from that first opening night. The experience I had while visiting of being in a silent theatre and that expectant hush; that feeling that if you strain your ears enough you might be able to hear an echo of those first words.  I was so taken when I first went on a guided tour with the fact that the theatre was shut for such a long time; it had decades at first of light and sound and activity, but was then closed and used for other things. Then suddenly rediscovered and refurbished in the twentieth century, so it saw all that activity start up again. Two significant opening nights - one in 1788 and one in 1963. And we know what was performed on each occasion. We even know the members of Samuel Butler's original company in the 18th Century as well as who spoke and what was performed at the reopening in the 20th Century. So I have plenty of content to work with and some visual hints as well.

I'm beginning with sampling - trying out different materials, different weights of paper,  to get at the idea of layering. I'm using some different thin lightweight papers that might work being layered together... thinking about layers of memory, fragments of text, the ephemeracy of a performance...its transitory nature.

For this sample I've planned out some text using the name of the first piece performed - 'Inkle & Yarico', an opera by George Colman. I found a photocopy of the script in the archives and there's usefully a copy of the script online as well. I found an interesting snippet in a contemporary newspaper reporting on the reopening of the theatre in 1963 which says that the first production to be staged after the gala reopening was to be 'Inkle & Yarico' but I couldn't find any more reports of this actually happening.

There's a playbill which features a later production of the same opera so I used the letter shapes from that in my sample.

This first small piece is cut from Chinese rice paper; I like the quality of it very much - its quite tough so withstands sharp scalpel cutting and quite intricate detail. I  use a surgical scalpel for paper cutting -   a Swann Morton handle and 10A Swann Morton blades. It does tend to curl and move - a bit like a fabric more than a paper. I need to try cutting a larger sample from the A3 size that I have and I'm ordering a bigger size to see how large I can go - its really how much weight will stand up to being hung/pinned. That's another aspect to this piece, which will be how to present it so it stands off the background and creates some shadows as well as how to achieve a layered effect. I've tried pins which I think work as its a bit like trying to trap the memories and preserve them, rather as people preserve insect and butterfly specimens. Again its a case of trying out some variations, for example, these are lace pins but I'm getting some entomological pins which should be longer and finer and might look better.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Day Three - Layers

 The theatre has a rather elegant and restrained decorative scheme; its a real contrast to later Victorian decorations which are more familiar perhaps - lots of gilt and velvet and curlicues, statuary and tassels. This theatre is quite simple with very little to distract the eye from the stage. There's also a lovely example of early scenery - rather Gainsborough-esque 'woodland scene' which is the UK's oldest-known theatrical scenery; apparently all the trees in the scene can be identified as specific types.

But what is nice is that you still get a sense of the old theatre underneath the restoration - one of the guides pointed out a place where the original paintwork has been deliberately left to show through. Its as though you can look through all the layers of history back to when it first opened. I find that fascinating;  its almost as though you could stand on the stage and feel the past through the layers of years. I feel like that about memory - you can stand in a place and know that you were exactly there, 20 years ago, and wonder if you can sense that presence of an earlier self, hear echoes of words spoken all that time ago.