Tuesday 23 April 2013

Ceramic and Textile Carousel for Derbyshire Schools Library Service

Primary school pupils adding their own handmade cups to the carousel made by Kirsty E Smith and Wendy Johnson
I was recently invited to contribute to a really interesting project in Derbyshire. There were plenty of reasons why this project was right up my street. Firstly I got see behind the scenes of the Derbyshire Schools Library Service Collection (more about this later), secondly I was working with five other creatives including visual artists, musicians and a poet (a nice change from working alone!) Thirdly it included two busy days of working with lots (240) school children and lastly it culminated in an exhibition and workshops which took place in a very unique building; a octagonal gallery space within a school built in 1914.
The King George Gallery a unique space within The Ilkeston and Ormiston Academy, Derbyshire.
This was an outreach project where I could draw both from my own practice www.frillipmoolog.co.uk and also my experience in facilitating fun and interesting creative workshops www.allsensesart.com

We started the project, called ‘Dear SLS’, with a visit to the Derbyshire and Derby Schools Library Service Collection and what a special place it is; the building itself was inspirational. 

Vaulted ceiling of the Derbyshire and Derby Schools Library Collection
Rather than being a library of books this collection is a library of objects, artifacts from around the world, prints of well known artworks, original paintings and also a good collection of textile art - stitched fabric collages from the 70’s in particular. 
Stitched fabric collages; these were especially popular in the1970's
The aim of Dear SLS was to help publicise the service and encourage more schools, artists and individuals to make use of this unusual object lending service. People will always have a stronger understanding of and connection with something that they have actually held in their hands rather than just seen an image of on paper or on screen. Pixels can’t match the real thing!

Dear SLS also helped some year 10 students gain their Silver Arts Award; they selected objects from the collection and curated their own exhibition with these objects. Ceramic artist, Wendy Johnson, and I looked at the items that Tim Berry had selected for his Fairground inspired exhibition (some gorgeous stuff that it was very easy to be inspired by) 

Colourful and bold illustrations in a children's book, Night at the Fair.
Detail from a well known Barbara Jones lithograph (1945)
and also the objects that had been selected by the students working with the theme of People and Places. There was an eclectic range of items including a Norwegian terra cotta cup, a Japanese tea ceremony set, some Polynesian Tapa cloth made from tree bark and a pair of dainty little embroidered silk shoes.

Wendy and I decided to work together to make our own contribution; a carousel which would be part ceramic and part wood, wire and textiles. This is the first collaborative piece that I have made and although not actually a Frillip Moolog sculpture I did use techniques that I have used in previous Frillip Moolog beings.
Me (Kirsty E Smith) with student Tim Berry and ceramic artist Wendy Johnson (right)
The primary school pupils who visited the exhibition completed our carousel by making and decorating their own paper cups which were then hung within the carousel. 

I designed a template for the cups and then printed it directly onto coloured card. The pupils decorated, cut out and  assembled their own cups.
Cups seemed the obvious connection between the cups in the People and Places exhibition and the tea cup roundabouts that are a longstanding favourite fairground ride with very young children. 

Terracotta cup from the Norwegian collection within the Schools Library Service and fairground teacup ride 
Despite having to work very quickly the students really rose to the challenge, they took inspiration from various patterns and decorative motifs within the exhibition. 

Motif copied from a hand painted African wallhanging and stylised eyes inspired by those of an Indonesian carved goddess (both items included in the People and Places part of the exhibition). 
Looking up inside the carousel canopy is one of favourite views
The other participating artists having a musical relax within the gallery space at the end of a busy day. 
Other artists contributing to Dear SLS: 

If you are interested in visiting the Dear SLS exhibition in The King George Gallery, The Ilkeston and Ormiston Academy then contact Kate Le Provost Community and Arts Development Officer on 0115 9948635
for opening times.