I took a fortnight off from my PhD at the end of June to complete some work for a children’s festival here in Warrnambool. It’s Australia’s largest kids festival and runs for eight days, Fun 4 Kids. This project was a great way to test out program design and installation approaches. I designed the space as a children’s craft space that would only use paper based products- no pipe cleaners or lil’ foam balls in sight!! Using this combination of coloured paper and reclaimed cardboard children were able to make an array of creatures including mini beasts and “day tree creatures”. Children were invited to help us populate the tree over and over the course of each day a unique and colourful ecosystem would appear- this was so much fun!
The craft programs were easy to adapt to different abilities and ages. One of the most beautiful things for me to watch was the way these craft activities worked to generate some great interactions between parents and children. It really was satisfying to watch.
The CreaTree is a sculptural tree designed to have a curtain sandwiched between it to create two spaces: the well lit Day Tree space and the Dream Tree Space, a dark space with UV Light. I constructed the tree using 17mm Ply Board and I have described it as “Becky’s version if Ikea”- it all flat packs down so it can fit into the back of our 4WD. The tree blots into a heavy steal base which I had made locally. The rest of the tree slots together using dowel joints- I am pretty proud of this sculpture, I worked my toshie off on it and it is quite beautiful. The black plastic in these photos is awful! I have made a really nice, deep blue curtain ready for the CreaTree’s next incarnation- the CreaTree concept lends itself to adaptable programing and I am looking forward to the next series!
Well For Life – COME SIT A WHILE WITH ME…
This program was initiated by Warrnambool City Council and the F Project and was delivered by my dear friend and favourite collaborator, Julie Poi Kelly & me. The brief was to provide participants who have experienced brain injury with positive social connections and recognition of their rich life stories and contributions to our community.
“Come sit a while with me…” emerged
On Friday afternoons through February, March and April 2014 we gathered around a long table at the Archie Graham Centre in Warrnambool with seven (mostly) mature aged participants and their carers. Different techniques for making artworks were explored and individual visual languages developed. Each artist generously shared photographs and stories revealing the unique histories that have helped to bring them to this table. The goal was for each participant to create eight autobiographical artworks that would become the pages of their own “life story book”. This goal was reached through stellar performances! Julie and I then undertook the process of collating each artist’s work into a single, 60 page hard cover printed book.
The final page of each story includes a picture of each participant on their favorite chair. This acts as an aesthetic marker of their personality and also provides a common position for audience members to engage- we all have a favorite spot to sit after all.
This project culminated at the Artery Gallery in an installation designed as a series of small living rooms each embracing a participant’s autobiographical art book. This installation was to unfold in the Ozone Walk as a part of the Hidden Histories Laneway Festival but early May rain sent us inside! I must give due credit to Julie- as I was recovering from surgery the task fell on her to curate our borrowed furniture, and she did a wonderful job! The space felt warm and personal. The Artery reported on the show’s popularity and how common it was for gallery visitors to spend time reading through each book.
Our busy Friday workshops together always finished with a cuppa and Julie & I always left feeling positive. It was been an incredible privilege to get to know this cast of characters- we have been moved by the stories shared, opening for us worlds within time, affirming the priceless value of relationships with loved ones and the breathtaking power of human resilience.
Taking the time to sit a while with these stories allows you to imagine the worlds they reveal and the strong spirits who live within them…
Above are links to two Warrnambool Standard Articles about this beautiful project 🙂
I was asked by Project Leader Geraldine Edar to write a piece for the Moyne Shire publication “Country to Coast” about my experience working on the Hawkesdale Mosaic project. I thought it would be worth really considering the project from what it came to mean to me. Here is how I put it all down…
As a kid I took in a lot of my experience of the country side through the car window, travelling the valleys of North East Victoria to visit family, snow fields and often just to take in the scenery. I realise now how this built up my sense of connection to that landscape, one that will forever make that country “home”. I moved to Warrnambool fourteen years ago and whilst I have raised my own family here I have struggled to recreate that sense of connection to this landscape.
An e-mail arrived from Youth Officer Geraldine Edar in my inbox in April this year. It explained how she had a Youth Council run mosaic project that was in urgent need of production if I was up for the challenge. The first step was completing the mosaic design. There were several images from a design competition that provided an initial guide. This was coupled with requests from the Hawkesdale Hall committee for the local farming landscape and wild life represented. They also asked that the wind turbines not be too dominant. I worked the design over four panels, and met with Geraldine, the Youth Councillors and the Hall Committee for approval.
The design now included swirling hay bales, dairy cows, sheep, corellas, graduating hills, soft white clouds, a few small wind turbines and the water reeds and wildlife that you might expect at the Moyne River. And of course, black cockatoos, the bird I consider my totem animal insisted its flock fly through these panels. One of the Hall Committee members indicated that the mosaic’s black cockies were a good idea as they were a sign that the rains were coming. How right she was. My first day on the job was also the first big rain of the year, deliveries were delayed and I found myself drenched as I pushed on turning the Hall’s stage into a work space. Over the coming weeks I would hear those black cockatoos in nearby trees.
As we commenced Hawkesdale College students came and worked on site, preparing panels and tiles as I constructed the timber frames and mosaic bases. Four weeks into the project we began to lay down the first tiles. The students worked on the swirling hay bales while I laid down the tree. One morning a Hall Committee member dropped in to ask if we might find a way to remember a much loved and missed community member Trish Henning. We agreed that a single yellow daffodil on the mosaic would mark her memory on the project. I was amazed by the community support and enthusiasm the whole way through, Geraldine had told me what a generous and committed bunch of people were out here and I found this to be so inspiringly true.
A mosaic of this size is a long slow process; it is like doing a jig saw puzzle that you have to carefully make up as you go along. Week by week I would drive out to Hawkesdale, collect the key from beautiful Julie at the shop, working with and without the students slowly, ever so slowly bringing the design to life. The project ran from May until the end of August with many Hawkesdale College students, the youth councillors and Geraldine Edar all contributing their time to its creation. By late July I found myself driving out to Hawkesdale many times a week, sometimes on the weekends and often before the sun rose to ensure that the mosaic would be completed (I even enlisted my own children and my best friend’s help too). During these drives the landscape that had seemed so foreign slowly became more and more familiar. I got to know the roads and even found a few short cuts.
I missed the mosaic’s grand opening as I was working on another art project at Macarthur Primary School. A couple of weeks later I took my own children and parents on a drive around the area, firstly to Macarthur, then across a back road to Hawkesdale to see the mosaic. I think I can finally say, that I have developed an actual sense of connection to this landscape. This special, ancient and beautiful region has seeped into my soul and one day may even feel like home.
I was busy completed the Light Chamber Observatory the afternoon that this grand mosaic was unveiled to the public on Wednesday 28th of September. A couple of Saturdays ago I was finally able to see the finished beast standing tall and proud alongside the Community Hall… and I was pleasantly impressed, it is actually quite a strong work with loads of colour and character. The Moyne Shire crew who undertook the installation extended the legs so that the art work is now easily seen as you drive through Hawkesdale main thoroughfare. My favourite parts are the three-dimensional features including the clouds and reeds which make the work just that bit more sculptural.