Wednesday, 23 March 2016

The Exercise Book of Unexpected Collage. [OR The month long project I'd forgotten all about] Part 2. Days 16 - 30.

Me again. 

I'm back to share the remainder of my 'unexpected' collages. They're unexpected as, ever since I'd completed them - as part of the Learn Something New Everyday project - I'd entirely forgotten I'd done so and they'd been languishing in a box full of paper scraps for 4 months. 

[Although, in the scheme of things drifting away into obscurity while covered over by paper scraps isn't such a bad way to go. And if I collect any more I may well end up experiencing that first hand.]

If you fancy catching up with pages 1-15 then you can hop back to my previous post here.  And thank you for your kind words you left for me about them, both here and on Instagram @withjuliekirk. You're lovely for taking time to leave an encouraging comment. 

To re-cap .. each page is a response to a 'lesson' [a thought, an idea] that struck me during each day in ~September 2015 [for more information on the Learn Something New Everyday project visit]. And I don't think there's a need for me to do much explaining, they're either pretty self-explanatory or ... it's been so long since I made them their exact meaning has drifted away. And perhaps that's no bad thing, it places you and I in the same position of seeing/interpreting them with fresh eyes, I imagine I can read a new meaning into each one that would be just as valid now as the day I had the original idea. 

As for supplies:
  • The book is an empty old school handwriting exercise book.
  • I bought the calendar date sticky notes and I'm sorry ... but I can't remember the brand. And I typed directly on to them. The fact that I only had one note per day is the reason that there are many errors in my journaling; I didn't have a second chance to get it right!
  • The papers are from my vintage paper collection plus snippets of regular patterned/crafting papers.  
And here's how that all hangs together ...

Day 16: 
.... and yet, six months later you won't be able to remember what on earth it was ...

Day 17: 
This was amid my attempt to leave 300 Blog Comments in 30 Days  where I attempted to reach out to a new set of bloggers but quickly realised that a lot of bloggers were discussing things that I just couldn't muster a comment on. Face contouring, breastfeeding and drinking gin. Possibly not all at the same time. [I could've managed to comment on that if I'd seen it!]

Day 18: 
A lesson learned after a meeting at work.

Day 19: 
This was after having a mild but utterly unexpected panic attack* over having to choose a new phone.

[*I don't say that lightly, I've experienced more serious panic attacks in the distant past and wouldn't use it as a joke. Well, actually I probably would ... I find humour protects me in many situations ... but you take my point. Only, here, I'm not joking. Glad we've got that clear.]

Day 20: 
How many pairs do you have to have broken before it becomes a 'problem'?

Day 21: 
Something to consider when you're stuck with the thinking about fitting into a niche...

Day 22: 
So what that everything's already been done, there's nothing new under the sun, but all the old stuff has never, yet, been done by you.  Love this!  I think this was something I heard on the Elizabeth Gilbert Big Magic podcast.

Day 23: 

Day 24: 
Bathing in that warm 'Yay, you didn't know if you could do it and then you did it!' feeling.

Day 25: 
Another response to my 300 Blog Comments in 30 Days challenge, this time it was related to how so many of you spoke up to say you  were still reading my blog despite me not always being aware you were there!

Day 26: 
Well, when you find 2 vintage Jaeger shirts, in amazing prints, that fit you perfectly, for just £5 each, you don't leave them on the rack.

Day 27: 

Day 28: 

Day 29: 
Here's where things go a bit awry ... I seem to have forgotten to write down a lesson for the last two days of September. And so ...

*Insert Your Own Lesson Here*
* And Here*
And with that, my unexpected collages fade to end ...

Again, if you didn't catch the earlier pages you can do that here.


If you want an instant boost of papers to use in a similar project then I have Collage Scrap packs available in my Etsy shop alongside lots of other vintage/reclaimed papery treasures.


Before I go ... 

... as I mentioned in my earlier post my good friend and collaborator Kirsty Neale and I will be exhibiting a new collage-based project on Instagram starting next month and continuing into the summer months.

You can keep up-to-date on that by following our collaborative Instagram account  @thecopyandpasteproject 

And for those who don't know ... The Copy & Paste Project was a challenge and inspiration blog Kirsty and I co-hosted between 2009 - 2011 where we took the same starting point as a catalyst to creativity and then went away to make and share two completely different projects. [You can expect a similar approach in our new works].

BTW: if you fancy something to read while you're mooching around Blogworld then Copy&Paste also hosted some great guest contributions including one from comedian Alex Horne - now on 'Taskmaster' on the Dave channel - and also from writer Jack Thorne - now writer of 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child'. And look ... I'm not saying we put them were they are today ... but at least we didn't ruin their careers either. So I think we can congratulate ourselves for that if nothing else.


Thanks for dropping by today.


Monday, 21 March 2016

The Exercise Book of Unexpected Collage. [OR The month long project I'd forgotten all about] Days 1-15

If anyone was curious to know how I've been feeling toward crafting, as a hobby, lately well ... it wouldn't take a psychoanalyst to interpret the following tale of how I recently unearthed an entire project that I'd completely forgotten about ...

So there I was reaching blindly under my desk for the box of collage scraps I knew was lurking there somewhere. I planned to do some scrappy collage and I knew I had a pile of scraps in there that I could get started with straight away.

After removing the box lid I rummaged to see which inspiring off-cuts I'd left there until, beneath the miscellaneous strips snips and scraps, my hand landed on something firm, something solid, something thicker than a single sheet of paper.

Freeing it from the paper pile I saw that it was something complete, something I'd forgotten about entirely: a book of 31 collages I'd made during the Learn Something New Every Day project.

[For those who don't know Learn Something New Every Day /LSNED is a project hosted by Shimelle Laine at which, every September, encourages you to record a lesson from each day. I've taken part since 2011 in various formats which I've shared here. So far I've worked in a note book, on recipe cards, on postcards and an altered book]

So, to clarify, in January 2016 I found a full book, of finished works, that had absolutely slipped from my mind and had been left languishing, in the dark, amid papery remnants ever since September 2015. [Yes Dr. Freud, I think you're right, maybe I've had some suppressed craft-themed issues lately.]

And now, today, in March 2016? Well ... now the spring seems to have brought with it a softening of my [perhaps overly dramatic] opinion that I'd never make art again. And I don't mind admitting I've had my Pritt Stick out again this week. [Get me!] Because ...
  1. For one thing I love collecting  and playing with paper too much to let it go just yet.
  2. For another, I've been happily creating some new collage packs to offer in the shop; and creating kits, collating the papers and textures and gathering together lovely resources to share with others is honestly the next best thing to making the art itself.
  3. And finally ... I've been working on a collaborative collage project with my good friend and all round creative genius Kirsty Neale which will be ready for public eyes next month. The Copy & Paste Project rides again! 
[Well actually no, there won't actually be any riding involved. That's far too dangerous for two people as bookish and clumsy as we. Although ... we did once sit outside on the back seats of a river boat as it travelled along the Thames and we did get a bit splashed. So .. that's kinda wild and dangerous, right?]

Anyway, combined, the above factors mean I've decided that right now's probably a good time to share those forgotten fruits of my labour.

So below there are the first 15 of the 31 LSNED entries I made in a plain old school exercise book.

I won't narrate or explain each page, you can just skim through the images to see what's what, and I'll try to let the 'lessons' and arrangements speak for themselves. However, before we get to them, let me just say ...
  • This was definitely a plain and simple sift-cut-stick type project.
  • It's something anyone can replicate with very few supplies. In the past I've received comments from people who - after seeing my no-frills type notebook journals - have felt confident enough to give it a try. I hope this inspires more of you to dust off your own Pritt Stick [yup ... just now realising how that could be misinterpreted ...]
  •  As you'll see from the pages - my style very quickly moves from something I tended to do in the past: layering up and overlapping layers, to the pared back minimal style I've recently found myself working in. I think it's to do with enjoying the paper so much I want each and every scrap to feature boldly on its own. 
And so here, finally, after 6 months of neglect, are the pages of my LSNED 2015 exercise book:

Day 1:

Did I ever mention I saw Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet last August? Once or twice?  Ach, at least you can click away when I'm boring you ... just think of the people I met in person who had to politely put up with me waxing lyrical about it for weeks after the fact.

Day 2:

Day 3:
6 months later this phenomena is still holding true; with my brain focusing on something else [the podcast in my ear] it has less capacity to panic about bumping into a dog while I'm out on my own. I'm tempted to research/write more on this ... it's been an eye-opener [as well as an ear-filler] for me.

[Eurgh ... now my head's filled with the thought of literally bumping into a dog. Its meaty/hairy slab of  body. Ew. Someone fetch me my iPod!]

Day 4:

Day 5:

Day 6:
Hey. Nobody said these had to be profound lessons.

Day 7:

Day 8:

Day 9:
This one was exciting. Someone I admire had a book coming out and hoped little old me found 'something to enjoy' in it. The odds were pretty good that I would. [And, naturally I did].

Day 10:
... which I think is why I stopped writing about books so much here. I struggled to write a quick review/recommendation without wandering into essay-length pieces about form and style. 

Day 11:

Day 12:

Day 13:
 Ah ... if only I could work out what, then I'd be on my way to writing this book I've been promising myself I'd work on this year.

Day 14:
 Mmmm ... something I need to learn - again - I think.

And finally for today ...

Day 15:

There are currently some small 30g [ish] packs of Collage Scraps available in my shop, for less than the price of a take-out cuppa, which contain the exact types of papers I use for this style of collage. [They're all scraps from the same collection of papers I personally use. I don't differentiate between what I sell and what I use]. 

I'm also currently preparing some larger collage supply packs, which I aim to get in the shop in the next few weeks. But if you'd like me to create a custom collage-supply pack for you sooner than that, just get in touch over at my Etsy shop and I'll get to work on it.


I'll be back soon with pages 16 - 31 of my forgotten exercise book of unexpected collage, until then, fellow paper-crafters: may all your scissors be sharp and all your glue-sticks sticky. 


Tuesday, 15 March 2016

"It actually feels like they don't mind having people in": a review of York Art Gallery

As a blogger you know you're going to enjoy your visit just that bit more when, upon arrival, you ask at reception about whether or not you can take photos and they reply: "Yes, yes, of course. Just no flash."

Of course? OK then ... let me just remove my lens cap ...

And this was just the start of what turned out to be an exceptionally welcoming visit to York Art Gallery.
The front of York Art Gallery
Before we visited [in February 2016] there were only three things I could have told you about the place:
  1. That their new Centre of Ceramic Arts [CoCA] currently contained an installation of ceramics called Manifest: 10,000 Hours that I absolutely had to see. Hence making the trip. 
  2. That, due to funding cuts, since their refurbishment in 2015 they were now charging an entry fee. And ...
  3. That the only work I could remember from their collection from previous visits, sometime in the last 20 years, was a large religious triptych. 
All of which, in some way, had their effect on this latest visit.

Before you join me on the tour I'll just mention that this is a long post but it's one worth sticking with if:
  • you're a fan of art/ceramics.
  • you're a lover of 'old tat', junk, and miscellany [you're going to love it!!].
  • you're looking for a cultural yet child friendly place to visit in the North [but if you don't have kids ... please don't let that deter you. I'm usually completely put off by that phrase too, but in this case, it's different. Honestly.] 
  • or if you simply fancy an armchair tour of somewhere you've never been [yet]. 
Are you sitting comfortably? Then let's enter the gallery ...
The first gallery space you enter from the ground floor currently holds Sacred Spaces an exhibition which "considers how the decoration of places of worship fostered new techniques and styles of painting, and generated new ideas about the meaning of art". And while none of the works were exactly the triptych I had remembered from years ago, many of the Italian Renaissance altarpieces are all drawn from the same collection. [Clearly you can take the girl out of the church, but not the church out of the girl].

Alongside those Renaissance pieces Sacred Spaces also features contemporary religious art, including this sculpture of Saint Sebastian:
Me photobombing Claire Curneen's sculpture.
Meanwhile another of the stand out pieces is the installation 'Halo' by Susie MacMurray which features thousands of lengths of gold plated wire fixed directly into the gallery wall to create a diffuse glowing effect worthy of its name.
You can see more images on the artist's site here.
And the idea of exhibiting traditional and contemporary pieces alongside one another is an overarching theme of the entire gallery; both in terms of works on display and architecture and design.

For example, here's a traditional balustrade/picture-rail/oil painting vista on the first floor landing:
But turn around ...
York Art Gallery gift shop
... and through a floor-to-ceiling glass panel you can take in the clean bright and modern atrium and gift shop.

Or how about the contrast between two of my favourite representations of the human body in the gallery: from this traditional oil painting of an old lady sleeping [in the Representing Status exhibition]:
... to the more abstract soft sculpture 'NUD4' by Sarah Lucas [of the notorious Young British Artist movement]:
I don't know if this new/old combination counts as 'something for everybody' ... but it's certainly a good start. Especially if you want to visit with someone who doesn't share the exact same taste in art as you. Modern art lovers and traditionalists alike could find something to enjoy here.

[I'm fortunate in that James and I tend to like similar things, particularly modern art and sculpture, in particular, meaning neither of us have to put up with anyone mumbling "I could make that" while the other feels obliged to hurry up and leave; or make a scene in public!]

But the gallery's all-encompassing  approach doesn't stop there. I noticed several other ways in which the gallery makes its visitors welcome:
  • You can borrow drawing equipment to take around the gallery with you, in case the muse strikes! 
  • Many of the gallery spaces contain an interactive activity for children [and not just children!] but not in a bolted-on theme park-y way, the activities fit well with the exhibitions.
  • One space even had pictures on the skirting boards, at adult knee height, presumably to entertain toddlers [or artistically inclined mice].
  • There are plenty of places to pause, sit, and take your time within the gallery. Including sofas individually chosen to suit the style of each gallery area [more evidence that everything has been carefully designed during its refurbishment].
  • And I heard the lady at reception inform a woman in a wheelchair that the gallery was fully accessible.  
Furthermore, you know how I have a thing for heads? Well, imagine my joy at finding this beautiful giant wooden wonder [which is much like the wooden wig-form I have at home] on display:
And then imagine my additional joy ... at being able to touch it! 
This is one of several, clearly labelled, Hands On exhibits which encourage you to get up close and personal with the work. How often do you see that?

Well if, like us, you head to the Claire Twomey Manifest: 10,000 hours installation you'll see it again.
While you can't actually touch any of the 10,000 ceramic bowls displayed so impressively en-masse [at least, I don't think you can ... so I wouldn't try it unless you hear otherwise!] what was noticeable was its lack of notices ...

As I mentioned a few weeks back in my February Month in Numbers post, alongside displaying 10,000 bowls this installation also displays a defiance of preciousness.
  • There are no obvious warnings not to get too close. 
  • No instructions to keep away if you're carrying a big bag [and I always am]. 
  • No barriers preventing you getting as close as you want to these delicate items. 
Yes parents, you read that right, there are no barriers preventing you - and your beloved bundles of sprinting, hurtling, energy - from getting as close as you want to these thousands of delicate [infinitely breakable] works of art. 

My parents used to say I could knock over a glass placed on the centre spot of an empty football pitch. And there's something I'd like to say in reply to that ... 

Look at me now Mr & Mrs Kirk.

Look. At. Me. Now.
Look at how close you can get! And I didn't break a single one.

I found the gallery's trust in its visitors' decorum, fine motor skills, and capacity to child-wrangle, rather touching. The lack of a barrier really added to the appreciation of the scale of the work and its ability to inspire awe

Perhaps it's something like how some councils remove road markings to force drivers into paying more attention to their surroundings. Without barriers you're forced to approach this vast creation with care and close attention. But, once you're close-up, you can appreciate its scale on a more intimate level:
If you're interested to see the practical logistics behind the installation of this serene and beautiful work then click over to view the brilliant time lapse video which shows its construction

As someone who struggles to put 4 cereal bowls back in the cupboard without some element of juggling and mild slapstick peril ... I'm awed at the competence on display in arranging 10,000 of them. 

Now let's move away from the gloriously light bright atrium/mezzanine space [making sure we move away carefully and keeping tight hold of that big bag as we turn] ... and into somewhere altogether cosier and a lot more domestic in scale:
A curator told us that this particular space has been designed to look like a home interior because the collector of the works on display, Anthony Shaw, was seeking to donate his collection to a gallery that would display them in a domestic setting. And after everything I'd already felt about this relaxed, friendly space, it wasn't surprising to hear that York Art Gallery/CoCA took him up on this offer. It seems a perfect meeting of minds.

So here are dozens of ceramics and paintings shown, not behind glass, not locked away where you can't hear them breathe, but as part of the beauty in everyday life.
For me this space demonstrates possibility, even democracy, in art. It says 'Hey, look, this is how you can live alongside art. Every day. If you've got a wall and some shelves then you've got a gallery too.'

That's cheering, right?
Cute/scary creature by Kerry Jameson
 And then, as if I wasn't happy enough, there was this: The Wall of Pots:
A 17 metre display of ceramics dating from Roman times to modern day; not that they're arranged in chronological order. No. Instead they're arranged ... wait for it ... be still my rainbow-arranging-heart: they're arranged in colour order!!!! 
Let's all just pause now to take in the glory of that statement.

This is so far removed from the cabinets of other museums and galleries in which everything is labelled from this or that period through history, where you feel you're meant to educate yourself about what happened when and where.
  • Here you could almost be forgiven for thinking that they just want you to appreciate these items for their beauty. 
  • For their aesthetic deliciousness, their joyful life-enhancing attractiveness. 
  • For the very reasons that many of the artists will have made the pieces in the first place.  And I for one won't be arguing with that.
Now then, before we move into the next gallery I need to warn you that if, like me,you're already a bit over-excited at how great this place is ... you might need to take a breath, and brace yourself for more excitement.

[Mainly I don't want you getting strange coloured blobs in your eye like I did after my visit to Monkey World about 10 years ago. Yes, it may have been a migraine, but equally it may have been brought on by sheer delirium, because: chimps! orangutans! gibbons! etc. Either way ... I want to save you the worry and the hospital appointment where two consultants investigate the back of your eye, which is about as much fun as it sounds. #TrueStory]
An old shop sign on display in The Lumber Room.
Right then, if our loins are now suitably girded then we'll move into The Lumber Room:
Rarely does a sign live up to the heights of its promise like this one does:
Remember that museum you loved when you were were a child? Probably the first one you were taken to. The one that felt mysterious, higgledy-piggeldy, random, and fantastical. The one that had a story book feel, where you could imagine the exhibitions coming to life? Well this is it.

Artist Mark Hearld has recreated exactly that kind of nostalgic treasure trove here.
After being given access to the collection stores of the gallery and of various other local museums Hearld has curated a wonderfully intriguing display of miscellaneous items presented in striking combinations. There's a row of red military jackets hanging next to a row of beautiful black vintage capes arranged above a row of old portraits which in turn hang above a row of carousel horses.
There are original ceramics, assemblage, paintings and collage by Hearld alongside taxidermy birds and fish.
And there's everything from vintage shop signs [that fabulous pair of glasses above], to buttons, cut-out paper theatres, and 19th Century domed floral arrangements:
And - crafty friends - there were scrapbooks. Scrapbooks!!! Vintage ones alongside ones belonging to the artist:

It's like they knew I was coming [although, if that were truly the case, they might have erected a barrier around all those ceramic bowls...].

And so ... you might have guessed by now that I enjoyed the several hours I spent in York Art Gallery.  In fact my exact words to James as were heading back down the stairs were:

"It actually feels like they don't mind having people in".

And that shouldn't really be a surprise should it? That a public space doesn't mind having the public there. And yet ... how many times have you felt awkward in one? Like you're just one raised voice, or camera click, or swing of a rucksack away from being evicted.

But this gallery feels inclusive; like they're glad to have you. That visitors are an integral part of the gallery ... not an annoyance who ought to be silently corralled from room to room. That they want your visit a to be both uplifting, inspiring, interesting, varied and enlightening but also relaxed and comfortable too:
Oh. That arrangement of paintings on the left is everything. "It's like what they call a 'gallery wall' in interior design" I said to James and as soon as I said it I realised where the term originally came from. #itsawall #inagallery  
I know that trying to cater to everyone doesn't always hit the mark; it can dilute an experience until what remains is almost meaningless. But not here.

York Art Gallery is a serious gallery in content, in it's collections, it's curation, its design ... it's just not serious in atmosphere.

It allows you to enjoy some incredible works of art while feeling perfectly at home. Maybe it's the entry fee, maybe the fact you're paying to be there has made them feel it needs to offer value for money, or maybe it's good old Yorkshire hospitality ... either way, it really does feel like they don't mind having you in.


If anything in my review has inspired you to set out on a special trip to York then please check with the gallery regarding specific exhibition dates beforehand. I would hate for you to be disappointed.

Happy gallerying!


This is in no way a paid for promotion. I am not connected to York Art Gallery in any way and they have not asked me for this review. They don't even know I exist. [I know, it's a harsh truth, but there it is, life's tough.]

I would say that I paid for my ticket myself except I didn't; James did.

I told him I'd pay for both of us but then, when I got there, I didn't have enough cash on me, so I said I'd pay him later. Which I've yet to do.

Therefore, if there's actually anyone in this scenario who has paid for a good review then, it isn't the gallery, it's him, and so: "I find James to be a very decent fellow who, if you're lucky, will not only drive you to York to take you to an art gallery, he'll also pay your entry fee. Furthermore he'll even treat you to tea and carrot cake with ginger and mascarpone frosting in the cafe beforehand too*. I can't recommend him highly enough."

*This offer is subject to terms and conditions. Such as ... whether or not you're me.