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RCA Secret 2013

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I recently came across a web article about a new exhibition at the Royal College of Art called RCA Secret 2013. It is such a good idea. Basically, the RCA has asked well known artists and graduates who are relatively unknown, to produce work on or the size of, a postcard. The artist signs the work on the back and all the postcards are displayed to the public. ‘So what?’ I hear you ask. Well, each of these postcards is on sale for only £45 meaning that you could get a piece of work by a big time artist at low, low prices. It’s like a lucky dip into the art world! The famous names participating this year include “Paula Rego, Julian Opie, David Bailey, Christo and John Baldessari, Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park, film director Mike Leigh and from the world of fashion, Sir Paul Smith, Orla Kiely and Manolo Blahnik.” I guess some of them like Nick Park and Orla Kiely might be easy to spot if they stick to their well known styles, but with 2700 postcards on display by 1034 artists, it might be harder than I think! The only problem with this is that you have to be there in person to buy. That means going all the way to London (which is not my favourite place to be) and hoping to be there in time before everything is sold 9the exhibition opens to sales at 8am!). You have to register to be able to buy, and you can only buy 4 works at most. If you were in London though, and you like art, and you don’t have access to the Saatchi fortune to spend on random art, it would be a great opportunity.

What would you put on your postcard if you were invited to exhibit? The works can be jewellery and 3D so long as they are the right size. I might make a paper collage, or stitch a tiny bag!


A Floating Balloon Bridge!

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Recently I went to Tatton Park to see the Tatton Park Biennial 2012, this year called Flights of Fancy. Tatton is a big stately home with a massive estate and famous gardens (it’s a bit owned by the National Trust) and the biennial was held in the gardens. All the works were sculptures or interactive installations featuring video or sound, there was loads to see and luckily I went on a really sunny day!

Empty Nest by Hilary Jack is a human sized bird nest that wrapped around a tree, allowing you to go up and stand inside and view the gardens. The accompanying text from the guide says that it took inspiration from the last Lord of the estate who lived alone for a long time and died without an air ‘…The work considers the superstition that crows leave their colonies when a childless heir to a fortune dies’  I think that is quite sad and I don’t really understand the thing about crows (when a human dies? when a crow with a fortune dies?) I thought the piece was really well made and I liked being able to see the estate from natures perspective. It would have been good if visitors were encouraged to leave a treasure or something in the nest like a real bird would do!

Trine Messenger by Brass Art (a group of three artists) was basically a giant inflatable in the shape of a human face with wings attached. Apparently the face is made from measurements of the artists faces and then the proportions taken from an average of those measurements. Inspiration was taken from the god of sleep and the Surrealists. I think if I was the god of sleep, I would definitely choose this lakeside area to have a nap in (it’s so beautiful and calm) and that’s what gave the surrealist element. To walk into a beautiful natural spot like that, and then see across the water a giant 7 meter inflatable head, well it’s just a bit unexpected isn’t it!

My favourite piece by far was Pont de Singe by Olivier Grossetete. As you can see it is a rope bridge suspended across the lake by three giant white balloons. The text explains it really well ‘… An almond-eye bridge suggests the power of daydreams and their ability to transform reality. There is no way on or off the bridge, which is held aloft by three helium-filled balloons. Instead the work is offered as a meditation for those who wish to contemplate an impossible journey.’ I could have looked at it all day is was so amazing! Although I did think it looked like something you would see in a Studio Ghibli film and I kept imagining a Totoro walking over it!

It was such a good exhibition, something for everyone I would say and it’s on until 30th September, so you’ve still got loads of time to see it!

Daydreams of Jewellery

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Mona Lisa ring from

I thought I would share this amazing jewellery website I found recently. The artist is Jes MaHarry and you can visit the website here. I love the quirky designs and how they mix text with precious stones and pictures of animals and trees. My favourite are the rings, but then I have a lot of rings with big stones in them so that’s no surprise! apparently Jes MaHarry studied illustration (which you can see really clearly in her jewellery) and I really like it when an artist changes discipline, because when you study a certain field of art, it’s really easy to get stuck in that box. I think that’s why I did an art history degree instead of carrying on with ‘proper’ art, I didn’t want to do just one thing, I like to have the choice to experiment. Anyway, if I could I would buy all of the jewellery on this website. Unfortunately I have not won the lottery and also they don’t ship to the UK (from what I can tell) so I will have to make do with jewellery daydreams!

Making Cyanotypes

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Lately it has been so sunny which makes me want to make cyanotypes! I first discovered cyanotypes on my A Level Photography course. My exam theme was light and I wanted to take photographs only using light. So basically a cyanotype is a way of making photos without a camera, using specially prepared paper and a sunny day. Here I will tell you how to prepare the cyanotype paper and how to produce a print!

First of all you need to aquire the materials to make the cyanotype liquid. This is made up from a number of chemicals, and you can get lists of ingredients and quantities on the internet, but as I am not making a large number of prints I buy a kit. Stone Creek Silk sell a “Cyanotype (Blueprint) Chemicals Kit” for £8.50 which makes a good quantity of liquid and includes instructions. When making up the liquid BE CAREFUL! READ ALL THE SAFETY INSTURCTIONS! Although it is a fun and fairly easy process, you are dealing with serious chemicals which need to be handled properly. The most important thing to remember when mixing the chemicals is to do so in a dark environment as the mixture (obviously!) reacts to light and will be unusable if you left it out in the daylight. Once you have mixed the chemicals up according to the instructions, you can store the liquid in a brown glass bottle (in the dark). Apply the liquid to paper using a brush or a sponge and leave to dry in the dark (are you spotting a dark pattern?) Once the paper is dry you can start to make a print!

Collect your objects you want to make a print of. I like to use glass bowls (you get nice patterns from the light refracting) flowers and lace. You can also go the historical route and turn negatives into cyanotypes (use a photo software on your computer to turn your photograph/drawing/ painting  into a negative image, then print it onto acetate made for printers) Keeping your cyanotype paper in the dark for as long as possible, lay it outside in full sun then quickly place your chosen object/negative onto the paper. Do not move it and don’t cause a shadow over the paper as these will show up on the finished print!

When you first lay out your paper, it will be a sort of green/grey colour, but as it reacts to the sun, it will turn to a grey/blue colour (this is how a cyanotype works. The parts covered from light will stay the same colour as the paper they were applied to, the exposed sections turn blue!) There is no set time to leave the paper out in the sun, just look for the colour change and experiment (make sure to have lots of paper prepared) The next step is to wash:

You need to wash the print to remove the cyanotype mixture that did not react to the light. place it under cold running water and wash it until the water runs clear (The stuff that comes off will be green) Be careful not to rip your print when waggling it in the water as it will take some time before it is properly washed.

I like to lay out some old plastic bags by the sink to put the wet cyanotypes onto to dry. As they are drying, check the surface to see if there is any green liquid which didn’t get completely washed off. If there is, just wash the print some more. Basically that’s it! Once it is dry it’s done! Here are my finished pieces:

These aren’t the most brilliant prints! I just did them quickly for this tutorial, but you can see what an effective technique it is. Also I have talked about applying the liquid to paper, but you can also put it onto fabric (the flower image above is made on fabric) wood, anything that will absorb the liquid really. The thing I love about cyanotypes is the surprise result and the experimentation factor. I hope you try it out yourself, it’s so much fun!

Next Great Artist 2nd Series!

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Yay! Sky Arts must be reading my blog because after saying how much I would miss watching The Next Great Artist, they have decided to show series 2. It only started last Wednesday (I only found out after it was on but the first episode was on Anytime!) so this time I have let you know in time for you to watch it. This season they all have strange names like Dusty, Jazz-Minh and best of all The Sucklord (yes, The Sucklord) In the first episode the artists had to take a bad piece of kitch art and turn it into something else that showed off their own unique style. None of the pieces really jumped out at me so I guess it’s too early to pick a winner! It is on at 8pm on Wednesdays on Sky Arts (hurray!)

Next Great Artist

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Image from

Tonight is the last episode of a great programme I have been watching on Sky Arts. Next Great Artist is just the same as Project Runway but (surprise, surprise!) with artists instead of fashion designers. The idea is, each week the artists are given a brief and must complete a work relating to that brief in a set amount of time. The piece is then put into a gallery show where the programmes judges decide who is the winner and who’s “work of art didn’t work” for them (the loser has to go home). In tonight’s final, the three remaining artists have to put on a gallery show. I’m not sure what the theme/brief/rules are yet as there was only a short clip last week. I only guessed one of the finalists which was a bit of a shock, so it will be interesting to see how the other two cope in the final. It’s on tonight on Sky Arts 1 at 8.00pm. I am excited and sad at the same time (I hate it when my favourite TV programmes end!) but my money is on Miles to win. I think he is the judges favourite and he comes across as some sort of young, tortured, artistic genius! Saying that I have liked the concepts behind some of his work, so I don’t mind too much if he does win!

It remind me of another programme on Sky Arts a while ago called Art of Survival, where two teams of two artists and musicians had to travel from Athens to Edinburgh using only their art. They could earn money from busking or sales, or could barter for things like food and accommodation. It was really good but I would definitely be too scared to do it!

Update: 27th April 2012

So I’ve finally watched the last episode of Next Great Artist after having a fight with my Sky+ box! And guess what? I got it wrong! Miles came last, but I sort of thought that he might after seeing his finished work. Peregrine came second and I thought she would win after seeing her finished pieces. The winner was Abdi! I liked his large scale sculptures, but I wasn’t so keen on the negative colour paintings. Overall I really enjoyed this series and I hope they make another one (but not a British version because I hate it when they do that! It’s never as good as the original and visa versa when they make a British show in America. It’s just not the same!)

Cotton: Global Threads at the Whitworth Art Gallery

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 During my half term break from college I went to the Whitworth Art Gallery (the website of which this photo is from) to see their new exhibition Cotton: Global Threads. Now, the Whitworth gets mixed reviews, some people think it’s boring but I love it there. It has a really relaxed atmosphere and you can wander around without feeling like you’re going to get pounced on by a room attendant for standing to close to a painting. I’ve also worked there when I was volunteering for the Manchester International Festival in 2009 at a Marina Abramovic performance exhibition (she gave me a hug!) However, I wasn’t too excited about this exhibition. Yes, there was something for everyone, video, sculpture, prints, clothing and historic textiles, moral messages and children’s area, but I didn’t come away feeling I’d seen anything amazing or learnt anything new. The exhibition looks at the uses of cotton in all the art forms mentioned above and how cotton has been a part of history in many countries around the world. Being in Manchester which was once the center of the global cotton industry I thought there could have been more focus on this, as it is always easy to understand something when you have a local reference. The cotton based art of other countries might then have had a more personal impact because I  could relate its production with my local area. Overall there were a few interesting pieces, but I probably won’t go back for another look. Please don’t just take my opinion though, go and see it or read about it for yourself here.