This year has gone so fast and a helluva lot has happened. A mixture of good and bad but got through it mostly in one piece. Kinda glad it is nearly over and looking forward to a new year and new opportunities.
After the madness of Mother's Ruin and making giant cardboard constructions in Glasgow Green on one of my other jobs with UZ Arts, I got commissioned to build a box. Not just any old box but a travelling exhibition box that would celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Touring Network, Highlands and Islands. The brief was to create a durable, interactive box or case that would illustrate stories collected over the previous months. Two film makers, Beth Chalmers and Jassy Earl, filmed folk sharing their own memories of shows, exhibitions and live events across the Highlands and Islands. After a bit of contemplation and inspiration from illustrations from the birthday card by Rosie Cunningham, I came up with this...
A big black and blue and wallpapered box with story doors, magnetic map and chess pieces. The films Beth and Jassy made are showing in the iPad mounted in the white case. The reviews so far have come in favourably and it's started its first gig of the tour circling Skye. Not sure where else it's going but it will be touring over the coming months.
Otherwise I've just returned from 2 weeks in Abu Dhabi doing more LED props. A great experience and met some brilliant people. Here's the video of the show, our stuff is about 17 mins in.
Been back all of half a day and I knew I would get bored so I had booked myself some blacksmithing lessons. Always one to take a notion to do something random but practical, I googled "Blacksmithing Glasgow" and up popped The Vanguard Centre. Right in the centre of town, nestled in amongst the railway arches in Tradeston, they are a club where they do medieval sword fighting; HEMA, to give it its official abbreviation...and blacksmithing. With their little forge and workshop space they do an intro course as well as pendant classes and leather working amongst other things. Check them out if you have an interest in messing about with metal and the lovely Sam will sort you out. The excellent teaching of Paul has seen me making a coat hook, toasting fork and a bottle opener so far. Got one more session next Monday where I'll be making a letter opener. I've got coats, I have bottles, I get letters (occasionally), just need to get an open fire or a BBQ (and a garden to put it in) to use my toasting fork!
And so onward to the next exciting adventures. 2018 has been varied; devastating, exasperating, fantastic, educational and utterly exhausting but I'm looking forward to a new life in 2019 where hopefully doors will be opened, opportunities taken and things will be made!
Best of the season to every one of you and best of luck for the coming new year.
Ah no! Not really. Mother's Ruin has been robust and worked exceptionally well. There is a small part of me that is a little surprised but of course delighted at the same time. I must be getting good at this malarkey. I can hear my mum's voice saying, "Stop underestimating what you can do. There's not folk walking down the street who can do what you can do!...etc etc..." Always the voice of reason and never-ending support. Being fairly new to professional making and street theatre production and its nuances, my main concern was making everything work first of all and secondly, not fall apart through the rigours of the hustle and bustle of street life - namely the general public pinching, pulling, kicking and punching. Not that any abuse has been particularly heavy fortunately but it has to be remembered when dealing with an unsuspecting audience of the general public, anything can happen. Anyway, Mother and Baby have survived and enjoyed their first 3 outings as Mother's Ruin.
For those of you reading who don't know, Mother's Ruin is the title of my giant mother and baby puppet walkabout performance I designed and made for my final project on my college course. I then got it performed this summer through the fantastic Surge Street Theatre Bursary Programme at Solas Festival in Perthshire, Dundee Summer Streets and Surge Festival in Glasgow. I would say it has been an all out success and huge learning curve for me, from the making to the performing. Small children cried, adults were terrified and dogs barked...in amongst raucous laughter of course. Though it wasn't me doing the actual preforming, I left that to the professionals, namely Jessica Innes, who did an amazing job of bring Baby to life. I have to admit that I do fancy having a go though. I have dabbled in a little puppet workshopery but know very little...watch this space though.
So without further ado...please welcome.....the ever......cheeky.......Mother's Ruin....
Take it away Baby...
School is out and summer is here!
And summer really is here with sunshine and everything!
The culmination of my college course was ushered in with an award for Best Advanced Model making at Craft Ex 2018 for my Prototype Car and a coveted place at New Blades graduate recruitment fair. New Blades was a great experience. So great and inspiring to see everyone's models all in one building. I brought down Baby (without Mother because we were going by train), Humungous, The Secret Commonwealth novels and the Prototype Car. Got some good feedback and some contacts to follow up. Well worth the big round trip.
Mother and Baby are now officially "Mother's Ruin" and they had their debut at Solas Festival in Perthshire at the end of June. Brought to life by Jess, my performer, we equally delighted and terrified in good measure, making only two or so children cry. Must work on that. Got good feedback again with one of the Solas organisers saying,
The Gallacher brothers were my favourite thing of the weekend, and Mother's
Ruin was certainly the most nightmarish!
I'll take that as a compliment!
Next stop is Dundee Summer Streets Festival on 21st and 22nd June and then to Surge Festival in Glasgow on 11th and 12th Glasgow. The urban festivals will be an interesting change from the captive audience of the tiny Solas Festival.
So otherwise onwards and upwards and towards a new life. CV is brushed up, portfolio is gathered together and website updated. Time to flood a plethora of companies with the news of who is going to be their newest employee. They're such lucky people!
So I'm running head long towards the end of my HND Model-making course at City of Glasgow College. I've learnt so much on this course and had a great time doing it but I think what I have found the most satisfying is I finally feel that this is what I should be doing. I have repeatedly said that I've felt like I've been wandering all my life and never quite found my real passion, until now. Some people find what they love doing and excel at early in life, some never find it and that's ok as long as you keep looking for it. What the 'it' is? That's the tricky bit but you know it when you see it.
Final deadline is the middle of June and I can't say slight panic isn't setting in. I know what I'm wanting to do but everything I do seems be for the first time which gives me the fear and procrastination inevitably creeps in. However, deadlines won't wait so it's definitely time to feel the fear and do it! So my final project is going to be...drumroll please...a giant mother and baby puppet! Hmmm, an interesting choice you may sarcastically think and yes, I'm glad you asked the searching question, "Why the hell are you doing that because it sounds so dreadfully boring?!" Well, it's not going to be any ordinary giant mother and child of course. It will be a floaty, serene, pagan-esque mother with a demonic, obnoxious, pissing baby puppet. Yeah, not sounding so boring now, eh? Standing about 8ft tall, the passive mother, holding her darling charge will wander amongst you whilst her baby causes havoc. The build is going well so far but not satisfied with giving myself enough pressure with a mere college deadline, I have managed to wangle myself a bursary that will enable said puppet to be actually performed from the end of June. Yes, I am finally announcing that I have a Surge development and performance bursary that means Mother's Ruin will be performed at Solas Festival, Dundee Summer Streets and Surge Festival this summer. Yikes! Time to get the skates on and get it working right?! It'll all be fine...juuust fine!!
So what else have I done? One of my completed projects is my upscaled toy car that has secured me a coveted place at the New Blades expo in London in June. 5 out of 20 students were selected to go down to represent the college course at the talent fair that will show the cream of the latest crop of makers of models, sculptures, props and costume from colleges and universities around the UK. Very exciting stuff and will hopefully bring new opportunities and networking my way.
I've also made a model of my interpretation of a Martian Fighting Machine from H.G. Wells' novel, War of the Worlds. Didn't get this one quite as I had intended as we were having some particularly difficult times with family loss but I think I did damn well and produced a Machine worthy of the A grade I got for it. If that doesn't show that I can work under pressure and still bring up the goods I don't know what will.
Otherwise, we still have our group project, an upscaled table saw sculpture that will be exhibited in the College building along with 3 other sculptures of model making tools that the rest of the year is completing in groups. Should be a great end of year exhibition. The preview evening will be on Tuesday 12th June if anyone is wanting to have a gander. Unfortunately, due to date clashes those of us lucky enough to go to New Blades will be taking our work down to London the next day so if you want to see them on show, you need to come along to the preview night. Or go to London but that might be a bit of trek. However, the exceptional work of the rest of the class will be exhibited in the college for the rest of the week and will definitely be worth a look.
I'm not one to publish my personal woes but the last year and half has been particularly challenging for me however, this course; what I've learned and the work I have produced has been a rock to keep me sane and focussed for the future. I have to say a big thank you to all my family and friends who have encouraged me throughout and not complained about me posting the deluge of work in progress pics on my social media. Thank you to my tutors and classmates who have helped bring a multitude of ideas together. And an impossible mountain of thanks of course go to my parents, who enabled me to do this financially, encouraged me without exception and always believed in me. You are the reason I am able to keep searching for that 'it' and the reason I may have found it. I love you from the bottom of my heart but you know this already.
So, now to get on with the final push and make the big finish. Just got a giant table saw and a giant Mother and Baby to go! If you gotta go, go BIG!!
I was asked by a friend recently, if I could fix some small broken ceramic sculpture. One had fallen foul of his teenage son's flailing limbs and the other just needed restuck to its wooden plinth and a little touch up. I said, I'll see what I could do. Two lovely figurative pieces of slip cast clay with a matt glaze finish.
The piece on the right (above) was fairly straight forward. To spruce up, I sanded down and reapplied colour and nice dark oak varnish to the plinth and touched up chips in the finish of the sculpture with a thin brush and black acrylic paint. The ceramic was then reattached with contact adhesive.
The one on the left was much more involved. Fortunately, the break was at the bottom of the sculpture and would make the joins less visible than if her head had come off. I had a few of the broken off pieces which I joined with a 2 part epoxy adhesive. After working out the mini jigsaw, I discovered that a large piece was still missing. Ceramicists would normally repair this with a sculpted, fitted piece of clay that would be later fired and attached. As I don't have a kiln or the proper knowledge of how to go about this I chose the other option using an epoxy putty. Milliput is the brand name of a 2 part epoxy putty that can be used to mend gaps in all sorts of things including car parts. It is air drying, very strong and comes in different colours and fineness. I used the yellow/grey version. It has great adhesive qualities too so it can be applied directly to the pieces. Mixed in equal parts, I fashioned the missing area with a bit of artistic licence as I didn't know what the original looked like. Once the Milliput was dry (left it overnight to make sure) I went about creating a paint colour finish to blend in to the existing sculpture. Using layers of coloured acrylic, I stippled on the paint until I achieved a desirable finish. Then it was just a case of a quick layer of protective polyurethane water-based matt clear varnish and she was done. Overall, I was very pleased with the result and it was safe to say the client was very happy too. A great wee project, I really enjoyed giving my developing making skills a challenge. I think I might be getting good at this!
So my respite after a mad period of working non-stop has now come to an end. A self-induced end anyway, that studio ain't going to tidy itself! I've barely looked in, apart from to fling stuff in since the beginning of June. During the interim after returning from Spain, I had at least tidied my living room which had become an extension of my studio space in my flat. I could finally walk barefoot and not get skewered by hundreds of cut cocktail stick ends from Spikey the Hedgehog puppet. This burst of domestic goddessness came about mostly because I was due a visit from the gasman who was coming to have a look at my sickly boiler. Gotta have a deadline.
So yesterday, I set about the studio. After about 5 hours of sorting things and putting them in little boxes (I knew my collection of chinese take away containers were worth keeping) and other things in bigger boxes, I finally found part of the floor and most of my desk. I had a additional materials to find a place for as my friend Hazel donated some because she is moving back to Ireland and needed to offload stuff. I'm never one to say no to free materials but it's only when you try to find space for it you think maybe it wasn't such a good idea. I'll find space though. Still lots to sort but at least I can now do some work in there.
So now the nostalgia, I've been talking with friends from art school back in the nineties. Facebook, for all its bad bits, is blooming marvellous for finding people and to be found (as long as you want to be). I have reconnected with people I had lost touch with and I'm meeting my friend Mandy tomorrow in Edinburgh, I think possibly for the fist time since we finished. I don't really know where to go for food in Edinburgh any more but on Mandy's recommendation, we are going to have a lovely lunch in a very trendy looking place called Check Point (they do Bloody Marys for breakfast, that's all I need to know) and then doing the art thing by seeing the Beyond Caravaggio exhibition in the National Galleries.
It's been 20 years since we graduated. People say you should enjoy life when you can as it's over in the blink of an eye. It's only as you grow older that you realise the extent of this adage. Though I've done lots of different things in the intervening years and have many marvellous memories to show for my advancing years, it does seem like we were those bright-eyed bushy-tailed art students only yesterday. Am I older? Certainly. Wiser? Definitely. Feeling old? Never!! Here's to the next 20 years of nonsense and beyond.
In our recent chats, we spoke of our degree films which prompted me to upload the digital conversions I had made to YouTube. My degree was in Animation. The old fashioned kind. Stop-motion, where you have to enjoy moving objects tiny increments or drawing practically the same thing over and over and over and all usually in a darkened room. I loved it. My degree film, "The Story of Nej" was a puppet animation about a little goblin who lived underground and who just wanted some light in his dark, dark home. Then! Terror strikes!
I've not done a lot of animation since I finished, I blamed not forging a career in it on my youth, naivety and lack of gumption. Going straight to college from high school, I was quite a green, young thing and had no idea about life and what a career even entailed. My existing career has ended up a winding path of returning to education, doing art, doing good jobs to pay the bills, doing bad jobs to pay the bills and taking a chance on applying for an arts events internship that indirectly led me (through the amazing people I've met in the last 7 years) to doing what I should have done 20 years ago: Model making (which I am now studying). I had a realisation that I made only recently; I actually found the making of the Nej set and puppet more enjoyable than the making of the film. And I am infinitely better at it too. The film is fairly terrible; the editing, sound and basic story is fairly ropey but I still really like my set and puppet. So on to the next generation of Nejs!
Anyway, here is Nej in his full glory...
Back home now and finally putting my feet up. It's been an intense and wonderful two weeks with the brilliant folk in Riba Roja, Catalonia, Spain. The project for me began when I was visiting my friends Sarah and Chris back in April this year. They were telling me about an art project they were involved in with the local town hall; Riu d'Art. It was to be its second year calling out for public art proposals for the village. Having never written an art proposal or created any public art in my life, I really wasn't sure how to go about it but I'm so glad I did. If you ever get the opportunity to do something like this, grab it with both hands, it's a truly great experience.
My proposal was to develop my newly acquired welding skills and so I decided to create a steel sculpture. After a bit of research I found out Catalonia and Scotland share an equine national animal as well as desire to be an independent country by part of their populations. Combining these ideas, I created a chimeralike creature composed of a donkey and a unicorn. The title to the work is in Catalan, "La Sumera i l'Unicorn" (The Donkey and the Unicorn) signifying parts of the Catalan and Spanish feminine noun of both "sculpture" - "l'escultura/la escultura" and female donkey "la sumera" as well as the masculine unicorn - "l'unicorn/el unicornio". The sculpture was formed as a steel rod frame and found objects from the village, including from a recent demolition site of two houses in the village. After a good rummage I found various wheels, wire mesh and even a coffee pot that I used to fill out the sculpture. I felt in some way it will keep a part of those houses alive as part of the village. As a side note, during the demolition of the houses, they found a secret cavern. It may have been an underground cellar but they are gong to investigate it further so it will be interesting to see what history they can find in there.
A wee pictorial synopsis of the work going on during the project and the inauguration below.
I'd just like to thank all the people of the village of Riba Roja, for their welcome, kindness and enthusiasm. Thank you to Fransesc and all at the ajuntiment for all their hard work and everything they did for us. Thank you to Albert for letting me in to his workshop, letting me abuse his tools, time and space and for all his help. To Josep, Miguel and Pepe Lu for your kindness and efforts. To all at Potas and Pizza Art, thank you for feeding us so well. To the beautiful Anna and Phil who always make the world seem so light and bring so much colour, it was great getting to know you better. To the lovely Olly Hall, who brought nonsense, fun and slight danger when climbing pylons, it was wonderful meeting and getting to know you. And special thanks to Sarah and Chris who always bring such amazing happenings together. I'm so glad I know you and have experienced all these wonderful things with you. You're beautiful people.
Was pretty exhausted when I got home late on Monday night but no rest for the wicked as I had an exhibition to put up on Wednesday. Just a small one in the 13th Note, entitled "Goddesses". Thanks to Tom, wonderful framer, for giving me a hand in with frames and Hazel for helping me hang. Had a wee soft opening last night and a good catch up with loads of mates who I haven't seen in a while. Was just lovely. The exhibition is on until the end of July so plenty of time for people to go have a gander.
So that is it. All done and dusted. Sculpture in place, workshop tidied up, flown home, exhibition up and opened and now sitting on my arse doing nothing. Think I'll do this for a little while...
Things are going swimmingly now and I do feel that I'm on track for finishing in some form. The sculpture, barring a few adjustments, hasn't changed much from my initial designs, which I'm pretty happy about. Having never made anything on this scale before it was always going to be a bit of a baptism of fire. Something I always seem to put myself through but then what's life for if not for adventures?
The main lesson I've learnt with this one is about my new materials. Metal is funny stuff; to me anyway. This may seem obvious to some but I've realised that bending a fairly malleable steel rod one way means it will kick out the other way. You actually need to think beyond your initial bend and towards the next one. Angles are funny things too. When placing said rod against the thing I'm wanting to bend it round (in various directions), by the time I get to the vice (even though marking and trying to keep it in my mind which way and which side to bend it) I've either forgotten which way it should go or I bend it in the opposite direction. Bearing in mind I'm the type of person who has to look at her hands before be able to differentiate left or right, maybe I shouldn't be so hard on myself. However, as I said before, things are going swimmingly and I can even see the light at the end of the tunnel. The full frame will be complete shortly and I've already started on some of the decoration and cladding. After raiding Albert's workshop and a recent demolition site I've got lots of random pieces of scrap that I'll fashion, tie, wire and possibly glue, if necessary, in place. Just one more day after this evening's shift and that should be it. The concrete plinth that the sculpture will be set into has been laid today and so it's just waiting for the installation on Sunday. There's a plan to do a Live Facebook broadcast of the transportation and installation so if you want a laugh seeing a metal donkey unicorn travel along a street in a small Catalan town then check out the Riba Rocks Facebook page this Sunday.
So, it's soon going to be just down to thinking of a title for the beast. Josep told me about the words for donkey in Catalan. A male donkey is called, "el ruc" and a female donkey is called, "la sumera". I quite took to the "sumera" word as it rolls of the tongue nicely. Also, because the word for sculpture in Spanish and Catalan is feminine, "La escultura" it seemed that my donkey needed to be female. So she will be ever dubbed thus. I'm going to use the word "Sumera" in the title somehow but I haven't quite decided yet.
I've definitely picked up quite a few new Spanish words (including some swear words naturally...Hostia! is a good one) and even some phrases. I need to get better at this speaking Spanish malarky as you feel such a plum not being able to communicate basic things. I'm definitely understanding more though so that's a good sign. They mostly speak Catalan here of course but one step at a time.
Right, back to the workshop!! In the meantime, here's some pics of Riba Roja d'Ebre, Phil and Anna's and Olly's works in progress and some more metal donkey.
It’s been blowing a gale and raining here. Yes, it certainly does rain in Spain and not just on the plain. We’ve had two days of super stormy weather. It’s that slightly weird, super wet but warm rain and the doors in the apartment are certainly getting a battering the wind. There’s lots thunder too. It will mean that it’s cooler so that’s all I’m concerned with.
The donkey is taking shape. The torso is complete and I’ve been working on the legs and arms today, well I guess they are all legs really. All the rods have been cut and I’ve been shaping the individual pieces. The rings for the frame legs are getting smaller and so that means much tougher to shape. I’ve just been using a vice and my brute strength to create shaping; it’s pretty rough and ready but does the job. Chris brought in a pipe bender for me that has worked wonders but there's still a fair amount of bashing with the big hammer after but getting there. I couldn’t resist the old double entendre on an Instagram post. Am I being childish? Definitely. Do I care? Not a jot.
I’ve been a little concerned about time and how far I’m getting but it’s now been sorted that I can get a few extra hours in the evening which makes me feel much better. So storming ahead is the way to go, certainly got the right weather for it.
The guys are also getting stuck in to their murals. Anna and Phil made a great start and it’s looking colourful and gorgeous already. Oli’s now got a massive step ladder so is now cracking on with the high bits. I haven’t been back up to take progress shots but will have a look later. We were there meeting the town Mayor and the ajuntement team yesterday . They seem happy with our progress so far and have been so accommodating, everything has been super easy. The town really has a great bunch of people in it, folk interested in what we are doing and eager to help in anyway. We’re really getting spoilt. Where's the Ferrero Rocher though??
Before we met the Mayor, we had another exciting meeting. This time with a snake. He may have come out of hibernation and been sleeping in a crevice. The house whose cables he was spotted slithering along is apparently empty which made us feel better. Even with this revelation, we were suspicious he was a poisonous adder as he had those distinctive diamonds on his back. According to a nearby local however, there are many different adders and he probably wasn’t dangerous. The dangerous ones are shorter, fatter and have flat heads. This one was quite long and skinny. He disappeared into another crack, probably to have another snooze.
So back to the evening shift shortly, after a snake snooze siesta…
Today is a day off as the metal workshop is closed for the weekend. This gave me a welcome opportunity for a lie in, especially after rather late, boozy and excellent night we had after the Foguera i festa de Sant Joan (Bonfire and festival of Saint John). What a spectacle! And I'm told this is just the small one, in August they have 3 or 4 Devils troupes running around the streets trying to outdo each other with noise and general firework harassment of the delighted crowds.
For the brilliant and fairly dangerous fireworks shenanigans, a group dress as dancing, firework-throwing devils leading a chaotic procession through the streets. They follow a mannequin character dressed as a Templar Knight riding a fibreglass bull and are joined by a set of drummers who set the pace. The bull is manipulated by two Devils much like a pantomime horse but excreting crackers and fireworks that whizz past your head and shower you with sparks. I got hit by some shrapnel a couple of times but what's the odd singe between friends? The Devils are particularly devilish and cheekily chase people with live fireworks and cause all sorts of mayhem. The noise is incredible. The procession ends up in the football grounds where a large bonfire burns and, yes, you guessed it, more fireworks. Great night!
Always celebrated on the night of the 23rd of June, right across Spain, it actually has Pagan roots being the shortest night of the year in this part of the world and a celebration for the beginning of Summer. Traditionally, they burned bonfires to ward off evil spirits, much like Beltaine, one of the four seasonal festivals in Celtic tradition celebrating the beginning of Spring.
After a little Google research, it seems the particular saint in the festival title is St John the Baptist, who's day is the 24th June. I was a little confused as to why the character was dressed up as a knight and riding a bull as this seems very unrelated to John the Baptist. I still haven't found any explanation on the world wide web, so I'll have to ask Josep when we all go for a beer tonight. Yes, more beer. Ooft? The Catalans sure like to party anyway and don't need much of an excuse...when in Riba Roja...!
Final Riu d'Art artists, Phil and Anna, are arriving tonight so our little artistic quintet will be complete. I'm so looking forward to seeing everyone's work. Oli, who arrived last night, and Phil and Anna are all doing murals on external, slightly shabby, walls in the village giving them a new lease of life. Fortunately, the temperature is set to drop a little next week down to a more copeable 30-35˚C.
But less talk about work, today is a holiday. Where's my beer?...
Jennifer Kilgour is an artist and maker specialising in model making, sculpture, painting and drawing.
She also loves making other things like wee animations (trained in that and everything), small coffee tables (singular) and walking the family dog in the woods.